Sunday, June 21, 2015

The invincible summer within me

"In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” - Albert Camus. 

On the eve of the longest night here in the Southern Hemisphere I hold onto this beautiful quote. I was told by my orthopaedic specialist on Friday that it could take up to six months for my ankle to heal due to the severity of bone bruising that occurred as a result of my accident in Nepal. 

Acceptance is something I've never been very good at. One of the reasons I wanted to spend a few months living in a foreign land was to work on letting go of fear... accepting whatever comes my way... trusting that I am strong enough... surrendering to the present moment. When I arrived in Nepal I booked myself into an Ayurveda retreat to cleanse my body. I went to a Buddhist centre to clear my mind. I began my mornings with meditation and yoga. And, as the weeks passed, I started feeling a deep sense of calm. I felt grounded...'at peace' with the earth. And I was confident I'd be leaving the rooftop of the world with some sort of Degree in Spirituality / Bachelor of Acceptance.

But what happens when the thing you rely on to keep you stable - to keep you centred and calm - starts to shake and crack under your feet? What happens when you can't rely on your own body to support you - to help you flee from danger?

The earthquake and my injury have taught me more about acceptance than any self help book or guru ever could. They have forced me to be still. To sit with myself - my thoughts, my demons. To breathe. To give myself credit for the little things I achieve on a daily basis (like getting my hot water bottle across the room by balancing it on my head whilst on!). To open my heart to strangers. To be grateful for so many things.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Earthquakes, evacuations and my life on crutches

In January I posted this photo on my Facebook page which announced my plan to return to Nepal and spend three months with the mountains and mystics to "see what else the world has to offer me". I had no idea the answer would be a 7.9 earthquake, a fall down a staircase, a trip to a Nepali hospital, a leg in a plaster cast and an evacuation.

I arrived in Kathmandu on March 7 and followed my intuition two days later to the lakeside town of Pokhara which became my home for the rest of my stay. My travel guitar Lazarus kept me good company, as did several backpackers who became my soul brothers and sisters - sharing jam sessions, tear sessions, meditation sessions and much dal bhat.

Then the earthquake hit. And life changed for me...for my friends...for the people of Nepal. So much death. So much destruction. But the true horror has been the aftershocks. Since that initial quake on April 25 there have been over 100 earthquakes in Nepal that have measured a magnitude of 4 or over - causing panic, fear, anxiety and stress to those who have already experienced a lifetime's worth of panic, fear, anxiety and stress.

In the eight days that I lay in my guesthouse bed, unable to walk due to my injury, the earth moved constantly. It shook my bed. It rattled the walls. And each time there was an aftershock, I could hear people running out of the building and shouting....yet I could not run. 

I could not run. I could not walk. I could not wash. I could hardly get myself to the toilet. The helplessness I felt was overwhelming and yet, somehow, beauty and joy kept walking through my door. My Pokhara 'family' arrived with guitars to play soothing melodies in the morning; with books to read aloud to me in the evenings; with hugs when I was in pain; with descriptions of 'life outside' to keep me connected with the colour of the sun on the mountains, the stillness of the lake, the love being shared on the streets between people who were still so scared.

And when I was alone, between the tears, there were moments of calm with Lazarus - a guitar that had been living in a Kathmandu apartment before being lent to me as a travel companion, thanks to my dear friend Jesslee.

Leaving Nepal was one of the most difficult things I have ever done - both physically and emotionally. Trying to get myself out of a country in chaos - with a leg in a cast, on my own - was beyond traumatic. And then there was the guilt I felt for being in such a privileged position to be able to leave - and the regret of not being able-bodied enough to help with the relief effort.

It's going to take me a long time to process all that has happened. I'm sharing these thoughts, and the posts below, as a way of trying to make sense of it all. My parents have been caring for me in Sydney for the past few weeks as I've been unable to do much for myself. Trying to use crutches with a body that has experienced so much movement of the earth, so much instability of the ground - has been very challenging and resulted in several falls and blows to my confidence. I'm unsure how long it will be before I'll walk properly again or when I'll be strong enough to return to the Sunshine Coast and my apartment on a hill with a staircase.

My issues are small compared to those being suffered by the people of Nepal. There are thousands still sleeping outside in tents - too scared to lay their heads down inside their homes because the earth is still shaking. Then there are those who, even when the ground stops moving, won't have homes to return to. And the monsoon rain is on its way. My heart breaks.