She must find a boat and sail in it. No guarantee of shore. Only a conviction that what she wanted could exist, if she dared to find it.
- Jeanette Winterson
In a different point in my life I began this blog: from a small, lush, Devon town, that twins itself with Narnia. There, I balanced lingering boredom with running workshops, river swims, and my first housesits and petsits, both in the UK, and abroad. Mostly, the idea of the blog was to tell stories in passing about places I'd been, animal friends. Not too heavy. I've never been great at 'light', though. Between the start of this blog and now there's been perhaps twenty something petsits. Thirty something? My memory hinges around sensory recall, accumulated feelings, lyrics. I forget numbers.
As I've checked in here from time to time, feeding back the odd story of what I've been up to, the world has shifted around me, both on a micro, personal level, and on a more major one. In Bristol, I developed what it took me a long time to understand was mould poisoning (or mycotoxin poisoning). My energy was so low, my being so increasingly ill, it became difficult to write; to find stories that were amusing, pleasurable, to tell. Still later in Bristol, there was also a carbon monoxide leak mixed in with that, leaking into me.
And around the same time - in fact just before the point at which my health and life really began to crumble under the weight of a double dose of poisoning - a calling found me, although I hadn't been looking. Become a companion to death. Friend to the dying, friend of death. Soul midwife, death midwife; there are myriad names for the same idea. Do something. Be of use, be of service: finally harness my depth and darkness, my perpetual gravitation towards the soul.
When I mention how close I expect I came to dying in Bristol, I think it's hard for others to imagine. That those who do believe me are probably at a loss- what to say? I simply watched my system begin to give up, whilst making frantic arrangements to get myself out of there. It's been an odd year all round.
The sticking point: I couldn't check out from this life yet. I do suspect there's sometimes a degree of choice as to when exactly one dies. That time, I still had (and have) work to do. Become a companion to death (don't embrace your own yet!). It spurred me on. Helped to pull me out of Bristol. Though by the time I arrived after, temporarily, in Devon, I wasn't in good condition at all. For one month, I was very, very quiet. As Spring rolled in, I began to heal.
For months this year, I became unexpectedly nomadic. More than anything, I followed the course my life seemed naturally to be taking, taking on housesit after housesit. I part-healed, my immunity still quite knocked out. I let go of certainty, and much sense of security. In many ways, I've been navigating chaos. In my own life, in the world around me. How do we work with chaos? We do the best we can, and ideally we are of use, working with, and not against it.
October: I attempted, finally, to ground, moved back to Brighton. As I tried to finally become a little more still, almost instantaneously, I was back in mould poisoning. The neighbour's house, it would turn out, was previously extremely damp. This was enough for poisoning to tear back through my body. I spoke to my landlady, increasingly unable to breathe there, dizzy, in the grip of constant migraines. (By now I know my mould poisoning symptoms well). After a month, I gave notice, baptised by fire.
Perhaps there, a clear enough message from my life: not the time for stillness yet. After: to London. From there, to the single point I've been heading towards all year: to Scotland, where I trained as a psychopomp (someone who works on a soul level with death). I travel light now. My mould poisoning was so intense I rid myself of most of my possessions, lest they harboured what had poisoned me. I've left a lot of my expectations behind, too.
In the world around me, I watch trauma, chaos, uncertainty. Obviously I cannot either fix this, nor fully understand it. Will not deny it. Where there is grief, though, I can, perhaps, work with it, in small ways. Be of some use. There's still more death work training for me to do. There's still more healing for me to do on a personal level. My next step, just for a little while, is Ireland. I let the whispering of my soul part-guide the way. (This is, of course, a luxury). No part of this journey has been particularly easy, but as I said: I've never been great at 'light.' 'Easy' was never the point.