Much of the opening part of 2016 for me involved hoping I wasn't about to drop dead. That it's now April and I'm most definitely not dead feels like a decent achievement.
I'm going to double back so you have a clue as to what I'm talking about.
I spent a year living in Bristol. Bristol was my move back into a city after a couple of years in Devon. I found Devon spectacularly beautiful. I ran workshops, swam in rivers, took acting classes. Finally, I left. Didn't look back.
In Bristol, I dropped back into a horrible rental market, took the only flat available to my cat and I. For months I knew and chose not to know how much the damp in the air there was affecting my health. I just didn't see better options in a dysfunctional rental market. I swallowed my feelings and I stayed in a place that felt increasingly bad for me.
I am basically fierce and instinctive (though gentle). I've spent most of my adult life trying to create a life that nourishes me - a life right for me. Then one day I looked at my life in Bristol and realised how far I was from where I wanted to be; how far from my instinct.
By December last year the damp in the air in that flat had turned into something much more sinister. Judging by my health symptoms I can only assume it was black mold. What I didn't know at the time was that I was also living with a carbon monoxide leak. (An urgent text from a friend back in January led to the leak getting detected).
I spent part of December away from the flat. By that point the black mold had gone into all my joints, I was struggling to breathe, had permanent migraines when in that building, and I was dizzy to the point of collapse when there. I was terrified. January (prior to learning about the carbon monoxide leak) I fled for a while. By that point the symptoms had also gone to my vision. Indoors in that building, everything was blurring.
I made a painful choice: no more exhaustively trying to find cat-friendly rentals. I'd already lived in too many terrible places in order to find somewhere cat friendly. Whilst I was gone, I worked on finding my cat a good home. The carbon monoxide leak was detected, boiler replaced. My cat, thank the Gods, retained perfect health.
February: my cat moved into a safe, happy, new home. Once she was rehomed, I left and didn't return. People showed up for me in unexpected ways. Other people went into that flat and packed my stuff up when I was too ill to do it myself. Movers got it out.
I'm good at leaving. I love striding off into the distance, onto my next adventure
This time wasn't like that, though. Much of December to February felt like wandering an underworld; hoping the dizziness wouldn't toss me into unconsciousness. Lacing the ribbons on my boots, more tired than a person should be. Out the door. Keeping on going because there simply wasn't an option.
A Devon ex-landlady of mine who is also a friend offered me a safe place to go, post Bristol. For a month, I stayed there. A quiet month in which I began to physically heal, process.
Gradually, journeys have been washing away trauma. After that month in Devon, I let petsitting assignments roll in. The sits took me back to cities, to life. Then to Penzance. (Want to soothe your soul? Go to the very edge of the land and look at the ocean). When I reached Cornwall, I climbed into that ocean.
Finally, to Berlin.
Leaving Bristol, I didn't know what I was heading towards, except safety. From safety I opened to life, followed where it took me.
I'm still weathering the effects of the black mold. What it did to my health. The fact it split my life open and I just kept walking. It is later this year I begin training as a death midwife. I like to hope what feels like a brush with my own mortality has strengthened me, readied me, as I move towards that.
Sometimes our lives throw us out of the wrong situations, catapult us towards better ones. Or perhaps there's no moral to this story. Me, I'm just still walking.