how i deal with the unexpected
NOTE: oops at 4.38 it’s a stamp not a stencil!
My book A Dreamer’s Life: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dreamers-Life-Memoir-Laurika-Bretherton-ebook/dp/B01LCXZ2S8/
It was today, exactly two years ago, that I began my driving journey through South Africa. When I think back to those six months I can hardly believe that it was me, that I was brave enough to do that. No job, no security, no planning, just wake up in the morning and decide where I’m going to go and find a place to sleep when I get there.
After my journey I went back to London back to work. I lasted nine months. And I realised that the life I wanted was the life I had on the road. The one where I can wake up in the morning and not know what will happen that day. The one where I can do exactly what I feel like and not worry if it will succeed or fail because there is no one judging.
So I did it again. I quit. It seems to be a recurring thing here right? This quitting business. I think it isn’t so much quitting in a negative way, but in a good way. Quitting things that no longer feels right in my life. Selfish? Maybe. But aren’t we all allowed to be selfish to be the masters of our lives? Isn’t that why we are here. To become who we are meant to be?
And that brings me to the now. Now I’m in Sweden. I’ve been here for six months. I rent a room from by best friend, who is also the one I love. We share our dreams and we talk about creativity and life. I travel when that itch starts and I come back again.
I write and I paint and I make magicK charms from things I find when I go for walks. Things like little stones and seashells and small sticks that had fallen from trees.
My life now is more. I feel more. It feels like I’ve never been closer to nature, to life, than I have these past two years. I believe that this is all we really need to do in life. Allow ourselves to be who we know we really are inside. Not keep it locked down and only take it out at night when no one can see us. Show the world who you are. Don’t hide it.
Because once those two things are in sync, your inside and your outside world, then even when life throws you curve balls or tornadoes, you will still feel like yourself, you will still cope, because you have accepted who you are.
My journey is at an end. I’m sitting at Oliver Thambo International Airport in Johannesburg and I feel like a very different person to the one that arrived in South Africa almost six months ago to the day.
I took many turns along the way. there were little side roads and straight roads and rough patches with potholes and easy riding tarred ones and ones with loose sand where my wheels got stuck.
Now that is at an end and I look back I realise that I have changed. Not that what makes me me, no the external things. How I dress, how I talk about things, how I feel about life. These things are different. But I am still me, maybe I am more me now than I have ever been before. Maybe now I see myself without blinkers.
I am happy too if you are interested reader. I feel like I can face the challenges life will throw my way. I am heading back to the North.
I’ve spent these last few days in South Africa contemplating and visiting with my mom. I’ve prepared myself mentally for always on electricity and baths filled to the top with hot hot water and unlimited high speed Internet. I can leave the flat at midnight and walk down the street – by myself.
I will miss this place though. I will miss the big open spaces that goes on forever and the way the light shines here. And the night sky that is filled with millions of stars. I will miss these things.
I guess we always miss something. Our souls keep the things we love inside of us. Our souls keep it alive and we can take it out on days when we long for it. We can take it out and turn it over and hold the dreams and the memories. And we don’t have to feel bad or like we failed in the lives that have passed. No, we can feel these memories and be like wow we lived. We lived them we survived them. We made happy memories and we can think back at them with maybe a nostalgic feeling.
All my actions and all my experiences made me who I am now and none of them were wasted. If I remember that, then I am way more free to just live and risk and feel. Because in the end it is worth it. Every second of life is worth it.
A few days ago I passed the halfway mark of this amazing journey I’m on. Halfway through the six months. In some ways it feels like I just landed a few days ago and others it feels like I have been here forever. When you reach some sort of a milestone you usually take a look at where you are heading and I am no different. I took a long good look at myself and my stocktaking led to some conclusions.
The biggest one? I still don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. But I do know how I feel. I wake in the morning and I feel right on my inside. Of course there are days when all I want to do is crawl under the nearest rock and just curl up there and hide. But I discovered that is part of me. It is okay to not always be happy. It is okay to shout at the world. It is okay to feel sad. There is nothing wrong with these feelings. So in a way I guess it meant that I have accepted myself. More honestly accept myself, for who I am. No hiding behind little sweet words and smiles. It is just me now.
Part of this stocktaking also made me realise that this life I have now, just writing everyday, no matter whether it gets published or read, this is what I want to do. This is how I want my life to be. I met an amazing artist recently and she has this outlook on life that speaks to me in some way. Live life without worrying about it. Be free. Trust that you will be taken care of. Now for my control freak mind that would have been a total no go zone a few months ago. But have I not been doing exactly that for three months now? Have I not gotten in my car with no idea of where I am going, just a general direction and every night I have had a safe bed to sleep in? Every time I think shit I don’t know which way I’m going to go now to get out of this, some door opens and wham it is sorted?
So the next step in this thinking is why can’t I do this when I get back to London? Why can’t I just trust things will take care of themselves? I don’t know. I don’t know if a person can be this free all the time. At some point you would want a more permanent place to stay right? Some sort of a home base that you can go back to, where your things are. Isn’t that just how we have been conditioned to think though? Or is it something inherently build into our DNA? Do we really need a place to call home? Do we need a roof and some walls? Here in South Africa I have my mom, she has been here every time I need a roof. Very patiently she takes me in every time. But in London I will be completely flying blind. Is that possible I wonder? Can a person do that?
I have this very special person having my back up there in the northern hemisphere. He has been with me every step of this journey. He’s been there when I cry and think all is lost, he’s been there when I fly on my magic carpet, he’s been there to shake me awake when it had to be done, he’s been silent when he needed to be. In the end isn’t that all we need? Someone to be there for us. Someone we can trust with our insides? Maybe for now that is all I should think about. Just this amazing journey I am on and the amazing people I have around me supporting me. Not think about what happens in three months time. Just live in the moment like I have for the past three months and let the future sort itself out.
We all carry a certain amount of darkness inside of us. Some of us ignore it completely. Some embrace it to such an extend that they do things that society frowns upon, abhor even. Some try and walk that fine line of both living in the shadow world and the real world.
Since I’ve began my journey I have experienced many things, I have seen many things and I have changed. There are those who would say for the worse, but I think it is all just a matter of perspective. How you look at it. Where you come from.
Leaving my husband was certainly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If it was so hard I hear you say, why did you leave? Yes, that is a valid question. And I don’t always know the answer. It depends on my state of mind when you ask as to what response you’ll get. In the end all I can say is that it felt like the right thing to do inside of me, the right thing to do for me.
I chose the life of an artist. I choose to be free, to discover things inside myself, both good and bad. This journey I’m on both terrifies me and liberates me. Freedom is not what we all make it out to be you know. No security no home. Yes that may be the ultimate freedom, but it comes at a price. It has it’s own challenges too.
So much of who we are and how we define ourselves depends on where we live and what job we do. Think about it, the first thing people ask you when they meet you is: Where are you from? By that they mean where do you live right? Where is your home? And the usual response is some sort of suburb in some city or town. But I got none of that now.
The next question is what do you do? Meaning what is your job right? What company do you work for? I have no job right now. I am a writer yes. But soon as you say that they ask what books have you written. And I have no books published, so it means I can’t be a writer if I have not had a novel published. Right?
I wonder do people realise the pressure they put others on when they ask these questions. It is not that I am not proud of what I do I just sometimes don’t know how to answer. I’ve come up with a line: I’ve lived in London for the past ten years, now I’m traveling through South Africa for a few months. That is all they need to know.
I discovered Murakami only recently. The way the man writes about light and dark, the way he writes about what is real and what is in the mind, the way he takes you with his books. Murakami makes me want to live in his worlds of reality mixed with dreams and fantasy. So now I am building that world for myself. In fact I think I’m past building, I’m living it. I’m living in my own Murakami world.
My first night on my own on the road at the backpackers in Mossel Bay was fun and it was crazy. I hooked with the drifters, the ones who bum a bed wherever they can, the ones who drink beer and smoke weed – those ones. The ones who praat kak (talk shit) till the early morning hours and keep on saying “I got to go to bed now … work tomorrow” – those ones. The ones who hook for a few months and exchange stories and ideas and lives and sometimes bodily fluids – those ones. The ones who are free, totally free, the ones who don’t give a shit about society and its values or what people may think of them – those ones.
I reckon it was the tattoos that did it. You know I got some real intense ones now. You know the ones – the ones with the words just below my inner elbows. The ones I can’t hide when I wear short sleeves – those ones. The ones that say: freedom and redemption – yes those ones. The weird symbols on my wrists – those ones. The bright colours on my ankles. The continent on my shoulder the lines across my ribs – those ones. The tattoos were my opening to the free ones.
The tattoos made me realise how much people judge you on your outside. How few people look past your ink and into your soul. The tattoos yes, they are both a barrier and a opening. I guess if they are a barrier, then the people who are on the other side of that wall are not meant to be in this life I have now.
So yes I am learning now to say I don’t care what you think, this is me. I learned that from the free ones. My ink is a map. It tells the story of my life. Each one of the nine, marks a point in my life. Not all happy and not all good points, but they are scratched into my skin so I can remember. Remember where I came from and remember where I’m going.
There once was a little girl who looked up into the sky and saw a bird flying up there. She decided to follow it, this beautiful wild bird with the bright colours of freedom. She ran after the bird. She laughed as it swooped down and then soared high again. She ran and ran all the while looking up into the sky paying no heed, no attention, to what was around her.
When her breath was gone she stopped and looked around her at the place she was at. She didn’t recognise it. She had no idea where she was. She looked up up into the sky. Where was the bird the beautiful wild bird? She turned around and around. She listened for its song. It was not there. Nowhere.
Slowly from inside there came a gentle nudge. She felt it. A song inside of her. She looked down at her body and saw colours, bright colours, and her arms, they had turned into wings. She was a beautiful bird now. She could fly now. She stretched her wings out. Wide wide they were and so bright. When the sunlight caught them they were shining like fairy dust glitter. She flapped them once twice faster faster. Her feet no longer touched the ground. They lifted up they lifted high into the sky. She flew she flew on her own. She could choose. She could go anywhere she wanted too. She was free.
In some parts of the world these things are just like a basic human right. In others it is more of a luxury. Here where I am now in rural South Africa it is definitely more of a luxury most days. Regular Internet that you get through lines are generally okay. Regular cellular phone reception is good. But you try and use one of those USB type data connections through cellphone signals and you are royally stuck.
Email? Forget it.
What’s App? Only if you’re really lucky and then you can only send text no pics.
I’m not sure how or why but Skype is the only thing I can connect too most days.
This lack in connection has made me real crafty at sniffing out Internet. Coffee shops that provide Internet for free for thirty minutes a day are my top destinations, but when I travel through dusty hamlets these are not an option.
One town though i got lucky. I discovered an open connection! So every afternoon I’d loiter outside this shop on the main street with my iPhone, downloading emails and what’s app’ing my family to say that I’m still breathing. Most times though I just disappear quietly into the great unknown of this vast country called South Africa and surface again a couple of days later.
That brings me to the other basic human right: Electricity. Over here the company that basically owns the electricity belongs to the government and the government has many more other things to focus on than making sure it increases it’s capacity for electric supplies. So they’ve introduced this thing called ‘load shedding’. *nods* yes you read that right. What a phrase.
Anyway, load shedding works as follows, at certain times of the day, or night, certain parts of a city or town (sometimes the whole town depending on its size) will have a type of controlled power cut. This usually lasts a couple hours. People here have become very good at dealing with these power cuts. Small generators have seen a huge increase in sales. Gas stoves are and those oil burring fridges are all starting to sell.
In each place I have stayed so far i’ve been supplied with candles and matches and torches. There is just something about having your dinner by candle light that makes even the dullest meal taste special, even dinner for one by candle light.