On Meeting Oneself in Unexpected Places

Adventure | By Christie Brookstein, Jewellery / Leather Designer | 07 May 2015

When I was offered the chance to write for the POVO Journal - Women’s Edition for the second time, I was delighted. I had so loved the process of putting together an opinion piece and sat down with relish to write and instead hit that infamous writer’s curse – no words, just a blank page. This condition continued right up to virtually deadline, when it struck me that actually the blank page was what I needed to write about.

I am at a new beginning in my life – I have taken a terrifying leap and left all that I know behind to set out on a journey with no fixed ending, few signposts and no companion but myself. For the last three and a half years, I have had the wonderful experience of working with up and coming luxury brand The Ndau Collection. I have also carried a shattered heart, financial woes, faced the fact the forty and single was my next destination and most difficult of all, I lost my mother.

As a woman, this is a loss that nothing can prepare you for. I lost her to the ravening demon that is cancer, that monster that comes sneaking into your life, the beast that is insatiable, eating up everything that a person is composed of. I watched helplessly as my vibrant, eccentric, beautiful mother faced the demon for a second time, back in this incarnation with wracking pain and debilitation and I had to listen and accept as she told me she just couldn’t fight it again. In the space of a few short months, she was gone and so had all the light in the world, for myself and my family, most especially my father who had lost his sailing companion of over forty years.

This was where I first came to face that blank page. All my life, it had never bothered me that I wasn’t exactly conventional, because neither was she and no matter where life took me, I always had someone to find the journey interesting. Just prior to her illness, I had started a blog where I had intended to chart the course of finding myself, my late thirties angst finally given voice. I envisioned trips to far corners of the world, adventures, photographs and words. I wrote one entry and never wrote again.

This was because I came to understand a harsh fact, something expressed just recently to me in a riff on a well known comedian’s words – the “you” you are looking for is where you are and who you are. There is no need to travel to the ends of the earth on a soul searching mission, when all along, there you are, right inside you, thinking your thoughts, looking out through your eyes, feeling your pain. The romantic vision is nothing but that. Losing my compass in life made me realize this. My mother wasn’t a saint, she was real and warm and I’m her legacy. You can’t run away from yourself, in any way or form. Instead, you can take a long hard look inside and see what there is to see. After all, that’s where the words come from, it’s the eyes that compose the photographs, the person that sets off on the adventure, the one who likes romantic notions but has feet on the ground.

At first, this may sound depressing, but when pushed to extremes, I have found that I am actually happy to have not had to go very far to meet the person who has had the privilege of grace and love, who is still standing when that was ripped away, who has glued together lots of pieces to make an even stronger whole, who is here inside me, looking somewhat different than what I expected, but undeniably me. And now back to that blank page.

It’s blank, not because I don’t know what to write, but because it’s a new beginning. I have sat with myself and had a long discussion. It turns out that right now, what I need is to sit by a foreign sea and just spend some time with me. I have some plans and wishes, but I’m also alright with the knowledge that tides may not steer me there. I am taking a sabbatical to celebrate the fact that I am forty and have the world before me.

I’ve turned to one of my life coaches, Hunter S. Thompson, and adopted his mantra:
‘Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming “Wow. What a ride!”’

Yes, I consider him a life coach, not for the manner in which he chose to live his life, but the commitment and conviction with which he did. He teaches you a lot about what not to do too, something a real life coach should in my opinion – no one lives a perfect life. No one has the answer to everything and that’s something to celebrate, it keeps it interesting.

I’m packing his words, along with my mother’s smile, my joy in my brand new niece, my friends’ love, a kikoy and a pair of flip flops. Blue seas and blank pages, here I come, just me with myself, ready to fill up the future with light and life.