Morning pages

I’ve come across ‘morning pages’ term a few times in my life, however I’ve never looked into it. Recently, however, a friend of mine asked me whether I’d ever tried them. She explained what they were and said she she’s been doing them with a bunch of other friends. I felt that it is something I’d like to have a go at.

What are ‘morning pages’? 

‘Morning pages’ is a kind of writing exercise, created by a poet, filmmaker, writer and creativity guru, Julia Cameron.

She explains:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*–they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.

So I had a go.

Few days ago I started writing my morning pages and I really like them! It’s been an interesting and powerful experience so far. My morning pages have taken me through a labyrinth of feelings and myriad of emotions, which I never knew were still buried deep inside me. Well, I didn’t know the extend of it.IMG_7431.jpgI’ve cried, I’ve felt sorrow, pain and sadness. I’ve felt anger and fear. I’ve felt guilt. I’ve felt relief and that I belong. But most importantly, I’ve started feeling connected with myself within. I miss this feeling of connectedness. It’s something I haven’t felt for a while now, but the one I’ve been longing for most. I believe it’ll happen more often over time, with some patience, gentle perseverance, silence, stillness, non-judgement and meditation. At the moment I feel I’ve been learning acceptance of all those feelings and thoughts that have been arising. Those I’m not a big fan of have seemed to be best teachers: I’ve been learning to accept my humanity. My plan now is to continue to write my morning pages and observe what arises.

Have you ever tried ‘morning pages’? Has it been a useful experience for you?

 

The Point of Return

 

         ”   When you come to a major turning point, just for a  moment, your whole world stands still . “

 

you like coming home

returning to the light

celebrating your life

in the company of your friends

 

let nature take its course

just as the earth

in the depths of winter

at the time of the solstice

stops for a moment

before turning

making its journey back toward the sun

you too have arrived at a place

where you can begin the journey

back to where you belong

it’s a cause for celebration

 

/The Little Book of Changes/

 

Son of a…gun

 

I  grew up in a country where carrying guns is unheard of and it’s simply illegal. I only saw guns on TV or heard of them on the radio. In my head they’ve always belonged to armed forces, not individuals. The whole gun thing had been something I couldn’t really fathom. Until the 6th January 2017….

Ok, it’s untrue- I still can’t fathom this gun thing…. But on the 6th of January 2017 I had my first closer encounter with guns as  I got caught up in Ft Lauderdale crisis.

I was one of the lucky ones though- nobody shot at me. Yet it was the first time that guns, or rather someone misusing a gun, directly impacted my life.

Havana airport. Nothing too exciting, just a bit nervous about my check- in  process as my airlines only checked me for my flight to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) rather than all the way to Boston and I only had less than 2 hours between the flights. First time it happened to me. Boarded the plane ok-and it appeared I got ‘upgraded’ to the seats at the front of the plane! Flight was ok, no delays. As we landed in FLL we were told we needed to wait about 10 mins for a gate allocation.  I was getting  a bit worried due to my connection situation, plus a guy  who had been kind enough to have checked my next flight details for me on his mobile told me the flight wasn’t showing on my airline’s website! Worrying…And then we were told that the delay was caused by a  gunman in Terminal 2!  We got to the gate, but  were told that we couldn’t deplane , although the gunman had been arrested and taken to custody- there were concerns that there might be another one. No flights were allowed to fly in or out of the airport at the moment.  So there  I was, waiting.  Some time later I saw people being evacuated on the tarmac. I have to say, I didn’t like the idea of being there, so exposed, especially as there was no news regarding whether there was the second gunman or not. Then I saw those people on the tarmac suddenly started  running, what looked like in panic, in all directions! This, understandably, caused some upset and anxiety amongst the passengers. Several minutes later the door to our aircraft opened and two police officers with big guns barged in ,pointed their guns first towards the crew members who had opened the door for them, then towards the passengers and started shouting  :’ Nobody move, put your hands up, everybody keep your hands up’!  I wasn’t sure for a moment whether it was a joke, a film or what…Definitely not a reality as I know it: never in my life had I had a gun pointed towards me. But I slowly raised my hands up, feeling  as if someone was totally taking the mick out of me. Then they shouted ;’Ok, you’re safe’ and they told the crew to keep the door shut. After they left, a lot of passengers started to cry and panic. Three women sitting behind me appeared very anxious and cried. I turned to them. I checked how they were doing- they said they were scared. At that point we heard about 5 people dead, 8 wounded, with a potential second gunman running around .One of the women asked if I was scared -I said I was ok. I felt  surprisingly really calm. Really. I noticed I don’t panic in difficult situations. And I think it’s good- at least it was then. I didn’t want to sound what could have been potentially perceived as arrogant , but I wanted to be truthful to how I felt and said:

‘No, I’m not. And I’ll tell you why. I think we’re in the safest place possible now. We’re not at the terminal, we’re not exposed on the tarmac. We’re on this plane, the door is closed- it must be considered a safe place as they evacuated people  from the terminal and let them come on board.”

I don’t remember my exact words and what else I said after that. I turned around again and sat in my seat. And…I meditated.   I had pictures appearing in my mind, questions raised and feelings to observe.

‘What is someone started shooting at our plane now?”

‘ Can bullets go through a plane wall?” “They can probably go through a plane window”.

“What if the next person with a gun that barges through the plane door isn’t a police officer but a gunman wanting to shoot people randomly?”

I realised that there was nothing I could do about it though. I was stuck on the plane, I couldn’t go anywhere, I was trapped for I don’t know how long. So…I accepted. I even accepted the fact , no matter how rational or irrational it was at that time, that someone can just shoot me dead today. I couldn’t do anything about it. And  I was amazed how calm and accepting I was.

When I arised from my meditation , I also realised that I couldn’t contact my brother as I couldn’t connect to the airport wifi and I was aware that time was ticking and he would be worried – if he was watching TV or something. But again, I couldn’t do anything about it and had to accept that he may potentially be very worried now. However, hours later , Customs and Border Protection offices entered the plane and announced something in Spanish. I was waiting for announcement in English , but no, there was none! They just left. But I could understand some and , looking around the plane and seeing people getting their bags ready, I was now sure it was time to leave the plane. It was around 4.45 pm and by then I’d kissed my flight to Boston good bye – actually I did long time ago ( my plan landed around 1.30 pm)

So I took my suitcase – was so glad I only had a hand luggage with me! – and left the plane. As I left, my priority was to contact my brother. Luckily I managed to connect to wifi and,  ignoring all the ‘No mobile phones ‘ signs , I rang my brother. As I was listening to the ringing tone, I noticed I started shaking a little bit and I had the realisation that I was no longer on the plane, but stepped out on the terminal , I didn’t feel so safe anymore. Logic was telling me I was ok as CBP wouldn’t have let people out , but at that point my body was reacting differently. My brother picked up the phone and very cheerfully (!) said ‘Hi, so you landed? I’d be leaving in about ten minutes to pick you up!’. I was stunned. And speechless for a short moment. Then I said: ‘ Hmmmmmm…I’m in Ft Lauderdale. Didn’t you hear what’d happened?’ . And he said ‘no. I was busy, didn’t put TV on.” I felt relieved that he hadn’t got a clue! I brought him up to speed. I noticed that as I was telling him the story, my voice started trembling and I felt rather emotional and close to crying. I believe the emotions caught up with me. I didn’t cry though as I couldn’t afford to do it at that point- I felt it would be a long night for me, I needed to stay calm and collected.

As I was talking to my brother on the phone, there were further announcements via speakers about no rooms being available anywhere downstairs at the moment, so we would be processed and kept upstairs for the time being. Few moments later there was another announcement :

“ Ladies and gentlemen, please do not panic and remain where you are- in about 5 minutes there will be controlled explosion of suspected package. Please remain where you are.”

The plot was getting thicker and thicker. I updated my brother and told him that he could forget about me coming over tonight and that I’d keep him posted as things were developing from here.

And then I was just waiting for another couple of hours or so with hundreds of passengers, went through all the checks and then were sent to a room to leave ALL my belongings and then told to go outside the terminal where I joined I don’t know how many people out there. 

    

   

We were cordoned off by police and/or army (?) , so no one could go on the other side of the street at that point. I was looking at them and I felt more and more aware of the fact they all had guns. Big ones. I felt fear that I was outside and I felt that struggle inside me between ‘I’m exposed, I’m an easy target and I’m feeling vulnerable!’ vs. ‘You’re safe- if you weren’t they wouldn’t have let you go outside. They have guns, they’ll protect you.’ Guns. I looked at them a lot from a very short distance. I felt uneasy. I was thinking that if I were to piss those uniformed people off (which, of course , I wasn’t going to do!) , they could easily shoot me dead (which, of course, was a stupid thing to think as their job was to protect me!). But that was my thought process in that still surreal situation.

After few more hours outside, when we were finally allowed to go inside the terminal and collect our belongings, I faced few more hours of waiting to get on buses, which were to take us all from the terminal to Port Everglade. As I had no clue what it was , I spoke with some officials and I understood that it was in the ‘middle of nowhere’ , but I could take a taxi from there to a hotel. That wasn’t something I wanted to hear, but I thought” ‘Ok, I know the lingo, I have some $$$ in my pocket and a credit card, I’ll manage’. So I waited. And waited. Then waited a bit more. And it was pushing midnight where it really hit me: ‘I’ll be in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, in a city I don’t know , in a country where people can have GUNS’! That was the moment when the whole relationship between guns and killing people actually  sunk in! I decided I’d do everything NOT to leave the airport! I didn’t know how, but I was determined I wasn’t leaving. I was properly scared. For me at that time probability of being shot in the middle of the night in a city I didn’t know in a country that allowed carrying guns, was rather high!

Looking at all of it now, it’s easy to just say I was stupid and naive and I wasn’t even in direct danger- yeah, maybe. But then, when emotions were running high, when just few mere hours before somebody took lives of 5 innocent people with a gun he had been allowed to have, things were looking different to me.

I was lucky. The authorities, who seemed to have been changing their minds as time progressed, allowed us to stay inside the terminal! I found myself a lovely piece of floor just in front of my airline’s counters, so I could start sorting out my flight out of there first thing in the morning, and I had few hours sleep, using my hand luggage as a pillow.

I was lucky and although I never flew to Boston, I managed to get a flight to New York some 43 hours later instead. I spent those hours out of the terminal with some of the kindest, helpful and amazing people I’ve met in my life. I met some more in NY too, after my brother, sister-in-law and little nephew picked me up from La Guardia.

I was lucky that the only people who had pointed their guns at me where CBS officers.

And I am lucky I live in a country, where carrying guns is illegal.

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I still can’t wrapped my brain around the fact that people can carry guns . I just simply don’t get it. But it scares me when I hear about tragedies such as San BernardinoOrlando or the latest Las Vegas. My heart goes to all victims and their families.

It scares me that guns are legal and easily available to (almost) anyone. I don’t live in America and I don’t know all the ins and outs in relation to guns and gun laws, but I’m glad to hear that people seem to have now started asking questions and wanting to talk about gun control more.

I like travelling to America a lot and I so look forward to my next trip in just few weeks time. My family and my best friend live there and I always cherish my time in this great country.  But now I’m very aware of the fact that people are allowed to carry guns there.

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Here are some links to talks, articles and snippets of TV shows I’ve come across recently:

The Guardian: 1,516 mass shootings in 1,735 days: America’s gun crisis – in one chart

Jimmy Kimmel on Mass shooting in Las Vegas

Trevor Noah: It’s Time To Start Talking About Gun Control

Dan Gross: Why gun violence can’t be our new normal

Peter Van Uhm: Why I chose a gun

Dr. Gary Slutkin: Let’s treat violence like a contagious disease

Confessions of a killer

 

Yes,I started killing people. It may not be the most popular way of spending free time,  at least not in the eyes of the West Midland’s Police I guess , but I still went for it. And they’re not accidental killings, but intentional, carefully planned and executed, committed in broad daylight. I killed Simon, Paul, Jane and couple of more people.I plead guilty: I injected some homeless people with a lethal dosage of kindness…and homemade care packages:

I killed them with fresh socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, roll-ons, anti-bacterial hand gels, foot care products, tampons and to make sure they were properly done, I threw in some nuts, cereal bars and mints on top. Yeah, I think that finished them off quite nicely. And if not, that cup of hot coffee and hot baguette should’ve done the job!

But joking aside….In my previous post I shared my issues with this poster produced by West Midlands Police. I believe that it is important to support charities- financially or by giving them our time-  and I acknowledge that they may help those people in another way, using different sets of believes and probably, well, statistics. But I question whether those organisations should be the only ports of call for homeless people. Or actually any people in need. Should we- individuals– stop reaching out to others, just because authorities have other ideas and approaches to helping people?  Shouldn’t authorities, i.e. Police force, encourage people to help in another way if they really must ask people not to give money to homeless ? I think that we, as societies, suffer enough from lack of ,or very limited , basic human connection. Technology has started taking over pretty much every aspect of our lives, more and more people, including children, are losing ability to talk to a real person, the art of conversation seems to be also endangered. And all I would like to see is all us start building this connection back up again. Why am I so passionate about human connection? Because, as Brene Brown puts it,  

“(…) connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about.(…) that connection, the ability to feel connected, is- neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired- it’s why we’re here.”  

And I believe her.

When I was chatting to one of the guys I’d met, I shared with him my idea of putting those care packages together and asked for his input- after all he was in a better position to tell me what homeless people may really need. I spent probably good 20/25 mins sitting on the steps in the city square just talking. I felt it was a really frank conversation- not one of those when you just say ‘yes’ to everything, but a proper talk, when you challenge each other from time to time.He told me his story, shared his ideas and dreams for the future. He seemed to have liked the idea of the packages and suggested I could start raising money and set up a charity. Nice idea indeed, and very tempting, I must say. However, I care about what we, as individuals, can do for another human being. It’s about acknowledgement, giving time, eye contact, a nice word or two. It’s about basic conversation with another person.  And, of course, connection. Societies consists of individuals ; I dare to say that strong societies consist of individuals who are connected and support one another.

It crossed my mind that I could set up a website, start raising money and perhaps try to develop some kind of charity (?), but then I had another idea.  I just called it ‘Give me five!’. Why? Because each of these care packages I’ve prepared costs more or less £5. What if each of us, wherever in the world we live, spend £5 ( or equivalent) on a homeless person, by providing a little care package of items they need or buying them a hot meal/drink? And if we don’t want to spend money- as it’s not really just about the money- then let’s give 5 minutes of our time ( and a smile ) to talk to someone who lives on the streets. Or give 5 minutes ( and a smile ) to a stranger or a neighbour we’ve never talked to. We can give the phrase ‘Give me five!’ totally new meaning 🙂 Let’s start (re)building human connection. Who’s with me?

I’d love to hear your stories of ‘giving five’ , if you care to share them with me! Thank you for reading and joining me on a quest of ‘giving five’ 🙂

 

 

 

Can kindness really kill?

…according to the West Midland Police’s poster- yes, it can.

Few weeks ago I came across this poster at a bus station, which made me stop and think:

When I was younger, I decided not to give money to homeless people- for exactly this reason: I didn’t want to be responsible for somebody’s drug or alcohol induced illness or even death. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to help them- when they asked me for money I’d offer to buy food . And most of the time they accepted with , I believe, genuine gratitude. If they didn’t and pressed for money, I wouldn’t give them any as for me it was an indicator at that time, that money may be spent, indeed, on some more or less legal substances and I didn’t want to be part of it. I was trained in making assumptions about homeless people as often as any other average Joe.

In recent years I noticed some changes in my attitude towards homelessness and homeless people.  I stopped waiting for people ask me for money or food, I’ve become more proactive, especially during  autumn and winter periods. I’ve started buying hot food and drinks and approach any homeless people in my vicinity and just offer them a hot breakfast or lunch, or I’d stop and ask if they needed anything. And when I asked, do you know what the most common answer was? No, not money.  ‘A bottle of pop.’

The other day I came across a young homeless woman. I asked if she needed anything from a shop- she said she had food, so she just wanted a bottle of pop. Apart from the drink, I also bought her antibacterial hand gel as I thought being on the streets often meant eating with dirty hands . I had a short chat with her after, asked her if she needed anything else and she showed me her shoes full of holes and about to fall apart. She needed a pair of shoes, size 8, and asked if I knew anyone wearing that size. Well, as a matter of fact, that’s my shoe size too. She told me she’d seen a pair for a fiver, but she didn’t have money to get them. I didn’t have cash on me, but if I did, that was the moment when  I think I’d feel a bit reluctant to give it to her , so I offered I’d  buy her shoes, which she accepted. Following her strict guidance, I only spent a fiver and it took me only extra half an hour on my way back home!  And I really enjoyed helping her. Let me get it straight- of course I had a plethora of different thoughts such as ‘what if she exchanged the shoes for drugs/alcohol? etc. (assumptions! ) , but seriously, who am I to judge her ?! I’m not in her- no pun intended- shoes, I don’t know her story, I don’t understand how it feels to live on the streets and try to survive there. Observing my train of thoughts without judging helped me let go of them and enabled me just to be there for her, helping out and enjoying the process.

I  realised that, from financial and ‘time-wise’ points of view, it’d be much cheaper (!) and ‘hassle-free’ to just give homeless people 20p or 50p (I do it very occasionally ) and carry on with my life, but I want to pay more attention to fellow human beings. I’ve enjoyed having a chat with some of them – I believe they are phenomenal teachers in the School of Life and sometimes they humble me. But I’m also guilty of ignoring people sometimes or feeling bad for refusing to give any money, especially if I’d already bought food for someone else that day. I do sometimes struggle to draw a line of when to help and when to leave it. I also wrote about this issue in my post few weeks ago.  

What really struck me when I read that poster was this rather strong suggestion,  that money ‘can go to buy drugs or alcohol‘. And I get it, it sometimes might indeed. But my immediate reaction to it was “what if  ‘your money can go to buy food‘?” Is it ok to just assume that money can be spent only on those substances?  Doesn’t this poster  label  all/most homeless people as potential drug and alcohol abusers? Are there not enough labels on them already? Shouldn’t there be more on such posters to encourage people to help in more direct ways too, i.e. by buying a homeless person a hot drink or a pair of socks? Wouldn’t that be promoting kindness on an individual level too, instead of just leaving helping out to charitable organisations, which budget and funding have already been cut? Wouldn’t such encouragement help to rebuild communities and reestablish human connection? This imbalance doesn’t sit with me comfortably I must admit…

As as said before, I have no idea how it feels to live on the streets, how it feels not to be able to shower and eat on regular basis, I just simply don’t know…And I hope I’ll never find out! But I’m not the one to judge homeless people or choices they make.  But perhaps I can offer something which can make their day a bit better.  I can’t stop thinking about those people when I go to bed every night, especially on a cold night and I just can’t comprehend how they might be feeling. I then feel even more grateful for what I have and feel more compassionate towards homeless people, which then spurs me on wanting to do more for them. I’m getting more and more interested in their situation and I’ve got several ideas currently brewing in my head about what else I can do to help… I won’t share them now though 😉

So the Police Force and charities may have different, and perhaps more informed, approach to issue of homelessness, but I don’t think that this should stop us to reach out to our brothers and sisters on the streets or to stop us to treat them like they deserve to be treated- as fellow human beings.

What do you think? Is it possible to kill with kindness? Should potential risks or risky outcomes that may come alongside reaching out to others be enough to stop helping or limit amount of help we offer ?

(P.S. As I was writing my post, I came across this article, which I can relate to:  It’s not wrong to give to homeless people-it’s human. )