Having chosen to swallow the red pill...

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Yeah, though I tread through the valley in the shadow of darkness…

Yes, the shortest day of the year is once again behind us and the light will slowly come back again. I feel as if a tremendous boulder has been lifted from my shoulders each year and am both surprised and glad by how quickly the light returns.

I read somewhere that the festival to celebrate the cross-over point, the winter solstice, is not actually December 21 but rather December 25 and our current celebration was neatly slotted into an existing pagan celebration, so it would be an easier transition for people converting to Christianity. This funny little fact is underscored by the Bible stating that Jesus was in fact born in March.

Sometimes I see the changing seasons as symbolic of the battle between Light and Dark, that I sense ranging continually just beneath the thin fabric of society. With the perfect symmetry of Ying and Yang, just at the world’s darkest point, suddenly the battle turns and Light begins to triumph, and then around mid-June, the opposite happens. And I guess that it must always be like that, a balance of opposites, there are the good people and there are the bad people and then in the middle, are masses of humanity who are indifferent and who are trying to pursue their dreams. …Or maybe that is just where the difference lies, in pursuing your dreams. Everyone pursues their dreams but the difference between light and dark may lie in the questions: ‘What dreams?’ and ‘At what cost?’

And sometimes I don’t think as much and am simply happy that daylight is returning and sometime soon, it will be light again when I have to get up!

Monday, December 20, 2004

And the clock is ticking...

… and it really is. In the office where I am currently working, in the peripheral of my vision is a wall clock with a low-hanging pendulum that ticks off the seconds. I have been working peacefully here for several weeks, but just now, it has caught my attention. Each time that pendulum swings is one second of my life that has gone by, one second that I can never have back and one second closer to my departing, whenever that may be. Suddenly I am stressed! Not by the thought of my inevitable departure, but more from all that I would like to pack in before. It is suddenly a realisation of how precious this very moment is and how many idle moments drift by. It is also a realisation of the incredible power that must come from being able to be present in the moment, just that electric awareness, in every second, where, instead of being a passive passenger, you choose life. Wow!

… and I won’t tell you how many seconds it took me to write this ;-)

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Holy Shit!

Holy shit! Next year I start another three and a half years at university, this time all in a foreign language. I’ll have to think carefully about what I wish for next year ☺

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Come to the edge...

‘Come to the edge,’ he said, and they refused. ‘Come to the edge,’ he said. They did, he pushed them and they flew. – Guillaume Apollinaire

Like many other people, I have been guilty of making New Year’s resolutions that usually come to a quiet and almost unseen end, somewhere around mid-February. The guilt then lags around for a month or so longer, and then I approach the exercise again with renewed enthusiasm shortly after Christmas and try and prepare some more realistic goals for the following year.

This year, I tried to do it differently; whether it was different or just a lame cop-out in the form of an unspecified goal that enables me to claim success whatever I do (or don’t do!) is your call. But anyway, 2004 was to be a ‘Year of action’ for me. I have been guilty in the past of reading too many books about ‘finding your path and following it’ – and it was time for me to start living authentically or to put it differently, to make sure that my life and actions are congruent with my intentions.

And so it was that I began my year of action. I knew that I wanted to change direction and had struggled with just what that change should be during the last half of 2003. So, as 2004 the year kicked-off, the game plan was to go back to university, as that is what I needed to change direction. In order to be able to attend university here in Sweden, I needed first to pass Swedish A and Swedish B, which then certified that my written and spoken language was good enough to undertake studies and fully participate at university level. In January, I started studying Swedish A in the evenings, whilst working full-time. I passed that in June and then signed onto the intensive Swedish B course (the full course normally takes a year, but this one would take 4 months). The intensive course took place 4 days a week, early afternoons, so I began to work half-time and study half-time. In order to complete my notice period in time to begin at university, I then handed my notice in at the ad agency I was working for and began the process of starting my own company up, so I could bring in an income whilst I was studying. I finally passed the Swedish B course with top grades and then there was just the waiting left, to see if I had been awarded a place at university. I must admit, when I cycled home yesterday, knowing that the envelope was waiting for me in the letter-box, I was nervous. I had dedicated a whole year, worked really hard, left my job and gone through all the hassle of starting-up my own company, just for this moment, just for the results contained on this piece of paper. – And there it was, I took a deep breath, opened the envelope, and I am in! As simple as that- the name of the university course and the word ‘Accepted’.

It’s ironic really, when I think back through it. 2004 has been a tough year– but the end of it all, the testament to my success, comes down to one single word. ‘Accepted’.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Love is fragile, love is blue

Originally uploaded by annappleaday.

Dom - I read the 'soppy' part of your blog entry the other day, and just want you to know that you aren't alone there. I have been going through a period recently where I get sudden insights or get captured by sudden moments and my love for Ellie suddenly deepens to a level I hadn't known before. It is like I am walking on a glacier, and it cracks underneath me, and when I look down, I get an idea of just how deep it goes and get mesmerised by the beautiful colour blue that's down there.

Often the moments that precipitate this aren't earth-shattering, but just the opposite, they are normal. I make a joke and she throws back her head and laughs. And just seeing her laughing and having the feeling of making her laugh and the sudden comfort that she is her with me and happy in that moment - all of these suddenly hit me all at once and bring tears to my eyes with their simple beauty.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Did you know that you can bruise your fingertips and somehow feel better as a result?

originally uploaded by Bat21.
You can! Two of the fingertips on my left hand have swollen black & blue. And how did I manage to do it? Well, I was doing a breakfall from a beginner throwing o-goshi (or major hip throw). This is a fast throw and looks painful when you land, but it isn't too bad, however, when you first learn this throw, you tend to over-compensate and throw it too slowly and literally 'drop' your partner from a great height instead of throwing them to the ground in a controlled manner. The person being thrown should land in the breakfall position, slapping their hand down on the mat just before the moment of impact, to dispel the pressure of the impact on the rest of the body. And, so, when doing my break fall, whilst being thrown slowly and being dropped from a great height, I slapped my hand down to dispel the force of the 'drop' and bruised two of my fingertips. The best part of all of this is that I actually pay for the pleasure!

I don't know what it is about my ju-jutsu training, but I love being on the mat. I was really looking forward to training this evening and then finally I am there. I pull on the heavy cotton gi (training overall) and then training starts officially, with bowing all round and then a warm-up. This is usually quite intensive, so you are breaking a sweat before you are finished, and then it is into the first technique. We all watch spellbound as the sensei dances around his opponent (uke) just using the basic mechanics of the body to move him, control him and to finally throw him to the ground, and then it's our turn. I find it almost meditative hearing the swishing of the hard cotton gi's as our bodies move in the dance with uke, and then hearing the slaps come one after another as the uke breaks his/her fall on the mat. And so we continue, this rhythmic swooshing and slapping, which fades into the background, whilst at the same time, you attention is finely focussed on where the attack is coming from and on getting the technique right. We progress steadily through technique after technique, keeping the pace high and taking frequent breaks to replenish our water in-take, before, always too soon, the class comes to an end, we bow to thank our uke, we bow to thank our sensei, we bow when we leave the mat and we bow out of the dojo and retire, tired but smiling, into the changing rooms, and later on, in the shower, I get to count my bruises and feel, in a strange way, alive.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Life resumes some semblance of normality

originally uploaded by Bat21.
I am sitting in an office, working off a fast internet connection. I got here at 09:00 in the morning and have sat all day in the company of people!!! It is nice not having to talk to myself all day and to get some distance from the basement which I am currently trying to turn into a workroom / study.

I have been in the process of assembling IKEA's Robin work station; a piece of furniture so complicated to construct that, if you can take proof of the fact that you built it yourself to your nearest university, you will get automatically awarded with an honorary engineer's degree! So, at the end of 4 hours of hard construction and with a feeling of pride, I attached the last part, the drop-down desk, to its arms and then dropped it down, to try it, and one of the arms extended fully and the other didn't, which resulted in the fully extended arm ripping out of its holes and tearing great chunks out of the chip-board underneath. When I measured the desk top later, I found out that the holes for one arm were further away from the edge than those for the other! So, expecting fully to have to disassemble everything I talked to IKEA with trepidation and thanked God, when they said that they could just replace the faulty desk-top!

Dom has kindly found me a photo-site that will work together with my Mac and enable me to up-load photos to my blog, to give it a much needed splash of colour and to enable you all* to follow my adventures in greater visual detail.

*By 'you all' I mean Dom and a kind person called Robert who sent me a kind message after my recent posting. I like to think that all my other readers choose to remain anonymous and don't post comments, rather than consider the alternative explanation!

Monday, December 06, 2004

Life’s ups and downs

And first the good news… I got the highest possible grade in my Swedish ‘A’-level equivalent. Grade ‘A’ or ‘mycket väl godkänd’ as they say over here, which literally translates as ‘passed very well.’ So with a wing and a prayer, I sent everything off to the university admission services and we shall see next week.

Yesterday, I passed my grading in Ju-jutsu and got awarded the right to wear the yellow belt and I have the bruises to prove it. The grading wasn’t as nerve wracking as I thought it would be, but I was nevertheless surprised by the depth that the instructors studied our technique and the fine level of difference between good technique and bad technique. Stuff like ‘Paul, I noticed that in your fighting stance, your lead foot is straight, you will find that having it at 45° will give you greater balance and will be invaluable for techniques at more advanced levels.’ Their feedback was appreciated and I am already looking forward to Wednesday evening and my first training as a yellow belt!

And the bad news… when we went in for our first (10 week) appointment in Ellie’s pregnancy, we looked at the ultrasound and got given the news that things didn’t look good. By the end of the day, nature started working Her course and we went through our second miscarriage in a row. It is a hard place to be when you go in expecting to see a foetus’ heartbeat on the ultrasound and to ‘see’ your ‘baby’ for the first time and 10 minutes later, the world is turned upside-down, again. It takes a while before the world gets its colour back again.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Unexpected caffeine craving

It is 08:45 and I have just got back from my dentist appointment. Who the hell has a dentist appointment at 08:00 in the morning? It is neither a good nor a social hour to mentally prepare yourself for close encounters of the drill kind.

As it was, Kenneth, my dentist was in his usual great humour (I don’t know how he does it considering he has to look into people’s mouths all day) and he is talking and x-raying and giving me the good news that nothing needs filling this time, and all I can think about is how much I am dying to have my first cup of coffee for the day, as if nothing else matters.