The year 2020 has come to an end, and endings always make me reflect back on the journey. I’ve always spent Christmas with my family and fortunately this time was no different. And just like the past years, new years’ was spent with my Aunt.
Here I am again, in Vaals, closing and beginning the year with her. My mind has been drifting back to where I was last year, how my life looked back then and where I am now. Remembering how I felt hope and sadness for my relationship with Charlie. The sensation of total disconnection that I experienced at the end of the year, which turned out to be true when we met again. How I felt hope and fear for starting my diet to support my newly discovered auto-immune condition.
Writing it down now, makes me realise that those were really big life events that felt unstable and needed time to unfold. Now a year later, I’m feeling much more peace again about these topics. The diet, very challenging the first few months, but easier now, is having the desired effect (I need to get tested again soon, fingers crossed that all is still well!). And my beliefs about relationships and how they should be has changed a lot. Where I used to be much more haunted by shoulds and shouldn’ts and wanting to be able to put labels and explain the ‘relationshipsstatus’, I’m now much more in a space where I just experience the feelings that are there for people. Trusting my gut feeling and listening to my body more when it comes to connections and intimacy. Less thinking, more feeling and more communication!
The communication bit, where I share my desires, wishes and boundaries in connection with another person, is still a hard one for me. It still strikes me sometimes how ingrained my people pleasing is and how there can be a very deep sense of unworthiness. This old idea of me/a woman needing to not complain and to ‘serve (a man)’ because that’s our job. I know this is all not true anymore for me (realising very well that there are a lot of places in the world where this is still very true), but not yet always feeling and living it. In certain confronting situations I can feel my body tensing, my mind getting busy, knowing I should speak up, but just not finding the words or telling myself ‘nah it’s not so bad and maybe if I just wait a bit, things will change and get better’. Understanding now, that once my mind starts to talk and I feel resistance, I really need to say something. But speaking also requires me to carefully choose the words I use. The challenge of always sharing from my perspective and experiences. At times, there can be such a reactive feeling of ‘you did this to me and now I feel like shit’, which has never been a helpful thing to say (or to hear for that matter), it lacks connection. So, the past year has been a big practice in taking a breath and sharing my experience and my feelings. Where I often had to dig deep to feel what was behind the more superficial emotion and story. Trying to keep or re-establish a connection.
Writing in my diary and my blogs have been a great help with this reflection process. Especially my blogs force me to deeply reflect and be radically honest and open in what I have experienced and choose to share.
I’ve also expressed quite some anger I’ve felt. I’ve never really done anger. I don’t like it, nor am I good at it (like in the movies where people shout at each other and say the right things (because they have a script ;))). My reflex is to push it down and I hardly ever (allow myself to) express the anger I feel. It also usually quickly changes into sadness and tears. But this year I’ve shouted, thrown branches and punched bolsters and also cried a lot. It feels like such a relief to be able to allow myself to let go. And then, once the edge is off I can communicate a lot more clearly. I do realise that with getting to anger, a lot has usually already happened that wasn’t ok for me, that I didn’t share. But I’m learning, making mistakes, trying stuff out to see what works for me and the person I’m dealing with in those kinds of moments. I’m not perfect and I’m pretty ok with that most of the time ;). The punching and throwing stuff mostly happens when I’m by myself, to not actually physically hurt anybody or break stuff. Letting the emotions out in as much of a controlled way as possible, but at least releasing it.
This change of the year comes with a fairly big life event as well. My house in Rotterdam will be up for sale! I’d been thinking about it for a while, but while I still had a tenant everything was going quite ok. The rent didn’t leave me enough to fully live from, but I’d been managing. Early November my tenant moved out, and even though the housing market is tight, the expat market had collapsed with corona and the company managing my house couldn’t find anyone. That gave me the final push to go for selling it. Also, my savings really running out now made it easier to decide. I’ve found myself a nice estate agent and everything is in process.
Before Christmas my sister and I cleared out my house a bit, moving some things to her little house in the forest. As I was sitting there, in my house, on my couch, I could really feel how I had enjoyed living there and how I could make it my home again. It felt very nostalgic. At the same time, I really do not see myself living in a city anymore. Or at least not in the near future.
It is the first time that I’m letting go of a place where I lived, with such a peaceful feeling. I’ve moved 5 times before, which always was with a real desire of leaving the place, as if it was kind of tainted and I wanted to run away from it. But now there is a lot of respect and gratitude for the home it has been for me, the beautiful neighbours that live there and all the opportunities citylife has offered me.
When I moved there I was such a different person. I was suffering from panic attacks, incredibly exhausted from a draining relationship that hadn’t ended yet, just a few months into a really nice new laboratory job after leaving a not so nice one and I didn’t know Rotterdam at all. I felt like a video game character with only the immediate surrounding visible and as it starts walking, you are able to see more on the screen. I moved there because I wanted a garden and needed to live close to public transport for work and Rotterdam was the only practical city I could afford that in. Besides that, I had hopes of fixing my relationship, since he had moved out from our place to live closer to his work and to be with himself. I remember going to bed around half past 9 every evening because I was so tired. My social life didn’t really exist, but I was making an effort to get to know my neighbours, since I felt that that would be important.
What a journey those 10 years have been… A lot of (healing) alone time, therapy, travels (over the world and journeys within), becoming self-employed while doing beautiful research still, meeting so many new friends (without freaking out) and really starting to Live My life. Writing it down now is showing me so many flashback and making me feel so grateful for this incredibly challenging journey. I almost cannot believe that I am where I am, having these beautiful souls in my life and living in a van in Spain, with all the challenges that come with that life.
But here I am, ready to close these chapters in Rotterdam. Letting go of the house, but cherishing the friends and all the learnings. Feeling as open as ever to life and to living it. Being curious to whom and what crosses my path and listening to the wisdom within as best I can to take care of myself, and through that of others, on that path.
Wishing everyone a loving, inspiring and healthy 2021 <3