What can you learn from me? A bit of my story

First, here’s a bit about my story. I’m of the same vintage as Jeff Bezos (I’m actually three years younger, so there’s time for me to catch up…), so let’s do a comparison with him. In his lifetime, as everyone knows, he’s made billions and he’s heading for space. What have I done in my lifetime? Well, I’ve lived in three or four (depending how you count them) countries in the global South, where I worked as a volunteer teacher, and I have a PhD. I’ve written a book, I’ve edited and am waiting to publish another book (for which I have a contract), I’ve contributed chapters to other books, and I’m writing a novel.

Those are things I’ve done that Jeff Bezos hasn’t.

But in terms of impact, what has my impact been? Well, maybe I’m a slow burner. I don’t know what happened in Jeff’s early life. In mine, I had lots of privilege but also lots of trauma leading to mental health issues and the fact that this pushed me into a state of apathy and self disgust meant doing anything was hard. I experienced sexual abuse and have had a long-term, very debilitating eating disorder, throwing up two or three times a day, which meant I self-medicated with alcohol and drugs. All that slowed me down.

Yet, despite all this, I’m really extraordinarily and astonishingly grateful for all I’ve been through. Although I have a lot of reviewing to do, and I don’t understand why I didn’t die and why I had to go through so much abuse and suffering, to have such a difficult relationship with myself, a relationship that was constantly breaking down with an inability to escape from patterns that were deeply damaging, overlaid with secrecy and shame, it gives me a good mirror for understanding the state of the world and I certainly don’t have a Polyanna, everything’s great, attitude to how things are. I have ripped myself apart, sometimes literally ripping my hair out, or waiting on the road, not knowing where I would spend the night. I have a good understanding of violence, hatred, grief, guilt, and escapism, lethargy and utter despair. I’ve done my share of harm, largely in response to the harm done to me.

But I now know that all this is a brilliant way of understanding our relationship, not just with other humans, but with the more-than-human world. My healing, my integration, my yoga, has been to absorb these lessons, not by rejecting or overcoming, but by embracing, and that’s what I want to teach. Attitude polarisation is overcome by understanding our own particular perspective as just that, a point of view, and working to bridge the divide between facts, knowledge and wisdom. Kindness for ourselves is a direct mirror of kindness for others, and for the more-than-human world. And that requires attention and care. Which takes time. I have been lucky to have had time to reflect on all the time I spent being broken, and to begin to see that reflection itself is a manner of seeing, and of drawing together the shattered fragments of a life at once ordinary and extraordinary, a life full of contradictions and twists, but also full of lessons that are now here for the teaching.

I’ve also got a PhD, written a book, run three marathons, and am a mother to two wonderful independent people – all things I think amount to something of value!

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