can o worms

pop·u·lar – adjective; regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general

Leaving off from yesterdays post…the one where I thought I’d export all the stuff from out of my head through my fingertips and onto my keyboard…well Holy flying crap Batman…the opposite has happened.  More thoughts are tumbling in.  It’s like ideas, questions, paradigms, yearnings flying around in the ether have been looking for a place to land…an opening for them to transform into something better.  Hmm, am I ready to take this onboard?  The answer I give myself is.. well…erm, ok, if it is via teeny tiny little steps at a time and I have a water-tight back out clause.

Like anything, I think I need to see where I’ve come from to get to where I am headed.  When you ask for directions you need to have a point A to get to point B right?

After the shit hit the fan back in 2000 (ish..I confess I’m not one of those that can real off dates like ‘oh, yes back in November of 2003, a sunny day leading to a nightfall with a waning moon I recall I made my first origami platypus) I made up my mind to live a better life. The first thing I did was to be honest with myself and admit I was unhappy….then  decide I wanted to change that.  I began with the most difficult but THE most important task – learning to love myself.  After 12 years I am not totally there, and I don’t think I ever will be (though, of course, I am open to this possibility) but I see it like this; love is not a constant presence, though I wish it was.  Loving YOURSELF is like loving anyone.  Sometimes people do stuff you don’t fully understand and yeah, they can piss you off…but you don’t stop LOVING them, you ACCEPT them as they are (well, after a fashion…you may at the time consider the ancient art of voodoo..but underneath the seething rage, bitter disapointment and longing for them to be reading from your script and not their still LOVE them).  Sometimes you just need to have a TIME OUT.

So, back in the day, I got honest; wrote down the serenity prayer; and then I used my best tool.  I started making LISTS.  My goal planning and list making firstly involved staring off into the yonder and visualising what I wanted my life to look like.  Then, after a further sprinkling of the honesty shaker and getting a good hard look at myself…I wrote a list of what I needed to do to get there. Even the stuff I didn’t believe I could change.

First I decided to CLEAR OUT THE CLUTTER.  I was in my late 20’s, binge drinking, smoking, eating food that dulled my mind and stripped away my motivation,  I was inflexible, doing a job I hated, not being true to myself and not having much honest-to- goodness fun.  I hated myself and, whilst driving along in the car one day, cigarette smoke clouding around me, ash and crushed fag butts spilling from the console, it suddenly hit me.  I was punishing myself for just being alive.

My first list looked a little like this….stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, eat healthier food, exercise, get some therapy, go travelling.

I made up my mind I was going to achieve these goals, or at least try.  I read Allen Carr – The Only Way to Stop Smoking Permanently whilst simultaneously working on the other tasks I’d set myself….In hindsight I see that they were all working together to support each other: the transformation seemingly orchestrated….. The book was AMAZING. It worked  – as I had the feeling it would (which is why it took me 3 months to pluck up the courage to even order it!).  To be a non-smoker I realised I had to become teetotal too, or I’d fall off the wagon when my will power was as drunk as a Lord.  Some people can have one or two, I had to empty the barrel.  It had to go completely.  I was reading inspirational self-help books that almost appeared to be speaking directly to me.  They gave me encouragement… so I went for it….quit the booze too.  I will be honest, it had one negative effect.  Social isolatation.  Friends didn’t understand me anymore, and my healing was like a wound – the scar was tender and sensitive, I couldn’t be around them for fear of me falling back into the stink.  This new life uncovered my vulnerability, I was no longer able to anethetise my feelings…which wasn’t, and still isn’t easy..but it was far better than the self loathing I’d felt.  It initiated the desire to work out who I was and what made me happy.  I felt better.  Feeling good was addictive, so eating healthier came easy.  Along the way I dropped a big hunk of the guilt I felt from eating animals and became a vegetarian..then, eventually after a year, vegan.  Each step I made got me so excited and motivated about improving my body, mind and changing my life.  As I was detoxing my mind began to clear.  It uncovered what lay beneath years of clouding, numbing out my thoughts and feelings.  I experienced some really tough times, looking my my past in the eye, but this was necessary.  It was stopping me from being true to myself.  I was forced to address my ‘baggage’.  I didn’t want to struggle, I wanted to change my mind, so I made the task easier by doing things in metaphors….

Becoming more flexible in life – I took up yoga.

Working things out – I ran, walked, danced.

Clearing my mind – I cleared my house first.

It made changing me easier because they were indirect ways of taking action, and they worked.  This is turn made me feel better so I had the courage to tackle the stuff I thought would be too hard.  Therapy.

I book a week-long ‘mind detox’ retreat called the Hoffman Process, held in a beautiful white house,  where the breeze carried the air off the Atlantic across the tended lawns.  I was scared almost out of my mind but I was determined to get better.  So I went and gave it my everything.  It transformed me and I drove out 7 days later a better person. The world seemed far more in focus, more resplendant than it had just a week before.

A year later I’d moved out of the home I shared with my boyfriend and was living alone for the first time in my life.  The fear I felt sleeping alone rendered me sleepless for about a week.  Then I just got on with it.  I was lonely but I wasn’t screaming at someone, feeling like crap and living with frustration of my attempts to (I’ll use one of my mother’s..not very vegetarian friendly…terms) make a silk purse out of a sows ear. Having previously believed the world was a big nasty old place, fearing the dark and being alone I had now opened to the belief of something new.  I desparetly wanted to cement the shift as soon as I could. I talked myself into a round the world trip.  Stepping into that fear paid off a million times over and I began to emerge in the guise that I WANTED to be.

But before that, I found out the hard way that the tools I’d learnt from the life detox, the confidence course I’d done every Wednesday for 5 weeks, and all I’d read in the books that towered on my bedside cabinet, required ongoing effort. I needed to make these a FOREVER part of my daily ritual.  As important as keeping my teeth cleaned each day I had to replace the ‘bad’ stuff with the good.  I thought of it like filling in the pit so it could become part of a pretty meadow.  So I made a list.  An adaptable, living, lifelong list..

  • wake up early and feel hopeful for the day
  • drink a pint of warm water with lemon
  • do yoga
  • eat a healthy breakfast
  • go for a walk or run
  • tasks for the day
  • eat healthily and in moderation – I am still working on the moderation bit.  But I am trying to be ok with it first.  Past experience tells me I will achieve this too.  I think partly it is more like I eat what I eat because I burn off a lot of calories.
  • connect with someone
  • be appreciative – my life is actually very good
  • recognize my achievements (I AM AWESOME)
  • pray, plan, hope and dream.
  • write. be creative. cook. uncover myself and create positive images of who I want to be.
  • learn something new
  • help someone else (not always that easy when you feel you are lacking – it’s like the airplane safety plan – feed yourself oxygen first so you can help those around you…but I regulary beat myself with the metaphoric stick to berate myself for not running 15 marathons a year for charity)
  • read a good book
  • listen to music that makes me feel good

There were/are weekly/monthly top ups I realise I need to do (I don’t always manage to remember them all but, a perfect world..!)

got get a massage

visit somewhere new

have dinner with friends


take care of my possessions

re-evaluate and look at progress


get involved with your local area (so far I have attempted this one but  fail to on a regular basis as I travel a lot)

There are many things I need to add to this list but timing is key and sometimes you need to concentrate on one thing to have a door open in another location.

BE FLEXIBLE.  Though I know all of these things are valuable and totally necessary there happens the odd occasion when I cannot do them all.  If I fight the messing up of my plans it makes me unhappy, but if I give in then usually I still seem to carry them out but just in a different way.

I’ve written for too long.  I need hot tea and a bathroom visit.  Next time I write I will address my thoughts, wonderings and beliefs surrounding being POPULAR and my perceived failure at this.

I do believe in timing.  I do see that my acceptance of myself is still in its infancy and my mind shift to a belief that life can be  fun, happy and fulfilling is gaining strength.  I am happy with myself now.  I’ve achieved so much and am utterly proud of myself (yay me!) so perhaps now I just have to wait for it all to settle into normalcy.  I feel like the ‘wilderness’ years have strengthened me, but consequently have left the bonds of friendship in need of strengthening.  My fears about people SEEING ME are decreasing because I don’t really have that much to be ashamed of anymore.  Just the fact that my home is not filled with the constant flow of others, I’m not really seemingly ‘popular’ and I had gotten used to do most things alone (this has been out of choice mainly and once was a necessity so I could uncover my own individuality first), I can let myself down at times by comfort eating (though I only chow on healthy stuff), I sometimes get wind and I have hairs sprouting from my chin that I have to pluck regularly to stop me looking like I have designer stubble (exaggerated for comic effect), I am a geek (which, actually, I’m really kind of proud of).  I keep people away because I don’t want them to see how barren my ‘love from others’ (as opposed to self-love and most importantly God love) store is – it is a gaping hole that began at birth and, yeah, I’ve got to admit I am fearful that anyone witnessing that will fall into the blackened chasm (my biggest fear is that it may be bottomless and there is no hope for me) and get hurt.  It looks all icky and needy but that is exactly what it is.  It’s like dehydrated skin – so when I get enough ‘water’ I’ll be full and will only need a quick regular top up.  There…all of it is out on the table.  Doesn’t feel so bad that you now know it all.

Next up – POPULARITY what I know, wonder at and what I plan to do to learn more about this state of being.  What I think it means. If I it is my fault I don’t have it.  Do I actually want it? Is it nature or nurture?  Does it always involve being the sort of person that is creative or successful in some way? What do popular people do to attract it and do they think they have it or even want it.  Why are so many people alone and is it the fault of our society..Is it just the UK?  Are big cities/small isolated villages to blame? What do other people experience in different countries?….   I’d love your imput.  I can’t do this alone.  You have stories, ideas and theories.  I hope you will join me in my quest for understanding.

The last time I considered myself popular was when I was honing my skills at being the best drunk in the group.  I had a stint at it at school but I abused it by being a power freak. I wonder what effect it would have now?  Do I even want it?  Is it a folly to persue it?  Is being popular the Trojan horse in the room?  Well, hopefully, I’ll find out what the grass looks like on the otherside and then I’ll have constructive information on hand to help me decide whether that patch of grass is really good for us or whether actually, I’m happier as I am.


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6 Responses to can o worms

  1. george says:


    You continue to impress the hell out of me.

    In a forest of aspens there may be a few very popular aspens, but I venture to say that if you listen to the rustling of their leaves more than a few are a bit jealous and envious of the mighty oak tree tree in the middle of the forest.

    Dear sweet Leigh you are that oak tree. GEORGE

  2. Charles Antony says:

    Hello India-Leigh
    Nothing for ages, and then two slam-dunkin’ blogs out of the left field.
    Congratulations! I enjoyed them immensely.
    And now, back to my knitting.
    Chuck DaBool

  3. Pingback: Now follows a photographic interlude and a Rumi rumination | A year with India Leigh

  4. So Cal Kindred Sister says:

    Oh…we all have “wilderness years” and I am so glad that you have been brave enough to talk about them, India-Leigh. You have far, far, FAR more going for you than you think…and its okay, very, very okay to be deep and a geek. We are “two peas in a pod” if you will.

    Solitude and being alone are two very different things, my friend. It depends on what energizes you. I, for one, love solitude in my very, very full life! I think that the UK and the US share similarities regarding aloneness. Way over here, its the “busy,busy,busy” all the time and if you are not that busy, have spaces in your schedule, you are odd. I think Americans don’t know who they are and spend way too much time focusing of what they “have not” rather than what they have…thus our problems with our economy. Solitude breeds strength, self awareness and wisdom.

    Amazing what would happen if more people focused on gratitude, goal setting, healthy living and authenticity!! What if we all spent a part of our day, each day, serving someone else in a simple, encouraging way…what if we all would “love our neighbor as ourselves”?

    This IS a “can o worms”! Keep shaking things up, sweet friend!!

    Your So Cal Kindred Sister

    • indialeigh says:

      Dearest So Cal Kindred Sister

      Thank you for your wisdom and sharing it here. I am starting to wonder if ‘society’ is , in some way, responsible for not only how we feel about being alone (50% of my time alone I LOVE 30% I accept 20% I loathe – but this is largely because of my fear of how I feel others may view me – the term sad zack rings in my ears) The 20% is the time when I push my self out to find solutions to how I feel. I get out and do things that interest me and this margin actually creates so much fun, hope, excitement, interest and discovery I actually wonder what I would do without it. It would be nice to go straight to the positive of this side of the flip though. Perhaps I want to be engaged (i.e interested) more than I want to be popular? I am yet to uncover what this means. And yes, YES, i agree with you…the world would be very different if we loved ourselves and THEN loved our neighbours like ourselves. I do wonder whether my agnst about being ‘popular’ and my phone not ringing off the hook with invites all the time is a reflection of some crappy personality trait I may display OR other peoples lack of self love that keeps them from being sociable….

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