6 December 2017…
During my stay in Branscombe, Devon in August 2016, serendipity delivered the idea for how my life might shape up as a wandering pilgrim. I had secured a four-month house sit for the coming winter: from November to March I would be staying in a closed-for-the-winter Bn’B, looking after a border collie in England’s Lake District. With this large chunk of upcoming time now allotted, I could fill in the rest of my schedule with visits to friends around the country and other short Workaway and house-sitting assignments. It could work, and I would write my novel, at this point just begun, from a moveable desk.
But it was still only August, and I needed to find somewhere to go until November. At this point, the many hands that had reached out to cushion my recent fall started proffering invitations for me to stay, and I gratefully began to accept them. I reflected that this situation was pressing on a withered internal psychological muscle, and I was being put through the paces of a new, specific strength: ask for help/accept help/ask for help/accept help/ask for help/accept help. This felt terrible to me. Both asking for and accepting help made me feel sick, green, low and wrong. I could starkly see the big slab of unworthiness lying underneath these feelings – the core belief that gave rise to them.
It was interesting to me that crashing and breaking apart like this allowed me to see the constituent parts of myself so much more clearly. It brought to light things that had been down in my depths, unseen and unconscious. It had been very painful to break apart, but I was beginning to see that I had also broken open, and that in this there was a beautiful chance for healing – that now these formerly closed spaces were open to the sweet breath of the universe, to light, air, warmth and sight. I could more clearly discern two separate parts of myself: a suffering, confused, human part, and a clear, bright, loving, observing part of me that adored the truth, no matter what shape it took. The truth-adoring part of me didn’t actually mind any of this new homeless wandering, grieving for a relationship, or uncertainty about how I would support myself – the truth-adoring part of me was eager for the darkened spaces in myself to be cleared and brightened, and delighted, exhilarated even, about the potential in this situation for turning darkness into light.
The place I wanted to go first, and most, was to visit Jane and her husband Maxwell in Kent. They live in the countryside next to a huge commercial apple orchard, in a tiny hamlet just inland from the white cliffs and seaside towns of Deal and Dover. Jane is the mother of one of my best friends in Cambridge, and I have been generously welcomed into her family as a sort of extra daughter for years, as she knows I am on the other side of the ocean from my American family. She was watching over me closely as the situation with the Frenchman developed, and then dive-bombed. She is one of the wisest and most loving people I have ever met. She emits love at an unusually powerful magnitude, like a star, and simply being in her presence is a healing experience. I have thought for many years that she is an example of ‘everyday enlightenment’. She draws love from a powerful connection to the divine Source and beams this outward, lighting up her daily circles of family, friends, students and colleagues. She teaches horse riding.
The day I left Devon to travel to Jane in Kent, my kind host Debbie dropped me off in the town of Seaton. I would catch the countryside bus from Seaton to Axminster, and there I would get on a train to Kent. At the beginning of my journey, after Debbie dropped me off in Seaton, I went to the cash machine around the corner from the bus stop.
It was raining, and I hurried, worried about catching the bus in time, with my umbrella in one hand and pulling my big red suitcase in the other. At the cash machine, I noticed that there was something a bit strange about my account balance as it appeared on the screen – there should have been more money there – but I was able to withdraw the £10 I needed for my bus fare, and I figured it was probably just a technical glitch of some sort. I had already bought my train ticket, so all I needed was this £10 for the bus, the first leg of my journey.
I caught the bus in time, after a short wait in the plexiglass-covered bus stop in front of the grey, rainy sea. Shortly after I got on the bus, my phone rang, and it turned out to be my bank. The woman on the other end of the phone explained that a hacker had breached their security, and a batch of accounts, mine included, had had their money stolen. The first thought that flashed across my mind was, ‘I have always been so afraid of that happening, and now it IS happening, while I am traveling and technically homeless.’
I didn’t handle this situation gracefully. At first, I was able to speak in a controlled manner to the woman from the bank. But after she told me she had cancelled my bank card, and asked me where to send a new card, my frustration and fear about my entire situation – the recent overnight loss of my home, job and relationship – culminated, crested and broke in a wave of emotion, and I said, ‘I don’t HAVE an address. I don’t have a home! I don’t know where I am going to be in 7 – 10 working days. Oh God!’ And then I started sobbing uncontrollably. The people on the bus were all British and politely looked away. The lady from the bank was a kind woman and said soothing things patiently until I calmed down, and then we slowly worked through the details. Of course I would get all the stolen funds back, after speaking to the fraud team and signing and posting a form to them, but for now, all I had was the £3 change from my bus fare, and my ticket to Jane’s.
I mulled this situation pensively for the rest of the bus journey to Axminster, where I caught my train to Kent. The train was more comfortable than the bus had been, warm with luxurious seats, and I had a table area all to myself, with a big window showing the rainy, green West Country flash by. When the porter came through the carriage with the tea trolley, I felt that nothing would help me at this moment as much as a cup of tea, and I asked for hot water in a cup, which the porter kindly gave me for free, and I rummaged in my backpack for the stash of teabags I carried.
I pulled out an individually-wrapped Yogi Licorice Tea bag, unwrapped it, and dropped it into the cardboard cup of steaming water. Yogi brand teabags always have a pithy spiritual message inscribed on the little dark red label attached to the string. This one said, ‘Prosperity is within us’. I sensed the Universe all around me, loving, conscious, poised and watching to see if I would laugh at this divine joke.
Reader, I did. Of course, I did…my name is Joy, after all, and joy is the very deepest and truest layer of my being. I let the joke carry me away, and as the ripples of comedy washed through me, and eventually soothed me, they led me to the calm thought that I was currently living through one of the fears sitting crouched at the bottom of my psyche, but I was okay. It was happening, but it was okay. I didn’t know where I was going to live until November, but that was okay, too. I knew where I was going to live for the next week, which was at Jane’s house in Kent. I had £3, but that was okay, because I would have all my meals for the next week with Jane and Maxwell. While I was at their house, the next step would be revealed, and eventually the stolen money would be returned to me, and everything was okay.
Hugging Jane in her kitchen when I arrived was one of the best hugs of my life. She embodied and radiated this spiritual message of unconditional okay-ness: You are okay, deeply okay. Life is safe, life is okay. Anything that happens, is okay. During the next week, we had many cups of tea, talks and walks in the orchard, where the trees were heavy with their crop of new apples. Jane’s vision of me as beloved and valuable shone upon the unworthiness that was revealed when I was forced to ask for help, and for a while they were two competing forces inside me, one light, one dark. But I kept seeing all around me Jane’s love, acceptance and warmth, and I trusted her more than I trusted the dark thoughts whispered by the unworthiness. I began to realise that although the unworthiness felt potent, and real, that it wasn’t necessarily true. Jane was demonstrating in each moment that I was worthy of care, attention, assistance and love. The clear, bright observer inside me, my soul, told me to trust the light, love and warmth, and distrust the dark whispers of unworthiness. Jane’s love shone on me all week like the sun, showing me how to use love as a power to dismantle the untrue darkness inside myself. And when I told her about my moment on the train with the tea, we laughed and laughed and laughed.
Serendipity Story #4 coming soon…
The featured image is ‘Spot of Tea’ by Dolly Mohr. Visit her website here.
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