I Still Believe in Magic
Early this morning I sat on a crowded train to Waterloo. A few familiar faces but no one to talk to. The journey to my clinic in Marylebone on the underground and more of the same. People intent on getting a seat, getting to work, intense concentration on their electronic devices, the morning papers. Commuting in London can be a lonely business.
However, I wanted to share my story with you – one from the heart – because I believe that we can find connection even in the disconnection as an experience last week showed me.
I was sitting in a café in the City preparing for a presentation I was giving at a big law firm at midday. I call this ‘state preparation’; getting mind, body and spirit in the zone so that by the time I’m standing there on the stage all I have to do is work on connecting with my audience.
But this morning was different. I just wasn’t feeling great. I hadn’t slept well the previous night (and yes, I’m a sleep expert) and had woken in a heavy mood, a grey cloud hovering over me. I knew what it was but that didn’t help. I was less than an hour away from giving a presentation to more than 100 people and the grey heaviness was still there.
My sister died 12 years ago. I should be over it by now shouldn’t I? She died of Lupus – suddenly, traumatically at the age of 41. I was 38yrs old and my life changed at that moment when I watched them switch off the life support machine. We were close. When we were young we believed in magic and fairies. As we grew older these fairly tale beliefs morphed into dreams of how we’d grow old together, the things we’d do and places we’d visit. When she died I was devastated but gradually time healed and I moved on but there are still times when sadness hits me and all I can do is work through it – allow myself to feel what I need to feel so that I can get on with the business of life and living.
But last week it was different. There I was tuning up for my presentation – or at least I should have been – and I was hit by a huge wave of grief. I knew it was a bad one and there was no running from it. Sitting in a discrete corner of the café, I reached for a tissue and fought for composure, breathing long and deep into my belly. I tried to steer my mind to thoughts of what I was going to be doing in 30 minutes’ (where was the time going?!). My shoulders heaved with silent sobs while my mind yelled at me ‘Pull yourself together! Now is not the time!’ But all I could think of was her. How much I missed her. How unfair life seemed just at that moment. How much all I wanted to do was to see her, give her a big hug…
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around to see a young café assistant looking at me in concern. ‘Is there anything I can do to help?’ she said. ‘I can see you’re really upset. Would you like a hug?’
I nodded and she enveloped me in her arms and just held me while I allowed the tears to course down my face, all thoughts of decorum, ruined make up abandoned by this stage.
Eventually the wave subsided and I felt myself able to come up for air. She was smiling gently at me and offering a big cup of tea and a piece of cake. ‘You’re going to be ok. Here’s my number. Please let me know how you are later today.’
I’m sharing this story because the kindness of this stranger allowed me to open my heart and feel what I needed to feel at that moment and it happened in what can sometimes be one of the loneliest parts of the world. We’re all so intent on going about our day. People hurrying along impatiently on the pavements not looking at each other, lost in their thoughts or head down, eyes glued to the screen. This event reminded me of what I’ve long believed to be true – that we’re all lost souls trying to find meaning in life. We may feel alone with it – no one could possibly understand – but really, we’re all in it together. We just need to look up and see it, feel it. Life is becoming so disconnected – technology is here to stay and there’s no way to avoid that and maybe we wouldn’t want to anyway – but we can still find connection even in the disconnection.
I still believe in magic – I believe we encounter it all the time in the small miracles of every day life. We just need to be present to it, to notice. A short while later that day, I stood at the podium looking out at the sea of expectant faces. I knew the magic was with me and my heart felt as light as a feather as the words flowed and the connection began to build.