Stolen joy

FountainPenSo last week was interesting… I went back to the UK, ready for a few busy days at work and to see some of my friends in the evenings. And then, just a few hours since my flight had landed, it happened…

I was on the London metro with my luggage travelling to a train station when my stationery pouch got stolen. It only took a few distracted seconds of me glancing at a free newspaper on a seat nearby, and it was gone. Upon noticing that it had disappeared, I felt my blood freeze for a split second because earlier during the day my passport had been inside it (and for whatever reason, a strange thought had prompted me to removed it). As I ran through the list of things that I could remember putting into it, it became clear that whoever took it would be very disappointed. There were no phones, no money and nothing of real value. Well, to everyone except me – a set of inexpensive headphones, post-it notes, handwritten love letters from my husband, new gorgeous colour pencils, and three fountain pens. Yes! All of them.

Now, I realise that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a major event that should make the evening news (even knowing my absolute passion for paper and fountain pens on which I will expand later). As I was trying to remember what else had been in the pouch, it hit me that the biggest deal about the situation was that it was the second time it happened, last time being at the end of October when my work laptop got nicked with lots of personal letters, notes and – yes – my favourite fountain pen in the laptop case.

In the evening after the metro theft I arrived at the hotel only to find that there was not a single ballpoint pen or pencil in my room, and I was quite suprised to discover near-withdrawal type symptoms that I started experiencing. I kept pacing around the room looking for something to write with, checked the opening times of all stationery shops within 5km of the hotel, and felt like I did not know what to do with my hands. Finally, I decided to release all this tension by typing out all that this situation represented to me and look for clues as to why I was a match to it.

Firstly, I focused on what writing and pens mean to me, and the list just kept on going. For me the actual physical process of writing is one of the most extraordinary sensations that I have experienced in my life. Ever since my first handwriting classes at the age of six, writing brings me into a complete state of flow. I become very aware of the exact point where the nib is touching the paper – that magical moment of now – a divide between the lines written in the past and the blank page ahead for what is yet to become letters in the future. It is one of those experiences for me where time just stops existing, and I feel fully and completely immersed in the present, noticing the subtle movements of my hand and softly following the sliding nib with my gaze. With computers and typing having taken over the world and me hardly ever needing to write at work, writing has become nearly exclusively dedicated to letters, reflections or journals. Therefore, I treasure my fountain pens because they represent being in the present moment, expressing my creativity, liberating my deepest innermost feelings, staying connected with myself and others, sharing the love with closest people in my life, and simply pure joy. Having them stolen felt for a brief moment like momentarily losing all of the above.

Nonetheless, the more deeply I was willing to look into this, the more beautiful the whole situation began to appear. One of the pens that got stolen was an expensive pen given to me as a gift in one of my previous relationships. It was the last pen I added to the pouch before the trip thinking that perhaps it was too expensive to take with me on a trip to overseas. And yet there was a sense of release and relief that came with knowing that it no longer belonged to me. While I pondered the loss of the objects I loved, I kept rejoicing that nothing really really expensive or difficult to replace was lost.

Reflecting on it further made me aware of three situations in which I had experienced similar feelings, and you will know from this blog that I am all about discovering those parts of us that split off and get stuck in the past only to keep resurfacing in similar situations in search for wholeness and reintegration. The first one had happened earlier in the week during an intense conference call with two colleagues about a particular area of work that has not been managed by anyone and will become my responsibility in preparation for our audit. As the conversation got heated, I felt exactly as described above – as if I was allowing my creativity and joy to be stolen from me. Somehow, realising this made me feel more in control of how I approach this assignment, because at the end of the day it will need to get done, and I have a full choice in terms of the attitude I do it with.

Second situation that surfaced was an old memory of when I was probably about five years old, and a stranger passing by on the street started accompanying me on a short trip to the nearby shop. After a few casual questions about where I was going, she reached down into the pocket of my coat and grabbed a handful of coins my mom had given me to buy bread. It was the first experience in my life of theft in a physical sense, and rather than being scary it felt unfair and invasive and simply not nice to know that other people can just take things away from you.

Finally, the earliest memory that came up related to all of this was of me in pre-kindergarten year (so perhaps at the age of three or four), when I received a beautiful stuffed toy, a while teddy bear, as a present. It was so gorgeous that I vividly remember instantly falling in love, overjoyed that it belonged to me. The details escape me of what happened exactly, but by the end of that same day one of the other kids had grabbed it from me and had absolutely destroyed it with a green marker. Although I probably would not have been able to express it eloquently in words at that time, I was absolutely devastated, overwhelmed with grief for the loss of the perfection and beauty that the bear had been, and completely robbed of joy. Most of the rest of my childhood I remember the same feeling returning on a smaller scale every time any of my toys would break or get dirty.

I love it when old memories resurface because I now have the power and authority to return to them and participate in them again, but this time as an adult. The point of doing that is to be there unconditionally present and love wildly the younger version of me stuck in that situation. This involves me imagining that I have every superpower possible and I can grant every wish until the little one in the newly created alternative memory feels happy, safe and whole. Afterwards, I don’t necessarily forget the situations, it is simply that they completely lose any charged emotions or triggers around them. Once we can see things clearly in the light (including the light of our awareness), they stop being scary or make us feel powerless.

To cut the long story short, the happy ending to all of this was reached after an indulging afternoon visit to a couple of big beautiful stationery shops in London. Sigh… I can write things down again!..

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