Somewhere Else

woman hugging her son from behind, resting her head on his back May 2018.

I’m on an airplane, again. Although there’s no WiFi in the aircraft, I can’t help reaching for my phone every 15 minutes to gaze at Raul’s profile picture and re-read our conversations over and over. I try half-heartedly to watch a film but it’s pointless – I can’t concentrate on anything for very long, and I have no desire to lose myself in the stories of other people, when I’m in the midst of such a magical one myself. In the darkness, while the rest of the passengers sleep, I reach for my phone again, my face lit up by the screen, and my heart by this deep, burning love.

Now I’m back in London, thousands of miles away from both Raul and from the depressed, melancholic girl I was when I last set foot in this city. This time I’m bursting at the seams with love and joy and my step has a spring in it that even strangers notice and comment on. I go for a drive with my family and it rains heavily and incessantly, but not even the weather can dampen my spirits. I find simple and pure joy in sharing laughter and baked goods from the petrol station bakery with them in the car, the rain drumming against the roof.

Times have been tense and tough within my family while I’ve been away, and I hope that now I’m back I can help them navigate towards less stormy seas. But Mothers Day comes and my mama and papa argue. She and my two brothers come into my room afterwards and lay on my bed. We talk as the sun sets, bathing my room in gold, wondering if our family will split apart.

woman laying in bed with her son cuddling her

I form the automatic habit of counting back 4 hours whenever I check the time. Midday quickly becomes my favourite time of day, because it means it’s 7am in Brazil, the time Raul wakes up and messages me. He doesn’t have a webcam and his mobile is ancient, so we can’t video call. Instead, we record and send each other videos; songs I’ve learnt or that he’s written, our favourite books and the flowers blossoming in our gardens or just to say – in our own voices and with that look in our eyes – hey, hello, I miss you and I love you.

I start to sing. At first only quietly, alone in my room with the door closed. Then louder, then with the door open, then in front of my family. For months I’ve been feeling an ache in my chest when I hear music, a longing to sing out, a weight that gets heavier and heavier everytime I don’t. Now, finally, I open up my mouth and let the songs come out, and in that simple (but not effortless) act I break open the cage I’ve been holding myself in for 22 years.

One evening Milton messages me, asking me to come online as a matter of urgency, and my heart immediately floods with dread. Images of Raul lying in a hospital bed fill my mind as I hurriedly log onto Skype. But my fears quickly vanish when Milton’s grinning face pops up on the screen he excitedly tells me about an Indigenous tribe who have invited him and Raul to work with them in about a months time. He shares a photo from one of the past Ayahuasca ceremonies and as I look at all the smiling faces and imagine Milton and Raul amongst them, I ache to be a part of that landscape too and there it is again, that magnetic pull, that whispered invitation in the back of my mind.

After we finish the call I open up the photo again and lose myself in it. I tell Milton I wish I could be there for the ceremony, but he misunderstands my desire for an affirmation that I’ll return, and suddenly there is clarity amidst the confusion; yes, of course I can go back. We’d been planning and scheming all kinds of ways to get Raul and Milton to Europe, when I could so easily just go back to Brasil. And now I’m light-headed as pure joy rises and pours out of my heart and bursts through me in ecstatic laughter that I have to be careful to contain so as to not wake my sleeping family.

He asks if he can be the one to tell Raul, and I say yes, and only a few minutes of giggly anticipation pass before I receive a bundle of messages from Raul in all caps and with a million love hearts ‘is it really true, are you really coming back?’ and yes, its true, and he’s crying with joy and I can’t stop laughing and I feel so deeply in my bones that it’s the right path.

I start to strip my life down to the strictly necessary. Although I’ve been culling my material possessions for months, I realise I still have a lot that can go. I keep only what I need or truly love, and soon my entire single wardrobe is only half-occupied, and it surprises me how little I really need, even for all 4 seasons. This wardrobe was full not so long ago, not only with my clothes, but Fred’s too, and it’s kind of odd how quickly that life, that love, now feels so far away. After he left, I had marvelled at all the space left for me, and now I wonder at all the space I’ll be leaving behind too.

Everything I’m not taking with me I list for sale, except for a pile of my  treasured books, journals and film cameras. I feel lighter and freer then ever before and excitement takes root and grows as I prepare for this new phase.

The day finally comes when I book my ticket, and oh I can hardly contain myself, but the romantic in me wins and I manage to wait 4 days to give Raul the good news on his birthday. I send him a video, wishing him a happy birthday and telling him I have a present for him, a present that he’ll have to pick up at the airport on the 18th and although I can’t witness his live reaction he later tells me that he shrieked with surprise and delight and dropped to his knees, crying and thanking the universe.

It’s the same reaction I have a few days later when I speak to Usha from Womben Wellness on the phone, and we discuss my flying over to Costa Rica to photograph and film the Wild Womban Intensive she holds deep in the Caribbean jungle. Everything is aligning so beautifully, so wonderfully, and I am in a constant state of awe and gratitude.

I have to tell my parents I’m leaving, but I put it off until there’s only two weeks until my departure. I know they won’t take it very well, but I can no longer hide away like a child. So I swallow my anxiety and tell them. My papa, who travelled solo all over the world before settling down, takes the news better than my mama, who doesn’t speak to me for days.

I’ve always had a tendency to keep looking ahead, to rush head first into the unknown and new. My mama told me I was even born in a rush. But now I wait patiently, so patiently it surprises even me. This is new for her too; I just came back from a couple of months away and now I’m already leaving again – this time indefinitely. So I wait, and she eventually comes round, and we spend my remaining time in London together in harmony.

She helps me with the last minute errands I have to run, one of those being taking bags upon bags of clothing, shoes and random objects to a car boot sale. We have to leave early, so early, on a Saturday morning, her usual day of rest, but she is there by my side and sticks through it with me even though the movement turns out to be slow, and the people mostly sullen and miserable and we end up going back home with bags of stuff still unsold.

Soon the day of my departure arrives. I’m singing at the top of my voice to Beirut with my mama as she drives us down the motorway and across the city that is still steeped in sleepy silence. Dawn is only just starting to stretch its golden arms by the time we arrive at the airport.

There’s a slight tension, an imbalance, hanging in the air between us; her wish for my happiness mixed with her sorrow that I’m leaving, and my sympathies for the pain that watching your first child to fly the nest must bring, mixed with my uncontainable excitement at starting a new life. Before we know it, it’s time for me to head through the gates, and I hug her and tell her I love her and that if she feels like crying on the way home, to remember to sing. Music and song has been a medicine for me, and I hope it will be for her too.

My feelings about London are mixed. It’s where I came into the world, and it’s been my home for so long. For the first half of my life we were constantly moving house and country, but for many years now I’ve been in the same place, in the same house and felt myself gradually stagnate. I am grateful for where I’ve come from, for all the opportunities and blessings I’ve had. But I know now it’s time for me to be somewhere else.

I look back at my mama and wave one more time, and then I head off, my heart leading the way.

woman reclining on her bed with her eyes closed, basking in golden sunlight