Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A Number of Stories.

Every story has some quantity of unmentioned background. Every tale, no matter how detailed, will have some descriptives excluded, or perhaps even characters that aren’t necessarily mentioned. This is possibly because otherwise every story would be a never ending one, reaching further and further for every possible breath, word and piece of history associated with it; not a great basis for engaging storytelling. Beyond this, the teller may not feel that every factor in the building of that story is necessary to be told. Perhaps they are not even aware of the presence of certain elements at all.

A demonstrative example of this might well be our own social media accounts. Are they untrue? Largely no. Do they tell the whole story? Of course not. But still, we share snippets of our lives emphatically, without further thought as to how large a portion of ‘us’ each post is. We want people to know us, to share in our lives, even to appreciate us. We share from our own perspectives, and assume the view it gives of our lives. But we all know that no post, no matter how detailed, can be the whole truth. It is one moment in time. Nothing more than a thought, to be later submerged in the scrolling of time.

But do we mind, really? Do we want or need the whole truth always?

Take your average movie. We begin at a point the storyteller decides. Perhaps it’s not at the beginning, depending on the scene order choice. But it is somewhere. We might be told a little of what has gone on before; perhaps an imagery clue of the time era, or the atmosphere of the situation we find ourselves seeing. We do not know, at this point, very much more. As is the magic of storytelling, we are drawn into watching the slow unfurling of an animal from it’s tightly packed place of hiding. As each limb appears, stretches out, and is placed purposefully on the ground, we begin to piece together what the creature is and perhaps even it’s purpose. We may never know it’s past, or parenting. We may never know it’s early experiences. But from what we see of it, in the telling of it’s current detail, we believe we know what existence it has. We are deciding what we see, based on what is told to us. And inevitably, what we have seen before.

Does this mean that stories of all kinds cannot be deemed accurate, or true to the teller? No, not at all. Fictional stories are defined by creativity, yes. But this does not mean they cannot be real to us, or fail to provide statements of perspective that are truthful. Just because I tell you one chapter of my story, does not mean that the unspoken others are intentionally hidden from view. Perhaps without additional information we may see things more clearly. How many times have you felt confused in a moment of decision making, due to too much information crowding in on you? How much clearer have you felt when you were given a three option menu?

I believe story telling is vital to our human existence. Storytelling is found in all cultures worldwide, enjoyed by every age imaginable, and is often what can define nations and individuals. We use stories to give moral learning examples to children, to invite ingenuity from the students we teach, and to tell strangers who we are on first dates. We use tales to soothe, to excite, and to placate. There is a reason why the movie business is one of the most successful industries in existence, why Amazon continues to thrive upon selling books through the pressing of millions of 1-click orders a day, and why Bollywood turns out hundreds of movies a year for it’s insatiable audiences. Regardless of your opinion of them, we can easily explain why it is that reality television and social media newsfeeds are thriving more than ever before. Ultimately, we want to know about other peoples experiences of the life we all are working our way through. 

Since I was a very small child I have adored all kinds of stories. I have always liked to be read to, and to read to others. I love to be lost - and indeed found - in literature for hours at a time. I was the child whose hand shot up when my class was asked who would like to read aloud. I was also the child who befriended the primary school librarian through the course of spending more time in my favourite room in the school than in any other. My tatty bookshelf in the shed at the end of my childhood garden was a favourite, and I have never lost my adoration for many of those authors whose books lived there on those shelves. In this way, I have grown deep respect for the power of written word, enjoying so many of it’s shared gifts. Upon reflection, it is quite possibly what brings me to be writing these very sentences to you right now in the way that I am writing them.

Numbers? Not so much. I struggled my way through mathematics classes throughout my education, and although I later re-took and passed my Maths GCSE (thank goodness) it wasn’t an easy journey. I still struggle to read a 24 hour clock and to conquer sums without using a pen and paper. It has always fascinated me why my brother absorbs mathematical equations so naturally, breathing in their information with an appreciation for the good they do. While I wrestled with algebra, he danced with each mathematical challenge effortlessly smoothly, bringing each each equation to beautiful crescendo in the way he worked out their purpose and final answers. I watched on in awe as he did so, and still do as he tours the world now delivering accountancy lectures on his numerical discoveries. 

Thanks to the Montessori and later Quaker educations we both had, my sibling and I were never pitted against one another. I remember my brother proudly telling a teacher we had that his sister was an artist, and that we just had different types of brains that were no better than one another. His belief in me, along with that of my parents in the both of us, has been the solid foundation from which we have gone on to pursue our own pursuits and ambitions.

But what if I had been denied a childhood where I was provided with opportunities to read, or spend time learning about the things I was passionate about? What if I had instead had a brother who was naturally competitive, who had ridiculed my numerical contentions? Not every Matilda gets her happy ending, as Dahl depicted in his famed book about the young girl who wasn’t allowed to dream. What happens to those who never meet their narrative saviour?

The question that has occurred to me recently, is what happens to those ‘Matilda’s’ when they grow up? What happens to the young girls who never got to be all they might be, or indeed the young boys stopped from being who they dreamed of, in favour of who their Father dreamed they’d be instead. What happened to those characters, in their real life stories?

As an adult, dance and the performing arts have grown to be a joy for me in the same way reading has been throughout my life. I found that to dance was very correlative in the sense of feeling I got when I read a favourite book, or a particularly powerful piece of poetry. When I read, I am taken from my body and I exist only in my minds eye. This happens for me in the same way when I am able to dance freely, often in empty studios without an audience. In my early twenties, as I have written about before, I genuinely know that dancing saved my life. Without the creative and physical release I could find in empty studios with roaring music to facilitate movement, I would not have survived the challenges I was faced with at that time. 

I was fortunate enough to experience the empowering freedom dance and art could - and can - provide. It is specifically this that I continue to strive to share with others who find entrapment in any area of their life. Whether the trap set is large or small, or set by yourself or another person. No matter how old or entrenched it might be. I know for sure that we can all be freed through the powerful combination that is art and kindness in duo-ability. I have seen for myself the power of this.

Thanks to your support and those of readers worldwide, this blog page is now an established platform from which the ‘Living Liberté’ movement can happily launch. After 5 years of writing stories of truth - with almost 50 articles of this kind to date - I feel ready to take our concept further.Now is the time to reach out wider and gather pace. But how?

I will now employ a writing technique favoured by so many of my favourite writers, although one I have less often utilised - the dreaded cliffhanger!

Because, readers, I think I might just have found a way. One which may be the very making of a very important new chapter indeed. Perhaps the most significant one yet. 

And so, until next time!

With love & #liberté,

Helen Victoria

Monday, 23 October 2017

'But does it count?' - an open response to the #MeToo campaign.

I don’t usually write about current affairs. As long term readers of this blog may have noticed, my thoughts and philosophies are usually future based, drawn from past experiences and ideas. I have yet to cover a topic that is in the public forefront in the moments that I am writing. But then came the #metoo campaign. 

As I write, social media is currently being flooded with more and more statements of ‘hey, that happened to me, too.” To scroll through Twitter and Facebook without knowing what the #metoo statement means you could be forgiven for thinking it was a trending fashion. Just another clever hook, concocted by someone with enough followers to create influential waves within our internet screens. After all, it’s only a hashtag. Don't we see them all the time?

But then it clicks, in both a realising and a technological sense; the thousands of ‘me too’s’ are real time. These are some of the people around us who have in some way been sexually assaulted. This isn’t a trend. It’s an epidemic. 

Initially, I didn’t warm all too much to the movement when I saw it start to spill out across my newsfeed. I feared that in stirring up millions of hashtags the real sense of human experience may be lost. But then I realised; perhaps this really is the time to start a conversation. One that won’t get lost in translation. One that can continue long after the tablets and iPhones have been put down for the night. 

So. What is it that we’re dealing with? What do we mean, when we join in saying those two short words?

In the last few weeks I been engaged in conversations with friends and colleagues of mine, as well as readers of this blog, discussing what may or may not apply in terms of being part of the #metoo campaign. Although varying in response, many were united in feeling they had not spoken out sooner because they themselves were unsure if their experience would 'count' as assault or not. This particular point, to me, seemed to be the loophole within which so many situations have been buried from view. 

But the facts are these

If you are made to feel uncomfortable, and there is no way of stopping or halting the behaviour, then this is not OK. No grey shades. 

The ‘Not OK’ I am talking about is the type of feeling you might have when someone causes you to be uncomfortable in your physical self. It is the slice of vulnerability that you are caused to feel when in a situation you cannot escape. It is in the moments you feel unduly uncovered. This can occur without a single finger being laid upon you. It can be by a total stranger or your husband. It can be from the same sex. Sexual assault comes in varying forms, and there is no typical situation or offender. Yes, more women than men typically receive harm in this way. But not exclusively, by any means. 

But when exactly does a situation become one that isn’t acceptable? Where is the line drawn, the line that shouldn’t ever be crossed, or pushed? Is there a way to know for sure?

I was thinking all of this over yesterday while I was driving to an events job I was working on. It was a one off booking, where I was demonstrating fitness equipment in a leisure area of a large  manufacturing centre. My role was to demonstrate the equipment and hand out free samples of health drinks. What should have been a straight forward job turned into a perfect example of exactly what I had been thinking over on the way to it. 

During the 3 hour event I repeatedly had to defend myself verbally against leering behaviour and  inappropriate comments about my ‘sporty legs’. Men ranging from eighteen to in their sixties were ignoring the professional information I was giving them, preferring to crowd around me asking what I did after work and whether I was as flexible as they thought I might be. Yes, they approached me in a comedic fashion, largely to make their friends laugh. No, I didn’t feel in any real danger. Not one of them touched me, or even attempted to. But did that make the experience acceptable? No. Absolutely not.

I could handle the situation. Being a teacher sometimes helps in these situations, as I feel confident to control a crowd that are getting out of hand. But that doesn’t make it OK. It shouldn’t be acceptable just because I got away unscathed. If we were to apply that rule, then we would have to accept that all drivers drinking under the influence are of no harm to anyone, until they crash.

During my lifetime, like many others, I have endured varying examples of inappropriate sexual approach. I have had my bum pinched in clubs by not only men, but women, who wanted to make their attractions known. I have had a Moroccan man grab at my chest in a daytime market while living in Marrakech. I have had an agent I was working with in India try and offer alcohol and sex to me in the apartment I was staying in, in exchange for movie parts and notoriety. My room stayed locked that night. My first sexual experience was at 14, where a popular boy from my senior school told me that we were to play ‘traffic lights’ where he will stop doing what he wants to do when I say red light. I said red light. He didn’t stop.

I feel strongly that it is unhelpful and ineffective to try and grade the level of acceptability of each incident or act over any other. Range in gravitas is not parallel to that of acceptability. In short; any inappropriate behaviour of this kind is equally not OK. The variance is found only in the seriousness of the act itself. But each and every moment of unwelcome approach or invasion of wellbeing is as unacceptable as another.

I can, and will, now state that I was sexually assaulted in my previous relationships. I have been woken in my sleep to find my partner having sex with me. I have been touched in times I did not want to be touched. And I have been coerced into sexual acts I was not comfortable with. This is not something I have written about before, and not something I have shared with anyone barring the police on a few occasions. If I am to continue to open the door to readers and supporters of the ‘Living Liberté’ blog then I must be open in order to cultivate an environment where conversations can be had. I was afraid to for far too long, and I am still yet to allow myself to open up fully with even my very best friends. But I continue to keep pushing myself beyond the guardedness that might feel instinctive, to find a place of truth that can be liberating for us as a community.

Of course, in the full scene of my life as a whole, these darker moments are but small details. They are memories that stay with me, but they do not define me as they might have once. I am all the more grateful for the freedom I now enjoy in my life, and the incredible friends, family and people I meet and enjoy spending time with. I am enjoying dating now, and spending time with good people. My memories serve as inspiration to keep moving forward, and to keep growing the #liberté online campaign via this blog and on social media. 

But the daily occurrences of situations of this kind that are still happening daily all over the world to the men and women we care about. It has to stop. In order to do this, we must start to talk about what’s right.

Because it isn’t the length of our dresses or the volume of our voices that make us guilty in moments of coercion, assault, or attack. It isn’t our culture, the street we live on, or the type of person we are. There is no ‘you were too friendly to him’ or ‘but what did you expect’. Let’s spread the word to our sons and daughters, to our colleagues and friends, and to those we spend our time with - we are of value. And in this way, we are not to be mishandled, mistreated, or made to be objects of entertainment or gratification. You are of value to me, reader. And to so many others.

My high school sex education consisted of learning about condoms and body odour. It did not prepare me in any way to know what was acceptable as a sexual partner. My parents taught me high self value, but I didn’t realise that this was something that I could apply in circumstances I never expected. They say knowledge is power. I agree. 

And so, let’s get talking! Whether it’s via this blog page, in the comments section below, or in a private message. Where you might want to e-mail me, or e-mail a friend. Perhaps you might want to spend some time with a friend you know may need to talk some things over in response to the hashtag campaign. Or perhaps you have friends that you have seen posting their own #metoo statements on their news feeds. Wherever it is, whenever it is, let’s not let this moment pass us by. Too many have sailed by already for us to allow any more to get swallowed up into history. 

Let's celebrate more of the brilliant, loving, caring people we know, and encourage more of the love and brilliance they share with us. Let's use the best parts of our lives and ourselves to light the way out of any shaded darkness wrongly handed over to us or to the people we know around us. Let's take on this battle using the ultimate power of overwhelming  kindness as our tool to do so. This is where we can, and will, overcome. 

The door to freedom can be found. It’s there. Sometimes we may just need a friend, or perhaps an anonymous voice of support, to help us find it’s handle. 

Speak soon, friends. 

#metoo #wetoo

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Vlog vs Blog; an experiment with a time machine

One month ago I posted a video. It was a video unedited, unplanned, and unchanged from its original state. It was a video that froze one moment just long enough to be shared with others and one which has gone on to become somewhat of a significant contributor to the journey of liberté - very unexpectedly!

I recorded this particular video in the moment it was happening. I have never recorded a vlog and I didn't pause to think what I would say. I just broke open and spoke, sharing my thoughts in the moment they occurred to an audience of one small camera. I didn't think about how I felt about posting a video like this until I watched it back - and began to feel heavily self conscious. 

But why?

Of course every word I said in the video is the truth. The same truth that is contained in each of my written articles. But I very much accept that I am human and have present fears just the same as anyone else might! The process of posting this vlog was enlightening to me in this way, and a good experiment with sharing the word of liberté through differing mediums. 

I decided that I would be a walking contradiction if I were to not post it due to fears of judgement. The purpose and sentiment of the video is entirely that of freedom. What kind of believer in freedom would I be if I were to hide away my message rather than share it truthfully?

And so I posted the video at once, without any use of filters or suchlike. Soon after I chose to close down the iPad I had been using to record and post it in order to stop myself from rushing back into the app and hurriedly deleting it. Like a worried teen before a school presentation, I went to bed that night half excited and half terrified at the thoughts of the world I had just spoken out loud to. It was a night of somewhat broken sleep. 

The next morning I awoke to find my account had been flooded with messages from supporters of the video; their messages spoke of connection and of correlation. My message of raw hope had transcended through the often confusing medium of social media! And for this, I am still very grateful. 

One month later the video is still being shared worldwide, and it continues to share the simple message I started out with; and indeed that is the backbone of this blog page. I won't tell you what the video is exactly, if you haven't already seen it. I'll happily leave you to make up your own mind. 

I would love to know your thoughts! How did it make you feel? Was a vlog a refreshing change, or did you find the experience any more difficult to relate to? Did you prefer being a viewer to being a reader? I look forward to hearing all about your experiences. Perhaps record me a little reply video, if you fancy it?

Readers, share the message along if you wish. Send the link to friends who you feel may benefit. Or perhaps just watch it back at any point in time that you ever begin to allow any seed of doubt enter your life. It's yours to have. 

More than anything, readers, be so very free in the knowledge that there is hope. For every one of you, for any situation you might find yourself facing at the moment.

Viva Liberté!

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A

Monday, 26 June 2017

The sounds of circles

‘Music is love. 
Love is all. 
But it cannot be the music. 
The music to the songs of my life. 
I'm trying something new out now. 
A venture of singular piano notes. 
No rush, any longer, for grand crescendo. 
Oh, but when it does…’ 
May Seventh, Twenty Sixteen. 

I wrote the above piece of writing in messy, looping writing in a battered notebook whilst on a train to London. At that time I had just returned from America and was emerging from some months of confusion. After a few years of spinning top decisions, I had found myself back in England. This time around, I was a girl with a plan. 

I returned from my years of following my heart via my passport in the April of last year. As previously documented within my past articles, I had been having an incredible journey through the process of establishing what I wanted in my life, and what I certainly didn't. I toured across the American states as a performer, fell in love, discovered (and then rediscovered) aerial arts, and met with some of my very favourite adventures. As with all the best adventures, I did lose my way a few times. My heart was bruised a few more times. But these experiences were in fact the making of what would come next for me, as I have gone on to discover. 

My return home began a creative journey of transitioning from a show dancer to being an aerialist with my own acts. Of course it’s all dancing, relatively. I can barely brush my teeth without dancing in some way. Aerial apparatus gives me the opportunity to move in new ways, experimenting with weightlessness, and challenging me to create dance within air space. It's been an incredible discovery for me, and a natural choice of direction.

But it has been a very specific change of pace and direction from where I had been headed previously. I have loved my years of 6 month show contracts in beautiful places, dancing alongside some of the most incredible dancers I've known. But the time had come to explore the possibilities of creating my own work, and seeing where it might lead me. 

And so I have spent the last year pouring myself (and my bank account) into pursuing my ambition of becoming a professional aerialist, with my own acts, equipment, and opportunities. It's certainly been a challenge! Dwindling finances, slow progression, setbacks and sleepless nights of worry have been part of my battle. There were months where I still couldn't do even half of the fitness tasks needed to accomplish my dream. Pull ups? Yes, exactly. There were times I sat in a heap on the floor of an empty studio utterly exhausted after another session of practice, feeling I wasn't moving anywhere fast. Those were some of the toughest days of all. 

But then there were other days. Days when I managed to nail a strength move on my aerial hoop that I hadn't expected to be able to. Or the day I went to the post office to pick up my very own aerial hoop, after months of planning and saving for it. There were the days when my website went live, and when I got my first booking enquiry! Although these days were far between at first, they became far more frequent. Like weightless collected treasures, lifting me from one venture to the next. 

As I write this article now, I am currently in the middle of my first aerialist contract, with the wonderful ‘Circus Mash’ company, based in Birmingham. I am registered with two wonderful agencies in London - both of which I dreamt of working with when I was a dancer. I am working on two writing projects part time, and have a bigger project laying ahead with my aerial work. I couldn't be any more grateful for the opportunities that I have, and all the more grateful for the people I've met along the journey who have and continue to make it what it is. This journey is not one of solitude, but one of collected strength. For this, I couldn't be more thankful. 

More than anything, the process has vibrantly revitalised the simple belief I clung to when I started the journey of ‘Liberté’ - that anything is possible when we are freed, using kindness and creativity as a foundation to do so. 

Because it isn't the contracts, the fancy jobs, or even the audience applause I'm truly seeking in my endeavours. Of course, I love what I do. But the true love of my life is in the meaning behind it. It lies in the moments where I pull myself up off that studio floor and out of my negativity, and remind myself of why I write this blog. The meaning is my reason, my motivator, and why I sit here now writing to you. With every last penny and heartbeat. 

I challenge you, reader. Find a tiny adventure in your day today. Perhaps change your route to work and talk to someone new; they might need it more than you're expecting. Send someone a letter, and see where it leads. Perhaps even take yourself on some travels, nearby or afar. Whatever it is you choose, make it fun. In current political times, it's a good a time as any to live our lives to the fullest. Freedom has perhaps never been more important. I receive so many wonderful messages via this blog; messages of readers finding their own processes of finding freedom, and experiences of art and kindness. I meet people on a daily basis who inspire me also to continue on this journey. Every one of you, every moment if kindness and creativity you take part in or share, makes an immense difference - more than you might realise. And in this way we shall continue! 

What’ll your next step be? Your next adventure? I hope it's a good one - I'd love to hear about it. 

With my fullest belief, 

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A  

Monday, 6 March 2017

Swimming through traffic lights

As I type, I write to you with a notably fast beating heart.The moment before this one I turned down another performing job. One which I might have jumped at earlier in my career. But one which I know isn't the quality of aerialist work that I dedicated myself to pursuing at the beginning of this particular leg of my journey. In doing so, I face the very real fear of a lack of control of the future.

And now here I am; writing this article with a celebratory pot of tea to one side of me and an empty, entirely unemployed day ahead of me.

I returned from America 10 months ago now. On a nondescript weekday morning all those months ago I landed in London without a single dollar or pound sterling to my name, a small backpack of clothing hurriedly packed in the heat of the moment (I somehow packed a spanner, none of my favourite clothes, and someone else's toothbrush rather than my own) along with a pretty severely broken heart. I had come away from England 6 months beforehand to embark on an adventure of circus life, borne from a deep faith in love. Perhaps it was a deep love in faith that I needed, instead.

10 months on - what's changed? Well, pretty much everything in terms of the look and feel of my life. I have never been happier, or living more freely, I'm happy report. My days are filled with dance and aerial training, commissioned writing, and my performing work. I have made a life in Oxford, and a world for myself that makes me a lot happier. 

How did this happen? I made a singular change. One which was long overdue. A simple choice that has changed my daily life ever since. 

I have never feared jumping ship from a place I am not happy. I was the child who left her own primary school aged ten due to not agreeing with the ethical values of the teacher, telling my parents on our way home that I would like to be home educated until I found a school I could believe in. I don't remember stopping to think about it for too long. I felt enabled on that drive home, and quietly excited for what may come next.

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Heights? Saying no? We all pick up our own little collective of earned and learned fears as we move through our days. Some stick, some are overcome. Some melt away, through that magical process of time passing without our realising. But what might happen if we stood face on with each, and really enquire as to the reason for their presence? 

I didn't start the journey with thrill seeking, in case you were wondering. I left the knife swallowing to the professionals, and I still use zebra crossings properly. But I did start with the most immediate fear that was blocking my life. Letting go of needing to be with someone I was addicted to being with. With no future plans for reunion or replacement. I had to change my number, address, and life path to move towards an independent pathway, without knowing I would have someone there to hold my hand (or indeed pull me backwards).

I changed my focus, and with it, my standards. 

A few months before my return I had shaved all of my hair off, documented in a previous article. This itself was deemed as brave at the time. But to me, it was another transference. I knew the hair could grow back. I knew I didn't need waist length hair to do the work I was doing at the time. I was with someone who I thought would accept me for all that I was. I was giving my long red hair to children who didn't feel comfortable with their appearance now that chemotherapy had taken their hair own hair from them. It felt right, through and through. And so, without an element of personal risk, would you still say I was brave? 

I haven't done it all in one day. But I have done a little of this work every day. I began with renting a room. I've always lived with my family or a boyfriend, or I have lived in hotels and paid for apartments through dancing contracts. I faced the fear of not being able to cope financially on my own, and rented a small but perfect room in Oxford. Step 1, check.

Then I started to tackle a few more, and a few more. Day by day.

On one hot summer day, I forced myself to swim in an open lake while there with a friend of mine. Small feat, perhaps. But my beating heart confirmed the actuality of it, as I sat happily on the lake's edge afterwards. 

As I moved through the journey it didn't become easier to face each fear. But it did become distinctly more familiar. I got used to the discomfort that washed over me as I applied for a job I thought was too good for me, or I stood up for my beliefs in a busy bar with someone who was getting away prejudice because of social expectation not to cause a fuss. 

These are my daily challenges. Embracing change, rather than running away. Happily going on dates, with a strong belief in better. Standing up for what I believe is right, even if it risks unpopularity. Swimming in open waters, no matter what waves arrive to me.

I am not intrinsically brave. I have been weak minded in the past. I've run away. I've chased my shadows. I've made mistakes. But I live now in a way that pushes growth in my own life and others. I take deep breaths, pep talk myself in bathroom mirrors before auditions, climb aerial equipment to dizzying heights, fling myself without a detail of elegance into a lake on a hot day, and just get on with the swimming part of the thing. Sometimes I fly. Sometimes I fall. But mostly, I am so, so happy to be swimming.

I challenge you, reader. Do something in the next thirty minutes that you would usually avoid. Perhaps say hello to someone as you pass them by. Or book a class you think you aren't good enough to go to, for whatever reason. Book a skydive, ask someone on a date. Whatever it is that makes you feel a little bit sick with fear yet quietly suspicious that perhaps something wonderful may come of it.

The floor is yours.

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A  


Dedicated to the limitless supporters of this daily journey, without whom none of which would be possible.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Chia Seeds & Syrian Dancing

So this is January. These are the urgent days when so many of us are reinventing, while furiously filling blenders with chia seeds! YES to healthy movements, of course. It really is a funny old month all in all.

How was your festive season? Were there any moments you'd save?

After many Christmas Days abroad, I spent my time this year volunteering with The Food Bank. On a day that I've been historically doubtful of with its lavish spending on mountains of gifts for only some, I witnessed 400 people being fed by 50 or so volunteers - using a tiny kitchen and lots of plug in hot plates in corridors! Pretty doubt abolishing, all in all. There was more to this nativity scene than just the food.

As the meal came to an end, some real festive magic had occurred. Within a few hours friendships had been carved out and connections made. Children of all cultures scurried round the edges of the room playing. The homeless community of Oxford danced in the middle of the room to Syrian traditional music, hand in hand with the refugee community that have just arrived in the city. For one whole day no one was less or more than anyone else. Most importantly, no one needed to explain themselves or their year round situations. I can't really think of a more fitting Christmas situation, regardless of faith.

At a time of such confusion on our planet, politically and emotionally, I couldn't help but be overcome with the shared feeling of hope I had just experienced. As I drove home to have an evening meal with my own family, I realised how strong the power of kindness had been. And how, if harnessed, it really could be the answer to so many of the January fears we might be facing.

I have been told many times before that kindness is weakness. Media and social culture have repeatedly informed me that the nice guy finishes last. Am I wrong to ignore that?

I have debated this repeatedly during my process of developing the Liberty's concept. I started out with a vision of a physical space within which anyone could come to simply have the room to develop whatever skill or artistic sense they wished to, with personal healing as a happy by product. This is still my vision. Along this 5 year journey I have passed through some key processes that have contributed to our direction.

As you may have noticed, I have changed the title of this blog; formerly 'Journey to Liberty's' it is now 'Living Liberté'. Because perhaps it isn't so much about the journey towards. Perhaps Liberté as a concept really can live out in our day to day. What if our journey forwards is, in fact, also the destination itself?

A few days ago I was challenged more than ever to look at what my own beliefs are. I found myself in a situation where someone formerly dear to me challenged me on my perspectives. I was dismissively informed that I "still have a lot of figuring out to do" and that he "hoped I would realise that love and kindness isn't something to rely on".

My response?

Life is not so simple (thank goodness) that there is one generic answer to everything. Kindness is a behaviour and an approach, but not a solution in itself. I think kindness is borne from wider vision, in seeing why the world might be as it is, rather than just hating its initial appearance.

I maintain what I have always believed in. Which is belief in empowering other people through kindness, not shocking or saddening them into seeing. I would go as far as to say that this applies in our daily lives, and much further afield globally. If we were to spend more time using the aspects of kindness that are acceptance and listening, then we might not be forced to suffer so many human atrocities as we have done in the previous years.

Readers, I don't have all the answers; I used to cause chaos in my own life by searching for them all. But now I hold back the hunting dogs, and instead try every day to just stick with my belief in better. This won't change.
My own life currently consists of some of the hardest work I have ever done. I'm training to become as physically strong as I can in order to pursue my ambitions with aerial dance work. This involves 6am wake up calls for PT sessions, gruelling training schedules, and plenty of time on my own critiquing my development. It's tough going. But not as difficult as it is to live in a trapped life. For every moment I am tempted to complain, I swallow my words. At this present moment, I couldn’t really ask for more.  

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2017!

Helen Victoria

Sunday, 16 October 2016

History Books & Hungry Animals

 I'm sitting in a coffee shop, surrounded by Albanians. I live in East Oxford, and on a Sunday this seems to be where every Albanian in the vicinity collects together! 

For the eight years I was with my ex partner, this was a routine environment. In the years afterwards I avoided being around the Albanian chatter that had become so familiar and
that I largely understood. It was a time of healing, rather than any rejection of race or culture. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about a country and community of people that I probably otherwise wouldn't be aware of. I spent summers rattling across the countryside of Eastern Europe in a falling apart van, meeting some of the most extraordinary people I've come across. I certainly wouldn't have tried some of the foods I was given at weddings there!

I sit comfortably and anonymously now in a sunlit corner of a generic coffee shop in Oxford. I can absorb the humming of a language I once knew with no sadness or resentment. I feel grateful for my experiences. If I hadn't been present for them then this blog and my way of writing most probably wouldn't exist. I have an enormous mug of green tea to one side of me, a good friend of mine to the other, and I'm about to head off to aerial rehearsals at the ballet st. What more could I have dreamt of back then?

Time certainly allows space for us to find perspective. It can provide opportunities that move us further away from the experiences we have become jarred by. But clocks can never surpass the power of conscious choice. The choice to keep turning the pages of your life, instead of staying stuck in the margins of one chapter. Or indeed destroying the chapters and characters that have gone before. 

We all have our histories. Our unfinished arguments. Our frustrating last conversations. We share in our wanting to put that last word in, or indeed to erase the last words said. They seem to be  never ending stories. But they are important pieces of our lives that feed the hungry animal of our existences. They deserve recognition. We all do. 

The acceptance of my history came not in one moment but in many; through the course of living out the future days of my life. There was no cinematic 'eureka' moment. True growth was borne from the moments in which I chose to be so happy that a little bit of what I had been gripping on to fell from my distracted hands. I moved on in the times when I stood up for myself a little more than I used to. And especially in the times I chose to dance, write, or create. These were the true moments of healing, more than any I tried to force from any yoga mat or major life success. 

And then, sometimes, you find yourself sitting in a coffee shop surrounded by your past. And realising you are perfectly comfortable in your very own self created present. 

No one said letting go would be easy. But they also never said how wonderful it would feel to free yourself from what holds you back. 

All my love to you, for your present Sunday and future days.

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A