How I began to find me again, on a volcano


Personal development journeys can start for various reasons and at different times in life.

For me that time was when I was 50.

Now you could say that this is a typical time for one to enter into a period of reflection, of re-evaluation, of reinvention even, but either way, that is when my journey began.

Heading up to 50, I found myself having several major life changes occuring all at once, so it seemed.

I knew my marriage was over.  We were separated although still living in the same home and planning for divorce.

With this in mind I was re-booting my career.  I had been a registered nurse but had allowed my registration to lapse and had not nursed for fifteen years but with a need to earn reasonable money again I set about doing a return to practice course and re-instating my registration.  This involved a degree course module and around 150 hours of, on the wards practical experience, which I did in my ‘spare time’ while I was still working full time.  My children at this time, happened also to be doing exams – one A levels, the other GCSE’s.

Then with one teenager off at uni and the other one just going, I moved from one side of the country to the other and started a new full time job in a much bigger hospital.

I also took on my first solo mortgage and bought my house.

So, by the time I turned 50, I was newly divorced and wondering what the heck had just happened to my life.

I felt exhausted and lost and so with the encouragement of a friend I booked myself onto a ‘Fuck It’ retreat.

Run by John and Gaia Parkin my ‘Fuck It’ retreat would take me to the small volcanic island of Stromboli, located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily.

Having never been on holiday on my own before, nor a group retreat (since my teenage years), this week on the volcano marked the first of many firsts.

Tonight I wondered about my week on Stromboli and found and re-read my journal.  So many crazy wonderful things came flooding back to me in those words.

The magic of the black volcanic sand and the calm of early morning qigong on the beach.

My first experiences of snorkelling and swimming in clear sea water from a boat at anchor.

Watching the volcano smoke by day and see it spit and spark against the sky at night.

To climb the volcano and see, hear and feel the eruptions close up.  To experience the rawness of mother nature.  To feel the warmth of the earth under my feet at the summit.  To hike in the light of the moon and head torches.  To have my boots fill with ash as we decended through the darkness.

And my accounts of the group’s guided meditation sessions, of healing sessions, of trusting, of self discovery and of sharing all this with strangers.

So many of us shed tears during the week and these words, I read now, written then, bring more tears tonight as I remember that island and what a magical place it was to start my mid-life journey to find me again.

“Are they tears of relief, happiness, sadness, confusion?  I’m not sure I know, but like the volcano, I need to spill and like the volcano I will grow and be stronger.”

Words from my journal.  Stromboli.  2013