It took me 3 days to stop feeling I need to do stuff here on the Queen Mary 2; or even to notice that I didn’t really want to be active and involved. Yeah, sure it was kinda fun to play scrabble, and hear guest speaker John McCarthy talking about his Beirut captivity, to try out the choir and the late-night ballroom dancing; I even went to a ‘Christian fellowship’ once or twice. But what I really needed, in this limbo-journey between my short-term adventure US city life and my back-home UK village life, was to receive the gift of this week-long crossing: to stop all of that planning and talking and doing, and to notice what I feel like here and now. To choose something good in this moment, and to do that only as long as it feels right; allow myself the freedom to chop and change, act on any momentary whim, stop being swayed by ‘shoulds’ or ‘what people do on board’… and to return, if possible please, to some quiet in my inner self.
Swim a million laps of the chilly, splashy outdoor pool – which is so small it takes 3 strokes for the whole length before a nice tumble turn sends me back in the other direction. Dizzying, but fun!
Walk several times round Promenade Deck 7 in the bluster, until spying someone through the King’s Court restaurant window with whom I had shared a lunch table earlier in the week and stopping to say hello. Nice to have a little network of friends, even here in the ship community.
Drink early morning coffee and eat croissants in bed, brought to the door by our Steward Albert. Because we can!
Watch the movie The Greatest Showman, sing along to A Million Dreams, which I had introduced to The Song Project in Manhattan; feel emotional about stepping up into making dreams come true and all …
Fall into easy conversation with lovely fellow guests over a beer in the Golden Lion, or at the breakfast buffet.
Play quoits on the deck with Luca – I had beginner’s luck in the first few rounds, but after a bit of practice he thrashed me with a full score of 25/25. Darn it.
Offer to host a Meditation in the Morning. Not because leading a group is important (and I hummed and hawed about taking on a responsibility at all), but out of that impulse that so often inspires me, namely ‘I want to do this, it helps me to do it with others, and I wonder if anyone would like to join me’. Edward, one of the Crew members responsible for guest activities including religious/spiritual events, agreed to advertise it in the programme that goes out daily to every cabin, all 1500 of them, and a nice little group has joined me in the tiny, splendid Atlantic Room at the very front of the ship. I give a brief orientation to meditation – my own practice, that is, which uses a sacred word repeated on every breath as an anchor to stillness – set off the timer for 20 minutes … and the feeling of relief I feel as I settle into the quiet is physically palpable, and sweet.
Who am I, as I return to the UK? I have felt so at home in Manhattan and I have been changed by my life there in all the best possible ways, so I come ‘home’ unsure of how it will feel. I gave up many roles in the UK before I left, and do not yet know what I am going to do when I am back: work, home, music, choir, church, village??? Alexander Technique, spiritual direction, hospice?
For today, it does not matter what yesterday held or tomorrow will be. Today I am here, and that is enough. Today, let me be open to what is happening around me and who I meet. Not lose the internal stillness for the sake of any external busyness or distraction. And let the ‘going back’ be more than a return to the old: rather let it be a new chapter of grace and adventure that will open up just when it needs to, just as in New York.
Transitioning between that and this in this slow, steady, spacious way is doing me good. Letting go of what was, letting come what may.
‘Let it be’ … all shall be well.