Don't Look Down
The Other Room.jpg

The Other Room

For my girls, Emma and Ava. You save me, everyday. 

And for everyone who volunteered so much love and support along the way. You know who you are. I am eternally grateful.

We're still standing. And this is the story of what happened.  

Chapter 2 | Tailwinds

The thunder grumbled gently above the world, as the Bar Man leaned carefully against his bar. Watching as closely as he listened.

 The guy had barely raised his head the entire time. Speaking almost shamefully into his drink.

 “Who could have seen it coming”, he whispered

 “Who could have seen what coming?” asked the Bar Man, cocking his head in anticipation of a revelation.

 “I think I’ve been a pretty good person. Had my moments, sure. But…”

 The Bar Man waited patiently for him to end the sentence. But it never came. And then he smiled, as he realized that it didn’t need one. Few things ever do. Closure sometimes ignites more than it serves to distinguish.

 The thunder rolled in again, as he finally lifted his eyes. Yes, they’d known each other these two. A thousand times over. This was going to be a long afternoon.

My back-story is unremarkable, and only partially relevant to this story. The important parts and their relevance reveal themselves as it unfolds. 

For now, know that I was born and raised in Buckinghamshire, England. One of four boys. Irish mother, British Father. Looking back from an adult perspective it was a roller coaster of a childhood. My father’s love-hate relationship with money saw our family slide chaotically up and down the wealth scale. Disney World and 8 bedrooms one year; Bognor Regis and sharing bedrooms the next. My Mother did her best to keep a grip on the rudder, keeping us grounded in sports, education and with significantly less cooperation, religion.  Inevitably my parent’s marriage didn’t survive. But as a family we did, and to this day we’re doing ok. 

Education wise I probably under-performed, but managed to carve out a reasonably satisfactory career in Advertising, nonetheless. It wasn’t a passion. In all honesty I don’t know how I got there in the first place. I wasn’t gifted with a vocational crush. My elder Brother on the other hand knew Medicine was his future from a very early age. He’d have cut and examined his own umbilical chord if he could. I envy that clarity and single-mindedness of purpose in life. But we all choose our path.

Advertising was interesting. Fun at times.  But most importantly, seemed to be filled with the type of people with whom I flocked most easily. Particularly in London, which was the inevitable setting for the first chapter of my career. The perfect wrong choice for an already uncertain twenty-something, still suffering from the amnesic after-effects of a disco-fuelled attempt at University. Teeing up 5 years of seamlessly blending irreverent mischief with an uncanny knack for talking a good game.

The first 12 months were dramatic, fingertip times. But as I learnt the ‘why’s’ and plugged deeper into the ‘how’s’, things and I, started to move up.

But it was the people, as it so often is, that most defined my time working in London. I was blessed with an incredibly special group of friends, both in and out of work. A hilarious, fearless bunch that hurtled through life, wide-eyed and willing under the goading lights of a snarling 90’s London.

They were terrific days, if not at times slightly over-indulgent. My love affair with clubs and dance music, and all its helter-skelter escapist accessories fought hard with an honest intention to make something of myself. Looking back on the Me then, with the more emotionally intelligent understanding I have of the Me now, and I can’t help but feel slightly sorry for 90’s Christian. Compassionately, rather than with pity. Somewhere hidden between the layers of briefs, shoots, thrills and pills, was a young chap that could never quite connect with who he really was, or the world around him. I can’t be certain, but there are times when I feel that that sense of disconnection, and the long-term side effects of all the colourful ways in which I tried to escape it, might have empowered the villain that would eventually steel into capsize my life. Everything matters. Everything, eventually, connects.

In late 2001 I swapped the complexity of London for the simplicity of (pre-Never Never Land) Dubai. A highly random decision on the surface, but there was method in the madness. Plus, I had an ‘in’. My cousin had moved there several years earlier, and both he, and the advertising agency I would eventually work for, quickly sold me on the expat dream.

The move happened quickly. I didn’t have much stuff back then.  Whatever I deemed important was either hugged goodbye, stashed at the family home or boxed up and loaded onto a ship to the Middle-East. The rest evaporated.

But this wasn’t just an exchange of destinations. The move was also motivated by a responsible intention to trade in a lot of who I was, and what I had come to represent, for someone better. A change that was as over-due as it was sorely needed.

An easy, if not slight trite way to describe what transpired was a sort Spiritual Revolution. In the absence of all those helter-skelter, escapist accessories that were so readily available in London, I filled the vacuum in Dubai, and in many ways advanced my search for some sort of inner-connection, with alternative spiritual practices. I read voraciously (mostly self-help and contemporary spiritual ideologies), practiced Tai Chi, achieved Reiki Mastership, clumsily embraced meditation and enthusiastically threw myself into any self-development gig I could find. It was a deeply transformative period of my life.

Yet over the years, rather than transforming myself from one person to another, I gradually built myself my own private Wizard Of Oz. A more enlightened, inner version of ‘I’, who stayed behind the curtain and did his best to make me the better person I strove to become. Who watched diligently as London Christian inevitably re-emerged to find comfort in the arms of Dubai’s frantically emerging club scene. And who gently and compassionately picked up the pieces in the aftermath of every weekend blitzkrieg. 

The two live happily together for a few years. A good team most of the time. And as maturity gently washed away the limiting fog of self-protection, I begun to share the Wizard of Oz with more of the world. Practicing Reiki on friends, or simply allowing conversations to cross over into the more sensitive arenas of self-help, emotional wellness and spirituality. Eventually the balance of power started to shift the Wizard’s way as my spiritual nature became increasingly integrated with my more mainstream identity.  

Unsurprisingly, my life started to settle down into a much calmer and more focused rhythm the more the Wizard went mainstream.  A healthy divorce from the Advertising Industry freed up time and space to explore the potential of a career in music, as well as several entrepreneurial pursuits to provide the necessary green energy to keep the wheels moving. What was once a very erratic existence of weekend peaks and weekday troughs, became a much smoother, more eclectic way of life.

It was a strange adjustment at first. There’s a twisted sense of security that comes with rolling the 9 – 5. You turn up, follow the rules and do enough to earn the stripes. The alternative is much more visceral. Even with well laid plans and wholesome intentions of productivity, each day was an adventure, filled with near-misses, high fives and the inevitable, but oh so private jabs from the inner-voice of self-doubt. 

These were exciting times. I believe everyone should spend a period of time in their life pursuing a career built around their passion. I know it’s not for everyone, but succeed or fail, you’ll never learn as much about who you are or what can achieve by working for someone else’s agenda. The space to jump, shout, fail and grow just isn’t there. 

They were extremely social times, to. Dubai was in an adolescent frenzy as we neared the end of the Naughty’s. Never Never Land was taking shape, and the ‘who you know’ rule was very much in effect. Especially for those trying to spin a career around their passion. The city had filled up fast with movers and shakers from all walks of life and the energy was electric. Being out and about 24/7 quickly became a necessary part of getting it done, and the battle lines between work and play got fuzzier the deeper in you went. It was exhausting as it was exciting, and looking back, one of the best periods of my life. Most notably, as it was out there amongst the fireworks that Life blessed me with Emma. 

Recently out the back-end of fairly chaotic relationship, I had finally reached the ‘Turn’. That glorious post break-up sweet spot when you no longer need to cling on to the debris. Nor have the need to look forward for something to band-aid over the scars. Zero emotional gravity. Identity back, feeling calm, settled and at total peace with where and who you are.  And isn’t it so often the case, that it’s during these periods of self-stillness the Universe chirps up and drops the very thing you need, right slap bang on your lap?

As the truism goes: ‘you can have anything you want in life as long as you don’t want it.’ Deep down I knew, as we all do, what I wanted in my idea of a perfect partner. But trying to piece her together from the wreckage of a failed relationship, or hunting her down in the jungle of Dubai’s vivacious social scene would have been pushing water up a hill. Perfection is a perpetually moving target. Like the horizon, the more you reach for it, the more frustratingly out of reach it becomes. And so it was, that the moment I stopped trying to mend the past, and catch up with the future, my perfection found me. 

Emma was, is, everything I could possibly wish for. Not just in a girl, but in another person. Gentle, kind, patient, adventurous, passionate, indescribably beautiful yet wholesomely modest and grounded. A rare if not almost impossible bouquet of qualities, in a City where looks and beauty, are used as skeleton keys to its most glamorous doors.

We met at night. I fell in love immediately. She, along with my daughter Ava, are the best of my life. And above all else, it’s how this story has effected her life that breaks my heart most of all. I’ve never tried to inject the concept of what’s deserved and what isn’t in this life. Even on the receiving end of this sucker punch. Living with a sense of entitlement for anything other than the basics of the human moral code is a fast track formula for disappointment and victimhood. Yet very privately, not a day goes by when I don’t feel a pang of anger and confusion at why Emma was chosen to endure this experience. Why Life would choose to dim one if it’s most brightest and beautiful lights.

If everything does indeed happen for a reason, then my deepest and lasting wish is that in some twisted way, this experience was intended to fill Emma with whatever learning or understanding she needs to rebuild a life bursting with everything that brings her love, joy and happiness. To burn as brightly again, as the night we met. She has been my tailwind since the day I met her. Maybe this story might one day, serve to be hers.