Monday, 27 September 2010


Have you ever been travelling? 

What did you take with you? I remember so clearly, now that I recall it, the night I prepared for my imminent flight to New Zealand, which was to be the first stop on my round-the-world epic adventure.

I laid out in front of me 9kg of 'stuff'. It comprised simple things: a couple of vest tops, a couple of long sleeved tops (I bought a fleece in New Zealand - that wind in Wellington was freezing!), one pair of trainers, a few toiletries, a journal, a couple of pairs of trousers, underwear, and maybe one or two other bits. For 28 days, I toured New Zealand, feeling like a true Backpacker, and I had some of the most incredible experiences of my life to date - glacier climbing, swimming with dolphins, sunsets on deserted beaches, meeting awesome people, and that boundless sense of adventure and expansiveness, mirrored in a metaphorically perfect way by the breathtaking backdrop of huge mountains and gasp-inducing views.

And very, very few possessions. A lot of other backpackers were on their final adventure before returning to the UK, and I witnessed them heaving great heavy bags onto their backs with a laboured grunt on a daily basis as we checked in and out of hostels. But not me - I had just enough to know that I was truly on an adventure, but not so much that I broke my back!

Then... Sydney.

I settled (long story, involving a man, a church and a baptism - and trust me, the punchline isn't that great). I was scared, and like a rabbit in the headlights, I froze. Synchronicities occurred, things fell into place, and I built a bit of a life for myself there, my list of possessions beginning to grow... and grow... and grow. The bag that departed the UK with 9kg of contents returned a year later with about 15kg, and that was after considerable culling of items before heading to Sydney airport.

Along with the clutter, I gained weight, physically carrying more flesh around with me than I was designed to - the result of thousands upon thousands of calories crammed in the dead of night, my soul weeping. I've never shown anyone this photo before, and maybe you see what I see in my eyes - how unhappy I was. It feels scary putting this picture here, but I'm in the mood to take a risk. 

I was sluggish in body and mind, and to some extent my possessions reflected that.

Last year, I returned from another trip - this time to California - with almost nothing to my name. I had no job, no flat, no car, very few clothes (I had to squeeze my feet into a pair of my sister's ballet pumps two sizes too small for an interview as a waitress in a tearoom), and once again, that wonderful sense of freedom that I'd felt in New Zealand four years previously.

Today, it's about 18 months since I returned, and as you can probably tell from my posts, my life is beautiful. It's full of adventure, and most importantly, connection.

And... things.

One habit I have slipped back into is possibly the most prominent 'hobby' of women, if not around the world, then certainly in the west - shopping. One of the problems with shopping is that one arrives home with bags of new things that need somewhere to live - a cupboard, a shelf, a bit of floor perhaps. Slowly but surely, my room is filling up - and I don't like the feeling of clutter that comes with it.

Recently, I've been blogging about being a Pioneer, seeking apprenticeship, and walking a different type of path. I have entered into life coaching, and have begun to train to be a life coach, too - what an exciting time! And yet, there's a sense of overcrowdedness in my life too, triggered by the number of things I see when I open my cupboards, my wardrobe, and, ultimately, my mind.

So, it is time to declutter again.


So said William Morris, and this is something I came across on a fab coaching website last week, which has gotten me thinking. It's not a new concept for me at all. Nige is hot on decluttering, regularly reporting that he's 'given some things away'; since we've been a couple, he's given so many things away that I almost can't believe there's anything left to declutter - and yet, there is.

The great thing about decluttering is this: nature abhors a vacuum, so if I'm sitting with a room/wardrobe full of stuff I dislike, by giving some of it away I'm creating that vacuum where new stuff can come into my life. (Weirdly, I started this post last week, siphoned off things to get rid of, and was promptly given lots of gorgeous clothes by my lovely friend Jema! It really works!)

Julia Cameron (author of the Artist's Way) talks in the book about "low self-worth outfits", and I don't know quite why I put up with having them in my wardrobe. They're on the way out again - nice, decent clothes, but things that don't fit, or have shrunk, or that hold a negative association for me. Bye bye bad vibes!

To clarify: I don't need to live like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City. In fact, when I saw her oh so fashionable apartment - and even the famous walk in wardrobe - in the movie, it didn't appeal to me. My life doesn't need to look perfect, be crammed full of designer labels, or constantly be 'on trend'. But I do love that feeling of wearing something delicious, something that I stand taller in, something that people comment on, something that gives me a sense of Exploring my Elloaness. At the moment, new things tend come in, and just a few short months later, I'm tired of them, ready to move them on. Perhaps it's as simple as this - my life has changed, the seasons have changed, my association with these clothes has changed, my body has changed, and maybe it's okay for me to just let go of these things.

Because I study A Course in Miracles, sometimes I criticize myself (that's living the Course, isn't it!!) for even caring about things like my appearance, or the clothes I wear - after all, doesn't the Course teach that this world is an illusion? Isn't it shallow to care about such petty things? On the other side of it, you only get one chance to make a good impression, and I'm as human as the next person when it comes to making instantaneous judgements and decisions about a person based on their appearance.

And more to the point, clearing out my closet helps me feel great. I won't even go into the stories of two houses I've been into of people I love dearly who have been living in floor to ceiling clutter, at the level of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. All I'll say is that firstly, it is heartbreaking to see; secondly, when one of these people cleared their house - with an army of loving friends helping throw away things that hadn't seen the light of day for 25 years - that person's life transformed.

Throwing things out is a breath of fresh air. You know which things you're ready to let go of - they're the bits that bother you incessantly, albeit quietly, nagging you when you look at them. They're the items that don't get worn - although you might think about wearing them, you never quite get round to it. They're the items that aren't beautiful to you, or useful to you. Just say fuck it and let them go - I promise you won't miss them!

And me? I'm just enjoying these beautiful flowers that Nige gave me.

Until next time... xxx

Sunday, 19 September 2010


I see myself entering a time of apprenticeship.
The very word appeals to me. To apprentice: to be a beginner, a rookie, a novice. In other words, to not know. In applying for jobs recently, I've felt uncomfortable with the pressure to put myself across in applications as One Who Knows. Do you know what the truth is?

Some days, I don't know anything! Other days, I know just enough to get by - how to smile, how to put one foot unsteadily in front of the other, how to yearn, how to cry out to God.

So often, I feel the pressure to know what I'm talking about, and I won't lie to you, or to myself more importantly: sometimes, I pretend I Know It All (ask Nige!). It doesn't feel comfortable, it doesn't feel sincere, and it doesn't feel real. 


Because I'm human! I'm just a 27 year old person who has seen a few things, taken a few brave steps, and laid some boundaries. But I don't have at least three years management experience, and I don't even know whether to put an apostrophe in the word years in that phrase! (Is it three years' experience? I'm an English graduate and I've never quite figured it out... if you know the answer, please leave it in a comment below!)

And my life is changing, so very fast at the moment. Made redundant, changing direction, things percolating inside of me (that one's for you, Laura). A conversation with a friend, and a suggestion that I might want to apprentice with an experienced coach as part of my fledgling journey to becoming a life coach myself. And do you know something? The idea is sitting very comfortably with me. In fact, I'm actually genuinely excited about it - hence all the italics.

When I did the Long Dance ceremony back in July, I learned about the School of Movement Medicine's Apprenticeship Programme, starting in March 2012. It is a two year long programme of intensive study with the founders of the school, and a prerequisite for those wanting to teach Movement Medicine. I'm coming to realize that whilst the apprenticeship itself didn't appeal to me, the concept of apprenticeship did. I made a conscious choice not to attend one of the absolute prerequisites for the apprenticeship, which effectively closed the door on it to me (save for a miracle), and since allowing that door to close, it appears that other windows and doorways are indeed appearing in front of me.

As summer says her last farewell and autumn rolls in, I notice a part of my mind that urgently seeks The Solution - the 'thing', Out There Somewhere, that will fix my life and provide me with direction, security and fulfillment, as well as the opportunity to reach my potential professionally of course. 

And do you know something else? It's all bollox! I know in the cells of my being what brings me true peace and happiness, and it isn't something out there, some missing piece out in the world somewhere that a random person that I've never even met has the power to either bestow to me or withhold from me. The dream job, the dream home, the dream life - they are a fallacy, as much of a fallacy as me pretending that at 27, or perhaps even 77, I know all the answers.

So what, then? If it's not about me going out and getting a good job, what's the point of getting up in the morning? Well, I'd be lying if I said I knew, but perhaps it's something to do with being, and feeling, fully alive. And that's something that, after years of addiction, obsessions, insecurities and fear, I feel inclined to invite into my life.

I do believe in God. I believe that there is a Power so great that I cannot possibly understand it, that I can only begin to glimpse the beauty and majesty of its Love for me in teeny weeny pockets of awakening. I don't think the world has got it completely wrong, either; I think we're supposed to grow, and to strive to be the most connected, creative, fulfilled and nourished versions of ourselves that we can be. But sometimes, there is a time for learning, and sometimes, a time for teaching, and sometimes, the two are completely inseparable and identical. 

Right now in my life, I feel a call. I feel a call to give, by being there for the people I love - Nige, family, friends - but I also feel a call to be like a child again, soaking up new knowledge, wide-eyed with awe at the hundreds of wonderful new discoveries that await me each and every day. I feel a call to be an apprentice, to return to a place of not-knowing, in order for me to grow and be able to then, when the time is right, pass it on.

So I'm opening to this new idea, and I would like to publicly declare my invitation to the Universe to bring the right teacher(s) for me at this time into my life. The sheer amount of information available nowadays is overwhelming, and I am not sure that I know where to begin. But perhaps, if I just trust and let go, I might be led to the right people and situations - just as I have been so many times in my beautiful, unpredictable, full-of-grace life. 

Watch this space... and if you know of an amazing life coach who is looking for an apprentice, let me know!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


I am a pioneer.
I walk this land, but it is a different kind of path that I tread.
Mine is the path of authenticity.
I am not interested in achievement or possession - although the fearful mind part of me is.
No; what I really yearn for is the peace that comes from knowing I am walking the path back home to God. I am in no man's land at the moment. It is a scary place to be. I feel lost, and confused, and all around me, purposeful souls drive themselves into the ground, propelled by fear and clip clip clopping along in their workwear, a copy of the Metro in one hand and their Blackberry in the other.
Try as hard as I might, I simply cannot walk that path. My heart calls me to this quiet place, this comforting room, with fairy lights and a praying buddha on a walnut desk, and me, in tears, remembering what is truly sacred.

I am a fisherwoman, casting my net in all directions, testing the waters to see what I find:
A boot! Fantastic - I'll sit with it for a while in my boat, until I decide whether I like it or not.
A smelly old sock?! Hm, can I do anything with it? No? I'll toss it back, or perhaps donate it to Oxfam.
It's not so much what I find as I cast my nets; it's the attitude with which I greet each item that matters to me. I have a vision, of me pressing send, and then twirling on my toes as my CV whizzes off into cyberspace to be viewed by yet another prospective employer. I live delightfully, lightly, and always with a touch of magic.

For I am a pioneer, and this land that I walk has a very different landscape to that of the world we all seem to inhabit. I track emotions, noticing the contraction here, the ball of heat there, the thick cord of heat running from torso to throat, the pulse of my aorta in my stomach, the spreading out of tension as it releases across my tummy. I sit, I observe, I feel, and I notice that I feel safe, and held, and nourished.

I am presented with a very important question. What could I do every day to give the little girl in me the nurturing that she needs? I don't have an answer just yet, but I'm happy just to be with the question.

 Because I am a pioneer. And as I live each day, each breath, I notice that there is a parallel between finding the answers in the kind of work I want to do, the kind of thing I want to give to the world, and the kind of answer that arises in response to this question. I know that I want to show up and be authentic. I want to greet emails, interviews, chance meetings with strangers in the street, with that sense of delight and purity and wonder that is so effortless for me with certain people, certain situations. I want to open my arms to life and say "Hello!" I want to smile, to laugh, to sing my heart out. I want to love. I want to imagine. I want to create.

And I want to be a pioneer on this path - this new kind of human experience. And hey, guess what? I already am.

Friday, 10 September 2010

What's in a name?

So asked Shakespeare's Juliet...

"That which we call a rose,
By any other word would smell as sweet." 

Juliet was saying that the name of a thing doesn't define what it is - her "Romeo would, were he not Romeo called, retain that sweet perfection which he owes without that title." I have always loved the balcony scene from Romeo & Juliet - poetic, romantic, and quite philosophical, too.

There's also something beautifully serendipitous about what Juliet is saying here, which I shall now explicate for you dear reader.

My name - Elloa Barbour - is one that today, for the most part, I'm comfortable with. Upon hearing my name for the first time, people often ask where it is from, sometimes adding that it sounds Irish, or Swiss or Swedish, perhaps. I'm guessing then that my first name evokes images of Celtic faeries, or occasionally perhaps a female warrior not dissimilar to Moder Svea of Sweden.

I tell people that it's basically just the name 'Ella', with an 'O' thrown in - and that is exactly how you pronounce it, in case you were wondering (emphasis on the first syllable please, not the second one): Eh-low-a, not Eh-low-a.

When I was a child, I remember receiving birthday and Christmas cards with all sorts of strange and curious mis-spellings of my name inside... "Dear Ellowa" was a common one, or sometimes "Eloua" and even "Allowah". Sensitive bairn that I was, I took these incorrect namings quite seriously and used to get quite upset about them. Why didn't I just have a normal name, like the other girls in my class?! I wanted to be a Becky, a Vicky or a Sophie, like my friends.

Instead, I was a skinny little kid, with two dads and a weird name.

My 'biological' dad, I didn't know. I'd met him once, when I was five, but that was just a fleeting moment, pivotal and ultimately, I discovered aged 19, extremely consequential in how I saw myself and what I believed about myself.

My 'real' dad, aka Papa Bear, has brought me up since I was two years old, and is to this day my dad, my papa, and I his 'Tellie'. Nowadays, I've got a lovely relationship with Dan, my biological dad, too, but back then, my dad wasn't my dad, and my other dad wasn't really my dad, either.

Confused? How do you think I felt?!

I think it's best if we now fast-forward to the year two thousand and ten. It's summertime. Skies are mostly blue with occasional downpours and devastating floods in Pakistan. And I'm in Ireland, on my first ever family trip with my biological dad, who I've now known for about 13 years.

The holiday is in Rosscarbery, a beautiful little part of West Cork, in Ireland. And it's not just me and my dad there, oh no. There's dad's beautiful, strong wife, the matriarch of the family, Nicola. There's my half-siblings, Bill (18) and Edie (14, and with a staggering 890 friends on Facebook) who I come to think of as simply being my siblings on this holiday.

And there's also:

Grandma - we're at her cottage
Bob - her husband
Rachel - my aunty
Fran - my aunty, too
Steve - her husband
Jacob - my cousin (aged 9)
Finton - my cousin (aged 7)
Adam - my uncle
Jane - his wife
Georgia - my cousin (aged twentysomething)
Louise - my cousin (aged 15 I think)
Sally - my cousin too

The photo shows just a few of us. I'll leave it to you to guess who they all are. Answers on a postcard to

(Just to say that Josh, my other brother, along with Uncle Matthew, cousin Patrick, cousin Jackson, baby Grace and Matthew's lovely wife whose name I've forgotten were not able to be there this year. Like I said, big family).

The holiday is very poignant for me. I'd been to Ireland a number of times as a child, only ever with Grandma, Bob and Rachel, Uncle Matthew and cousin Patrick. I'd never been there with dad or any siblings. Returning there this year was almost a rite of passage, and I experienced lots of moments with my dad for the first time - walking along the Long Strand, going to Barley Cove, simply being in the cottage, playing table tennis, eating suppers together, watching him dance with Nicola at the party on Saturday evening.

I cried more than once, laughed more than I cried, and something clicked into place inside of me. I got that wonderful feeling of belonging and feeling love and loved.

And then, the name came. A few days after returning from Ireland, I stopped dead in the middle of a conversation with my gorgeous, courageous, talented, creative boyfriend Nige, and texted a single word to Dan, my dad - the word was "Juliet".

For quite a few months now, Dan and I have been in discussions about giving me a middle name. I don't have a middle name, and always wanted one, and coming to a place of deepening my relationship with him has brought up the possibility of him choosing a middle name for me. Again, it's a highly symbolic, almost ritualistic event that has somehow just emerged.

Between us, we've thought of lots of names - I love Lily, but it's Edie, my sister's, middle name. Then there's Jupiter, which Dan had wanted to call Edie, and which I quite like. But Jupiter has quite negative connotations, being the planet otherwise known as the 'Gas Giant'. Whatever you might say about my bodily functions, I certainly don't want to be known as the Gas Giant, thank you very much. Bed hogger perhaps, but Gas Giant? It's just not very Elloa-ish.

And then, suddenly, Juliet.

And guess what - Dan loves it. Neither he, nor I, nor Nicola, nor my siblings, can think of any reason why I shouldn't have Juliet as my middle name. I only have positive associations with it, other than the fact that Juliet kills herself in Romeo and Juliet. A minor point, I think you'll agree.

What's not such a minor point is my other dad - my Dad Dad. He's never given me a middle name, and I don't have his surname, so I'm slightly wary of blazing ahead with all cylinders firing until I am comfortable with whether he will be involved in this in some way, or not. Changing your name by deed poll is very easy in England, and costs just a few pounds. But taking all of the important people in my life into consideration is a bit more complex.

And I'm also trying to get used to the idea of being Elloa Juliet Barbour. I think it has a nice ring to it, but it is a change, and it is a bit scary for me.

Considering becoming 'Elloa Juliet Barbour' is intricately related to my connection with the other members of my family, as well as all of my past experiences of simply being Elloa Barbour - although it's never been simple being me! - and all the connotations I have with that. Suddenly, the introduction of a third name is quite unnerving, bringing up questions for me about whether I'll lose a part of myself, or gain a part I didn't know was missing.

If I decide to change my name, ultimately it will be a personal decision, symbolizing something probably quite unnameable that has happened inside of me. At the moment, I'm just not quite ready. 

Wednesday, 8 September 2010


It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate, this isn't
a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

--Mary Oliver--

Simply pay attention