36 years. And a new skin.

I was going to title this post '36 years in this skin'. But then I changed my mind, because the truth is, I have a new skin now. Some days it sits more comfortably than others. Some days it feels too tight, too raw, too exposed. And other days it feels just right: strong and new and capable.

I am grateful for the things I have learned over the past seven months. When the world falls apart, there is the possibility for new beginnings, for re-invention. The last seven months have been like looking through a pinhole. Narrowing my focus, shutting out the voices and the white noise and the advice and figuring out for myself who I am, and what I want from this life.

For my birthday this year, I went away. I spent five days with a friend at the Royal Livingstone Hotel in Zambia. Every moment made me feel unutterably grateful and privileged that I could spend the first few days of my new year in a place as beautiful as this.

My days rolled by something like this. Sitting on the deck, overlooking the river and the falls. Dappled light and the lingering calls of fish eagles above the water.

Afternoons on the veranda. Wooden ceiling fans turning the air in slow, lazy circles. Reading and writing and cocktails.

A Royal High Tea. Cucumber sandwiches (crusts cut off, obviously) and an entire menu of various types of tea. A table groaning under the weight of cakes, and tarts and creme brulees, and brownies and quiches and salmon wraps. You get the picture.

I swam. Rested my elbows on the edge of the pool and stared at the river flowing by, quietly oblivious to the troubles and follies of humans.

We took a walk to the falls. Last time I was here, I had to wear a raincoat. The rocks were a solid sheet of thundering water, and I got soaked through.

Back at the hotel, I asked about it. They are waiting for the November rains to bring relief from the heat, and the dryness. The falls will again become full, and boat trips to the edge of the falls will end and white water rafting will begin.

Changing faces. 

And at the end of every day, when the heat eased up a bit and the sun started it's descent towards the horizon, the light would change. First the trees, stretching long-fingered shadows across the lawns. And then the water, shifting into liquid gold.

Quiet conversations, muted laughter, the clinking of ice in glasses as we watched the day slipping away in a painted sky.

It is a rare thing to experience a place such as this, where time seems to have paused it's relentless march and the world remains unspoiled. There is so much beauty in the world to discover. But one of the most important lessons I've learned this year, is to really look for - to find - the beauty in the daily grind of work, and routines, and responsibilities. Filling myself up with things that nourish me, so that I have something to give back to the world around me. Books. Candles, and a table laid for dinner. The summer air on my skin. Lego-building sessions with Immy, sitting cross-legged on the carpet. Bedtime stories. An evening spent with a friend who makes me laugh, white wine and stories and burdens shared and halved.

Every moment, no matter the disguise it wears - Sorrow, Happiness, Tranquility, Chaos - is a word, a sentence, an exclamation mark or full stop in the story that is my life. And although the broader scenes may sometimes be scripted without my knowledge, or consent, I still get to fill in the gaps with details that I can choose: people, experiences, memories.

And so, to footnotes and illustrations and pencil markings in the margins of my next chapter.

To 36 years. And a new skin.

Chin chin.