Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A 10,950 Day Walk.

I am sitting on a black, stone balcony floor, looking out over fields and fields of the brightest green rice paddies. I am dripping with sweat partly from the humidity of Bali, and partially from the punchbag boxing session I just forcefully threw myself into. 

Not my usual circumstance? Actually, this set up is familiar. I am physically working through some thought while doing something I deeply love. I am leaping through the air, swinging hooks, making shapes that I enjoy. Stopping only to feel the pulse of my heart against my glove as I hold it to my chest in the moments between the songs that are filling my ears through my headphones. These moments are precious, and they are freeing. I have discovered moments like these in ballet studios, gym floors, and athletic tracks. I have found them also, although in less of a physically exhaustive sense, sitting in coffee shops as I write articles such as these. 

As my arms throw punches at something that cannot be harmed by my efforts, I am released. Just as I am when I leap across floors in studios with no audiences, and as I my fingers ripple across keyboards in coffee shops where no one knows me, I am freed. I am freed by my art, and in the partaking of it's process.

This, readers, brings us right back to the start. To where I originally started out with this blog. I began writing the ‘Living Liberté’ article collective 5 years ago. I was, at that time, living in North Africa dancing in a show for 7 months. I commenced writing at a time when I was barely weeks clear of one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, and just at the tipping point before I fell into two and a half years of a legal battle against my abusive ex-husband, of which I would at many stages not think I could survive. 

I wrote my first article after spending a few hours dancing and leaping around an empty moroccan dance studio to release some of how I was feeling before I had to put a face of stage make-up on and go out and entertain the crowds. The idea of the blog came to me as I danced, in it’s (and my own) blurred and questioning/newborn state. I carried the vague idea of an online collective of this concept of self-discovered freedom home with me to my apartment above the show venue. I opened my laptop and began to type; to unknowingly begin to type the work that would become my most significant. 

As you may have gathered from my first paragraph, I am currently in Bali, Indonesia! I am here on 3 weeks of travels whilst I turn 30. I am here amongst Hindu temples, jungles, beautiful beaches, and some of the most beautiful oceanic scenery I have ever experienced. I am amongst travellers of all nationalities, smiling locals, and some of the biggest butterflies I have ever seen outside of a natural history museum. There is an incredible scene of cruelty-free living, veganism, and eco conscious groups who regularly volunteer to clear the beaches of it’s washed up plastic, to aide the creatures living here alongside us. I think you might say it may well be a little piece of kindness paradise.

This is not to say Bali is perfect. It has it’s share of moped pollution, tourist culture, and it’s own portion of difficulties. But in spirit, it is lead strongly by faith and kindness that I have not experienced in any other country I have travelled to. There is an integral faith in positive kindness, to it’s most worthy extent. This, for me, is the prism of light that I continually seek. 

This particular travel venture is not for the purposes of work, for once. I am not here with a contract, or with a view to find one. Unlike my travels during the past 7 years, I am here only for the taking time to take time; to be somewhere I have not stepped before. And to spend some time in a place of beauty while I look back over the journey of the last 30 years. 3 weeks, to take in a view of 30 years.

Thirty years. 10,950 days of life. During my lifetime thus far I have suffered at the hands of broken hearts, who in turn made sure they did all they could to break mine. I have harmed myself through not feeding myself as a teenager. I would later go on to harm myself a little more through staying in relationships that ravaged my mind and body just as my eating disorder once had done. 

However, in the seeking brighter light, I have also LIVED. I have happily danced around the world despite only commencing my dancing journey at 19! I have run away with (and once from) the circus! I have loved, truly and absolutely. I have lived with belief. And for it all I am grateful. Of this, I am the most proud. 

In this moment, as I sail into my thirties, I can only be thankful to one entity - you!

You, reader. You, friend. You, the friends who believed in me even when I forgot to. To the family members who quietly got on with the tiring business of helping me back on my feet without making too much fuss. To you, the passers by on that NYC subway who helped me breathe again, as I wrote about in my article ‘I am living happily ever after; so why can’t I breathe’. And finally, I am thankful for you, God. Who without, I wouldn’t be here, in more ways than one.

And so, here’s to our journey together! To 5 years of Liberté, and the 30 years it took to arrive to today’s date with you. Here’s to you all, for supporting this page and making it possible to keep on expanding it's concept. Thank-you for all of the messages, the comments, the shares, and the quiet moments spent reading it’s words wherever you were whenever you did so. I am grateful for every single gift of thought. 

Happy Birthday!

With more love & freedom than ever before,

Helen Victoria

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Changing Trains.

There are, without doubt, moments in all of our lives that we can look to as those that altered our direction. We may have made such choices decidedly, with ownership. Or perhaps we may feel choices were made for us. Made by another person, or by the circumstances that were created around us. In whatever way, we boarded trains that carried us to destinations other than our previous ones. We boarded those trains, consciously or otherwise. Where did you go?

Throughout my high school education I carried home academic reports of my medium to average attainment levels in my studies to my ever encouraging parents, and tried to fit in as best as I could with life as it unfolded. But I never quite found ‘my thing’. The thing that would implicate I might be more of a somebody than I had already estimated myself as being. It wasn’t until I started studying for my A-Levels that I really began to work out what it was that I might be any good at, or indeed who I might like to become. This is not to say that I had low esteem. More that I hadn’t yet found a spark of excitement for the idea of my future self. That person didn’t exist; yet.

The thing about choice is it’s inherent components of rejection. To choose, is to disengage from another option. To effectively utilise the power of choice, we must loosen ourselves from an alternative. This can be tricky, particularly when there is more than one choice. Or indeed when the choice has to be made by mind against heart.

Following on from my A-Level studies I went on to study ‘3D Design’ at Bath University. I made this choice because I knew I needed to be with art in some way. I hadn’t yet found the ‘thing’ I was looking for. At this point I was only newly aware that there may well be a ‘thing’ to be found. Within weeks it was clear that clay was not that thing! But importantly my room mate at the time took me along to my first ballet class. And the rest, as you might say, is my history.

When I confidently dropped out of a perfectly good University course to pursue becoming a professional dancer with no training at all, I wasn’t met with overwhelming understanding for my vision. My family and closest friends supported me unquestioningly. But the dancing schools that I excitedly applied to didn’t quite agree. I was told by one in particular that I was disrespecting the institution of dance, and that I didn’t ‘appreciate’ the work that goes into the vocation. I was also told by a few friends of mine that I was being flaky, and that they were concerned about my path. This, above all else, was difficult to hear. I respected these friends. But I physically felt the weight of their rejection of my ideas. 

In retrospect; I was untrained, unemployed, and with no definite prospects. I was also living with my long term boyfriend who was less and less impressed with my dancing plans with every passing day. At this point, it would have been easier in some ways to have given up on my ambitions, and gone back to what I had been doing. But easier for who? 

Of course, I contemplated leaving my dream behind. Locking it all away as a memory. I could have effortlessly labelled it dutifully as ‘something I always wanted to do’; to be drawn upon only in future pub reflective conversations with friends on some Sunday that hadn’t happened yet. But I knew - just as I had done in the initial moments of that first ballet class -  that life had already made it’s choice for me. I couldn’t change how I felt. Now, or ever.

Ten years on, and much has changed. I went on to fight for my path. I went on to meet wonderful men and women of the industry who shared my vision, and who supported my ambitions. I also met many friends who could see the white light of potential within me, rather than the darker shades of doubt. Within the passionate pursuit of a life of creative and personal freedom, I came up against battles I couldn’t have imagined. And indeed wounds that lasted a little longer than I cared for. But these experiences are far, far outweighed by the many thousands of golden moments of dance, art, freedom, friendship, travel, education, and adventure I have so fortunate to have found. My challenges are fragments of a journey, not definition of it in total. This, above all else, is what I have learnt from the process of taking responsibility for my choices.

If we had every eventuality laid out neatly in front of us would we choose any differently? Would we gather options in our arms and use them to lay brick paths ahead of us? If we could, would it make any difference?

I have just glanced down at my telephone and seen three separate e-mails from followers of this blog sending thoughts about various past articles. Earlier today I received a letter from someone who is recovering from an eating disorder and is using my blog as an aide to do so. Yesterday a friend sent me a photo of a t-shirt she had spotted with the word ‘Liberté’ printed on it, as it made her think of this journey! These are the ingredients of my days that are the most valuable to me. And the absolute signifiers that we, as a collective of this movement of ‘LIBERTÉ’ are undoubtedly on the right path. Moving as one, just as I began to move alone back in those empty ballet studios of ten years ago. Together. 

It’s a gentle Sunday today. I have a busy week ahead of me teaching various workshops here in the middle  part of England. Students yet to meet, dances yet to be danced, and music yet to be lost within. I don’t quite know yet what the week will hold. But I do know it will be one of authenticity, in whatever way life, and I, choose for it to be. 

We cannot guarantee anything in life, much as we may try! Revel in your choices, and the process of choosing. And never forget the genuine power of choosing for yourself what’s right for your path. It's OK to choose to alight that train you're hurtling forwards upon, if it doesn't feel right any longer. Or change and board another. You are not alone in this journey.

And no one ever said you were on a limited ticket.

L I B E R T É.

Helen Victoria

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

A Number of Stories.

Every story has some quantity of unmentioned background. Every tale, no matter how detailed, will have some descriptives excluded, or perhaps even characters that aren’t necessarily mentioned. This is possibly because otherwise every story would be a never ending one, reaching further and further for every possible breath, word and piece of history associated with it; not a great basis for engaging storytelling. Beyond this, the teller may not feel that every factor in the building of that story is necessary to be told. Perhaps they are not even aware of the presence of certain elements at all.

A demonstrative example of this might well be our own social media accounts. Are they untrue? Largely no. Do they tell the whole story? Of course not. But still, we share snippets of our lives emphatically, without further thought as to how large a portion of ‘us’ each post is. We want people to know us, to share in our lives, even to appreciate us. We share from our own perspectives, and assume the view it gives of our lives. But we all know that no post, no matter how detailed, can be the whole truth. It is one moment in time. Nothing more than a thought, to be later submerged in the scrolling of time.

But do we mind, really? Do we want or need the whole truth always?

Take your average movie. We begin at a point the storyteller decides. Perhaps it’s not at the beginning, depending on the scene order choice. But it is somewhere. We might be told a little of what has gone on before; perhaps an imagery clue of the time era, or the atmosphere of the situation we find ourselves seeing. We do not know, at this point, very much more. As is the magic of storytelling, we are drawn into watching the slow unfurling of an animal from it’s tightly packed place of hiding. As each limb appears, stretches out, and is placed purposefully on the ground, we begin to piece together what the creature is and perhaps even it’s purpose. We may never know it’s past, or parenting. We may never know it’s early experiences. But from what we see of it, in the telling of it’s current detail, we believe we know what existence it has. We are deciding what we see, based on what is told to us. And inevitably, what we have seen before.

Does this mean that stories of all kinds cannot be deemed accurate, or true to the teller? No, not at all. Fictional stories are defined by creativity, yes. But this does not mean they cannot be real to us, or fail to provide statements of perspective that are truthful. Just because I tell you one chapter of my story, does not mean that the unspoken others are intentionally hidden from view. Perhaps without additional information we may see things more clearly. How many times have you felt confused in a moment of decision making, due to too much information crowding in on you? How much clearer have you felt when you were given a three option menu?

I believe story telling is vital to our human existence. Storytelling is found in all cultures worldwide, enjoyed by every age imaginable, and is often what can define nations and individuals. We use stories to give moral learning examples to children, to invite ingenuity from the students we teach, and to tell strangers who we are on first dates. We use tales to soothe, to excite, and to placate. There is a reason why the movie business is one of the most successful industries in existence, why Amazon continues to thrive upon selling books through the pressing of millions of 1-click orders a day, and why Bollywood turns out hundreds of movies a year for it’s insatiable audiences. Regardless of your opinion of them, we can easily explain why it is that reality television and social media newsfeeds are thriving more than ever before. Ultimately, we want to know about other peoples experiences of the life we all are working our way through. 

Since I was a very small child I have adored all kinds of stories. I have always liked to be read to, and to read to others. I love to be lost - and indeed found - in literature for hours at a time. I was the child whose hand shot up when my class was asked who would like to read aloud. I was also the child who befriended the primary school librarian through the course of spending more time in my favourite room in the school than in any other. My tatty bookshelf in the shed at the end of my childhood garden was a favourite, and I have never lost my adoration for many of those authors whose books lived there on those shelves. In this way, I have grown deep respect for the power of written word, enjoying so many of it’s shared gifts. Upon reflection, it is quite possibly what brings me to be writing these very sentences to you right now in the way that I am writing them.

Numbers? Not so much. I struggled my way through mathematics classes throughout my education, and although I later re-took and passed my Maths GCSE (thank goodness) it wasn’t an easy journey. I still struggle to read a 24 hour clock and to conquer sums without using a pen and paper. It has always fascinated me why my brother absorbs mathematical equations so naturally, breathing in their information with an appreciation for the good they do. While I wrestled with algebra, he danced with each mathematical challenge effortlessly smoothly, bringing each each equation to beautiful crescendo in the way he worked out their purpose and final answers. I watched on in awe as he did so, and still do as he tours the world now delivering accountancy lectures on his numerical discoveries. 

Thanks to the Montessori and later Quaker educations we both had, my sibling and I were never pitted against one another. I remember my brother proudly telling a teacher we had that his sister was an artist, and that we just had different types of brains that were no better than one another. His belief in me, along with that of my parents in the both of us, has been the solid foundation from which we have gone on to pursue our own pursuits and ambitions.

But what if I had been denied a childhood where I was provided with opportunities to read, or spend time learning about the things I was passionate about? What if I had instead had a brother who was naturally competitive, who had ridiculed my numerical contentions? Not every Matilda gets her happy ending, as Dahl depicted in his famed book about the young girl who wasn’t allowed to dream. What happens to those who never meet their narrative saviour?

The question that has occurred to me recently, is what happens to those ‘Matilda’s’ when they grow up? What happens to the young girls who never got to be all they might be, or indeed the young boys stopped from being who they dreamed of, in favour of who their Father dreamed they’d be instead. What happened to those characters, in their real life stories?

As an adult, dance and the performing arts have grown to be a joy for me in the same way reading has been throughout my life. I found that to dance was very correlative in the sense of feeling I got when I read a favourite book, or a particularly powerful piece of poetry. When I read, I am taken from my body and I exist only in my minds eye. This happens for me in the same way when I am able to dance freely, often in empty studios without an audience. In my early twenties, as I have written about before, I genuinely know that dancing saved my life. Without the creative and physical release I could find in empty studios with roaring music to facilitate movement, I would not have survived the challenges I was faced with at that time. 

I was fortunate enough to experience the empowering freedom dance and art could - and can - provide. It is specifically this that I continue to strive to share with others who find entrapment in any area of their life. Whether the trap set is large or small, or set by yourself or another person. No matter how old or entrenched it might be. I know for sure that we can all be freed through the powerful combination that is art and kindness in duo-ability. I have seen for myself the power of this.

Thanks to your support and those of readers worldwide, this blog page is now an established platform from which the ‘Living Liberté’ movement can happily launch. After 5 years of writing stories of truth - with almost 50 articles of this kind to date - I feel ready to take our concept further.Now is the time to reach out wider and gather pace. But how?

I will now employ a writing technique favoured by so many of my favourite writers, although one I have less often utilised - the dreaded cliffhanger!

Because, readers, I think I might just have found a way. One which may be the very making of a very important new chapter indeed. Perhaps the most significant one yet. 

And so, until next time!

With love & #liberté,

Helen Victoria

Monday, 23 October 2017

'But does it count?' - an open response to the #MeToo campaign.

I don’t usually write about current affairs. As long term readers of this blog may have noticed, my thoughts and philosophies are usually future based, drawn from past experiences and ideas. I have yet to cover a topic that is in the public forefront in the moments that I am writing. But then came the #metoo campaign. 

As I write, social media is currently being flooded with more and more statements of ‘hey, that happened to me, too.” To scroll through Twitter and Facebook without knowing what the #metoo statement means you could be forgiven for thinking it was a trending fashion. Just another clever hook, concocted by someone with enough followers to create influential waves within our internet screens. After all, it’s only a hashtag. Don't we see them all the time?

But then it clicks, in both a realising and a technological sense; the thousands of ‘me too’s’ are real time. These are some of the people around us who have in some way been sexually assaulted. This isn’t a trend. It’s an epidemic. 

Initially, I didn’t warm all too much to the movement when I saw it start to spill out across my newsfeed. I feared that in stirring up millions of hashtags the real sense of human experience may be lost. But then I realised; perhaps this really is the time to start a conversation. One that won’t get lost in translation. One that can continue long after the tablets and iPhones have been put down for the night. 

So. What is it that we’re dealing with? What do we mean, when we join in saying those two short words?

In the last few weeks I been engaged in conversations with friends and colleagues of mine, as well as readers of this blog, discussing what may or may not apply in terms of being part of the #metoo campaign. Although varying in response, many were united in feeling they had not spoken out sooner because they themselves were unsure if their experience would 'count' as assault or not. This particular point, to me, seemed to be the loophole within which so many situations have been buried from view. 

But the facts are these

If you are made to feel uncomfortable, and there is no way of stopping or halting the behaviour, then this is not OK. No grey shades. 

The ‘Not OK’ I am talking about is the type of feeling you might have when someone causes you to be uncomfortable in your physical self. It is the slice of vulnerability that you are caused to feel when in a situation you cannot escape. It is in the moments you feel unduly uncovered. This can occur without a single finger being laid upon you. It can be by a total stranger or your husband. It can be from the same sex. Sexual assault comes in varying forms, and there is no typical situation or offender. Yes, more women than men typically receive harm in this way. But not exclusively, by any means. 

But when exactly does a situation become one that isn’t acceptable? Where is the line drawn, the line that shouldn’t ever be crossed, or pushed? Is there a way to know for sure?

I was thinking all of this over yesterday while I was driving to an events job I was working on. It was a one off booking, where I was demonstrating fitness equipment in a leisure area of a large  manufacturing centre. My role was to demonstrate the equipment and hand out free samples of health drinks. What should have been a straight forward job turned into a perfect example of exactly what I had been thinking over on the way to it. 

During the 3 hour event I repeatedly had to defend myself verbally against leering behaviour and  inappropriate comments about my ‘sporty legs’. Men ranging from eighteen to in their sixties were ignoring the professional information I was giving them, preferring to crowd around me asking what I did after work and whether I was as flexible as they thought I might be. Yes, they approached me in a comedic fashion, largely to make their friends laugh. No, I didn’t feel in any real danger. Not one of them touched me, or even attempted to. But did that make the experience acceptable? No. Absolutely not.

I could handle the situation. Being a teacher sometimes helps in these situations, as I feel confident to control a crowd that are getting out of hand. But that doesn’t make it OK. It shouldn’t be acceptable just because I got away unscathed. If we were to apply that rule, then we would have to accept that all drivers drinking under the influence are of no harm to anyone, until they crash.

During my lifetime, like many others, I have endured varying examples of inappropriate sexual approach. I have had my bum pinched in clubs by not only men, but women, who wanted to make their attractions known. I have had a Moroccan man grab at my chest in a daytime market while living in Marrakech. I have had an agent I was working with in India try and offer alcohol and sex to me in the apartment I was staying in, in exchange for movie parts and notoriety. My room stayed locked that night. My first sexual experience was at 14, where a popular boy from my senior school told me that we were to play ‘traffic lights’ where he will stop doing what he wants to do when I say red light. I said red light. He didn’t stop.

I feel strongly that it is unhelpful and ineffective to try and grade the level of acceptability of each incident or act over any other. Range in gravitas is not parallel to that of acceptability. In short; any inappropriate behaviour of this kind is equally not OK. The variance is found only in the seriousness of the act itself. But each and every moment of unwelcome approach or invasion of wellbeing is as unacceptable as another.

I can, and will, now state that I was sexually assaulted in my previous relationships. I have been woken in my sleep to find my partner having sex with me. I have been touched in times I did not want to be touched. And I have been coerced into sexual acts I was not comfortable with. This is not something I have written about before, and not something I have shared with anyone barring the police on a few occasions. If I am to continue to open the door to readers and supporters of the ‘Living Liberté’ blog then I must be open in order to cultivate an environment where conversations can be had. I was afraid to for far too long, and I am still yet to allow myself to open up fully with even my very best friends. But I continue to keep pushing myself beyond the guardedness that might feel instinctive, to find a place of truth that can be liberating for us as a community.

Of course, in the full scene of my life as a whole, these darker moments are but small details. They are memories that stay with me, but they do not define me as they might have once. I am all the more grateful for the freedom I now enjoy in my life, and the incredible friends, family and people I meet and enjoy spending time with. I am enjoying dating now, and spending time with good people. My memories serve as inspiration to keep moving forward, and to keep growing the #liberté online campaign via this blog and on social media. 

But the daily occurrences of situations of this kind that are still happening daily all over the world to the men and women we care about. It has to stop. In order to do this, we must start to talk about what’s right.

Because it isn’t the length of our dresses or the volume of our voices that make us guilty in moments of coercion, assault, or attack. It isn’t our culture, the street we live on, or the type of person we are. There is no ‘you were too friendly to him’ or ‘but what did you expect’. Let’s spread the word to our sons and daughters, to our colleagues and friends, and to those we spend our time with - we are of value. And in this way, we are not to be mishandled, mistreated, or made to be objects of entertainment or gratification. You are of value to me, reader. And to so many others.

My high school sex education consisted of learning about condoms and body odour. It did not prepare me in any way to know what was acceptable as a sexual partner. My parents taught me high self value, but I didn’t realise that this was something that I could apply in circumstances I never expected. They say knowledge is power. I agree. 

And so, let’s get talking! Whether it’s via this blog page, in the comments section below, or in a private message. Where you might want to e-mail me, or e-mail a friend. Perhaps you might want to spend some time with a friend you know may need to talk some things over in response to the hashtag campaign. Or perhaps you have friends that you have seen posting their own #metoo statements on their news feeds. Wherever it is, whenever it is, let’s not let this moment pass us by. Too many have sailed by already for us to allow any more to get swallowed up into history. 

Let's celebrate more of the brilliant, loving, caring people we know, and encourage more of the love and brilliance they share with us. Let's use the best parts of our lives and ourselves to light the way out of any shaded darkness wrongly handed over to us or to the people we know around us. Let's take on this battle using the ultimate power of overwhelming  kindness as our tool to do so. This is where we can, and will, overcome. 

The door to freedom can be found. It’s there. Sometimes we may just need a friend, or perhaps an anonymous voice of support, to help us find it’s handle. 

Speak soon, friends. 

#metoo #wetoo

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Vlog vs Blog; an experiment with a time machine

One month ago I posted a video. It was a video unedited, unplanned, and unchanged from its original state. It was a video that froze one moment just long enough to be shared with others and one which has gone on to become somewhat of a significant contributor to the journey of liberté - very unexpectedly! I recorded this particular video in the moment it was happening. I have never recorded a vlog and I didn't pause to think what I would say. I just broke open and spoke, sharing my thoughts in the moment they occurred to an audience of one small camera. I didn't think about how I felt about posting a video like this until I watched it back - and began to feel heavily self conscious. 

But why?

Of course every word I said in the video is the truth. The same truth that is contained in each of my written articles. But I very much accept that I am human and have present fears just the same as anyone else might! The process of posting this vlog was enlightening to me in this way, and a good experiment with sharing the word of liberté through differing mediums. 

I decided that I would be a walking contradiction if I were to not post it due to fears of judgement. The purpose and sentiment of the video is entirely that of freedom. What kind of believer in freedom would I be if I were to hide away my message rather than share it truthfully?

And so I posted the video at once, without any use of filters or suchlike. Soon after I chose to close down the iPad I had been using to record and post it in order to stop myself from rushing back into the app and hurriedly deleting it. Like a worried teen before a school presentation, I went to bed that night half excited and half terrified at the thoughts of the world I had just spoken out loud to. It was a night of somewhat broken sleep. 

The next morning I awoke to find my account had been flooded with messages from supporters of the video; their messages spoke of connection and of correlation. My message of raw hope had transcended through the often confusing medium of social media! And for this, I am still very grateful. 

One month later the video is still being shared worldwide, and it continues to share the simple message I started out with; and indeed that is the backbone of this blog page. I won't tell you what the video is exactly, if you haven't already seen it. I'll happily leave you to make up your own mind. 

I would love to know your thoughts! How did it make you feel? Was a vlog a refreshing change, or did you find the experience any more difficult to relate to? Did you prefer being a viewer to being a reader? I look forward to hearing all about your experiences. Perhaps record me a little reply video, if you fancy it?

Readers, share the message along if you wish. Send the link to friends who you feel may benefit. Or perhaps just watch it back at any point in time that you ever begin to allow any seed of doubt enter your life. It's yours to have. 

More than anything, readers, be so very free in the knowledge that there is hope. For every one of you, for any situation you might find yourself facing at the moment.

Viva Liberté!

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A

Monday, 26 June 2017

The sounds of circles

‘Music is love. 
Love is all. 
But it cannot be the music. 
The music to the songs of my life. 
I'm trying something new out now. 
A venture of singular piano notes. 
No rush, any longer, for grand crescendo. 
Oh, but when it does…’ 
May Seventh, Twenty Sixteen. 

I wrote the above piece of writing in messy, looping writing in a battered notebook whilst on a train to London. At that time I had just returned from America and was emerging from some months of confusion. After a few years of spinning top decisions, I had found myself back in England. This time around, I was a girl with a plan. 

I returned from my years of following my heart via my passport in the April of last year. As previously documented within my past articles, I had been having an incredible journey through the process of establishing what I wanted in my life, and what I certainly didn't. I toured across the American states as a performer, fell in love, discovered (and then rediscovered) aerial arts, and met with some of my very favourite adventures. As with all the best adventures, I did lose my way a few times. My heart was bruised a few more times. But these experiences were in fact the making of what would come next for me, as I have gone on to discover. 

My return home began a creative journey of transitioning from a show dancer to being an aerialist with my own acts. Of course it’s all dancing, relatively. I can barely brush my teeth without dancing in some way. Aerial apparatus gives me the opportunity to move in new ways, experimenting with weightlessness, and challenging me to create dance within air space. It's been an incredible discovery for me, and a natural choice of direction.

But it has been a very specific change of pace and direction from where I had been headed previously. I have loved my years of 6 month show contracts in beautiful places, dancing alongside some of the most incredible dancers I've known. But the time had come to explore the possibilities of creating my own work, and seeing where it might lead me. 

And so I have spent the last year pouring myself (and my bank account) into pursuing my ambition of becoming a professional aerialist, with my own acts, equipment, and opportunities. It's certainly been a challenge! Dwindling finances, slow progression, setbacks and sleepless nights of worry have been part of my battle. There were months where I still couldn't do even half of the fitness tasks needed to accomplish my dream. Pull ups? Yes, exactly. There were times I sat in a heap on the floor of an empty studio utterly exhausted after another session of practice, feeling I wasn't moving anywhere fast. Those were some of the toughest days of all. 

But then there were other days. Days when I managed to nail a strength move on my aerial hoop that I hadn't expected to be able to. Or the day I went to the post office to pick up my very own aerial hoop, after months of planning and saving for it. There were the days when my website went live, and when I got my first booking enquiry! Although these days were far between at first, they became far more frequent. Like weightless collected treasures, lifting me from one venture to the next. 

As I write this article now, I am currently in the middle of my first aerialist contract, with the wonderful ‘Circus Mash’ company, based in Birmingham. I am registered with two wonderful agencies in London - both of which I dreamt of working with when I was a dancer. I am working on two writing projects part time, and have a bigger project laying ahead with my aerial work. I couldn't be any more grateful for the opportunities that I have, and all the more grateful for the people I've met along the journey who have and continue to make it what it is. This journey is not one of solitude, but one of collected strength. For this, I couldn't be more thankful. 

More than anything, the process has vibrantly revitalised the simple belief I clung to when I started the journey of ‘Liberté’ - that anything is possible when we are freed, using kindness and creativity as a foundation to do so. 

Because it isn't the contracts, the fancy jobs, or even the audience applause I'm truly seeking in my endeavours. Of course, I love what I do. But the true love of my life is in the meaning behind it. It lies in the moments where I pull myself up off that studio floor and out of my negativity, and remind myself of why I write this blog. The meaning is my reason, my motivator, and why I sit here now writing to you. With every last penny and heartbeat. 

I challenge you, reader. Find a tiny adventure in your day today. Perhaps change your route to work and talk to someone new; they might need it more than you're expecting. Send someone a letter, and see where it leads. Perhaps even take yourself on some travels, nearby or afar. Whatever it is you choose, make it fun. In current political times, it's a good a time as any to live our lives to the fullest. Freedom has perhaps never been more important. I receive so many wonderful messages via this blog; messages of readers finding their own processes of finding freedom, and experiences of art and kindness. I meet people on a daily basis who inspire me also to continue on this journey. Every one of you, every moment if kindness and creativity you take part in or share, makes an immense difference - more than you might realise. And in this way we shall continue! 

What’ll your next step be? Your next adventure? I hope it's a good one - I'd love to hear about it. 

With my fullest belief, 

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A  

Monday, 6 March 2017

Swimming through traffic lights

As I type, I write to you with a notably fast beating heart.The moment before this one I turned down another performing job. One which I might have jumped at earlier in my career. But one which I know isn't the quality of aerialist work that I dedicated myself to pursuing at the beginning of this particular leg of my journey. In doing so, I face the very real fear of a lack of control of the future.

And now here I am; writing this article with a celebratory pot of tea to one side of me and an empty, entirely unemployed day ahead of me.

I returned from America 10 months ago now. On a nondescript weekday morning all those months ago I landed in London without a single dollar or pound sterling to my name, a small backpack of clothing hurriedly packed in the heat of the moment (I somehow packed a spanner, none of my favourite clothes, and someone else's toothbrush rather than my own) along with a pretty severely broken heart. I had come away from England 6 months beforehand to embark on an adventure of circus life, borne from a deep faith in love. Perhaps it was a deep love in faith that I needed, instead.

10 months on - what's changed? Well, pretty much everything in terms of the look and feel of my life. I have never been happier, or living more freely, I'm happy report. My days are filled with dance and aerial training, commissioned writing, and my performing work. I have made a life in Oxford, and a world for myself that makes me a lot happier. 

How did this happen? I made a singular change. One which was long overdue. A simple choice that has changed my daily life ever since. 

I have never feared jumping ship from a place I am not happy. I was the child who left her own primary school aged ten due to not agreeing with the ethical values of the teacher, telling my parents on our way home that I would like to be home educated until I found a school I could believe in. I don't remember stopping to think about it for too long. I felt enabled on that drive home, and quietly excited for what may come next.

What are you afraid of? Spiders? Heights? Saying no? We all pick up our own little collective of earned and learned fears as we move through our days. Some stick, some are overcome. Some melt away, through that magical process of time passing without our realising. But what might happen if we stood face on with each, and really enquire as to the reason for their presence? 

I didn't start the journey with thrill seeking, in case you were wondering. I left the knife swallowing to the professionals, and I still use zebra crossings properly. But I did start with the most immediate fear that was blocking my life. Letting go of needing to be with someone I was addicted to being with. With no future plans for reunion or replacement. I had to change my number, address, and life path to move towards an independent pathway, without knowing I would have someone there to hold my hand (or indeed pull me backwards).

I changed my focus, and with it, my standards. 

A few months before my return I had shaved all of my hair off, documented in a previous article. This itself was deemed as brave at the time. But to me, it was another transference. I knew the hair could grow back. I knew I didn't need waist length hair to do the work I was doing at the time. I was with someone who I thought would accept me for all that I was. I was giving my long red hair to children who didn't feel comfortable with their appearance now that chemotherapy had taken their hair own hair from them. It felt right, through and through. And so, without an element of personal risk, would you still say I was brave? 

I haven't done it all in one day. But I have done a little of this work every day. I began with renting a room. I've always lived with my family or a boyfriend, or I have lived in hotels and paid for apartments through dancing contracts. I faced the fear of not being able to cope financially on my own, and rented a small but perfect room in Oxford. Step 1, check.

Then I started to tackle a few more, and a few more. Day by day.

On one hot summer day, I forced myself to swim in an open lake while there with a friend of mine. Small feat, perhaps. But my beating heart confirmed the actuality of it, as I sat happily on the lake's edge afterwards. 

As I moved through the journey it didn't become easier to face each fear. But it did become distinctly more familiar. I got used to the discomfort that washed over me as I applied for a job I thought was too good for me, or I stood up for my beliefs in a busy bar with someone who was getting away prejudice because of social expectation not to cause a fuss. 

These are my daily challenges. Embracing change, rather than running away. Happily going on dates, with a strong belief in better. Standing up for what I believe is right, even if it risks unpopularity. Swimming in open waters, no matter what waves arrive to me.

I am not intrinsically brave. I have been weak minded in the past. I've run away. I've chased my shadows. I've made mistakes. But I live now in a way that pushes growth in my own life and others. I take deep breaths, pep talk myself in bathroom mirrors before auditions, climb aerial equipment to dizzying heights, fling myself without a detail of elegance into a lake on a hot day, and just get on with the swimming part of the thing. Sometimes I fly. Sometimes I fall. But mostly, I am so, so happy to be swimming.

I challenge you, reader. Do something in the next thirty minutes that you would usually avoid. Perhaps say hello to someone as you pass them by. Or book a class you think you aren't good enough to go to, for whatever reason. Book a skydive, ask someone on a date. Whatever it is that makes you feel a little bit sick with fear yet quietly suspicious that perhaps something wonderful may come of it.

The floor is yours.

H E L E N  V I C T O R I A  


Dedicated to the limitless supporters of this daily journey, without whom none of which would be possible.