World of Frances: A Modern Day Spiritual Alchemist researching the wisdom of the past in order to reconnect to the realm of the soul. The goal is to inspire you through The Art of Mindfulness, Scientific Research into Ancient, Spiritual Based Practices, Empirical Entrepreneurship & Natural Living.
After many years of working abroad in over 9 countries in less than 7 years, I was faced with a crucial decision as to how I wanted to proceed with my life. I feel that many of us reach our late 20s and feel an innate desire to reconstruct our lives to align with what we truly want, only I took it to the extreme.
I struggled with a misdiagnosis of Mental Illness and chronic fatigue for six years that restricted my life quite severely and yet, influenced the decision to end my career in Finance and move my family to Italy that by effect, brought about a blessed series of events. You see, I had no previous intention of moving to Italy, in fact, I wanted to live in the South of France; bathe in sunshine that was seemingly hiding in my home of Scotland, learn French, experience seasonal weather and ‘feed the soul’ as they say, with fresh food and beautiful surroundings. However, as gorgeous as France is, in hindsight, Italy was no doubt the better choice for what I was seeking.
“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.”
– Erica Jong, writer
Packing up our entire belongings was indeed a mountainous task, we had enough furniture, linen, books and 15 foot Christmas trees to open a warehouse, along with the general crap we all hoard for emotional reasons. In our defence, my family owned a hotel that warranted this mass collection of items but needless to say I took the opportunity to clear out what no longer served me and somehow fitted my entire life into 23 boxes – this may seem a lot but you didn’t see the amount I got rid of – and keeping only what I adore and regularly use has become a therapeutic practice of mine that I hope to maintain.
It is always strange going through your belongings and that of others in this way; finding memories, being unexpectedly reminded of people we love through the scent of their old clothes and trinkets. I didn’t even recall most of the events I saw in old photo albums even happening, but then again, if it weren’t for photographic evidence no one would believe the life I have lived because I have forgotten half of it due to my now confirmed, autoimmune disease.
Time can be unapologetic in nature, which should be unsurprising given that it was created by man; it seems to belittle our lives into a short story and separates us from the deliciousness of each moment; it makes us complacent and somewhat lackadaisical by creating a false sense of security in the notion that we always have tomorrow. I often wonder what choices I would have made differently If I had the understanding that the present moment is all we truly have and that my perception of reality was only what I had believed to be true then and there.
Regardless, It was certainly an interesting time because oddly enough, we came across a lot of items that pointed us in the direction of Florence, Italy; old Italian newspaper was used to wrap up some of my late grandfathers items when he had never been there before, my mothers favourite jacket by a company called Firenze – Italian for Florence – my mothers engagement ring from our visit to NYC when I was 15, according to the paperwork, was purchased from the Jewish diamond quarter, in a jewellers called Firenze, old iPods that I began to charge to see if they still worked, came on at Andrea Bocelli, “Time To Say Goodbye” – my grandfathers funeral song – live in Florence, Italy.
My father had also misplaced one of those GBP collector notes and wondered if he had put it between the pages of a book to keep it flat but upon checking hundreds of them, he decided that whoever was to find it in a charity box would have a nice surprise instead. Meanwhile, I had received an email from an Italian rental company confirming that they had availability just outside of Florence, Italy which we immediately took based on photographs as by this time, our property had sold and the trucks were scheduled to collect our belongings. As a result, my father sought out his old Italian travel book, located next to the television one night, to gain a closer look into the properties location and low and behold, there was the GBP collectors note in the Florence section.
Whether you are spiritual or not, believe in ‘signs’ or not, it is hard to argue against the fact that we were somehow being lead to Florence, Italy. Even some of my most pessimistic, oh sorry, ‘realist’, family members where slightly dumbfounded by this, but regardless of what anyone else thought about the reason for our move, we were ready to follow those signs abroad. You see, it wasn’t because we collectively hated Scotland, but once you have lived abroad, which most of my family had done in South Africa during the late ’80s, you can’t really go back to where you were born and expect things to be as it was, because your perspective on the world changes, and for me personally, the weather was so restrictive that after two weeks of returning home, I had had enough of the rain and cold.
Within two months or so of this decision to move abroad again, everything was in order and the flights were booked. Boo, our gorgeous long-haired Chihuahua was thankfully able to fly on board with us to Italy, which was slightly nervewracking for us because we were concerned that the air pressure might have affected his big ears, hilariously, the only thing that affected Boo was me constantly leaning down to make sure he was okay in his airline approved dog carrier that was comfortably placed under the seat in front of me during takeoff and landing. I would also like to note, that Boo is old and grumpy; he may look like a handsome, friendly pooch but he thinks he is a Lion and doesn’t like to be touched, which, if you have ever travelled through airport security, and dealt with the staff there, would come in handy I thought- “yes of course you can pat Boo down, just reach into the bag and get him out” – you know, because they are always so courteous and kind…Irritatingly, everyone was very accommodating and Boo pranced through security gates like he was the King of England, only stopping to make sure his band of loyal servants aka myself and the family, where close at hand.
True to our families relationship with spontaneity, our move to Italy started in disaster; our rental was a complete mess with water pouring in from the ceiling, damp and debris everywhere which resulted in us moving to a hotel in the city centre and contacting letting agencies to find a long-term apartment, that meant we had to put the majority of our belongings into storage. However, it seemed that we had made the right choice or rather, we were lead to the right place because asides from places of worship and Museums, Boo was able to go everywhere with us which made for long, enjoyable explorations of the city.
“The Creator made Italy by designs from Michelangelo.”
– Mark Twain
Florence is truly a remarkable sight to behold; this is what happens when you allow true artists to design a city as it leaves no room for concrete or modern architecture. The food was inexpensive, the coffee was as you can imagine, superb, and not a sugar-filled Starbucks in sight. Piazzas made for people watching, works of Michelangelo on display in all their glory, Filippo Brunelleschi’s incredible architectural designs, more notably his linear design of the Duomo and that was just the beginning; every street seemed immaculate and beautiful.
Health-wise, I actually felt at my best, which we put down to the Meditteranean diet and good weather; I was able to go out at night and be unafraid, eat in restaurants, drink the occasional glass of wine and even go on dates. Sadly, this did not last long, slowly but surely symptoms of anxiety, depression and bad skin reactions to seemingly everything, crept back into my life. It also put too much distance between myself and my partner because I was becoming confined to my room again.
One particular evening, whilst crying my heart out in fear in the bathroom and throwing up from what we thought was the adrenaline that would have me shaking like I was having a fit, I noticed that my mind, which I had distinguished a separation from during these attacks as if it was thy enemy, was furiously busy telling me all of the many reasons why my only escape would be to die. Oddly or should I say thankfully, I was somehow able to communicate with my mother, that I did not understand why this was happening, given that I knew visually, there was nothing to be afraid of and that it would eventually stop. Understand, that I would only be able to sleep when my body became so exhausted that I had no other choice, therefore, these attacks would continue on, for sometimes, hours at a time which felt like a continuous fight to live.
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer,
Nevertheless, as dreadful as that experience was and continued to be, especially as innately I have always been a lover of life and quite an adventurous soul, it did trigger a desire to research mental illness and how the mind works extensively and I learnt a valuable lesson from this particular event; you see, those dealing with Mental Illness, such as anxiety and depression, do not want to actually die, the real problem is that we are told we have one or two options when it comes to treatment, as a result, if the therapy does not work, or the medications are not allowing us to behave as what we would deem normal then logically speaking, we feel that the only alternative – that would guarantee the ending of this Mental Illness – would be to die because we assume death is finite. I feel it is important that we all understand the difference.
When I use the term ‘research‘, I am not referencing Google or WebMD because if I did, then my symptoms would have meant I had been dead a week already; I am referring to actual published medical papers on the matter, psychological studies, ancient spiritual understanding of the body and research into neuroplasticity which I go into more detail in this blog post here. I like to get to the root cause of the problem and so began a 6 month trial of testing out different therapy techniques, diets (not to lose weight) but rather removing gluten for two months to see if that was a contributing factor, dairy for a month or so and sugar all together and became devoted to living mindfully. I was also in the privileged position of being able to personally contact friends who were doctors and worked with a Neurosurgeon to further understand how the brain develops a habit, which I believe to be the cause of reoccurring Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Depression, given that we associate particular sensory triggers with danger and as a result, creates a cycle that can be broken but shall continue to get worse if not dealt with correctly. It is a very long and complicated subject that has to be treated sensitively given how many people suffer but I am looking forward to having my book published on the matter.
As we are now aware, my Mental Illness was actually a byproduct of my autoimmune disease so the normal protocol of controlling it, was never going to work for me but in a way, I am very thankful that it did because not only has this research into both medical, psychological and spiritual aspects of the mind and body changed my entire life, it also offers a more probable cure for mental illness as a whole, least of all, it provides the tools for everyone and anyone to become more aware of how influential our habitual behaviour is and how to alter those patterns to benefit our lives as a whole. I would never have done so otherwise and I am a better person for it.
“I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything. Suddenly you are five years old again. You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life. Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”
– Bill Bryson
Italy has certainly been testing as the Italians have a very unique way of living which I suppose, the entire world should be mimicking; they value life over work, they celebrate food and linger for hours over lunch and dinner and nothing is of any major importance or worth rushing for, whereas I am used to busy cities, working crazy hours, doing everything in a hurry and eating something because it’s hot – a very British habit I suppose – so it has been a struggle to learn patience and conform to their way of living. Nothing we thought we wanted, has come to fruition like we imagined but then again as the old saying goes ‘When we make plans, God laughs‘; it has been filled with heartbreaking lessons that forced me to learn that I should love myself enough to respect my own boundaries if I wish others to do the same and faced some harrowing truths about myself that have been humbling. I can safely say I have found my path in life and I would not have done so anywhere else; I have truly learned the value in letting everything be, rather than forcing something to happen overnight. Certainly, my life before Italy or even, who I was before Italy would be somewhat unrecognisable now.
I never planned on building a website around my research and spiritual journey, it just naturally progressed into a subject that I wanted to openly discuss which at first, I was slightly apprehensive about given the taboo on what is deemed ‘new age Spirituality’ and Mental Illness for that matter. However, I felt it was too important, not just for me but for others who were either dying as a result of feeling they had no other option or living a half-life that is no life at all. It hasn’t been an easy road to recovery and what I write about isn’t a walk in the park to do either but we can find our “Blueprint Back to Normal” – the title of my upcoming book – with the correct medical advice, the correct understanding of how our brain actually works, along with guidance and support. What we currently receive in my opinion, both in private medical care and on the UK National Health Service, is not good enough.
My journey has cost me a lot, both emotionally and materially speaking; I have had to give up relationships, face consequences of the past decisions I made out of anger or hurt or pain, rewrite the wrongs from the days of feeling unworthy and learned about the many faces I have displayed throughout my life thus far, that made me lose touch with who I really am but I feel lighter for it and not just metaphorically speaking.
World of Frances is ultimately about creating the world you want to live in, as my research into how our incredible bodies work, is not just limited to a scientific perspective but spiritually too and not in a way that would interfere in your chosen religion. I want to continue openly discussing my findings and share my experience of what it has taken to re-design my life in its entirety, that for others, may seem like a daunting tas but hope to ease. It is certainly my belief and current understanding, that we have been made to perfection, however, we have drifted away from any such knowledge and as a result, tend to suffer needlessly with insecurities, opinions of others and a lack of knowledge on what tools we really need, to live a wonderful life. Sometimes, when it comes to the most important subjects in life – what truly matters – we have to believe it before we see it; everything we need is within us and science is ever proving how the ancient spiritual beliefs have merit; our thoughts really do shape our reality as our emotions define our thoughts and it is time we learn how to utilize this talent for our benefit.
This journey is deeper than many assume and can bring about some incredible changes that can be emotionally difficult. Accepting full responsibility for one’s entire life, can at times, seem incomprehensible but if we are willing, to utilize our emotions more effectively, discard habitual behavioural patterns that no longer serve the person we truly want to become, then our reality will be reflective of these changes. It is a lifelong practice and I am hopeful that my experiences and study, will encourage others to take control of their own minds and thus create a better reality for themselves.
Be sure to follow me on social media where I am creating a mural of sorts that displays what I write about, visually and for similar posts direct to your inbox, you can enter your email address below that stays between you and me.
Sending you all Love and Light