I have many teachers.  Over the last few years, through fate, and circumstance, I have found myself meeting those special souls.  Those people who understand my true reflection.  Who, without intention, teach me valuable lessons.  These serendipitous relationships with these women has taught me more about myself than I ever realised and in the process of embracing my true self, I’ve come to appreciate I wouldn’t be here without them.

I met my yoga teacher, Morag Watson, three years ago when I first attended her class at a local gym.  One of the side effects of the blip was severe panic attacks that left me immobile, panicked and wondering where my next breath was coming from.  I was nervous, I’d hid at home for months and leaving the safety of the four walls I’d imprisoned myself within was daunting.  Entering the room, I initially hid in the corner until she walked over, a petite woman with a warm, gentle smile.  Morag said hello, welcomed me and I instantly felt at ease.  For months, I hid in my safe corner at the back of the room and gradually my body began to listen to Morag.  I never missed her class and gradually I learned to breathe again.  Morag referred to her “toolkit”.  The skills she could teach us so we could learn to live and embrace the life we are meant to.  She laughs constantly and has an internal light so bright; she subconsciously attracts people to her with her kindness and zest for life.  To this day, I still attend her classes and if I miss them my body keenly reminds me I need my “heed hovered” as Morag often says.  Now, I meditate daily without thinking about it, a practice so embedded within my psyche, I can’t remember the person I was before I started.  That’s her special gift.  Her generosity of sharing her knowledge, encouraging you to be who you are and helping you understand the secret; that you had the power to save yourself all along, you’d only forgotten about it.  In my very humble opinion, the world would be a better place if everyone took up yoga.  Thank you Morag.

Then there is June Finlayson, a lady who I’ve known for years through a friendship between my dearly missed Granddad Andy and her lovely husband.  If you looked up ‘Free Spirit’ in the dictionary, you should really find her name under it.  June truly embraces her true reflection, as an Artist, Therapist, Wife, Mother and Grandmother.  We meet every few weeks for a coffee, cake and a chat and I can happily spend hours in her company.  She makes me ask questions of myself I’d thought of but never confronted and is an advocate of lifelong learning.  June is a walking library and recently encouraged me to read ‘Woman Who Run With The Wolves’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes and ‘Something is Happening’ by Winifred Rushford.  Two books I enjoyed and learned something special from.  I love her artwork, the patterned shapes and perfectly chosen colors speak to me in my quirky randomness.  Recently, I had the pleasure of attending an exhibition ‘In Time’ at the Lochgelly Centre in Fife and had to purchase my own June Finlayson original.  The Centre filled with people and a certain Gordon Brown MSP was a testament to her and the other artist’s talent and their mission to use creative therapy to help people.  Thank you June.  I look forward to our next confab.

Then there is Margaret Thomson, my Aunt and someone I’ve always admired.  Even as a child, I loved her company.  She is a strong, compelling lady who completely embraces her individuality.  She passionately loves music, her eclectic taste ranges from classical to punk and beyond from Debussy to Nutini and she is a talented dressmaker, particularly with wedding trousseau.  As our Reader in Residence, Margaret generously took on the task of reading my book, refusing to accept anything other than flowers and cupcakes as payment.  Spending hours and hours of her free time working on my ‘baby’ something I’ll always be grateful for.  Margaret teaches me patience, and when I wanted to rush ahead a few months ago, she encouraged me to wait.  “It’s your life’s work Cassie, don’t rush and regret it.”  And so I waited, and I’ll be forever grateful I listened to her great advice.  Thank you Margaret we wouldn’t be here without you.

Her daughter, my cousin Claire, is also an original.  A true bohemian, talented Artist and Furniture Designer to boot, our conversations range from the strange to zany and I always enjoy her unconventional view of life.  Claire works on ten projects at once, always knowing the exact time to return and complete them.  Thank you Claire and remember I want first dibs on that saddle chair.

Then there is my Auntie Karen, who has been there all my life.  She is tactile, elegant and as smart as hell.  Karen always reminded me of the legendary ‘Jackie Onassis’ and carries an air of sophistication that can’t be taught; only possessed.  A real lifelong teacher, I have fond memories of sitting in her house as a little girl, and drawing puffins after I decided I was going to do a project on “birds”.  She sat beside me patiently whilst I drew aka massacred the poor birds, gently suggesting I use the red colouring pencil instead of the neon pink one I picked up.  Karen has been the same all my life, sitting quietly at my side, ready to step in whenever I needed her, like a lioness with her grateful cub.  I am very lucky to be her niece.  Thank you Karen.  

Next is my Gran, a lovely woman with a kind soul who lives for her family and Andre Rieu.  Recently, we saw his Maastricht 2014 concert at a local cinema and as he made the same jokes he’s obviously used many times before, she laughed like a teenager at a One Direction concert.  She sang every aria and although she’s been there from the moment I took my first breath, I saw her as the bright shining light she is and was utterly enchanted by her.  At the age of 77, she got her first iPad and is a demon on the internet.  So much so, she can rival me, a former Police Scotland Researcher, on any day of the week.  When my Granddad had to spend Christmas Day away from us last year.  She doggedly googled the medical procedure he had so she could tell ‘her Pete’ all about and when he came home, she calmed down and looked at him the same way she’s done since they were teenagers about to embark on a new life together.  My Gran is quirky, funny and a true individual and I feel her love for us every day.  Thank you Gran.

Then there is my lovely sister in law, Nicola, who is more than just my brothers wife, but also a dear friend.  She has only ever saw the real me and is one of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met.  I can speak to hear about anything.  We always laugh and have never forgotten about the Christmas night out many years ago when she ordered a kebab, with lots of cheese only to leave it overnight in my Dad’s car when he came to pick us up.  My family could not wish for a better wife for my brother or mother to my nephews.  We are lucky she is part of our family and I am lucky she is my friend.  Thank you Nicola. 

But my ultimate teacher, the one who helps me more than I ever understood possible.  It can only be my Mum.  She makes me look my reflection more than most, even when I don’t want to and she is there whenever I’ve needed her.  Mum is supportive of my creative ventures, always asking how I’m getting on with my book.  Recently, we went out for dinner and I confessed that I was scared.  My life is going to change in the next months and the shy part of me wants to hide my bedroom away from it all.  She looked at me, with her lovely blue eyes and said determinedly “but you’re still doing it aren’t you?  I felt fortified.  Sometimes, I feel like a dozen pieces that move and shimmer to their own will and I need someone to balance me.  My Mum does this for me.  The unfortunate thing is my Mum has no idea how smart, beautiful and brave she really is.  She worries, fusses and loves us so fiercely we would be lost if she wasn’t there.  Even in her quiet moments, she makes me believe I can do the impossible.  Thank you Mum.

So, if I could leave with one parting wish, I would like it to be this; thank your teachers.  Celebrate the special people in your life who look past the smoke and mirrors and see you as your true reflection.  Take a moment and say those two special little words so they understand the undeniable and lifelong impact they’ve had on your life.  Say thank you.  I just did.