All at once

We live with my mum and my mum lives with dementia. That’s context for you.

I have been following all the good advice. Take each day as it comes. Deal with one problem at a time. Make a list. Set small goals.

It helps.

Up to a point.

And then suddenly not so much.

I have watched her fade over the past five years. From missed beats in conversations, through frustrations and misunderstandings. Watched as she gradually winds back through memory, now residing somewhere, at a guess, in her early twenties. She knows who we are by name because she sees us everday, but the sense of relationship connection has gone. I am “the lady who helps her.” She likes us (mostly) and knows we are friends, but she doesn’t live here (as far as she is concerned) and wants to go home and wonders when her parents will come and get her. She is dependent on us for every aspect of her daily care.

Today I had a conversation with her doctor. We talk about referrals for community nursing support and to the hospice team for advice. We have been reading up on end of life care and comfort feeding. She is living off small cakes and sips of Ribena.

Life has a surreal quality, like when you listen under water. Everything is muffled, blurred around the edges, distorted. My mother will die because of her condition. While once this was a fact without much evidence, these days it is an ever present thought. Will she be here next week? In the spring?

I fall back on routines and putting on a face. I try to show up for my various work streams but my head is full of cotton wool and I am feeling too many things at once. Terrible sadness and grief. Determination to see this through and give her a “good” death. A sense of inevitability. Hope. Concern for current global issues. The excitement of some projects currently underway, overlaid with the wondering of what I will do once bereaved, whether I will even be able to get out of bed, let alone create.

Too many feelings. All at once.

People say that it is all ok. And it is all ok. Except when it’s not. Except when I wish for someone else’s life which looks easier or when I slip into memories of before. Some things once seen you can’t unsee. Some things once known you can’t un-know.

Human life is an unusual thing. We have the capacity for great creativity, for great compassion. We can take flights of fancy and create wonderful philosophical treatises. We can write novels, invent recipes and send spacecraft to Mars.

All while wrapped in a bundle of organic matter which grows and changes and ultimately fades to nothing, like autumn leaves.

This is the great paradox. To embrace life while staring down the knowledge of our own death. This is the great journey, to burn brightly for our time, and then let go.

Some days I am full of ideas, I was writing two books but for now they are stalled. I cannot imagine that there will be a time when they could be complete. Or maybe I can imagine that time but as Mum won’t be in it I don’t want to finish. Even if I do finish while she is alive she will never, now, know what I did or why that might matter to her.

Such a strange thing this journey. So slow.

And then suddenly hilarious, she is playful, or silly, or downright rude and chuckles uproariously. And for a moment we share the joke. You have to laugh at death. I think Death encourages us to this. She reminds us that our mortality is given, and that we must not take too earnestly something we will have to give up. She asks us to play with this time, to savour it, but not to hold on too tightly.

To feel all of the feelings at once, to revel in the messed up magic of it.

One breath at a time.

Different Music

I play the recorder. I started when I was about seven. Recorder in the UK is a starter instrument, people often dismiss it. Popular between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries it lost favour after the transverse flute, with it’s powerful tone, was introduced.

I loved the recorder, and, for my small, rural school I was good at it.

When we moved to Canterbury my parents took me along for group lessons on a Monday night and I met my first “proper” teacher. I took my first music grade lessons.

I went to a girls’ grammar school for my secondary education and music was a big thing. Many talented people attended and often they were part of the county music orchestra or even, in some cases, the National Youth Orchestra.

Towards the end of my first year one of the school’s music teachers told me about a proposed county recorder ensemble. I went up to Maidstone for an audition and became part of the “second” training ensemble. I spent two days in every school vacation practising with others from across the county, and each year we went away for a residential trip. We finished each weekend with a concert

When I was fourteen I was granted the honour of a solo in a school concert. I practiced for weeks, working hard to get the notes in the sonata right. My fingers sometimes stumbled but I was working hard, eager to please, afraid to let the school down.

While I was about as ready as I could be to perform the piece I was in no way ready for the stage fright.

Under the glaring spotlights in the school hall my carefully practiced performance fell apart; I couldn’t get my breath, my hands were clammy and my fingers slipped over the notes, my face was hot and tears leaked from my eyes. It was dreadful. I stumbled through the performance and hurried from the hall to the green room full of shame.

No one told me it was good that I’d tried, how much courage it takes to stand up and perform. A suspicion began to grow…

I played with the county group, eventually making it into the “A” team, for over five years. I had a group of friends there I enjoyed spending time with, we exchanged letters in between our meetings and I felt like I belonged. Once we took part in a national music competition and got to play at the Royal Festival Hall in London. They were good times.

When I was about seventeen I changed recorder teacher. Rather than the thirty mild drive up to Maidstone on Friday evenings (which on British roads is a long way!) I was to learn with a teacher in Canterbury. I was working towards my Grade 8 exam, which is the highest exam in offered my British music boards. The music school was sited in the old town gaol, memory walks through wonky corridors with uneven floors lit by yellow un-shaded bulbs.

I didn’t get on with the teacher. I didn’t understand what he wanted me to do, he seemed to get flustered when accompanying me, and I got frustrated because I didn’t understand him.

One day a letter came in the post. He said I had too many holes in my muscial knowledge and he was no longer prepared to teach me.

I was crushed. It confirmed what I had suspected all along, that secretly I was no good. I didn’t even think to challenge him, to ask him why someone who had been learning music for eight years and had music theory qualifications was not a suitable pupil, to ask him why he wasn’t up to the task. I didn’t take my Grade 8. And I stopped playing music.

For years not playing was an ache in my chest. But I knew the truth now and I couldn’t go back. It was all too much. To face down that failure, to revisit the shame and embarrassment. I told myself I didn’t have time, that I’d disturb the neighbours, that there was no point playing on my own.

A few times I looked for a teacher, but the children were young and we were poor and music lessons are expensive, which is something you don’t realise when your folks are paying!

Time passes. It must be about thirty years since I quit playing music.

This week I met up with a woman I was at school with. We haven’t seen each other at all in three decades.

She also was a recorder player. She asks if I still play. I give a brief, throwaway story about getting sacked by the teacher. We use humour to hide pain in my country. She is shocked. You were good, she says. I knew there was someone else who played and I couldn’t remember if it was you, you were really good.

When we part company she says I should pick up my recorder again.

I think about it for two days.

I don’t tell anyone, but I order a music stand.

It arrived this afternoon. I go upstairs and shut the bedroom door. I unclip the case where my recorders lie. I have a rosewood descant and an ebony treble.

I set some music on the stand. Looking at the notes I don’t recall any of the fingerings. I start nonetheless. I play for around twenty minutes, occasionally stopping or stumbling, my fingers showing my brain the way; muscle memory is a powerful thing.

As I pack up, I pick through the music books. They are dusty, covers faded. A few I enjoy, but many are pieces chosen for examinations or at the behest of instructors.

It comes to me, a word from the gods; maybe it’s time for some different music?

Time to find something I enjoy playing, because playing is enjoyable. Time to explore music because it delights and creates joy.

I find a damp cloth and wipe down the instrument cases. I sort the music into two piles one to archive and one to practice. I go to the computer to order cork grease and a book of folk music.

The metaphor rattles around my mind. Time for different music. How many parts of life does that apply to? How has it taken me thirty years to realise it?

Time to sing a new song, to explore, to find out what I like. To take pleasure in this art just because, not to pass an exam, or impress a teacher. To let go of a sad story; to stop forcing myself play other people’s choices and seek my own.

Like a boss: how to start your own business.

This is a “how to” post. It’s inspired by experiences over the past ten years and more recently my son.

Image from FirmBee on Pixabay

Things happen.

For instance, you have a stroke and become less robust than you once were, you need to find a different way to work.

Or you have long-term mental health needs and the hustle of the 9 – 5 (or 7 – 6) just doesn’t work for you anymore.

Or there’s a global pandemic and you lost your job.

You get the idea.

So you’re sitting at home wondering wtf to do next? Well, first you spend a few weeks in your pyjamas feeling sad and low and eating too many custard creams and binge watching Friends/ IT Crowd/ BBT.

Then you wake up one day. It’s the inspiring moment in the movie of your life where you finally take a shower and brush your teeth after festering in your duvet cave of despair.

This is the day it all changes.

You can’t go back.

You are going to be…self-employed.

After you’ve dealt with all the anxiety about whether this counts as “proper work” and the conversations with friends and family, also about whether this is “proper work” and whether you’re going to be able to make a living/ support yourself/ avoid dissappearing into a lichen covered caravan in the the woods, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts.

But wait! I hear you cry. What nuts and which bolts. How do I do this?

As someone who has established and succeeded in self-employment for the past six years I’ve created this nine step plan to getting started.

Step One: decide what you are offering. While it’s lovely to imagine earning your crust from your art work, and you should for sure keep that dream alive and work on it every day, in the short term you may find you need something more “bankable”. I had a holistic therapy business for about five years. While I made enough to cover my expenses and pay back my training costs it was never a main earner. This kind of treatment is a luxury, an optional extra, and unlike say a manicure or pedicure people don’t see it as essential. Much more profitable and sustainable were offerings such as gardening or administration skills which are the kind of jobs which just don’t quit (that grass is going to keep on growing…)

So what skill do you have which is needed? Can you bake? Walk a dog? Clean like a demon? Garden? Cut hair? Administrate like a boss? Skills which people need, and which need doing again and again, or which others find challenging, are a good starting point.

Image from Free-Photos on Pixabay

Step Two: pick your name. I have, more than once, set up a business without being clear on its name. This is do-able, starting is better than being held up for months while you ponder the intricacies of alliteration and seek to avoid unhelpful abbreviations and acronyms, but it can mean a lot of retracing your steps when you decide to change name and can also affect your search optimisation work for your web presence.

Step Three: create a biz email address; great for helping you maintain a “professional” face. Emails such as scifirules@gmail.com are fun with friends but not so great for potential clients.

Step Four: Set up a website. For the lowest cost first option go for a Facebook page, this has great functionality now for no start-up cost. You can style the page with your own images, add regular posts on your growing biz and establish a rapport with potential customers. There’s also an option for appointment booking and reviews which is excellent. And now that you have an email you can add this on the page too so folks can get in touch to find out more about your awesome offer. Once you’re up and running you might want to look at Wix or Squarespace to create your own business page proper.

Step Five: order some business cards. This is one of two initial costs. At this point it all starts to get real. Choose something clean and uncluttered. Make sure your name and your preferred contact options (at least two) are listed as well as at least one social media channel. I have used both Vistaprint and Moo for biz cards and both are good quality and value for money. When you make those all important first contacts (the truth is out there!) you can leave a few cards with clients for friends…and so the network begins.

Step Six: set up your finances, a standard cash book to record your takings and expenses is a good place to start. You will also probably want a separate bank account for your earnings. This can be a standard current account to start with, business accounts can be expensive for small businesses at the beginning.

Step Seven: get insured. Whatever you’re offering, whether it’s tarot or tutoring you’ll need insurance. Insurance protects you and your clients. Google your industry and look for a well known company. Insurance ranges from £60 per annum for “low risk” industries and up but is crucial. Think about what you need, public liability is the main one, you might also want professional indemnity, something to cover equipment, and sickness cover.

Step Eight: get busy! Free apps such as Gumtree and Nextdoor are a good way to let people know you’re in business. Share posts with friends on Facebook and ask them to let you know of anyone who might need your services. You might want to set up a LinkedIn page or attend local networking events in person.

Image from Andrew Lloyd Gordon on Pixabay

Step Nine: once you’ve made your first 1k it’s time to register on the HMRC website as a sole trader so that you can meet the self-assessment tax requirments. Congratulations, you’re in business!

Being self-employed is a great way to work. While you don’t have the protections of an employed role such as sick pay and a regular pay cheque, you can choose your work hours and you will never be bored. I have found it an ideal way to work alongside managing health and family.

Wishing you every success in your new venture!

Image from Nattanan Kanchanaprat on Pixabay

Witness

Twenty-two years ago I was pregnant. It was my second pregnancy, I noticed the baby moving earlier this time around, I would lie in the bath and talk to it, hello, I’m looking forward to meeting you.

The labour was quick. Two and a half hours from my waters breaking, via a taxi ride to the hospital and some time (I have no idea how long) kneeling in a corridor with contractions until a delivery room was free.

By the time I saw I midwife I was ready to push.

He was a quiet and mostly happy baby to start with, though later colicky and hard to settle. I had PND for the second time and with a twenty month old too (as yet undiagnosed with autism) parenting was a challenge. I did my best, at twenty five I lacked the perspective I have now.

Growing up he was an empathetic child, incredibly good with his brother, his gateway into the world, his best friend, his translator, his comforter. He loved the outdoors, he would go off up the garden at my parents alone at eighteen months old and talk to bugs and plants, completely happy in this world. Unafraid and connected.

I remember him digging holes in the back garden when they went through their “World War Two” phase, leopard crawling between the vegetable beds, tanks welded together from cardboard boxes.

I remember these things like part of a different world. Life had it’s “moments” but I could usually fix them, a favourite video, a batch of brownies, taking them out for an ice cream. A distraction made it better. The world was easily sorted out, I had the power then.

Things change.

For the past several years he has lived with depression. At first I thought it would pass, it was “a phase”. I am good at creative solutions, I pulled out all the stops. We tried therapy, several times, without success. We tried activities, encouraged pursuits, offered support. I am a great “fixer”, in the face of setbacks I would pull another solution out of the bag, always looking for another way.

There have been weeks when he wouldn’t get out of bed, and I would switch between supportive mother and harpy, full blown lecture, goading him to action. I have lived with depression, with the dark siren song of suicide, a gothic love ballad, calling into the deep silence of oblivion. I thought I knew.

Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…

But I don’t know. I know it for me. I don’t for him. He has worked hard to be “normal” to get and keep a job, to set up in his own home, to maintain relationships. It comes for him every time, sapping him of hope and energy, drawing him down.

They do not prepare you for this in parenting classes, or at any point in your child’s education. They do not give you the hand out for “how to support your child with suicidal thoughts.” I find myself burbling platitudes, offering possibilities, my voice level, reasonable, my soul screaming, please don’t die.

I have no agency here. If he chooses this it will be his choice. If he doesn’t I think I will always live with the fear. I go into his room in the morning wondering if he will be there, I go up the garden wondering what I will find, I breathe slowly into my ribs, allowing them to stretch, bare feet gripping the grass, preparing myself for some horror.

Not yet. He still lives. For now.

This feels like the ultimate test in allowing your child to make their own choices. I hate it. I want to show him what I see, the hope I carry for him, the promise. I want to show him the wonder of his tiny, pink form freshly born, the fingers so delicate I was afraid to dress him in case I hurt them.

I want to tell him it will be ok.

But I can’t make that promise. Sometimes it is for sure.

Sometimes it really isn’t. Life is vast and unfettered, wild lightning, beautiful and terrifying.

I wonder sometimes that I am moving through the days at all. This knowledge, of the space he inhabits now, haunts me. It is a spectre, edging my vision. All the while unrealised I tell myself it isn’t real, it hasn’t happened, but the dread lingers.

How do you help your child with suicidal thoughts?

I tell him I am here, that I love him, that I am proud.

I make him a coffee, bring biscuits.

I ask him what makes him happy, talk about memories.

We walk together and he points out the kingfishers by the river bank, and the brown trout hidden against the gravel of the river bed.

I listen as he tells me of his latest close call, on the parapet of the bridge. I ask questions in an even tone, when it is safe, make a joke. I watch myself doing this from somewhere far away.

I encourage him to do what he can, to throw out the rule book, to be ready to start over. Take the medication, take a shower, sleep when you can.

I want to erase it all, like an etch-a-sketch picture, turn the knobs, a blank slate. The desire is to “do something”. I know there is nothing to do. We have got the support that’s available, we have professional advice, we live with family who do what they can to help.

If I could I would take it from him, of course, who wouldn’t? I would take the cup, drink it dry.

I can’t. I can only be here. Hold the space.

Witness.

Tea in the morning

I wake to a creak on the landing before dawn.

She is standing there.

I don’t know where I am she says.

We go downstairs for tea.

What is your name? She says.

I tell her. I’m Fiona.

That’s interesting, she says, that’s my daughter’s name.

We have tea, and Rich Tea biscuits.

She tells me about her life, her time in the far east, her husband being in the army.

At times I know the timeline is off but I don’t correct. I play the part of a polite stranger. Asking about details and nodding as she tells me familiar stories about her mother working in the bakery and her dad’s time in the catering corps.

I ask if she has family and she tells me about nephews and nieces.

She says that life is unexpected.

But she has no regrets.

What we bind

I have been listening to the Skald song “Gleipnir” on repeat in the car.

Gleipnir was the third chain made to bind the Fenris wolf. It was made by the sons of Ivaldi from the stomping of cats, the beards of women, the roots of mountains, the spit of birds, the breath of fishes and the nerves of a bear.

An impossible list of ingredients, and it was so fine that the Fenris wolf laughed when he saw it. Having already broken through two chains he was confident that this last would be no problem.

He was wrong, and is bound by Gleipnir until Ragnarok.

As I listen I have been thinking about what we bind.

The binding of women’s feet to keep them small and delicate and Viola binding her breast to appear as a man in Twelfth Night.

In the charismatic church I attended as teen it was common practice to bind “demons” to prevent them causing further harm. We were taught we had the power to command them, to cast them out.

In magical practice binding is considered shadow magic. It involves work on the will of another, and it is said you should not bind unless your cause is just. What you send to others will return to you.

Binding restricts, limits, masks, hides, restricts, retains, contains, constrains.

It brings an echo of The Devil card, with figures chained, or, in the Gaian Tarot of the Bindweed card.

Bindweed is a perennial nuisance here in Kent. The roots, some say, extending as far into the earth as the bottom of wells. It emerges quickly and strangles plants, using their strength to support it as it climbs and smothers. This makes me think about the ways in which behaviours and habits, cultural patterns and “norms” slide into our subconscious, and the depth of the roots, twining back through history, suffocating, using the strength of others to grow strong.

With this image I think of the binding of slaves throughout history, chained and shackled; this is now technically illegal across the globe but still a feature of modern life in many countries.

I think of the Atlantic slave trade from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. I think of the “othering” which becomes normalised in order to justify practices which enslave and use other humans as tradeable goods.

I think of the wealth that grew out of this trade that has enabled my country and others to build their developed world. I think of the benefits this has brought to me, because I am caucasian.

I think of the unearned wealth of opportunity and privilege I gain from the colour of my skin.

I feel for the first time the threads which bind my mind in cultural assumptions, the lack of understanding, despite my liberal, educated, well-meaning views.

I think of the shadows I have permitted to keep myself comfortable.

The skeletons of millions in the collective closet of Western culture.

There is much to learn and it is already late.

Untold

I have tried repeatedly to write about my mum and our current situation.

Each time I get so far.  Then delete the whole lot.

There is so much personal and private.

A desire to preserve dignity.

Yet a longing to honour this time, and her as she travels it.

How can I show you who she was before, and how she is now?

I have no answer to the question; “how is your Mum?”  What do I say?

Confused, frail, funny, frightened.

Smaller.

Her skin is like parchment, soft and fragile.

She needs to rest on her walk from one room to another.

She is changeable; sad, happy, furious, reminiscing, organising.

She is usually in bed by 5 pm, exhausted.

Last night we sat with her in the front room after her supper meal.  We were talking in an incidental sort of way.  She was sharing memories.  These come in snapshots.  They are now blended, so I hear elements of two or three stories in a combined memory blend.  We do not correct her.  We listen.  We make affirming noises and ask interested questions that we know the answers to.  She will tell us the same story each minute for the next hour.

She does not want to go to bed today.  Dad has gone out to water the garden.

Simon finishes work and comes downstairs,  he pours me a gin and tonic, Mum has a small sherry.  We sit with our drinks and a few crisps talking and it reminds me of so many times we have done this, when we used to come for Sunday lunch, when it was a holiday or family celebration.  We would arrive, be offered a drink, snacks, we would share our news.

It must remind her too because she does not want to get ready for bed.  She tells me to help myself to tea if I want to and I must feel free to go home when I am ready.  I say thank you.

We have lived with her now for two years.

Later Simon reminds me that it is impolite to go to bed before your guests leave and I realise why she was so reluctant to go.  She was always an excellent hostess.

I want to tell you about the funny moments too.  Her wicked sense of humour, or bare faced cheek.  Or those moments when she suddenly offers advice, exactly as she used to before this condition took hold.  Sudden moments of clarity.  Everything changes.  Her voice, her facial expression, her bearing. Perhaps for five minutes.  She is wise in ways she cannot know, and I am pulled back to younger days when she was my oracle.

She loves music, and has learned new songs with repeated playing of the CD, in particular some raucous, saucy sea shanties from the movie Fisherman’s Friends.  She sings along, substituting unusual lyrics where she is unsure.

Saddest is when she wants to go home, to her parents.  We cannot tell her they are gone.  We cannot tell her the house was sold.  She tells us she will ring her mum to come and get her. She thinks we are keeping her prisoner here, in the house where she has lived for the past thirty eight years.

We do the best we can, but we cannot even imagine how life seems to her now.  Our aim is that she is comfortable and as content as possible.

She loves to have her hairbrushed, to have a new outfit, to put cream on her face.  She was always meticulous about her appearance.   Am I tidy?  She says, before we come downstairs in the morning.

She loves the garden she created, the flowers, the sound of the birds.

She loves the cats.  We brought our three when we moved in and so there are plenty of them!  She is delighted when they climb on her lap for strokes.

She loves listening to Mantovani and sitting in the sun.

Last week Dad had some old slides put onto a disc.  He played them on the TV and we saw, for the first time, pictures she had taken when she lived in Malaysia in the late sixties.  There were images of Singapore which was all open fields, the largest structure not more than five stories tall.  There were temples, capped with gold, taken on a trip to Thailand empty apart from a few monks.  A different world.  She was so excited she got up out of her chair and came to find me, telling me about the dollar brollies you could buy to keep you dry when the rains came.

Days stretch out, punctuated by meal times.  I am usually good at seeing the “up side” of situations but there is not much lovely or hopeful here.

It is hard to watch this.  To wait through each day with her.  It is not a path I would have chosen to walk; though I know I need to.

Iit is the last thing I can give.

I am conscious of the pieces of her, flying away, tiny piece by tiny piece, sand on the windswept seashore, drifting.

I listen to the stories, over and over.  There is so much which will remain untold.

 

Priviledged Position

cactus-4427131_1920I have been noticing something, and I want to talk about it, but it is not a comfortable topic.

A friend and I were talking yesterday.  We are both “spiritual” people, both running small businesses in the spiritual world.  We have followers on IG and aspire to support others on their journey of self-development and connection with the sacred.  All these are, I believe, Good Things.

In our conversation I raised the questions I have about priviledge within the spiritual community.  It seems to be that a lot of people (the majority?) who identify as “spiritual” are white, middle-class women.

This brings with it certain givens; a level of education, disposable income, a reasonably comfortable home.  I am one of these people.

My parents were hard up when I was younger but my Mum was a teacher and my Dad had a steady job and they supported me throughout my education, encouraged me to read, paid for music lessons, provided financial aid while I completed a degree.

I was hard-up when I was a young adult, living in a one-bed flat above a local drug dealer, struggling to pay for food while my then partner completed studies and I was a stay-at-home mum to two boys under two.

Yet once they were in school I trained to be a teacher and my husband progressed through a nursing career and we lived in comfortable rented homes and, eventually, took annual holidays.  I can afford to be part of online support groups, pay for healthcare I need, eat a balanced diet, buy books, have hobbies.

As I sit here, aware of people losing their jobs, struggling more than ever to make ends meet I am struck once again by the big questions I have about many teachings within modern new age spirituality.

There is an idea that we can have anything we desire via the process of manifestation.  The process as I understand it is choose your goal, create a vision, work towards it, make it so, reap the rewards.  For instance, I’ve heard in more than one place that you should decide the kind of lifestyle you want, write down the amount of money that will equate to for your earnings and then set out to get that.  Perhaps this works for some people.  But perhaps too that is becuase of a complex set of circumstances; opportunities, personality, background, networks.  But for every one person it works for there must be a million who find it doesn’t.   And to say to people who have a different starting point that they just aren’t trying hard enough, or that there must be some energetic block in them, or they need to do their shadow work, or that they are creating their challenges.  I think that’s bollocks.

Not to say that it’s ok to live in a victim mentality, but often we don’t know we were victims until we are not, and often that means being safe enough to be able to reflect and see what was going on in the bad old days…

To my mind this one size fits all kind of teaching ignores the complexity of different starting points.  For example, the estate where I lived above a drug dealer is about half a mile from my current home.  It remains one of the poorest areas of England.  Council housing built after World War 2 in some places there are four generations of unemployment, a level of deprivation and need which is hard to break out of.

I feel that there’s a risk of ignoring real and raw social situations in our desire for greater personal development.  The only way out of this that I can see is social action.

Which means getting more involved, enmeshing ourselves in the messy business of being human.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that I am here to “ascend”.  I don’t personally believe this.  I believe I am here to fully experience what it is like to be a human creature.  This includes how I react and interact within my communities, both virtual and actual.  I do not believe that we need to “escape” from our bodies.  I believe they are a gift that we need to appreciate and live and serve in and through.

Then I am conscious of the priviledge I have because I’m white.  It was only recently (working with an undergraduate studying biological anthropology) that I learned that there is no biological definition of race.  Race is entirely a cultural construct, created to “other” other human creatures so that “we” (white Europeans) could steal their land/ property/ culture and spread our own culture because we knew best.  I can’t even begin to comprehend the web of injustice that this has created over the past six hundred years.  I am ashamed and horrified and I admit I have a lot more work to do in this area of my understanding.

There are some parts of my life that I’ve hidden for fear of persecution, my sexuality being one, but despite that I am still enormously priviledged. I have unimaginable wealth simply by being born when and where I was.

I want to face these uncomfortable feelings and I want to work out a way to work from and through this.  I want to be part of a spiritual community which is working for all humans and non-human creatures.  I don’t know how to do this yet.  I have been aware of it for a while but I don’t know how to make the change I want.  I will have to start small.  With my own culture and attitudes.  I will need to be prepared to make changes in my own lifestyle and outlook.  It is not something I relish (I’m a nine on the Enneagram and boy do we love to be comfortable).

But I can’t keep ascribing to belief systems which white-wash over the inequalities and challenges created by poverty and discrimination. If you know how to do this I would love to talk, how do we create  new ways of being?  For my part I will keep reflecting, reading, learning, challenging myself, facing down my discomfort, practising opening my mouth and saying something instead of consenting through silence.

 

Unlock Your Magic

sparkler-839831_1920I believe each of us has a spark of magic inside us.

That spark is our unique gift to the world.

I believe that within all these magical sparks is all that we need for healing and wholing our world and each other.

It took me a long time to believe in this magic.

I mean; I wasn’t tall enough, or gracious enough, or clever enough, or wise enough, or confident enough or enough or enough or enough.

I was moody and scratchy and broken.  My body didn’t always work the way I wanted it to, my family weren’t polished and “normal”, I was divorced, fragile, I carried scars in my spirit that ached, oh and I couldn’t draw.

I don’t know when it happened. Usually its when I’m looking out of the window into a garden, or walking quietly across the fields.

I saw it, like a vision, a web of light connecting around the world, soul to soul, heart to heart. That what I was bringing to the world included all of that mess and ache and confusion.

That it wasn’t about being perfect.  And that I was, and always had been, more than enough, exactly where and how I was.

The magic which unlocked that day was the ability to walk through life in my own skin, in the way which fits around my own heart and soul.

This is our life purpose.  To fully inhabit the life we have.

It can mean breaking out of unhealthy patterns, it can mean a lot of time in therapy, it can mean accepting our limitations, working through grief and facing down our deepest fears.  It can mean doing this again, and again.

It can mean quiet days when we need to tend our own selves, protect and nourish our inner soft spaces.

It can mean being fiercer than we knew we could be, raging, tempestuous.

It can mean drawing lines, creating containers, learning to say no.

It is not an easy path, it isn’t soft, and often it is not at all comfortable.

But in the midst of this journey you’ll find it, the magic you thought you’d lost, or never knew existed.

And this spark will warm you,  it will grow as you tend it, it will flame until it can’t be contained and it shoots right out of your fingertips and eyes, revealing itself in your words and workings, wherever and whatever that looks like.

It is the power at the heart of our very existence, encoded in our cells, burning in our bones, flowing through our blood, rushing like a hurricane in our breath.

It is our own wild magic come to set us free.

Come with me, let us search, let us seek.  With oracles and healing, with spells and circles, under the moon’s glow or in the darkest shadows.  I am here.  Take my hand.

 

Three weeks in spring

Bonfire_FP_03042020
Bonfire with Bats – Fiona Phillips April 2020

You remember when we woke up that Saturday morning and I said we could go for breakfast, and you thought it was a good idea?

And we walked down the road, past standing traffic, rejoicing in our freedom, to choose bacon or blackpudding, fried bread or toast, while the news headlines scrolled past on the wall TV screen and local radio blared, too-cheerful, for so early in the day.

You remember when we went to town; collecting a birthday gift, getting my boots fixed and then how we decided we’d get lunch, talking about what we would do One Day?

How we browsed in the bookshops, checking out the local art gallery and grabbing a cocktail, before heading home.

You remember when we’d drive to the coast to walk, comb the beach, shards of sea-glass in green and white nestled between bone-white oyster shells; ending the afternoon with tea and cake in a vintage cafe, mismatched china and the Picture Post?

How we “popped in” to Tesco to grab a few bits for Sunday lunch, driving back across the bridge with the sun setting, a burning rose of fire sinking into grey.

Do you remember when we heard the news?

How we spent the week with routines up-ended, dizzy with the speed of change, the jolt of brakes slammed to the floor, with our inner momentum rushing us forwards through the days, leaving us aching and worn by nightfall.

Do you remember watching the numbers climb, and how we queued, carefully spaced, snaking towards the weekly shop in latex gloves?

Do you remember the freedom of a daily walk, crossing the road to avoid neighbours with a cheery wave; conversations held from opposite kerbs?

How the road stretched empty in both directions, a soft, sleeping snake.

Do you remember when we sat, three generations, everyday, at lunch, and afterwards took mugs of tea up to the end of the garden to bask with the cats in the midday sun and listen for the chaffinch patrolling his domain?

Do you remember that Friday night when we stood under the gibbous moon, Venus showing off in the west, the bonfire high, turning everything to ash?

Sparks flying, we sipped cider and the swift, black shadows of the bats swirled above us.

Do you remember putting your hand on my back, and how we knew we had it all?

That life was rich and beautiful, and we had never known how much until then.