Transitioning

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I feel like we’ve made it through a 9-month-long labour.

The time between making the decision to move and actually moving has been long and, at times, decidedly gruelling – we had a very complex property / business situation to untangle (I’m talking ‘SIX solicitors and two tax experts’ complex!) but we are thankfully down to straightening out the very last few threads.

There is a common point in many labours (right before a woman gives birth) that the mother-to-be panics and becomes certain she can’t do it – it’s called the ‘transition phase’.  There was definitely a point of crescendo towards the end of this process where we were hit with constant curveballs, each threatening to totally derail the whole thing, and we started to despair.  Tears were shed, stress-levels went through the roof right up until the very last minute and then the call came to say it was done.  ‘Done, done?’ I asked, ‘as in ‘we can pick up the keys’ done?’ ‘Yes, totally done’, confirmed my solicitor. And in that moment our tiny house was wrapped in a crocheted blanket and placed in our arms.

We impulsively jumped in the car, drove the 90 minutes to pick up the keys, our eyes wide with disbelief the whole way there.  On arrival at the house that hadn’t been lived in for nine months we realised we’d not thought to bring anything useful with us like cleaning products or tools so Vince went to the local independent hardware store and bought a selection of heavy duty gloves, bin bags, an array of cleaning products and a couple of sharp garden tools.  Having pointed out to the shop keeper that he was aware his basket contained the implements to both commit and clean up after a heinous crime, the shop keeper conspiratorially leaned in and said ‘just remember to ditch the receipt’.

NOW THIS IS OUR KINDA PLACE!

And so for the last week and a half we’ve forged ahead to unpack everything and get every room functioning as best we can for a first pass.  We moved in on the Tuesday and the Little Chap started school on the Thursday, talk about skidding in by the seat of our pants.  It’s been a huge change for us all but particularly for him and he’s handled it incredibly (not least nine days without internet access).  Of course there have been wobbles but we are super proud of his adaptability and willingness to start school after almost 5 years of being at home with us, it’s an incredibly nurturing school so we are confident he’ll love it there.

We have lots of plans for both the house and our work but as Vince put it when we were at a particularly low point in the lead up to the move, ‘it feels like we’re seeds ready to burst forth but we’re planted in the wrong pot’.  When I go all the way back to when I started ‘Operation Bloom’, this life change and move has 100% stemmed from that invitation to myself to be open, explore ideas and follow my gut.  Re-reading that first post just now, I realise I still get excited about the book idea I had back in Christmas 2016, and who knows maybe that will manifest but for now this move feels like exactly what we should be doing.  We’re finally in the right pot and are excited to see what unfurls.

Emerging

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This winter has been a real struggle, rounds of winter bugs, followed by bone deep tiredness and lethargy; I fractured my arm just before the snow hit and I didn’t set foot outside for seven days straight.  The slings and arrows of the darker months felt pretty relentless and I confess to feeling sorry for myself at times.  That said, the practice of mindfulness really helped prevent me from entertaining those unskilful thoughts for too long, and for that I am grateful.

In the midst of all the crap a truly unexpected new life-path opened up for us, we found a heart-soaringly lovely, Buddhist-ethos school for the Little Chap in Brighton.  We went along for their open day at the end of January with open minds and with much curiosity and, honestly, the minute we walked through the gate it was like falling in love at first sight.  I spent the entire assembly (Puja) choked up with emotion as I saw staff and students reflecting back at me many of the things I feel passionately about and desperately want to see prioritised more in schools: compassion, kindness, mindfulness, love, empathy, individuality, creativity, affection, gratitude, embracing of difference.  I could see it’s a place where children are respected and heard, and where individuality is celebrated, and lovingly supported.  Mindfulness meditation is part of the each school day which we both think is such a great tool to give children from a very young age.

Over the years we’ve thought long and hard about home educating and, as the deadline approached for state school applications we also looked at a couple of popular local schools, both of which no doubt would have been fine…but that was the problem for me, ‘fine’ didn’t sit right.  The Dharma School fills us with excitement, and feels like a great fit for our particular family; just as those two local schools will no doubt fit for those families that choose them. (I’ve found that sometimes when one makes a ‘different’ choice to the norm, some people can see it as a judgment on the validity of their choices.  It isn’t.  In the words of comedian Amy Poehler ‘good for you, not for me’.

For a long time we’ve been considering moving to a new area that suits us better but when there isn’t a particular pull to a new area you’re left with pretty much sticking a pin in a map which didn’t feel right.  This plan came about through several strands coming together.

Last summer we’d had a really magical camping trip with family and friends in the South Downs and had loved the landscape and the nearest town of Lewes.  Alongside, I’d also been researching independent schools and had found a very cool one in South Devon.  Loved the school, didn’t love the distance it would create between our friends and families so dismissed it.  I’d also had a hankering to be nearer the sea and we felt we wanted to find a community that leaned more towards the arts and creativity, a little more bohemian than where we live currently.  Finding this wonderful school in Brighton brought everything together: a reason to relocate to this beautiful part of the world and a short enough drive to remain connected to the people we love.  There is a creativity and an open-mindedness to the people of Brighton which appeals too.

We’ve chosen to look for a house in a village just north of Brighton, this feels like a great option, closer to family than central Brighton would be but still with easy access to the city and all it offers…but far enough out to be able to afford a property that will work for us as a family.  The drive to the school is very reasonable and there seems to be a warm and welcoming village community.

There have certainly been some pangs of sadness at the inevitable loss that always accompanies change, I will miss being a stone’s throw from my local friends and the biggest wrench will be being further away from our nieces who are the Little Chap’s best buddies BUT I am confident that we can make up for it by spending quality weekends together, either us visiting them or having them come to us, where we can adventure through our new area with fun times at the beach, walks and picnics in the rolling South Downs, exploring Brighton and its restaurants together etc. Where there is love there’s a way!

We’ve yet to find a house, we’ll be downsizing – something that we’ve been wanting to do for some time – and we’re really excited about creating a home that is smaller in footprint but greater in functionality.  We hope to move by the beginning of August to give us time to settle a little before school starts (a bit of a tight deadline!) but rather than panic I’m trusting that the right house will present itself at the right time.  Pretty sure that’s how it works.

I came up with the name ‘Operation Bloom’ as it described a feeling I had about being on the edge of big change and growth, this next move feels like the manifestation of that very thing and I can’t wait to see what unfolds…

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Header photo copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_tomertu’>tomertu / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Breathing through fear

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This morning I woke up at 5am from the most awful, awful dream about a terrorist attack in my town.  I won’t give all the gory details but let’s just say it paralleled with the recent London Bridge attack.  In the dream I was with Vince and Spike and other locals trying to hide and protect ourselves.  As a mother it was gut wrenching to have to be protecting our sweet child from the horror.  When I woke up I went into the bathroom to try to shake the dream but I couldn’t and for the first time in over 20 years I felt the first flurries of a panic attack.  The root of the fear that was trying to take hold was the realisation that, unlike nightmares I’ve had in the past where Vince has left me for Juliet Binoche, when I woke this time I didn’t have that comforting realisation that it wasn’t true, that it was just a silly dream, that all was well in the world.

The truth is that my nightmare has been many people’s reality and, sad to say, will be likely be a reality for others in the future.  This was where I started to panic. My bad dream was to some extent true.  The bogey man does exist. I knew I needed to somehow put my existential dread back in it’s place, and I did.   I was able to stop the attack from taking hold by yoga breathing and repeating the mantra: ‘There are so many good people in the world, there are so many good people in the world‘ and as I did this I could literally feel my heartbeat slowing down, the swirl of fear in my brain subside and a level of calm descend.

It’s an awful feeling to know I have no direct control over preventing awful things from happening to me or worst of all my family; and the responsibility I feel for bringing a sweet life into this world weighs oh so heavy on my heart.  The future, as it’s ever been, is uncertain but I believe we will always be able to count on the fact that there will more good people in the world than bad, legions more, and what we can do on an individual level (short of joining MI5) is live good lives, actively seek positive connection with others, create communities even on a small scale and live as fearlessly as we can.

The well used meme has it that television’s children host Mr. Rogers said his mother responded to scary news by telling him ‘look for the helpers’ which is a beautiful idea, but let’s not wait for the disasters before we look for the helpers, let’s actively look for the goodness in our every day.  Let’s draw it in and beam it out, all the good people of the world breathing our way through the fear as one.

 

Photo credit: https://tinyurl.com/ybp6jevl

My Mother’s Love Runs Through Me

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May 20th will (quite unbelievably) mark the tenth anniversary of my beautiful mum’s death.  As is so often the case when it comes to time passing, it simultaneously feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago that I last saw Anne Wardrop, held her hand, plumped her pillows, held my breath as she took her last.

She’s missed so many major events in the lives of my brother and I; we both met and married our partners since she died, developed our careers, moved houses but the thing I find hardest is she’s never met any of her three lovely grandchildren.  She would have adored each of them, and they her. We call her ‘Granny Anne’ when we speak about her to the children, which is often, but the truth is we never got to ask her what she’d like to be called so we had to decide on something we thought she’d approve of.  No teacups have mysteriously been hurled across the room so we take that as tacit consent.

Of course I miss her for my own sake; as my life unfolds there are constantly new conversations I’d like to have with her, ones we couldn’t have had when she was here because I hadn’t reached that particular stage of my life yet.  But at least I was fortunate enough to have almost thirty three years with her. The Little Chap will only have our stories and photos to know her by, and I suspect she may be not much more than an abstract figure for him, just as was my maternal grandfather to me, as he too died before I was born.  I’ve lamented my mum and the Little Chap’s lack of physical knowing of each other, no hugs, kisses, playtime, mealtimes, her cool hand on his poorly brow but it’s felt futile dwelling too much on that as there’s nothing to be done to ease that sadness…or so I thought…

The other day my wise and intuitive friend Wendy told me an incredible fact which concurrently blew my mind and brought me unexpected comfort; namely that when I was inside my mother’s womb, I was already carrying the egg that would go on to create the Little Chap.  This means my mum carried within her a physical part of my son. There was a physical ‘holding’ of him by her, just not the one I’d pictured.  I love that thought so damn much. Of course it doesn’t replace the daydream of them actually spending time together but that piece of information has given me something in place of the nothing I previously thought I had.

Over the last forty-three-and-counting hours I’ve been with the Little Chap around the clock as he’s had an awful vomiting bug poor love.  Of course it struck the night before I was due to see a friend in London, my first overnight trip away from the small one in TWO YEARS!!  But while I was really sorry to have to cancel our plans, there is nowhere I’d rather be than by his side when he’s ill.

He’s by nature a stoic vomiter.  No fuss. Which makes us love him all the more.  But I really understand why my mum used to say she ‘wished she could be ill for us’, as you would take their sickness away in an heartbeat if you could (instead we just take it in turns to pass it between the three of us, just so we can ALL suffer.  Not quite the deal my mum was after, Mother Nature). Although my mum is long gone, it’s at these times of intense care-giving that I notice that the way I show love and care for the Little Chap has the same quality as the love and care my mum showed me. I truly feel a flow from her, through me, into him and this also keeps a feeling of connection between her and my son alive.

I know how lucky I am to have known a mother’s love like hers, it’s a great foundation from which to build a life and plenty of people aren’t so fortunate, so the least I can do is create the time and space to share that love with my own son and hope it continues to flow through to future generations.  There is a law of physics which states ‘energy can neither be created nor destroyed but it can transferred and transformed’…

I like to think the same applies to love…