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Monday, 20 April 2015

Child of the universe

The Desiderata has been framed and hung on my wall at home since long before I had children. The timeless advice has often soothed me when I feel wounded, frightened or sad. Nevertheless, even when I hang something right in my eyeline, there are days I don't see it. If you've never read it, I'd encourage you to go check it out. There are lots of lovely messages contained in it, the quote below is just one of them.


As you know, the universe has been unfolding lately in ways I find a bit challenging. Accepting that this is 'as it should be' has been a struggle. Unfortunately, my frustration (and I'm hoping a fair few of you can relate) displays itself by unravelling my patience, prompting a lack of trust in others, and the desire to assert myself a little more than necessary. Which isn't fun if you happen to be one of the people around me. 

The trouble is, the people around me are the ones I most love. 

I've noticed that when I feel fear and disconnection, it is the people who I most love that I need to lean in towards and ask for help and nurture from. But it is the nature of fear and disconnection to make that a terribly hard thing to do. I trip over myself, and now and then (to my dismay) find I have unleashed a flight or (even worse) a fight reaction rather than using the responsible, considered, compassionate and respectful communication I intend. I know that the only option, in the aftermath of a day like that, is to look for a conscious reconnection. 

A reconnection is possible when I can apologise to the person I hurt, forgive myself, and move on. But finding the courage to do that is sometimes harder than I imagined it would be. In the words of a coach and writer I admire very much, you must Dare Greatly to allow your vulnerability to be seen. 

I've been interested in gentle parenting, connection parenting and various similar ethos for some time. One of the principle ideals behind these philosophies is to model for our children the kind of people we would like them to be. By which I mean, if we wish to raise respectful, gentle, kind, empathetic children, we ought to make sure that's how we behave ourselves. And if we haven't managed to be the kind of person who acts that way all the time (after all, we are human) that we teach them how to apologise and take responsibility for themselves by being willing to do the same. 

What I am learning is that being this kind of person isn't just an ideal, it's a spiritual path. To get there and become not only the parent I would like to be, but the person I want to be, I need to invest of myself and truly embody the ideas all the time. It's obvious that I  can't be that kind of parent if I'm not that kind of partner, lover, friend, daughter, or colleague. There's no way I can teach my kids to be that kind of awesome on a part time basis. And it isn't easy. It's not like you just wake up one day and decide to be "gentle". Stuff happens, you get pissed off, you lose your temper. You get scared. You feel alone. 

That's when habit kicks in. I don't have a whole heap of "gentle" habits, I can tell you. I work all hours of the day and night, I eat crap, I binge watch Netflix when the kids crash and I'm all burned up from a hectic day. Most days I admit, I am lazy with looking after myself, and that sucks. I want my kids to grow up with deep self-love so they can show that kind of depth to the ones they fall IN love with. I think it's about time I showed myself a little bit more of the kind of nurture and compassion I expect from myself towards others. 

So I'm making a commitment to myself to be more loving, more gentle, and more kind. Specifically, to actually do a daily practice with yoga (I'm curently on my Foundation course with a view to possibly teaching someday) and to get enough sleep. If any of this resonates with you, please share in the comments what you need to do to cultivate gentle habits in your life as well - perhaps we can help each other to keep them up! 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Kid, you'll move mountains!

I spent all day on Tuesday crying. Serious snot and tears - the kind of leaky eyes you can't turn off. Sounds like something terrible must have happened, right? But it didn't, not really. Sprout just went to school.

'Just'. What a deceptive little word! There was nothing small or simple about sending my not-so-little son off to school. I thought I managed quite well really, after all - I managed to walk him to the door, and leave before I cried. I held it together while he lost it and made sure he had his Baa-baa (the grotty old toy sheep he's adored since birth) clasped tight when Bean and I left. I even managed not to cry while Bean had a wailing tantrum about being separated from his 'best friend in the world and life'.

But my eyes betrayed me barely an hour later, sitting in a cold church hall at our local toddler group. Despite battling valiantly to hold back the flood, those determined tears started leaking out all over the place and I had to admit defeat. I was truly, truly sad. Hunkering down with Bean on the playmat, I asked him solemnly whether it was ok for us to go.

Looking up at me and considering the situation carefully, Bean replied, 'We go to Nana's house?' Sensible boy.

There are days when a support network make all the difference. My parents have been a cushion, a safety net, a sounding board and a home for us over the past three years. Even though the boys and I no longer live with Nana and Grampa they are a huge part of our family life. We all know that when the going gets tough, it's time for a cuppa with them. Even Bean, who's only two!

Sprout going to school has hothoused some very complicated feelings for me over the past 9 months. I deferred his place back in September, hoping against hope I would be able to find a way to carve out time to home-educate him. I am a passionate advocate of 'education otherwise' - all the various ways you can school a child without actually sending them to school. Since before he was born, I've anticipated doing something alternative with him and his brother when the time came. Well, it's come. And I have to accept that right now, I am not in a position to give either of them the time and attention they deserve to be unschooled, or home schooled, for now.

As the tide of emotion subsides, I have been reflecting on what sending the boys to school means to me and my sense of who I am as a parent. The funny thing about parenting is that no matter what you do, there's a hell of a lot of compromise involved. The parent I imagined I would be sure as hell isn't the parent I've turned out to be. Some of that is the oddness of life, happening to us. Some of it is simply realising I am not entirely cut from the tie-dye hippy cloth I would like to be. Some of it is the parenting I had as a child escaping out from inside me. It's not a question of blame or fault, it just is.

Not that I was able to see that in the moment. To tell the truth, I slipped into resentment and anger almost as soon as I started to cry. It was easy to blame my lone-parent status for having to let go of my dream of unschooling the boys. Just as they both wailed 'it's not fair!' to me, my heart cried back 'it's not fair' in reply. I stamped my feet and hot, frustrated tears streamed down my face. This isn't the life I planned. Why me? Ahem - well, why not me? There is no guarantee that being a two-parent family would have handed me my dream lifestyle on a platter. In fact, a brief assessment of reality suggests it never would or could have been that way. 

Life is good. There, I said it. I'm off the pitty-potty and pulling those big girl pants back up (yet again). Actually, three days in, it's great. Bean is thrilled to be the centre of attention. He went swimming all by himself with Nana today. His bright eyed breathless excitement about it all took me straight back to the two year old days of Sprout learning to swim with his Dad. The odd wrench of it not being me who gets to teach him (this time it's work that has stood in our way) but the same 'guess how much I love you' realisation that this is a wonderful time to be two. To be loved. To grow. As for Sprout, he read - yes, actually read - a book to me tonight. Sounding out every single word on the page letter by letter until he worked out each word by himself. There's no question he is hungry to learn. He was thrilled with PE (hula hoops and pretend crocodiles, the joy!). He has made friends with lots of kids. He seems to have grown up overnight into a proper boy, all traces of pre-school wiped out. He comes home sweaty, smiley and full of chatter about the adventure he is on. 

It is safe to say that today is their day, all that remains is for me to get out of their way.  









Friday, 3 April 2015

When in doubt, choose Joy

Some days I feel like I’m doing it all wrong. I’m exhausted. I’m working too hard. I’m not working enough. I feel like there is no time to be gentle, or social, or kind. I get shouty, I give too may ‘uh-huh, in-a-minute, just-a-second’ replies to my kids. And then the day is over. The house is quiet, and I feel terribly alone.

Those days are hard to find joy, I know.

Loneliness is one of the benchmarks of lone parenting and it’s a hard one to describe to those who aren’t in the tribe.

It’s hard to explain how it is possible to feel truly alone in a house full of sleeping people. The crushing weight of responsibility you feel when there is another bill, another job to do, or something that needs fixing that you don’t know how to do. And in the moment it needs to be done – there is nobody to call. Nobody coming home at 6pm to open a bottle of wine to go with dinner, and give you a cuddle and listen to all the crazy things you’re thinking before you divide up the jobs and tackle them as a team.

I know I am not the only lone parent who has days like these, because nowadays I work with many parents like me. Not to mention, I have a whole bunch of amazing lone parent friends too. I know that we need to talk about the tough stuff and be real with each other, because it’s only in the honesty that we can find the joy and the laughter again.

Lately I have had to refuse to meet my friends because I have too much work to do, or no sitter, or no cash. This is not a sob story or a pity party – it is a simple fact of being at the helm of a single parent family, sometimes there simply isn’t enough of me to go around. If you’re a lone parent, I know that you will have been there too. You know how isolating it can feel.

It is inside these moments of challenge, where you’re peering out of the trenches, thinking ‘dear god when will this END?’ that I’ve found my gratitude practices have literally transformed my experience of life. This week has been pretty terrible financially, and as a result I’ve had to grit my teeth, put my big girl pants on and just deal with the messiness of life.

It’s also been pretty epic for me and my kids. Big stuff is happening in our world. Sprout is starting school, I am launching new business products, Sprout and Bean and I have been out adventuring in the forest celebrating Spring Equinox with our favourite people. This is the good stuff. I don’t want it to be swallowed up by the teeth gritty me who has to be in charge. I am braver than that. I am happier than that. I promised myself to remember those things, for the three of us. 



So just to be sure that I’m noticing where the joy is in our lives I’m going to share with you my gratitudes for the week that just passed.

1)   Sleeping with beautiful Bean on the sofa for an hour. At two and a half, he is so feisty and bold and full of adventure that naps rarely happen any more. Feeling the weight of his sleeping body and the warmth of his cheeks against mine while he breathes slowly and softly on my chest. Such a gift, and one of those moments I sink into. They fill me up and renew me, from the inside out.
2)   Dressing four year old Sprout in his school uniform for the first time, practicing for when he starts reception class full time after Easter holiday. Seeing his pride and excitement about being a grown up boy, with his own identity outside of our home. Knowing I’ve done what I can to help him take this step with confidence.
3)   Sitting in my kitchen with the adult colouring book I was given for mothers day. Colouring in beautiful mandala patterns instead of watching TV, drinking in the silence while the boys sleep in the early evening and the sun sets behind the garden wall.
4)   Careering around in the blazing sunshine with my kids on Spring Equinox. Watching Sprout go porridge jousting (don’t ask!) and Bean playing among the daffodils.
5)   Being asked what love is made of by Sprout. Telling him it is made of happiness, only to be told that his happiness lives in me – so I must be made of love. Absolutely gorgeous (and a moment to hang on to in between the strops and stresses of a normal day!).


I am not made of stone, and the teeth-gritty days happen to me just as often as they do to other parents, I’m sure. But I will always, always be glad of the opportunity to be a parent in the midst of it all.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Carry your grief lightly

I came back to this blog today. There is a story inside me that I want to tell, and lifting the lid on these pages, I realised that I had already begun to write it. I don't want to pick a new beginning point, it began when it began. So I am sure it will continue, as most stories do, with a new chapter (no need for another Title page).

It's quite a leap forward of course, from where I left off. Bean is no longer a baby, and Sprout - well, he's sprouted! In the turning of the years (three now, and the world is still moving) since our life tipped upside down, I have changed immeasurably. I have grown (and happily, also shrunk a little!) in many ways. I am now a coach, as I planned. Not for young people, although I did dip my toe in those waters in the early days. 

I am a Leadership Coach for Lone Parents. Women like me, and perhaps like you. 

It is one of the inevitabilities of the story of a life, that the chapter I left you with last time, has morphed into a prologue to my now. At the time, it felt like the bear hunt was all consuming - so much to get through! So much thick, oozy mud. But I have to remember, 'We're going on a bear hunt' is a children's book, after all. The pages pass much more quickly than you think they will and someday, you outgrow it. 

I'm resurrecting this blog, to tell a new story. I may also fill in a few of the gaps for those of you who might want to know what happened in the unspoken spaces. 

But before I do I want to share a reflection I had today about the nature of grief. It changes the view, as much as it changes you. Despite the distance gained from your loss it will always remain there, a landmark around which you orient yourself. The grief inevitably becomes a point on your internal compass - although I don't allow it to become my North. 



I think I always knew, from the very beginning of the bear hunt, that I wasn't experiening grief for losing the love of my life. The second I recognised him for who he actually was, the love was gone. extinguished as swiftly and completely as a candle wick pressed between fingertips. It burned a little, but left no lasting mark. 

The grief that has stayed with me, the grief I have learned to carry lightly, is for the imagined life I lost. The Disney story of happily ever after. The dream of a together family for my children to thrive in - the Mummy and Daddy story I told myself I would be starring in. That's not our story. Snuffing out the fire that burned in me for the belonging I wanted to feel - that burned. That scarred. That hurt. 

In as real a way as I carry a c-section scar, I carry a d-day scar. You can't see it, and I don't show it off (well, who wants to see scars like that in real life?) but it's there. Now and then I run my fingers over it, just to see if the lines have changed shape or faded a little. It's still here. I still feel it. Occasionally, it still hurts. But I live with it, and truthfully, I don't think I could imagine being me without it now. It is one of my edges, part of me just as honestly as my curves and softness. 


Saturday, 13 April 2013

Be the good

Today, I have been feeling pissed off at life. Angry with my STBXH, angry with myself. I have been hurting. I have had to acknowledge that being the better person comes with a hidden cost; knowing that (even when you are glad that it turns out you really are the person you hoped you would be) it's hard to accept this goodness may not be recognised, and you won't be thanked.

My ex and his partner relocated last week to be closer to Bean and Sprout. This is for the good in the long run. The boys have no long journeys looming in their future, separated from me and or their normal lives by miles, or hours or travel. It is in their best interests, and for them I am happy. In typical bear hunt fashion, my introduction to this brave new world has been a crisis. Their first full day with their dad at his new home was cut short abruptly - barely two hours in - when I was called to collect them, his partner so sick she was waiting on an ambulance to take her to A&E.

Sometimes you just don't question a situation, being the good you want to see in the world means you just deal and do the best you can. I went immediately to get the boys. I took my mum, an A&E nurse with me. The boys dad lives in the back end of nowhere, a very remote village deep in rural England. I arrived to see him standing on his front step, boys in coats, ready to hand them over, without me crossing the threshold of their house. I would have taken them too, were it not for the fact that no ambulance was in sight. And I could hear OW crying in the house, frightened, miles from her home, her friends, her family and in pain. Without hesitation I asked if my mum could take a look. A long pause later, STBXH checked inside. OW wanted her help, so could we come in.



There are moments in life that remind you what kind of person you are in your core. Not what you hope you are, but who really, deep down, when the shit hits the fan - you are. I could have left, listened to her crying and thought be damned. I could have gloated that the karma train was calling at their station. I am so glad that I am not that person, I am blessed that my mum isn't either. Together we looked after the children, and mum looked after OW. She is 27, but in pain and sick she looked younger. I didn't see a disgusting person, I saw a human being who needed compassion and care. In that instant I knew something deeply in my heart. Failure is always an event - never a person. The sum of OW is not the action of infidelity. She is not simply the agent of my unhappiness, she is a young woman living a life that her choices have led her to... on that day they led her to an isolated, scary place where ambulances don't come and you have to lean on the goodness of those you have wronged.

Eventually the ambulance arrived, and my mum handed her over with the care and professionalism I love and respect her for. OW left, shaking and tearful, and on her way out she mouthed 'I'm sorry' to me, smiled at my sons and tried so hard to be brave. I don't feel angry with her any more. I feel sad, really sad, for the situation. Sad that we are here and the only way forward is to forgive. I wish there was nothing to forgive, no hurdle to overcome. Forgiveness in principle is one thing, forgiveness in action is something else.

I suppose you can call today an emotional hangover. Sprout is running a fever of 102. He's tearful and clingy, I wonder if he caught a bug from their house. I am cross that STBXH took our tiny, vulnerable children over there when his partner was so ill. OW has a kidney infection, before the antibiotics and hospital run, she was so sick my mum was afraid she may even have meningitis. I am thankful that it wasn't anything as bad as all that.

However, despite the sea change in my heart towards the woman he has brought here, there has been no change in STBXH's heart in return. He is as ever, as cold towards me as can be. A spark of fury was lit tonight when, following a polite conversation about the boys, I enquired whether OW is feeling better? I received silence in return.

Evidently STBXH is not ready to allow kindness to thaw the stony ground of our separation. I can only presume that it suits him to hold onto the caricature of me he created that justified his terrible behaviour towards me and our sons. I guess I will simply have to wait, and continue to live with compassion, with kindness, with patience, until (or indeed if) he decides to accept that I am not, and never have been the monster he would like me to be. In the meantime, I will try to practice reaching a place of forgiveness that includes him as completely as I know it should be possible to achieve (and forgive myself for not being there yet!)

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveresLove never fails."



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

A year from now, you'll be glad you started today

Today has been a quiet day. I woke up with two little bundles in bed with me (something I try not to allow every day! But ahh, what bliss when I do) and was treated to Sprout announcing, as the sun streamed in through the window onto Bean and I, that he 'loves us both quite much'. We have pottered and played, read stories, cuddled and laughed and squeezed each other lots. My boys are becoming the very best of friends - giggling so much at each other over dinner, their fish pie barely stood a chance of making it into their mouths. I've cleaned the house several times and it still looks like a small army has trooped through it... but the daily mash of pots and pans and toys and odd socks trailed all over the place doesn't bother me. It's the happy signs of life in our lovely little home. We are really very, very happy here.

I have been mulling over this blog for a while, feeling a little bad that I've been neglecting it. But in the post holiday lull I had very little to write about. I don't like to reach around for something to say - I believe that when something needs saying, it tends to pop up of it's own accord, and there's nothing much to be gained from hurrying the process along. Sometimes I have useful or interesting things to say but there's also art in knowing when I don't!

Having said that, there is some small news of the bear hunt to share. I have finally filed for divorce. It's taken 14 months to get here, but I don't mind. I am very glad that I waited until now to send off the petition. Today it feels like paperwork, a bit of admin that needs taking care of. I no longer feel it is a great knife cleaving my family in two. I cited adultery, I didn't name the OW. In the grand scheme of things, I can be happy today with my own truth. I know, and STBXH knows, just how we got to where we are.

I have plenty of things to look forward to as well. Bean is days away from crawling, his little face set firm with the determination he has been bursting with since birth. Sprout is a gorgeous chatterbox who makes me laugh all the time with his toddler observations - I can't wait to get to know him more as he teaches me to see the world newly day by day.

As they grow, my life is opening back up again, filling up with fun. I feel excited about what might be around the corner. Tomorrow night I'll be catching up with one of my oldest and dearest friends, whose simple presence in my life makes me happy, I realise now how grateful I am that I can make space for him again. Sending the divorce petition felt like closing a door, while throwing open all the windows in my house. Can you feel it? Spring is on the way, and I want the fresh air to fill up every corner of my life! This is the year of the Dragon. It's a year for me, and my boys. No more worrying about the ones we've left behind.

And my last bit of news is the one I am most quietly proud of today. I officially became self employed this week, so my business as a life coach has begun. When I take a moment to reflect on everything that has happened to me in a year, I can't help but feel glad that the bear hunt began after all. Every step has brought me closer to happiness in the end.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas everyone!

I am being a super little elf tonight, stuffing stockings on behalf of Santa while my cherubs Sprout and Bean sleep (sort of - there has been much leaping around with excitement from Sprout until about an hour ago). A biscuit and carrot are laid out for Santa (there were two biscuits, but Sprout was operating quality control tonight). And while I am sat here thinking about how wonderful the day will be tomorrow, I have to share the Christmas cheer with you guys, because we wouldn't be half so happy or confident about 2013 without the love and  hand holding we've had along the way. So here's to you, and you and you - thank you so much! See you in the New Year!