Island Blog – Needs, Things and Each Other

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what I need, what I think I need and what I don’t actually need at all. What I need is one thing and what I think I need quite another. What I need is what we all need, love, community, friendship, social encounters, a roof over our heads, food for our bellies, heat to warm us on cold days and nights. We need a bed to sleep in, a pan to cook with, a plate to eat off. And so on.

The second need is the one ‘I think’ I need and thoughts, as we all know, can be fickle friends. As I dash to re-purchase this thing online, or jot that one down on a shopping list, I pause to question myself. Could I manage without this thing? Do I really need to Subscribe and Save on mascara for instance or Evening Primrose oil or Dog chews? Could I find, perhaps, an alternative once the one I have turns solid or runs out or better, learn to live without it at all? The answers are all in the affirmative (although stepping out without mascara is a scary thought) so I make myself wait a while in order to stop my knee jerking. The absolute necessity of most ‘things’ fade into mist eventually. It is astonishing how very much I can easily do without and, I notice, these apparent needs that caused me momentary panic not so long ago, are always just things. After all I never need to write down, Call this child of mine, remember a birthday, send a card or letter or email of encouragement. I never forget the not things in my life. But in the realm of things lie all the troubles. Things need us too much, and not the other way around. They matter disproportionately, our material needs, the number of ‘Likes’ we get on Facebook, for example or the followers on Instagram and so on.

But it is people who matter, not things, never things. Rich or poor, surrounded by ‘things’ or without them we have a choice when it comes to sharing ourselves, our light, our conversation and our interest in each other. All the not things worth everything cost absolutely nothing, not a penny, not a sou. So next time you are assailed by a sudden need for a thing, even to the point of complete panic, breathe out that breath, blow it away and with it all the nonsense thought-chatter because inside that huge brain of yours lie a million neural pathways, each one leading somewhere you may never have travelled before. And, given enough quiet breathing in and out, enough space created between the apparent need and that sweet but infuriating voice of inner intelligence, you may well discover, as have I, that whatever promised to make life perfect is a liar.

The issue of what I actually don’t need at all lies entirely inside my own head. Now that I have learned to stop and to question the knee jerk, the have-to-have thing, I am laughed at how faithfully I have responded to date. I was a sheep, in truth, following the flock even if each one ahead of me fell off the cliff. How ridiculous! But once aware, always aware and I am busy awareing, particularly so since the hacking when access to any purchase slammed a door in my face, when this hacker infiltrated my social media, broke down the very walls within which I had felt completely safe. It is freeing. I can feel myself rising from sheep into intelligent woman and it’s not a new feeling. Each time I have noticed my fall into mindlessness, in whatever area of my life, the thoughtless following behind the others, it has laughed me. Good lord, what the heck am I doing, or, more likely, not doing? I think we can all be mindless at certain times in our lives when we find our ship foundering on the rocks of trouble, when the walls fall down and we stand naked in the wind and rain. In desperation we try to grab hold of all we held so dear, all that, we thought, kept our walls firmly around us. And although we might blame the ‘hacker’ initially, we can be honest with ourselves. We needed this rock-founder in order to think as an intelligent being, to reconsider the way we are living our life. But we are normal, we are human and all of us want our life to continue just as it did before. However, Life never goes back, only forwards and if we can accept this, embrace Change in her attending discomfiture, then we are the ones who are truly alive. We are adventurers, we are brave, we are mindful beings in a mindless world.

So let the stop stop you. Let time go by and ask yourself, as I asked my own self, What is really lacking here? Is it the thing I feel I cannot live without or am I just lonely, unfulfilled, frustrated, angry, sad? When a person has the courage to ask those questions, the patience to wait for an answer and the trust to address the real issue, a way will show itself. Not the old way but a strange new way on a road heretofore untravelled, at least by us. On this road, this path there is laughter. On this path everyone makes mistakes, founders and falls down but all around are those to lift, to encourage, to make you laugh, to hold you up until you once more find your footing because all around you are others who know, have learned themselves, that what we all really need is each other.

Island Blog – A Plan, A Shanty Rickle and Life

We make a plan. We hone it, condone it, refine it, mine it for pitfalls whilst utilising the elasticity of space, just in case, corridors of empty air in between the lines. We have faith in this plan. And then something too big for corridors and too structured for any amount of bend or twist lands in our path. This path that seemed so clear ahead of us is suddenly heaped up with stumble stones, huge boulders and standing tight together, telling us clearly that the path stops here, right here and right now. For a few moments the darkling sky falls in around us like old ghosts or loft webs long ignored, solidifying into a thixotropic blanket of No Go. Our heart sinks, our eyes fall to our boots for what good are they now in the face of this rickle of stone, this wall, this sharp edged decision across our path, one made behind our back and without consideration of our feelings. A total disrespecting of our marvellous plan.

For a while we are confounded, ungrounded, flying up there one minute and burrowing into the ground, the next. We are in short, lost in time and space, no grace, long face. But soon our human spirit tickles at our edges, whispering encouragement. Come on, get up, shut up flapping, get those boots back on the ground. Just because this block is stopping you does not mean there is no other way. There are millions of ways. Think, listen, learn, look. Your spirit is 86 billion cells. That brain of yours is considerably untaxed, if you don’t mind me saying. There are acres, miles, continents worth of active brilliance in between those ears of yours. Engage. Ask them to help, not based on your experience because, well, look at you now all scuffed and battered and standing there as if your are at the end of everything and all because that plan of yours was never meant to work out in the way you decided it would. Drink from that freshwater stream over there. Watch the fish, the birds, the insects. Tip your head to the sky and follow the clouds as they shapeshift across that big wide expanse of hope. Turn, now, to see the way sunlight catches the sharp edges of the shanty rickle of stone. Those boulders are a million years old and there are so many stories held in their folds and twists, don’t miss them. Lift your face to the wind. Let her soothe and smooth your furrowed brow. She carries stories on her back, tales of others who would give everything just to be where you are now for just one more day of life. Now, rise and decide. Up and over or maybe not. Maybe this path is not yours and never was. See, over there? A ley line, a narrow way, one you just marched past unnoticing, you with your plan and your big stomp boots. Deer come this way when night falls, every single nightfall. They know where they are going and from whence they came. Lift up now, breathe deep and step into the unknown for it is there you will find the way ahead, the one Life always wanted you to take.

Island Blog – A Christmas Dream

Merry Christmas to you all, and may all your dreams find legs this coming New Year, for, it is one thing to have dreams and quite another to walk them out. It will take courage and sacrifice, belief in the light of them even as we fumble about in the dark. I used to think dreams of change were for children until I remembered that, although our bodies age and our minds get stuck in how it was and always will be, we are all still children. Just because Life knocks us back time and time again, disappointments walk in like they owned the place and each time we try to step out someone makes us trip, there is no reason on God’s goodly earth that any one of us cannot achieve something amazing. It might not be noticeable to anyone but ourselves, might not mean we achieve fame and wealth, but that doesn’t diminish the amazingness, not one jot, because we will feel the thrill of having gone beyond that which we thought was the edge of it all.

And we are all afraid of failing, which is the only thing that keeps us stuck. It is understandable. I can hear the voice in my head telling me that, at my ripe old age, this dream is impossible now. I am too late to unfurl it into the sky, too misshapen, lumpen and my mind is not as bright as it was when, had I paid attention the first time I dreamed this dream, I might well have succeeded. Poof! I say, even as that voice loudens in my head. And my ‘because’ is this. If I don’t pay attention now, right now, then this dream will die with me and that is not going to happen. Perhaps you always wanted to achieve something but fear held you back; fear of failing, of not being encouraged or of disapproval from a nearest and dearest? Perhaps you saw someone else achieve this very dream of yours and succeed, thus comparing yourself in an unfavourable light?

The courage it takes not to compare, not to self judge, is huge, but the good news is that, once you take the very first step, you find that the way begins to show itself; not like a motorway with lights and lines and tarmac for easy motion, but as a little winding path just wide enough for two feets and a body. You cannot see where this path leads, but you keep going, just for the hell of it, just for the ‘why not’ of it. There’s a soft breeze blowing the grasses and you see them bow their heads so gracefully, bending, yes, but rooted strong. You are curious, like Alice, like a child and you move further on and further until, when you turn back to see how far you’ve come, you realise you can no longer see the beginning. You feel a frisson of fear. You are alone now among the bendy grasses with no clue as to where this path will take you. Too late to turn back now. After all, you left that judge voice behind and you absolutely will not give it the opportunity to snigger, which it would, were you to retrace your courageous footsteps. And remember you are doing this not to impress, not to beat anyone else, but simply for your own self. As you walk on, you see things, hear things more sharply, using, as you must, all your senses in order to be safe in this new and wild place. Up hills, climbing tough at times as each step takes you nearer to the sky. Rocks lie in your path but you can scale them. When it rains, as it well might, you have grand old trees to shelter beneath. There is fresh spring water to slake a thirst and Nature’s larder is all around you. As you walk, you remember words you have read and heard, words of encouragement and you hold them close. From time to time, as you weary, you also remember the discouragement or disapproval of the naysayers, one of whom will be your own self, and you bat them away, like flies. They are not serving you any more. You say to yourself “I can do this’.

And, trust me. You can.

Island Blog – The Day Before and Hoodwinker Boots

Yesterday I was in the darkling woods, all day long. I could not lift into the light, got stuck among the trees, heard no birdsong, saw no sky. I haven’t had one of these days for a long while and it settled uncomfortably about me like a sodden jumper, cold and shivery. I sat with myself and we had a little chat about it. My mouth was overflowing with questions. Am I sick, going doolally? Am I selfish, thinking only of my own angst this day? Should I do something for someone else and would that guide me out of these tall dark sopping woods? Answer came there none. She just sat there, across the table from me, smiling slightly, her lips curved up at the edges, not smug, but knowing.

I get it, I said, my mouth now empty of whys and whats. It just is as it is. As I pondered my soggy state of mind, I realised something. She sees me doing this realising thingy and her lips curve even further up like she’s got an upside down rainbow on her face. He was my courage. That’s what unnerves me this darkling day. I remember him saying to me a thousand years ago that he was always surprised at my fear of pretty much everything. In my world, so he said, there were lions behind every bush and snakes crossing all my paths. There was fire outside all grates and thunder meant lightning and lightning would strike me down or strike someone I loved, like my horse. He was right. I knew it then despite my spirited rebuttal and subsequent flounce from the courtroom.

Over long time, like most of my adult life, I pinched his courage. He was afraid of nothing, if you discount my mother who terrified the pyjamas off him with her slick sharp tongue. I made a decent enough shape of it throughout the years, still terrified of all things but braver, bolder, more able to push through the fear in my hoodwinker boots. Even when he was fixed in a wheelchair, compromised almost completely, he was still my rock, he was there, I could see him and we could smile together, two upside down rainbows sharing a moment of reassurance and encouragement. Now he isn’t here anymore and although I would not wish him back, not as he was, not even as he was before the more recent ‘was’, I can still feel that catch in my breath as I stand before the enormity of living alone. Most of me loves the view, the space and the freedom. I don’t have to explain, justify or qualify my actions, my decisions anymore. I am not the first responder for requests, calls for help, for errands; I don’t have to clean toilets every hour or so; my washing machine is bored; I can sing along to Verdi’s Requiem in any key I like. I am free. And without purpose. And that is the truth of it. When a man has been the sole purpose for 49 years, a woman can be forgiven for wondering who the hell she is when he pops his clogs.

It is a good realisation. I look across at myself and say so and she agrees. Well done, she says. You got there. From such a new understanding grows a path, like a tree from a seed, only it won’t go straight up as a tree ought to, heading for the sky and poking the eyes out of the next door tree with busy branches, greedy for light. No. This path is like the yellow brick road and it’s right there ahead of you. Can you see it? Follow it and you will find new purpose, one you have never thought of before.

I can see it, the path, my path. Today I wake, still alone, but without the dark of yesterday dripping misery all about me and I am thankful. Now all that I have to do is to locate the whereabouts of my hoodwinker boots, Dorothy, The Tin Man and the Lion and then to start walking.

Island Blog – Gone

When a someone very close is gone, all that is left is a big silence, as if the rooms stop breathing too. In this case, the ‘gone’ is a husband of 48 years, a father to five, a grandfather to 10, a brother to one and a friend to thousands. Nothing he ever did went unnoticed. His high profile life meant he touched on many others, affecting their decisions, choices and opinions. He had plenty of those and was certain he was right. Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, his core beliefs were like solid boundary walls, impossible to scale. Nonetheless, he made us all think from the other side of what we might have believed to be fact.

I have a million memories. In equal amounts I have been furiously distant, happy to leave him inside his fortress and then right beside him, looking out across the wild expanse of life. I suspect this is marriage in all its honest and raw truth. Nothing worth its salt is consistently simple, not if it has mettle and fire in its belly and our life had plenty of both. When I think back to my rebellious youth I roll my eyes. I was heading off piste rather a lot. In fact, I am not sure I was ever on piste. Then I met him and he seemed able to play both like music, ready for nonsense and lunatic forays onto unexplored slopes and then sliding easily back onto the path well travelled. And, always, guiding me, holding my hand, yanking me back to safety, always my rock. Even when he could no longer do the things he used to be able to do, his very presence made me feel safe. I’ve no idea how I’ll brave the next bit of my life, but I do remember all he taught me and I will always be able to stop, breathe, remember and get the hell on with it.

Rest in peace, you old sea dog. I’m going to miss you for the longest time, even if I can, now, move the furniture around, go where I please, talk LOUDLY on the phone, guffaw at random, turn the tunes up at 7 am and eat celery sticks without having to go to another room for the crunching. The hole you left will probably get bigger. I have no idea who I am without you. It will be an interesting journey for sure and it begins now.

Island Blog – Extra the Ordinary

Although I live my life according to the rules, most of the time, my heart and soul are pure Paris. As a girl, as a young woman, I could feel the inconvenient wild in me, this fire blaze that burned no matter how politely I crossed my ankles or demurred to the authority of a man. The confusion of living with the two opposing women inside came with a great deal of trouble, most of it unseen by anyone but me. The trouble was my lack of enough experiential wisdom to accept both the Paris and the Quiet Suburbs and to love them both. How can I, how can anyone, hold two contradictories in one head at the same time? Well, practice, and a lot of self-love. En route to this acceptance brought tantrums, a smouldering silence, spots, ridiculous clothes, lost friendships, poor decisions, all of which came with legacy, one only I was forced to live with and through. Those in ‘authority’ over me called me names; deluded, hysterical, rebellious, ornery, bloody difficult #needsprofessionalhelp, possessed, reckless and so on. I was, in short, impossible and would never fit in. Until one day I overheard my French teacher, whom I adored, saying to my mother #headinhands that I had a lot of the Paris in me. I suspect that was the beginning of my quest, one that has led me over the bumps, into walls, off chasmic edges and on and on to many wonderful places and times.

At this age of ripeness and with a completely marvellous and exciting past, I smile at my journey. Even now I can meet good women of my age who, on recognising the rebel in me, say that they were never wild; that they never felt anything like an incendiary bomb. I always question that. Did you ever fall head over heels in love, I ask, when your whole world is thrown up into the air like a beach ball, and do you remember hoping it would never come down again? I usually get them on that one. Okay they didn’t lock matron in the phone cupboard and go back to bed, nor set fire to the school shed (didn’t burn), nor did they get back home at 10pm, check in with parents and then climb out of the window to rejoin the party. But I did, and that wildness is still here, still within, now honoured and loved, appreciated and respected. Paris is part of me.

I have never been to Paris and may never go there. I call her Paris because of what I have read, since my French teacher said what she said, and I have learned about that city of bohemian rebellion and energy. I will have added my own imagination, naturally, and together we have got me all the way up to this morning in a lively and unpredictable way. Living as I now do inside my own structure of discipline is just where I want to be. I have no desire to travel in order to find myself. Myself is right here with me and we are an excellent team. Rebelling against my own rules of engagement would be foolish. Rebelling against other people’s rules of engagement was exhilarating, terrifying and often self destructive, but I could not have avoided one minute of it. It is in my DNA and that is irrefutable.

My message in all this is to encourage you all to remember who you really are, not to fanny about with who someone else decides you are. This would be like trying to fit politely and tidily into an empty Weetabix box. So don’t. And, if any of this touches you in any way, there is work to be done. We can die with our song unsung or we can take a risk, open our mouths and sing it out, at any age or stage of our lives.

We can make an ordinary life extraordinary just by living half in, half out of the box, our own box.

Island Blog – Three Keys in My Hand

I have one, no, two meetings this week. One on Tuesday, a zoom with a writer friend, and one on Wednesday with my counsellor. In my opinion, many of us need to find someone just a bit more above things than we are. I have always found that a hand reaching down is a huge help, despite the initial shame I felt at asking for it. And there’s a thing. As this lockdown keeps us stuck/imprisoned/safe, there are many who are finding it super tough, whose mental stability is being seriously challenged. I get it. As one who has always been mentally turmoiled to a degree, and who sees that last week was Mental Health Week (as if one week would ever be enough) I am more than happy that the world is getting it, or, at least, the slowmovingrulemakers are thinking wider, perhaps. In my life I have met many who could flower but cannot flower within the confines of stigmatism and of what is socially acceptable. Hence the hidden pain. And the most destructive judge of all lives within. We are all flawed, broken to varying degrees, doing out very best to fit in without sticking out in ways that might draw attention to our faults.

Looking out upon the natural world is key, but we must also look within. As I have been a student of self-improvement for decades, I have absorbed a million positive phrases and still found myself not quite at home with myself, no matter how bright the epiphany. However, I am finally beginning to understand that time holds the second key and time requires my patience, my faith in the strength of a human spirit and my trust that the goodly gods are working for me, and not against me. When the world demands something I do not want or cannot give, I need this trust. If we were all meant to be the same we would be mere automatons. We are far from that, thank goodness. Although we are currently required to live as such, it will pass eventually. Confined to home, required to wash our hands a hundred times a day, separated from loved ones, stuck in the wrong country and so on, we have this time to reflect on who we are and on the life we want for ourselves once we are freed from the chains that bind. Think on that.

I watch the young birds fly through my little garden, feathers awry, all ruffly spot and unsure of where to land. New life learning old ways. For them, survival is the teacher. They cannot suddenly square up to a cat or challenge the dive of a sparrow hawk without almost certainly turning into lunch. But we can. If we consider our predators, our demons, our self-doubts and our fears to be in control of our lives, then they will be. Noticing every thought and questioning it is key number three. Even if I am uncertain of my path, my voice, the strength, or lack of it, of my own human spirit, if I decide to turn this thing around, to turn myself around, then wonderful things begin to happen. I don’t need to run from my doubts and fears, my thoughts and worries, I just need to about face and question. Do I really think this or is this thought thinking me? Then, if it isn’t useful, I say cheerio. I don’t need you. Every time I do this, I empower my true self. I am not controlled by my thoughts. I control them, and in this uncertain life when a single day can throw a tidal wave over my carefully constructed sandcastle, my thoughts are the only thing I can control.

I know what it is like to be in the darkness of depression. I know how overwhelming life can be. I also know how to rebuild my spirit and I am thankful for all my guides over the years. Not everyone finds their way. Some souls are lost. Most of our illnesses come from inner stress, manifesting in the physical body, sometimes destroying it. This time of reflection is a gift to us all, not only to make new ways to live for ourselves by taking a long hard look at our core values, our life choices, our work and our families, but to look and to see others who may need our clear and open friendship. Those, whom we might have dismissed before as misery guts or gloomy or bad tempered. Nobody wants to live like that. Nobody. But everybody needs somebody to lift them at some point in their lives.

There are less of us still breathing in the world today. This virus is greedy and it isn’t done with us yet. Let us make sure that the ones who will emerge back into the light of ‘normality’ even more broken, even more damaged and even more fearful of their futures, do not have to walk alone.

Island Blog – Sunrise, Nature and the beginning of Humanity

It’s 5am. My favourite time of the day. I used to say it was because there’s nobody about, but now there’s always nobody about, so it’s not the truth anymore. I consider how many other absolutes will lose purchase on my mind and will just drift away, like the will o’ wisps over there, floating on the ebb tide, backlit by sunfire. They remind me of water sprites, beneficent creatures, transitional, made of water and to water they will always return. Black-throated divers fly by right on time, turning pink as they head into the sun and the sea beneath their wings glows like rose quartz. Anyone rising from slumber later than this will miss it all. But not I said the island wife. I have always been a dawn raider, greedy for everything my eyes can gobble up, catching every spark and twist, every snatch of colour, every bird flit or cloud shift, each start of new beginnings, life whispering into life.

Walking along the Tapseteerie track, dry-cracked and steady underfoot, I feel the weight of the canopy. This horse-chestnut has never been so abundant with huge green leaves, richly bottle green, a strong spread of gratitude, for whilst we desist in our race to disaster, we gift back life to nature. A robin flits with me, from branch to branch, tree to tree, telling me something that sounds wonderfully joyous but which is beyond my understanding. Bees and other buzzing creatures fill the branches, all of them. I have never heard such a buzz and it smiles me. New mosses adorn the floor of the woods, some emerald green and star-tipped, some gathered in perfectly smooth igloo shapes, the colour of lemon sorbet. I can see the tracks left by deer in their darkling wander, the grasses flattened by hoof-scuff. They will always walk this way, along this ley line, the ancient wander path, following the ones who learned it before them and then taught it on.

Flowers watch me pass, their faces tipped to sunlight. Wood sorrel, violets, primroses, anemone, bluebells, campanula, and stitchwort. Tiny alpines cling to cracks in the drystone wall, feathery ferns, arched like question marks, will open this day to spread their soft fingers wide. Orange tip, tortoiseshell and brown spot butterflies dance around my head as I move through the warmth of the morning. Everywhere I look, there is abundance. Wasn’t it always so and I just didn’t see it, or is it true that our land is healing herself? I believe the latter.

As I turn for home, a flash of silver in the tidal flow shows me a big fish, a salmon, perhaps, or a sea trout on its arduous journey to find a place to spawn, and then to die. Gulls shriek overhead, little gulls, black backs, herring gulls and other gulls I cannot name, for they saw it too. No doubt the otter did as well. I know she is down there somewhere with her kits and soon I will see her on a still morning from my bedroom window as she teaches them to hunt or to play touch-tig.

Writing about the beauty through which I can walk every day is not something I take for granted. This lockdown has gone on long enough now, that’s what I think, although wild horses wouldn’t drag me back among people, knowing as I do, how easily the virus can spread, silent and deadly, invisible to the naked eye. So I consider this. If I, who have barely had to change my life at all, am feeling this way, then what about those whose entire lives have been full-stopped? Starved of social oxygen, meetings, encounters, business flow, cash income, school friends, loved ones and options for free travel, what life are they, you, living now? Many, I am sure will thrill to the peace of it all, perhaps all of us do, some of the time, but when I am told I absolutely cannot do something, it is the thing I want to do most of all.

When I write about my encounters in nature, it isn’t to gloat, but to show to others, who last saw nature in 2019 on a country break, that life is still living on, whether we can see it or not. In fact, the regeneration of this earth is a wonderful thing to hear about, and perhaps it makes the sacrifice worth the pain. I had no idea the ozone layer could heal. I thought it was already dying and so were we all. But it isn’t true, for it is healing, repairing itself and offering us another go at a good life. And so, I write on, a witness to the changes, sending anyone and everyone who is finding this all just too much, who is frightened, lonely, depressed or sick, my deepest respect and encouragement to stick with isolation until we can meet again, and once more walk free.

This could have been the end of humanity. Let us hold fast and make it the beginning.

Island Blog – Island Mothers

Many of us are islands this day, kept from our children by a common enemy. What this enforced ‘islanding’ is doing to us is a lonely and a sad thing. What it is doing for us is quite a different matter. Everyone, it seems to me, is finding other ways to send loving messages through calls, texts, emails and letters and cards or through phoned in messages to radio stations. In these mediums the words must be more carefully considered. Although the usual “Best Mum in the World’ sentence may well apply, we search our minds for more. We think carefully of specific words that apply just to our mum. In short, we acknowledge and we affirm who she has been to and for us, how she lifted our flagging spirits, caught us out when we said “I’m fine, Mum” with a staying put stand in our bedroom doorway. We remember when she cooked something different for us on the days we purported to be sudden vegetarians; we remember the time she didn’t go where she wanted so much to go because we were sick or low or angry. She knew we needed her more than she needed her. We might remind ourselves of the time she stayed up for most of the night making a fancy dress costume for us, or sat in an upright chair through the long darkness when we had a fever, no matter what Dad might have said about it. that time we were in mental agony, remember that time? When nobody loved us and everybody hated us. Well, she did, and she didn’t and she put her feet firmly on mother ground and stuck beside us, even if we brushed away her reassuring words as so much tripe. She didn’t budge, even when her heart was cut right down the middle, because that is what mothers do.

They also get it all wrong. Most of us know how wrong we got it and still can, but it doesn’t falter our determination to launch a child into whatever world they want to move into. And it doesn’t stop on the launch pad. It never stops, even when our children have children of their own. We can still spend nights awake in an upright chair, our hearts bleeding for the pain our child is going through. We can still call to reassure “Bad timing Mum’ or stand square in a doorway refusing to budge until this child, who has grown his or her own set of protective armour plating, lets us in, just a bit.

My mum is gone now. We all had a list of how wrong she got things and we would laugh about them, once. We still can, but now I think more of all those times, those specific times, she stood to be counted for one of us and there are plenty of those. I think that this attack of Covid 19 is making us all think, changing our perspective on life. Perhaps we are finding the compassion that is the life blood of life herself. Perhaps we are thinking less of our own selves and more of how others are living (hopefully) through these times of inordinate change, and it is a very good thing. We have lived too selfishly for far too long. Nature is fighting back. Now is the time to stick a pin in our own little bubbles so that we can really see the rest of humanity and not just with our eyes, but with our hearts and minds.

And in the meantime, let us hold mothers high, for this is their day, our day, to be recognised for all the love that overwhelmed us at every birth; a love we could hardly understand, a love gifted to us by Mother Nature herself.

Island Blog – A New Path

I have begun. Pulling jeans out of the jeans drawer, way too small, way too skinny-legged for me now and, yet, held on to like a Precious, just in case I awaken one morning to find my skin tighter across my bones and my belly flat. How bonkers is that! I even hold on to dresses that have been the wrong fit for years and they hang as from a gallows tree all pretty and flouncy and empty of breath.

But it is hard to let go of them. Within those folds lie memories of what was, of who I was, once when the carefree in me sang in a higher key; when the crone didn’t huddle in a wrinkled corner, beckoning. But they are cuckoos now, these frocks and swingle skirts and they aren’t the only ones holding those memories. Jeans, boots, tops and froufrou; halter necks, strapless, slim-lined, tight-waisted – for family weddings, parties, dances, ceilidhs, stage events at book festivals, I will remember you when you are gone, all by myself.

I take a big bag upstairs and begin. There are button boots with cuban heels still in their boxes, worn once, maybe twice; there is a sparkly sequinned sheath bought years ago in a Glasgow shop, electric blue and minus a few sequins now and a sheath. A sheath. I will never ever wear a sheath again. Inside that wardrobe hangs my past. In the depths of the dark they call for their release, like long-term prisoners from a cell and it is I who am their jailor. I have no idea if anyone will find them, eyes ablaze with excitement, pull them off the rack and take them home, but what I do know is that I need to let them go, for them to breathe new air, to adorn, possibly, a younger body, one inhabiting the carefree, careless of the lack of sequins.

It thinks me. Not just of clothes but of life as a whole. Letting go is being open. It is also being vulnerable. If my wardrobe stands empty, what then? What if I am invited to something swish, some event that requires a dress, or a pair of button boots and all I have to hand are wider frocks and flat plimsolls? Will I still go? Having little or mostly no access to shops I cannot replace any of them short term. Besides, I loathe shopping with a vengeance. I can go into a dress shop and be overwhelmed within 3 paces, so overwhelmed that all I see is a blur of colour and rack upon rack of 25 dresses all in the same style but in different sizes. I run for Costa.

Letting go of old things, old ways of being, old beliefs that birthed when I was young and carefree, and are now quite obsolete, is not easy. But….This is what I believe. This is what I think. This is how I do this. If I let go of any of these, what do I replace them with? Well, replies my inner guru, Nothing. You just wait patiently for something else to come in, something new and right for Now. But, I am not patient, I snap at her. I want things to be there when I need them, people too, help and support and more carpet cleaner. She only smiles. I can feel the warmth of it and I know our conversation is done.

When life feels like a wobbly back tooth I can panic. I can think I am all alone in the world, the Only Weirdo at 67, the one whose insecurities are alive and kicking and whose self-doubt is as fat and magnificent as the Taj Mahal only without the bejewelment. But (and there is always one of those) when I sit and talk with other women of my age, even if their lives are markedly different to my own, I hear the weirdo in them too. They confess their own insecurities and those insecurities rhyme with mine, they harmonise, they match. It seems we all feel these things and I am mindful of the arrogance that thought me I was the Only One. What changes me are these encounters, these shared laughs about missing sequins and memories hiding in the folds. They also have held on as if youth might return one day with her confidence and her wahoo and her carefree danceability.

We agree, this Other Weirdo and I that she is not gone; nor is she beaten into submission; nor is she dead on the gallows, empty of breath. She has quietened down, yes, she has felt foolish and turned in, but she has something within her that has replaced her trust in the world. Trust in herself. Yes, it’s like a toddler learning to walk, this trust, but it has potential, even now, even when life has bashed and scarred with all that is thrown the way of every one of us.

In the light of this knowledge I am inspired to greater heights. If I think, just once, that keeping ‘this’ will bring back my vim and vigour, it has to go because I am not trusting in myself if I hold on to the old. Not just clothes but old beliefs, old ways of doing things, old lies. I will no longer pick through the rubble of what once stood four-wall-tall. I will gather the bits I can carry and make a path.

A path into whatever comes next.