Romance in Romania

In my life, I inhabit various spaces and take on various roles which involve wearing different ‘hats’ and mixing with a multitude of people.

This variety is my joy, for as the world I play in evolves, so do I – learning, growing and changing with it.

And I can retreat from that world too, finding solo sanctuary at home – a secretive, happy hermit, mulling over my experiences, joining the dots of my life – reflecting on the past and making plans for the future. And all this, whilst being anchored very much in the here and now.

My mind moves in waves, creating patterns – some abstract and some structured. And I can see these patterns forming into a new story which I would like to share, at the behest of its central character – a lady called Ioana-Andra Sandu.

First of all, she was a name to me and that is how she entered the story.  Known to most in her circle as ‘Andra’, she hails from Romania.  From name, she became colleague and now we have worked together for some 4.5 years.  So Andra is very real and this story isn’t a fairy tale – yet regardless, I’ve decided upon not just one, but oh so many ‘happy ever afters’…

I could tell you many things about Andra and our adventures together… and maybe I will share more, another time…  But this time, we agreed that I would write about her latest life chapter.

Bridezilla

Andra is getting married next week, to her childhood sweetheart, who she met at school.  In the years that followed, they had a daughter together and moved from Romania to England.

They decided to tie the knot in 2019, but like many other things, Covid put paid to that, with their wedding date being re-arranged, not once, but twice

Covid came and lingered… And Andra, like so many, changed her plans and booked a third date into the diary, for a wedding in her birth country, as a final leap of faith.  For although Covid travel restrictions had become a thing of the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine – as a country bordering Romania, was and is still, a very real fact and threat.

Over time, I’ve met her man, her daughter and other members of her family, including her sister Mihaela, who works at the same office. So, for 3 years now, we’ve all been discussing plans, venues, clothes, shoes, confetti, ceremony and much other wedding ephemera…

With typical generosity of spirit, Andra invited everyone in the office to come to the wedding. She told me “I think you’ll find it interesting,” since her wedding day would follow Romanian tradition, which, I could both observe and take part in. That was true – I was sure I’d find it fascinating, but I also wanted to be there to support her and not least because I believe in the celebration and marking of life’s events – big and small. In the scale of things, a wedding has to be one of the most beautiful and emotive celebrations of all…

Celebrations for me though are not just about the obvious ‘hatches, matches and dispatches’ of the people I know, but can be for an achievement – tiny or huge, a gratitude, the changing of the seasons, mixed in with my religious heritage, which includes Easter and Christmas.

So I was fascinated, when on the 1st of March this year, Andra and her sister Mihaela gave me and all the female inhabitants of the office a Mărțișor gift.

Mărțișor is a celebration of the beginning of spring in Romania and Moldova, with similar traditions in some neighbouring countries.

The word originates from an old Romanian name for March – mart (or martie, in modern Romanian), meaning “little March”.

My Martisor gift

The talisman I received was a white box containing a broach of a ladybird climbing up a snowdrop.  Alongside it was a small red and white string, knotted with a tassel.  Immediately I wanted to know more and started to do some research…  This was an ancient Romanian custom, where a coloured string was given as a talisman to be worn for the whole month of March, so that the wearer would receive strength and health for the coming year.

In modern times, Romanians buy silky red-white threads (șnur) tied into a bow, with a trinket attached, to give to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues.  And as in olden times, it’s believed that the wearer of the snur will have a prosperous and healthy 12 months.

I took the string out of the box and with a little difficulty, tied it around my wrist.  At the time, with dire news of Ukraine – a country which borders Romania – filling the news, I was feeling helpless. So I decided to wear my snur as a Talisman to show my solidarity, as well as to send positive energy and prayers to a country in crisis.

The conflict in Ukraine also affected my travel plans to the wedding.  Not only because of the potential dangers of conflict on the border, but also because the cost of the flight from the UK to Romania has more than trebled in the last 3 years.  I will therefore be travelling solo.

From Mărțișor to marriage, traditions from two different worlds are coming together at a time when Brexit, conflict and politics could be tearing us apart. Instead, we have consciously chosen to combine the ways of the world, to celebrate.

To celebrate in the British way, last month I was part of a surprise Hen party sprung on Andra and another colleague, also from Romania, getting married a week later.  The surprise from both was genuine and touching – Hen parties aren’t really a thing in in Romania, so it was entirely unexpected. Despite that, they immediately embraced the party spirit and so a dozen of us painted the town red – eating, drinking, laughing and dancing with joy.  It’s a day I’ll always remember with a smile. And to cement those memories, I pasted pictures of our celebrations into a book and got friends and colleagues to write their memories and good wishes into it, as a lasting memento.

A few days later, five of the Hens, including myself, tested positive for Covid – with symptoms from none to many… We’d all done as the UK government had bid and got on with our lives, in public places, out and about, with people a plenty. In fact, we suspect that some of our party had already caught it before that day, from separate sources… Yet regardless, everyone was philosophical about it – it was what it was…

Andra, enjoying a cocktail at her Hen do

But that wasn’t the only celebration.  For Andra’s last day at work, with the help of a trusty side-kick, I snuck into her office the night before and festooned it with Hen paraphernalia… There were posters, banners, confetti, ribbons and naturally… a balloon…

As there were 2 brides with upcoming nuptials, we all made plans to bring in food to celebrate – which, once we laid it all out, was an absolute feast.  With all that bounty on display, no one could wait till lunch time, so at 10.15 am we all gathered together.  The MD, joked that he had picked ‘the right day to come in the office’, so came along for the party, with other team members from around the world, watching online.

Myself, Andra & (ex) colleague Lesley,
celebrating at the office

I presented Andra with a card, collection and the memory book from the office.  She thanked us and we tucked into our combined feast.  The Company directors discretely left the room, then the music came on, people came and went (including the groom) and the day went on.  Regardless, all the work that needed to be done that day, got done, despite or because of, all the added food and fun… Andra enjoyed the day immensely, but like most brides, was having last minute jitters and worrying about her wedding day.

Later, when we were on our own, I gave Andra my wedding gift. I wanted to share the English tradition of ‘something old, new, borrowed and blue, with a sixpence in her shoe’ for a bride’s good fortune. I gave her a pin, with a collection of good luck charms on it, including a blue one. So she had an old tradition, some new charms, borrowed the bag I gave it to her in and also had the sixpence. These I told her, would ensure that all would be well. She said she would take them to Romania and wear them on her ‘big day.’ So we hugged (again) and said our temporary farewells.

A British wedding tradition

Andra should already be in Romania by now.  The wedding is next weekend, so soon my case will be packed too and I’ll be off to experience the next stage of the story. 

I look forward to sharing it with you…

Felicitari te pup cu drag / warm wishes and kisses, Andra xx

A death a decade later…

10 years today my only, older brother – Arthur, called me. It was early evening. He said mum had been admitted into hospital, (again).

My first response was irritation… Even though I was the first point of contact because I lived the closest, the hospital called my brother EVERY time, even though we corrected this error, every time…

I steeled myself for the usual scenario of first contacting the hospital to find out what ward she was on and then trying to get hold of a member of staff who could tell me what was happening to her.

Then my brother called again to tell me the hospital had been in touch a 2nd time and they said to get there as soon as possible. I was to go to Accident & Emergency and find her in the ‘Resus Room’.

I jumped straight into my car – the hospital was less than 15 minutes away, so at least this time, I would know how to find her and not spend stressful, tearful aeons on the phone, whilst no one picked up the call or I was put on hold, or I had to press redial when I was cut off.

My mother had Parkinsons, so my brother and I were already well used to negotiating her around the medical system, going with her to consultant’s and figuring out her complicated drugs regime, etc.

Then, the hospital visits started to become emergency admissions… one for a suspected stroke, which was actually a psychotic episode, (where she tripped away with the fairies, for a few months)…

Then, as she lost use of her legs, she would forget that she couldn’t walk and throw herself out of bed, to fall on the ground and break her fragile bones…

As I drove to the hospital that evening, my dark sense of humour prevailed… (“Please don’t die today” I thought, I’m far too busy for a bereavement…).

I parked up at the hospital and made my way to A&E to join the queue at Reception. The female receptionist seemed snappy & irritated with all the sick souls in front of me.

Finally it was my turn. I explained I’d been directed to the Resus Room. The receptionist’s face and manner flipped a switch, to what felt like edgy concern. Only at this point did I realise that ‘The Resus Room’ could possibly be some sort of hospital code employed to handle a bereavement.

I tried to keep an open mind as I was ushered into a side room to wait for a doctor to come in and update me.

I can’t remember how long it took before he arrived, with a young looking student in tow, holding a clipboard clutched to his chest.

Neither can I remember everything the doctor then told me, except he kept talking on and on, until I was silently screaming inside, ‘just fucking tell me!” Yet, instead I just waited quietly, until he finally told me that my mother had died.

My first reaction? Deep shock…

Even though, just 3 days before, she had told me that she wanted to die…

The doctor then tried to pass me on to his assistant to talk me through ‘what next.’ I held up my hand to stop him. “I need to call my brother.” They waited uncomfortably as I made the call. I told Arthur, and first we talked of time of death, cause and so on. Then he started crying and we ended the call.

I went through all the ‘next steps’ with the hospital like a polite automaton…

Finally I stepped out of the hospital at around about 9 pm, into the dusky summer light. I didn’t move, but got my mobile out and phoned the 2 people who were closest to my mother in those later years: long time friend – Lyria – whose family treated my grandchild-less mother as an honorary granny; and Melanie, stalwart and vicar’s wife at the church my mother had attended for over 50 years.

My brother had already told Lyria; and Melanie immediately guessed that it was going to be bad news…

I drove home, still in shock…

Lyria came round to sit with me for a while. I was touched by her shared shock / sadness and so grateful she was there. I went to bed, but didn’t sleep…

Then it was another day. Then my brother and I made the arrangements; and eventually the adjustment to becoming orphans in our middle age…

Naturally there were tears… As well as the confusion of emotions which I wandered through, feeling like my insides had been pulled open and exposed to a world to the air.

My friends were amazing and so very supportive. Some of them are no longer close to me now, yet that’s just another of life’s tides and I will always be grateful to every single of them…

My brother and I seemed to be ying and yang… One would be fine, or one upset at a moment in time, but together we did everything we needed, to tidy up the threads of a life no longer lived.

Her celebration day was amazing. It was a blazing hot July day. Lyria’s husband Bob was playing the church organ for the service; and so my Scottish mother left the church to a sweet, mournful version of ‘Loch Lomand’…

So those are my reflections on this day of days 10 years ago. When I embarked on family tree research some years later, I realised her own father (who died before I was born) had passed away on the very same day and month, 54 years earlier. I wonder if that’s simply a coincidence, or if she was thinking of him that day…

Today started with me thinking that during my mother’s life time I felt love for her and hate for her, and just about every other emotion in between…

On this day in the life, I’m choosing the love I felt for her. We began our time together with love and so too we ended it the very same way, transmuted by time and experience.

So that’s my inheritance from my mother today.

Love you mum.” x

The song she was piped out of the church to…
Enjoying my 40th birthday party
Me (at 21) and mum on a sightseeing visit just after my first graduation

My Family Tree & Me: A Piece of My Father’s History – for Father’s Day 2022

Dedicated to my father – Stanley Charles Peachey: 1917 to 1986

I recently started writing about the research I’ve been carrying out on my family tree, with the intention of producing several blogs about the process, whilst interweaving this with stories and connections I’ve encountered along the way.  I started off in a deliberately brief and factual way, but have realised as I go through the process, that what has felt intrinsically right instead, has been for me to open the stories out and take a far deeper dive into them.  With Father’s Day being celebrated today, I decided to post part of the piece, so that I can celebrate some of realisations I’ve had about my own dear Dad.  I am, I have to say, finding the telling of these stories so very selfishly-satisfying…  
~ Sandra Peachey

A Piece of My Father’s History

To selfishly start with me, I made my way into this physical world as the product of an arranged marriage… 

That is: I was created in the orbit of an ideological organisation called ‘Moral Re-Armament’ (shortened to MRA), founded by an American, one Franklin Nathaniel Daniel (aka Frank) Buchman, who started out on his spiritual career as a Lutheran Minister, eventually founding MRA.  In turn, MRA went on to become an international moral and spiritual movement, led by Buchman until his death in 1961.  It’s now known as ‘Initiatives of Change’.

My parents met in the 1950s, both being in the orbit of MRA, for different reasons.  My father – Stanley Peachey, had made contact with the organisation during his army service in the Second World War and had a spiritual conversion, becoming a practising Christian, MRA member and non-smoking teetotaller. 

Many of its members, were ‘guided by God’ and others in their circle, to go on international peace-keeping, philanthropical or industrial assignments.  Some, like my father, practised their philanthropy more locally – he earned his living as a Plasterer, rebuilding the post-war city of Coventry in the centre of England, which had been decimated by German bombs – first with his brother’s building firm, then the City Council.

In researching for this piece, I discovered a piece in the Independent, published in April 2006 and republished on the Initiatives of Change website.  The article is an obituary to Les Dennison who had died that year, having lived and worked in Coventry, where both he and my father were involved with the construction industry and the Trade Union movement, coming into contact as a result.

Les was a Plumber and Trade Union Convener.  In the Second World War he had been captured by the Japanese in Singapore, becoming a prisoner of war (PoW) in the most horrific and inhumane of conditions; then forced to be a building labourer, working along the River Kwai, where the Japanese were constructing bridges between Burma and Thailand.  In doing so, he suffered extreme deprivation and cruelty at the hands of his captors, whilst being witness to the many hundreds of fellow prisoners around him who were dying from beatings, sickness or starvation. 

Over the years I heard his stories many times, including how he had killed one of his Japanese guards.  He hid the body and managed to survive however, becoming one of the small minority who were shipped back to England, alive. On his return to Coventry, having been out of contact with the world for over 3 years, he discovered that his wife – believing she was a widow, had subsequently remarried…

Despite this, he and his wife became a family again, going on to have 4 children.  To earn a living on Civvy Street, he trained as a plumber, also becoming a Communist agitator and Trade Union Convener in charge of 400 men.  Yet as he moved on with his life, he was still bitter and angry both with his wife and the establishment for what had happened to him and the world, seeking to beat both, in retaliation. 

When they met in 1959, Les and my father had several things in common, apart from their Trade Union affiliations. My father had also spent time in Burma during the war, but on military service, rather than as a PoW.  They had both donated their War Gratuity, (or Demob Money (a payment made to those who left military service, to ease their transition back into civilian life)), to the causes which they respectively believed would make the post-war world a better place.  For my father this was MRA, for Les – the Communist Party.   These similarities however, gave them no common ground for respect, since it was my father’s opinion that those who didn’t look up to Les, were scared of him.  Both men believed in revolution.  For my father, a union shop steward at the time, this meant negotiating peaceful, mutually agreed resolutions; for Les it was about shaking up and replacing the establishment.  Not only were they at loggerheads about the way of the world, but my father also confronted Les about the often violent way he treated his family – declaring him to be a dictator at home.  ‘In order to change the world’, my father told him, ‘you first have to change yourself’…

The message hit home and Les began to believe in the possibility of a world free of hatred, fear and greed.  He went on to become a member of MRA, as well as a practising Roman Catholic.  As a result, he mended his marriage and went on to become a positive force for positivity and productivity in the local construction industry. 

Several years later, on a visit to MRA’s world centre in Switzerland, Les had an encounter with a retired Japanese General.  It was an emotive meeting, since this man essentially represented Les’ former captors. On meeting Les, the Japanese former General bowed humbly down before him, declaring: “I don’t ever expect you to forget what happened. I beg you to forgive me and my nation.” [Ref: Michael Henderson’s book ‘Forgiveness: Breaking the Chain of Hate’ (2002)].  This deeply touched Les, despite the underlying bitterness and hatred he still felt towards the Japanese and their country. 

Subsequently he visited Japan a number of times on reconciliation missions, asking for forgiveness for his own hatred in turn, which included his being present at the 50th anniversary commemoration of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Whilst my father was a catalyst for this change, he and Les had an uneasy relationship in the years after they met.  In my memories of MRA gatherings… in amongst the philanthropic bonhomie… I would witness their continued verbal sparring… Yet despite this, the fact that they both made an impact on the world, each in their own way, is undeniable.

Like so many true-life stories therefore, this one has a mixed ending, both in a personal and global sense.  In many ways it feels to me as if the world has continued to be a corrupt and violent one, where self-servers hold the vast majority of power. 

As for my father, his existence was far from perfect – he felt fear and despair so very many times in his life, especially towards its end…  Yet despite this, he has created a legion of legacies, of which I am one.  Decades after his passing, I still inevitably, carry some of his cross – passed along to me via DNA and nurture.  But whilst I live with it, I also choose not to let it define the darker aspects of my psyche and instead to celebrate the powerfully positive inheritances which he bequeathed to me, instead.   I always felt that he believed in me, was proud of me; he also made me laugh and feel cherished, as well as imbuing me with a passion for the creativity of the written word.

Telling this version of my father’s history now, fills me not just with pride, but with love – which, of all his legacies, for me, is the most lasting and joyful one.  Whilst I always knew it, writing about this has articulated for me how his influence and that of MRA have affected my values and the way I live my life.  I’ve now created my own path, making a difference in the ways I can, by creativity and coaching, in doing so to remind people that they have a choice about how they respond to the cards which life has dealt them.  And this, despite my being so beautifully imperfect.  My own father’s daughter.

My Father, watching the world,
sometime in the 1970s

So it goes, from Stanley to Sandra, rippling outwards…

And from Sandra to Stanley – “Happy Father’s Day, dearest Dad.”

Coughs in the Time of Corona

HEADS-UP: I’m not posting this to create a blog storm or debate, so please scroll by on or refrain from commenting if you’re in the mood for that today…

So there I was, unable to sleep at 12.40 this morning, taking pics of the full moon – the June Strawberry Super moon, no less…

I was feeling antsy and couldn’t sleep, despite the fact I’d had a day of chronic sore throat, dizziness and absolute knackeredness…

June’s Super Strawberry Full Moon

The reason would seem to be that I’ve tested positive for Covid…

Not even having had a cold or influenza for years, I’m not enjoying the experience… But I regard myself as fortunate, because if I hadn’t known it was Covid-19, I’d have assumed it was ‘just’ a bout of flu…

Maybe my symptoms are on the mild side because I’m fully vaccinated; have lucky DNA; or it’s a mild strain of the disease…

As I said, I’m not wading into any vaccination debate, because I had my own reasons for getting fully vaccinated, despite the inherent risks.

I’m on day 3 now and didn’t feel like sharing initially because I thought I might be judged for going ‘out on the town’ on Saturday…

So maybe I caught it or maybe I spread it then, or maybe not, who knows???

I’ve deliberately been responsible and sought to reduce risk, avoid crowds and continue with hand washing, gel application and the usual hygiene routine. But then I’ve also met friends, been out for meals, gone to the cinema and hugged…

On Saturday I had the most brilliant day out, letting my hair down; but I don’t see today’s Covid result as the wages of sin, as I may even unwittingly, have had it before then… If I’d had symptoms or a suspicion, I wouldn’t have gone. But I am where I am…

So in one sense I don’t care about the catching – I’m not a victim; but I DO care about the spreading. So I’m staying at home and avoiding people to reduce the risk of passing it on, and not only because I look, smell and feel like a wrung out, dirty, old dish cloth…

The government has dropped its Covid regulations and recommended instead that we exercise caution, but basically get on with our lives, so I cautiously did just that and slowly built up my confidence with the outside world again…

But I’m going to revert to hermit mode again for a while, not least because Covid cases are on a rapid rise again. A fact which I was aware of from a news perspective, but of course has really hit home now I as I cough and dizzily read / catch up on the statistics…

Yesterday at home, I struggled on with work, forgetting to take good care of myself. I felt lousy and seemed to attract every whinging, irritating idiot I know, into my Inbox… And to be fair, maybe they felt the same about me…

Could be it was due to Covid, hay fever, menopause or the full moon, but I just felt ANGRY…

Today feels different… I’m surrendering to what is and I’ve realised that I REALLY need to take care of and put myself FIRST. Interesting how the Universe then coalesced and at the point of that realisation, I suddenly received an unsolicited offer of support…

In the meantime, my littlest cat has just thrown herself at me and is lying across my chest and purring into my face. She’s a sweet, soft weight, her body totally relaxed and melted over my Covid heated corpse.

Whatever happens from here on in, it’s enough for me right now to just inhale her happiness and healing…

A Childless Mother’s Mothering Sunday

It’s Mothering Sunday in the UK today…
So I’m celebrating motherhood.
Even though I don’t have womb babies,
and my own mother died a decade ago.

Yet despite all that, my mothership is still coming in…

I’ve got my first ever Mother’s Day card, from a gorgeous god child…
I’m dining out today with my partner, his mother and his son…
And this week I’ve met someone who connects me back to my own mum in the most natural and miraculous of ways…

Yes, regardless of any Hallmark calendar event, today I remember that I had a mother, who was who she was and partly made me who I am.

I know too, that in many ways, despite DNA, there are still many mothers in me.
And whilst that lone voice in my head might try to tell me that I’m the barren buck who stops here, with no children of ‘my own’, well I own ALL of my children – my god daughters, my many honorary nieces and nephews, my step children, the family I work with and even my cats…

So, here’s to Mothering Sunday for you and me, who ever and what ever we are… for we are all the children of many mothers and many mothers, woman or man, we may be.

A blurry memory of my mother

A Love Letter to a Wedding

For Niza, Liz & Hazel.

Here follows the speech which I gave at my eldest God Daughter’s wedding ceremony yesterday, held near Lusaka, in the African country of Zambia, which she has graciously allowed me to publish and share…

Greetings to you all.

As the pastor says, my name is Sandra, and I’m here as God Mother of the bride Elizabeth, and together with the bride’s mother, have travelled from England to Zambia, with other cherished family and friends: to stand, sit and celebrate with you all today, for the most precious of reasons. That being the joining of a man and a woman in marriage – cementing their family ties, with the coming together of their clans from across the globe, not forgetting of course, one very special little lady – Hazel Yande.

My speech

And Hazel here, is made of Niza and Elizabeth, so let me tell you a little of what that means….

I’ll start with Liz, for Liz I’ve known the longest, since before she was born in fact. Now the name Elizabeth has a biblical beginning, from the Hebrew, Elisheva (אֱלִישֶׁבַע), meaning “Gift of God.” And Liz really is a gift in so many ways, to those that know and love her, and in the work that she does, across the world and for the world, from Zambia, to Geneva. And, I truly have to say Liz, not just today, as the beautiful bride, but that every single day, you make us all so very proud.

Now as for Niza, his name means “I have arrived” in the Bemba tongue, a name of bounty, goodness and quiet strength. Now I don’t know this man as well as this woman, as yet… But what I do know I like a lot, not that this really signifies, for Liz and Niza have chosen each other and that the only really important thing.

So now to their daughter, Hazel, which is a nature name, literally ‘belonging to the place of the Hazelnut tree’. It derives from the Old English word, hæsel and is also a colour, which is a beautiful blend of green, gold and brown.

For me, today, Hazel doesn’t belong to that tree, she IS the tree, growing towards the sun, sheltered by her family and giving the grace of her shade and fruit, in so very many ways. And did you know that her middle name Yande means “Joy”? Well of course it does, for so she is!

Hazel Yande

So that’s what their names signify, telling some of the story of who they are, where they come from and so naturally, where they’re going to.

And today we all come together to formalise, legalise and rejoice in this union; this joining of man and woman, born of two different continents.

So often in history and geology we’ve been told that when continents collide, wars and earthquakes happen. And we know the way of the world. Yet isn’t it also a truth that when continents collude, that most divine of occurrences, a Hazel will happen…

And this most cherished child here, born of 2 continents, she isn’t a bridge between 2 wonderful people, their cultures and families. No – she is a strong, living tree with roots running down into the soil of two lands, anchoring the world firmly and holding us all in the branches of that tree, with her love, joy and infectious laughter.

The ceremony

Have you HEARD Hazel laugh? To hear this gorgeous girl giggle, well it feels like freedom – the sweetest weightlessness, as time stops and you share in that gorgeous moment of total happy abandon to the joy she feels and expresses, so delightfully and completely.

And here today, as we are all part of this tree, along it’s different yet united branches, we’re all held in the sunshine and storms of life, yet we’ll all continue to grow, together.

And these 3 have pledged to grow together as a family, to share their destiny and shine a light on the future.

And I can see many wonderful futures, for them all, yet for today I say: to Niza, Liz and Hazel I wish you a long, blessed and happy marriage, full of tolerance, harmony and an abundance of love.

To the new Lupambo family!

Time to Respair…

Thanks to Lexicographer Susie Dent, I’ve just discovered the word “respair”, which the Oxford English Dictionary describes as “the return of hope after a period of despair”

How gorgeously apt: For a new year after the strange sequences of the last 2 years… And for me, still in the grip of anxiety, yet optimistic that I now have good periods, sometimes whole days, when the coil inside me unwinds… And then calmness and clarity soften my thoughts and emotions.

Over the quiet days of Christmas and New Year, after so, so, long, I finally started to really relax and even had the luxury of boredom…

But then January wore on and the calls of duty and guilt started to spike into my brain. “I have RESPONSIBILITIES, things I MUST do, my absence is impacting negatively on others”, the script in my head screamed… Then my brain would freeze… And I would turn to the wall to cry, scream and rant. And then Cortisol (the stress hormone) was in my blood stream, and I was back in an animal fight or flight feeling, the coil of anxiety quickly wound tightly, again…

The truth is, that I have a short emotional fuse at the moment and things that may have simply irritated me just a wee while ago, now bundle up into a huge ball of stress in my psyche. I’m also experiencing Rhinitis, which means I have constant headaches and exhaustion… oh blah, blah, flipping blah…

But this is NOT a pity post. I’m proud that after my third such meltdown this week, I said to myself: “Stop this! This isn’t a resourceful state to be in. If you stop now, the Cortisol will dissipate more quickly from your system and you can manage this in hours, rather than days.” Then I stopped crying, wiped the tears off my face, sniffed the snot away and thought about what I needed to do next.

But the ‘Stop it Now’ thought came after a session with my life coach, who got me to re-evaluate some of my most negative current thought patterns. And I had a week where I finally made progress and appointments and appraisals for MYSELF and for my health. Not for my work or other people, but for my own SELF CARE. Care that I am now prioritising, because in order to ‘do’ and to give, I need to ‘be’ and receive.

It irritates me in one sense that as a coach, I had to go to another coach to get positive, inciteful questions that gave me the insights which made a massive difference to my healing. This included making the decision about needing to take more time ‘off’, which quite frankly, I was bricking… But it is what it is and so I decided that the responsibility was ultimately for myself. For this I have wanted support and I have certainly found coaching to be far more effective than counselling during this time. So it has to be said that my appreciation for this process is far greater than my irritation.

But also, my life isn’t ALL about anxiety – there are so many things to celebrate… I lay on my sanitised mat in a yoga class, relaxing every part of my body and releasing my mind. I finally remembered to meditate. Last night I cooked the most delicious meal for myself and relished every single bite of it. A friend called me in the week, because she was “worried” about me. I got some intriguing news that put a smile on my face. Watching TV, I often nestled into my boyfriend’s shoulder and every now and again he squeezed my hand… And life happens to other people and I get to worry about and / or support them, too.

Then, as the bountiful icing on the beautiful cupcake of life, I got a gorgeous word dropped into my consciousness and it chimed a truth to me…

So it’s time to respair my body and soul, by a myriad of methods. This includes giving myself the gift of time and not hiding away from anything that may trigger me, but instead to choose acceptance and consider the alternatives. And to think about how to strike the right balance in my life, instead of falling off the scales.

And maybe, you and I both, will feel ‘confelicity’, (another archaic word lost to our everyday ways) – which means the ‘joy in another person’s happiness’???

PS: For more about Susie Dent and her talent for words, follow this link to a recent article in The Guardian newspaper…

2021 Out, 2022 In…

Another year in this life has been lived…

A year of love, tears, trials and triumphs.
With Covid still here, hovering, attacking, omnipresent…
And anxiety alighted, to tell me that there is danger, physically and mentally… but of what, I’m still not sure…
And yet there was also, so often, laughter, enlightenment, chatter, family, friends, sunshine, sweetness and serenity.

This previous spinster of the parish, now gained significant others – a partner and his family, as we weaved our way through new chaos and connection.
In this year there have been holidays and hell; confusion and clarity… all of life’s mixed bag and more…

And now 2022 is coming to an end, whilst another awaits…
So… for 2022 I have no demands or resolutions, but I WILL ask questions…
How should I be? How can I help me, to help you, to the greater good?

As we meet another year, I wish you faith, fearlessness and fun;
that all your positive plans come to fruition;
and
that you listen, to what ever your speaking soul tells you.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Choosing Your Christmas

Despite my anxiety of late, I went to bed last night, content. And I lay there counting my blessings, reciting all the people, things and phenomena I was grateful for. In my head I said I was grateful for a warm bed on a cold night, for a full belly, for the people that are close to me, for my car, my cat and so many other things.

I woke up again today with a smile and a stretch, pulling open the curtains on a grey day and greeted the world outside my window.

Slowly I came to, until my cat yelled outside my door that she wanted fuss and breakfast.

I followed her downstairs, feeling the knot of anxiety in my stomach slowly tightening with each step down, as I went to face the day.

It would have been too harsh to my senses to flick on the switches of my workaday lights, so I wandered round and turned on my Christmas lights instead, to feed off their soft glow and to slowly absorb what is next today…

I have some dread about what’s ahead, but I shall tread carefully and take one small step at a time.

I know now I am having some times of calm, times when the tight knot of anxiety unravels within me. I know too that it comes back – flexes and fluxes, trying to take me over. I accept that and yet I ask my fear to teach me, not to diminish me. Humbly, I know there are lessons still to be learnt and choices to be made.

But for now I simply choose to breath… out and in…

I trust implicitly that the rest of what ever needs to happen, as the day unfurls, will just BE…

Right now, I need to keep it simple. Sit with the soft light and listen to my cat purr.

Christmas has crept up on me, softly, and I am quietly embracing it.

And that is me right now. But know that for YOU, what ever the week ahead or the year or minute may or may not have in store for you, that this is YOUR Christmas, to do with what you will or no, in your heart or head.

Maybe you will celebrate, maybe be alone, maybe you don’t or won’t celebrate Christmas – but that’s OK, it’s still YOURS, whatever shape or sense it has. So whatever that is, I wish you well. I wish you inner truth, peace and clarity, but mostly I wish you CHOICE.

When The Solstice is Telling Me to Stop

Dwindling daylight has shrunk to shortest day.
And tomorrow light lengthens again, as the sunshine starts to shine for a little longer – partnering in its’ ever transitioning cycles with the moon.
It’s time to turn towards sunlight and Spring again, as well as to turn over the fallen leaves of autumn, and sweep them away from my dim winter doorstep.
MY Winter though, actually began some months ago…
And whilst I wanted to keep the darkness quiet and work through it, that meant that I was feeling it, but not admitting to it.
One day in the early hours of a May morning, I woke up in panic, breathing hard and feeling terrified. My thoughts were spinning and tumbling, but I rationalised that it was a simple nightmare and the feelings would dissipate with the dawn.
But when I woke again, I felt a knot of anxiety at my core. My body felt flooded with Cortisol. And this stayed with me, over days and weeks – always, always that tight knot of anxiety, the feeling of being in fight or flight mode inside, no matter what I was doing on the outside.
Thinking I was simply stressed and needed a rest, I booked myself a spa break, thinking I either needed to be there or in a padded cell… But to my puzzlement, rest and pampering were not the cure – I still felt that anxiety at my core.
So I sought support. Talked to my GP, and saw a gynaecologist – as I believed menopause might be the cause and he tested me and agreed.
To me you see, it felt like a physical, rather than mental health issue, but still I did what the medicos said and sat with a counsellor, on the phone, talking it out. Whilst it felt good to vent, I found the process unfulfilling… It just wasn’t getting to the heart of what ever the matter was, or revealing anything I didn’t already know about myself and my life.
Yet things improved, time moved on, and the knot unraveled.
Then life started to happen… bereavement, trauma, stress, crisis, pain, surgery, illness…
Then to compound it all, my car broke down, and so did I. Driving home one evening, I stopped at traffic lights and my car stopped too. So I turned on the Hazard lights and started to sob with self pity and roar with indignant anger that this had happened to me. Passers by and police asked me if I was alright as they pushed my car to a side street, then left me to call for help, as the tears eventually subsided.
Well, help came, eventually. I called breakdown assistance, and waited 3 hours for them to cart my car away to a garage. And then my boyfriend turned up with a hat and mince-pies, to warm me up, cheer me up and drive me home.
And whilst all ended well, the knot of anxiety had returned, wound tightly within and this time I just could NOT unravel it.
Still though, I carried on with my life, as it was. I felt anxious and stressed, but this wasn’t ALL I was, I worked, loved, laughed, supported and smiled, too.
I talked to my loved ones, I went back to the doctor. I found a new life coach.
Yet life kept happening, there was more stress, and more to do, in every part of my life, with deadlines looming and decisions to be made.
But then you know, I’m ‘self aware’, a life coach, so I knew what was going on and what to do about it. Only I DIDN’T do it… Instead of facing up to it, I backed away from it, switching from thinking to doing, to block out the feeling. My survival it seemed, depended on hard work and getting things done – despite anxiety, illness and exhaustion. In response my brain shut down it’s consciousness, so I worked like an automaton. But I also stopped exercising, eating well, and writing – and so many of other things that fill me up, nurture me, and engender a sense of contentment. Instead, I continued to toil, as I was wading through mental treacle, feeling indecisive, slow and ineffective…
And Christmas was around the corner, or rather Chris-STRESS, with a 1001 ‘to does’ needing to be ticked off a long list, on top of everything else I was not doing or doing badly…

Until I just HAD to stop.

Because the panic attacks had come back and the anxiety was now a constant screaming pain in my gut.

So I started to confess my dirty, not so little secret – that the ditzy, positive, capable person that so many relied upon, had crashed and burnt.
And whilst I believe in openness and honesty, when people asked me how I was, I lied and said “I’m good”, fearing the consequences of revealing my ‘weaknesses’ and being a failure. It was a way in which I could exert some control over the chaos I found myself in, when in fact, it was actually covering up a LACK of control…
But then my doctor said ‘enough’. I had tried to keep all the plates in my life spinning, but instead they were crashing to the floor. But now someone had validated that I HAD to stop. And I’d known that for some time, but filed it away under ‘want’ rather than necessity, at the back of my brain. Looking back, I realise, that I wouldn’t actually stop, until someone else had given me permission…
So now, a few days later, I’ve slowed right down now, but not stopped as yet… I’m winding down to that and to Christmas. Instead of going cold (Christmas) turkey, I have been easing myself in, making changes, asking for help and having faith that all will work out as it should.
And as for Christmas, it will still happen – even if I only had the energy to put up one tree this year, the presents aren’t perfect and fewer cards have been sent. My health and happiness is far more important than any of these things. My gift to myself is the choice of a sweet and slow Christmas, with those I love, taking care of myself first and foremost, so I can be at my best for all the rest…
And whilst the doctor rubber stamped the stopping, it’s down to me now – to put myself first. To love who I am, instead of hating what I think and do. To give myself permission to do less, so that I get more (out of life). Deciding to let the world take care of ITself, whilst I take care of MYself. And not least, asking those around me for understanding and support.
The irony is that I have preached self care and self love for a long time now, exhorting others to ‘put the oxygen mask’ on themselves first, but still… here I am… So, as the bible says, ‘physician heal thyself.’ Be this physical or mental, unhealed trauma, hormonal or causal, I need to stop doing now and start BEING.
I write this not for sympathy or pity, because I know that I have so much to be thankful for in my life. This life is a gift and I want to make the most of every precious moment of it.
And to do that, I wanted to confess, to stop pretending to everyone and anyone about what is going on for me. And by being beautifully selfish about that, I want anyone going through anything similar at this moment in time, to give them self the permission to stop, too.
Please know that you CAN pause, rest and re-evaluate. What ever is going on for you, or your brain, sense of duty or someone else is trying to tell you.
Know that this is the way of life – Winter Solstice is giving way, slowly, to Spring. Nature is following its course, so that after all the darkness and cold, all is ready to be reborn and grow upwards, towards the sun. And as a creature who lives under that sun, it is now your time to do that too.
And where ever life finds you right now, may sweet solstice blessings be upon you, xx