A Valentine in the Time of Corona

So it’s 14 February 2021. That Hallmarked calendar day of Cupid…

And it’s 8 years since I published a book about the multi-faceted feelings and phenomena of love.

At that point in my life I’d been single for a year. The year before THAT I’d manifested a dream man, along with a whirlwind romance, marriage proposal and engagement ring.

But then the man changed his mind and that was that. Cupid dropped his quiver of arrows and shot a canon ball through my heart instead…

So I had to hurt and lick my wounds and carry on. To hide and heal and find myself.

As part of that process I felt compelled to challenge myself to be the writer I knew I had been born to be. And in thinking about how I would accomplish this, the idea to write about LOVE hit me like a thunderbolt. And not only of love like the coupledom I had lost, but in all of its’ vast and glorious complexity, weaving in and out of the multi-coloured strands of my life.

So I set out to explore love, to seek it and see it. And where ever I sought it, I found it. And as I did, I wrote it all down. It was a cathartic, joyful and expansive experience. And just like that I had written my first published book, ‘Peachey Letters.’

I can’t tell you that I’ve lived happily ever after since that time. In truth there IS no happy ending. I’ve carried on with my life. I tarried with romance again, but it was halting and shifting. And so I’ve climbed the mountains of my life, then ran down into the valleys, with family and friends, and, so often, on my own.

And I thought to myself, ‘it’s better this way. I have my OWN way, all the time.’ There will be no more heartaches or complications for me, instead I’m free, in every way, to make my own choices, without compromise. And after so many years of being this Miss, I decided, with graceful acceptance, that I couldn’t be anything other than on my own.

As I knew that love was all around and within me, I lived without regret. I didn’t need it in one romantic dimension, but to experience it in every way – whether sometimes dark and sometimes diaphanous in form.

Then COVID came and lockdown landed.

At times I felt isolated, then at others a happy hermit. And I promised myself that if someone passed through my thoughts, I’d reach out to and check in on them. In doing so I had every shade of response that can be imagined, from reconnected joy, to nonchalant indifference.

But there was an exception… One person I thought of, but wouldn’t reach out to. Someone I’d cared for in the years in between writing my book and the present day. Sadly it hadn’t worked out for us. So I could only imagine, after more years had passed, that he had moved on, would have found love. Would not want to reconnect. I was afraid of going there.

Throughout this curious time of Corona, my life continued to ebb and flow. I had tragedies, triumphs and 1000s of daily transactions.

Then one day I discovered a text I hadn’t read. It had been sent months before, but I’d only just received it, on an old device I had just happened to turn on. And it was from the very person I’d thought about, but avoided…

Then, to my surprise, after much time, many texts, walks and talks had passed, I became someone’s Valentine again, with red roses and romantic declarations.

That’s been just gorgeous. And yet, you know, it’s a day in the life, not my whole life. I feel blessed to be able to celebrate love in that way again, to add it into the mix of every conversation, realisation and transaction that goes on in my life. Because when I look for it, in every person, situation or station, all coming together in the fabric of my consciousness, love is always there.

So if you’re reading this, love could mean everything or nothing to you. You could be feeling full of it or sore for the lack of it. But know, whatever your ‘status’, that you ARE love, in so many ways: YOUR ways. You deserve love. To give and receive it. To know it is within you and around you, in everything. Red roses are truly beautiful, yet a kind word, a smile, or an act of thoughtfulness are precious acts of love beyond price, too.

And since you are all LOVE, then finally and naturally, it’s time to wish you a very Happy Valentines Day x ❤ x

Mud in the Time of Corona

As the UK lockdown continues, my mind occasionally wanders past how my life is structured right now. It lingers over those things I used to take for granted, like hugs, eating out or booking a holiday. So I happily lose myself in dreams and schemes, choosing to start enjoying all the future possibilities, now…

But then I take a breath to think about who and where I am today… And to contemplate how to make the most of this time of Corona… Because this moment in time is what I have… Yes, I also have memories of the past and plans for the future; but NOW is where I am, and that makes it a commodity precious beyond measure.

Look – I admit I’m not some modern day Pollyanna who has cheerfully skipped through this past year. Believe you me, this time of Corona has most definitely had its tears and traumas. There have been adjustments made: up, down and sideways… But you know, I’ve GAINED from it too in many ways. So I’ll continue to count my Corona blessings, and be grateful for all the good things in my world right now.

One such is that I meet precious people in my life, one on one, for walks. As a stalwart rambler I’ve followed navigators’ and orienteers’ routes in groups, for decades. But NOW, more often than not, I have to settle on starting points and map out my OWN walks.

The routes get me (and my walking companion de jour) invariably from A to B and back to A again. Sometimes we get lost or have to ponder the way ahead because the route isn’t clear.

And in the midst of a wet winter, currently we are often encountering mud to a level which merits the label of ‘quagmire’: nasty, deep, dirty, sloppy stuff which sucks at your boots; threatening to slip you up and suck you in. Maybe this is just like life at the moment…

Yesterday I was slogging through a particularly long and evil stretch of the stuff. As a confident rambler I chose to power ahead, splash through and get as quickly back on to dry land as possible. My companion chose to take their time and pick their way through more slowly.

And you know what..? Neither approach was better / worse and got us back onto solid ground. Yet both of us put one foot in front of the other and got to the same place.

So I believe we can find a way that works for us. We can start by counting our blessings and first focussing on those. Then figure the route out, one step at a time – getting to where we want to be, come mud or sunshine.

Me… powering ahead through the mud

A Love Letter to 2020

Dear Year,

So… the year of our Lord 2020… What can I say to you as the clock ticks down to your final midnight..?

You have been a year like no other… One of chaos, calumny and confusion, with COVID as the causal link in a seemingly endless chain of catastrophes.

This time last year, Coronavirus was a mere idea… the slightest of sniffles… but now, it has been a cold harbinger of deathly change, born on droplets of disease and disarray.

2020 has been shaped by its spectre and every person who has been battered or caressed by it, has their own anthology of pestilence or nonchalance, with such tales to tell, whether tall or small.

For me, the experience has been defining – bringing in new awareness on waves of tears and bravado, as I have faced then weathered the storm and sunshine of another year in the life.Your gifts to me 2020, are manifold: I have laughed, loved and learnt. I sang, spun and danced. I read, talked and thought. I walked for many miles in sun and rain. I started to run – first wheezily, then easily, when I could begin to exhale confidently. I have cried, raged and despaired. I have questioned, listened and evolved.I have sat in solitary darkness, mired in a wet and muddy gutter of desolation, crying on my feet, then turning my head back up to the stars, with their infinite horizons of iridescent possibility.

I have both fucked up and triumphed. I have hampered and helped. I have been shaken and scared, just as much as I have been strong, honest and bold. I have been a contrary creature of opposing features – knee jerking my way to emotional conclusions; then breathing in and asking the Universe and myself a series of heart and head bending questions. And in doing so, turning my in-grown notion of failure – hard-wired into the matrix of my DNA – into steps towards success. So it was that I constantly coached myself to clarity – listening intently; trusting that intrinsically I knew and had always known what the answers were. So it was all taken care of. As I cared – in every way that can possibly be imagined.

You, dear year, have given me a change of pace, a clearing of head space and the chance to change. So I will accept the angst and anomalies, then lovingly let them go. I shall cherish the gifts you have given me, 2020, giving gratitude for them all: For the expansion of my psyche; for my family and friends; for my profession and passion; for all I cherish and hold dear; for my creativity and for all the love that has flowed out of me, into me and surrounds me.

So ultimately 2020, I will let you go gracefully – moving beyond you, but taking a little of you with me as I go.

Thank you and farewell.
S xx

A COVID Christmas Chronicle

As I walk, talk and sleep out here in the conscious world of toil and transaction, I’m getting myself ready for a cosy COVID Christmas…

I’ve planned, shopped, wrapped and written. Then danced around the kitchen, singing along to decades old Christmas hits, slurping snow ball cocktails, as I’ve made mince pies, mulled wine and transformed myself into a veritable Christmas Goddess.

Yet despite my machinations and preparations, most of my Christmas plans have shimmered and evaporated into the misty winter air as the spectre of COVID has slammed down port cullis’s, borders and even, temporarily, small parts of my heart.

But for all that, now it’s Christmas Eve, Christmas has settled into that same cold heart, cossetting me into a cosy blanket of familiarity and I’m feeling it, right to my marrow…

So on the inside all is Christmas sweetness, but on the outside, what a difference a year makes…

You see I have a happy, Ground Hog routine sort of festive season, which has changed little over decades. And as such, I can tell you almost exactly where I would usually be right at this point in the day / proceedings and how it would all play out from here until to the end of Boxing Day. It starts with a family birthday and proceeds through set stages of meals, activities, until another Christmas has passed and is in the past. And I play my part in this, happily sleep walking my way through, sonambulant in the certainty of the fundamental tenets of my life and my kin.

Of course COVID-19 has now put paid to all that. As we have progressed through this year of our lord 2020, the United Kingdom government, headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has made successive announcements of ‘Guidelines’: a raft of measures and actions, described by a whole new language lexicon, including ‘lock down’, ‘furlough’, ‘self-isolation’, and ‘shielding’, all ending in ‘tiers’. This new dire dictionary defining and describing parameters created to keep people apart.

What ever your take on the pandemic – where it sprang from; if it came about by happenstance or was deliberately set upon our world for a variety of nefarious reasons: the reason why we are being kept apart is that we reduce the risk of passing on this disease from one to another. And whilst most of us would feel its effects like a bout of flu, many more, with other ‘underlying medical issues’ would succumb seriously and fill our hospitals to a capacity they cannot currently cope with.

So my own world has fluxed and flexed as the year has gone on, as I’ve gone from nonchalence, to annoyance, to despair, to resignation and acceptance. And still there are more stages to go through… On Saturday 19 December 2020, the Prime Minister announced the latest set of measures designed to combat the latest increases in infection rate and several highly infectious variants of the virus.

With his words suddenly my carefully constructed Christmas crumbled into the carpet and I cried. The latest measures meant that my Ground Hog Christmas wasn’t going to happen. That I couldn’t be with my family, that I couldn’t celebrate with my friends. That everything was turned on its head.

Plans made had to be changed, and so there were phone calls with differing levels of emotion and action in response, with family, with friends, and various cohorts. And then, after thinking through a panopoly of options, we all settled on what we were going to do in this brave new, COVID altered world.

So right at this minute on Christmas Eve, normally I would be driving, onto my way to a birthday meal in a special restaurant – hungry and happy, ready to settle into the next step of my festive routine. Yet instead, here I am on my solitary sofa, writing for me and for you. This afternoon, instead of loading up my car with food and gifts, I went for a run. That in itself, I reflected as I pounded the paths and rounded the fields around my home, was truly weird. A year to the day, I could never have imagined that I would be RUNNING!

COVID has caused this – sent my out of my Corona cave to work out / run out my kinks and cares, to reinvent my middle aged self as an athlete – a label which I still can’t wear without a smug sort of smirk, in that moment just before I get on and go for it.

And running isn’t the only thing COVID has given to me – I have had time to pause and ponder my life, focus on my writing and reach out to people not spoken to in years, yet still holding a place in my memory and heart.

Yet I can’t deny either that it has taken its toll on so many. Having snatched and ended so many lives, isolated people and been a long mental stretch of successive hurdles to jump and negotiate.

But for me, today, in this altered state of Christmas consciousness, I have to choose. And that was bought home for me when I went on a walk several days ago. Whilst running is most definitely and solitarily for me; walking is a gorgeous group activity, where I will meet and greet those in my orbit and we will walk out or around or along; pacing together, talking, laughing, reflecting – making the most of nature and each other, in our strangely straitened circumstances. Walking has been my balm, my place of coming together. It has expanded my horizons, added to my step count and kept me sane.

On this particular walk it was raining and still we stepped out, my companion and me. Ahead of us I saw sunshine and remarked that this would invariably create a rainbow. And minutes after the words had left my mouth, there it was: a double bowed beauty, a major miraculous spectacle of glory and colour. I stopped. I stared. I felt its’ magnificence. And in doing so, I realised that arching over my head was a powerful metaphor for what I was going through.

The rainbow represented the unity of the rain meeting the sun. It needed both to exist. It was filtered through a grey sky and the rain falling down from it. It manifested because the sun shone through the rain to create an arched kaleidoscope of colour over our heads.

So now this metaphor represents my current choices to me. As a result I stopped crying and set out my Christmas stall. I recalibrated my arrangements and re-arranged my heart. I stopped thinking about what had been taken away from me and focussed on what, in all reality, I have. And when I think of my life in those terms, it turns out that I have a lot. I can be grateful for so much. If I miss my family and friends, well that’s because I have them to miss. I have functioning legs that can take me out to walk and talk with them. Those same legs also turned me into a runner.

As has happened so many times over these last mad months, I’m deciding to control the things I can and accept the things that I can’t. I will play my part and I will change my Christmas this year, so that there are many more Christmases to come when I can be with my family, friends and who knows who else, in those fast forgotten ways I had always taken for granted only a few short months ago. For now, I will stay safe to keep the ones I love and care about the most, safe too.

So here I am, content with my changed Christmas and surrendering to it gracefully. Easing into it now, without expectation. Having prepared for it, I can now let it unfurl as it will, breathing into it and living each moment as occurs, in all its guts and glory.

And that is Christmas for me, today. And I wish you joy of it too. As you transmute into your Christmas, despite this years differences, my wish for you is to see the rainbows too.

A blogger & and a rainbow

Happy Christmas, from a Rainbow Believer xx

Tiers in the Time of Corona

Truthfully… I cried as I listened to the Tier 4 announcement on Saturday…

Basically, here in England, the rules for COVID safety have tightened yet again…

Basically it has buggered up my carefully co-ordinated Christmas plans.

I don’t get to be where I want to be, when I want to be and with who…

Yet after crying, I recalibrated. I pondered, I conferred, I juggled…

And it’s not all sorted yet.

But then today, I went out walking in the rain… And that, as it turned out, wasn’t a pain…

Right now I’m controlling what I’m able to, and choosing to do what I can with what I’ve got.

I can walk, and so can most of the people I cherish in my life. So we meet and talk, and laugh and cry together, one step at a time…

And the rain didn’t stop us either walking or talking today, except for the moment when we stopped and looked at the rainbow which curved over us in the grey, arching sky.

Before the rainbow appeared, I looked for it… When it shone on me, I lived with it in that moment of incandescent beauty and awe.

I’m still, in all honesty, a little ‘at sea’ about all the what’s and how’s over this coming week, but I’m also choosing what I see, and on this day, it was the magic of a rainbow.

Today’s rainbow

Running in the Time of Corona… The Sequel…

At the start of lockdown 1.0, to my huge surprise, I took up running…

I had pretty much loathed it as a form of exercise until that point, but my body & brain were telling me they wanted a new challenge and that this was the perfect one. So I followed my instinct & dutifully downloaded the Couch to 5K App.

It wasn’t a linear track to the point where I graduated some months later, and I never reached a 5K distance, but in the meantime had busted through a number of physical and mental hurdles about being a woman in her 50s, who is still willing to break her boundaries and challenge her sense of body & self.

Then in August, after a random accident not related to running, I instinctively & immediately knew from the throbbing pain, that I had probably done some serious damage. Sure enough, an X-ray revealed a fractured ankle.

As I hobbled about in a support boot, I cursed myself initially, then realised that I simply had to adjust and navigate my way through the next few steps.

Swimming and yoga were a god send. And eventually the boot gave way to an ankle support and I tested my ankle out slowly – stiff, sore and achey at first, on longer and longer walks.

With no follow up health care, my body set to healing the break, as I nurtured it with supplements, practised online physio, etc. For all that, it seemed to take a torturously long time for the swelling to go down and the stiffness / aching to cease.

Meanwhile I’d been racking up my walking miles, putting some prodigious paces in, as my ankle slowly got stronger.

In the past few weeks I began to feel ready to run again and today, was clearly the day, for many reasons, to pull on my gear, strap up the ankle and test my boundaries again…

I set myself a 30 minute interval running goal, not bothering about pace or distance, but simply to get a feel for where I was. I ran and walked as the sun began to drop, at my own pace, pushing myself a little past my comfort, and it felt really good.

Now I’ll see how this sits with my body and gently work through building up speed and stamina once again.

And so, for today it’s enough for me to pat myself on the back for finally having taken those next few steps…

Lockdown Lessons in the Time of Corona

I was looking forward to the end of lockdown 2.0…

I had made plans… imagining meals, banter, laughter and filling myself up with family, friends, flirting and fun, as I finally burst out of my calm COVID cave…

I had some big life goals coming to fruition too… Opportunities bloomed. And unexpectedly, some hidden parts of my heart and past came calling, asking to be healed and reviewed… All in all, the Universe was sweetly aligning…

THEN came the realisation that the transition to Tier 3 would scupper my day dreams, which in seconds, had suddenly dissipated into dust.

And my big life plans… they all had to be put on hold…

After I heard the announcement for the new measures, I cried for nearly an hour… Feeling as if the rope I’d been hanging onto, was rapidly running out, burning my hands as I desperately tried to hang on to its’ rough, tattered strands…

Now the world crowded into my brain. I was beset by anxiety and a cloud of misery hovered over my head…

Bloody COVID… Bloody tier system… Boo bloody hoo…

So I had to turn away from the noisy exterior world and the even louder traffic rumbling around my brain…

I chose to tune in, instead. I listened to my intuition – the pure part of my soul that senses with glorious clarity what is and what will be. I journaled and walked and worked it out.

As a result I realised I’d been in reactive mode for so very long. Then… just when I thought I had a route out, the road map was rudely snatched out of my hands…

But now I had paused and put the work in, my instincts told me what had to happen next. It felt liberating, loving and just the way it needed to be…

And since those realisations dawned on me, life still has its chaffing challenges, and it’s not all neatly aligned, but now I have faith, not fear. I also have a new set of plans – recalibrated with grace rather than grumpiness…

So today that meant going for a walk with my 2 oldest friends, accompanied by a daft dog, all of us together again at last…

I drove to meet them, happy and excited. We walked through a crisp and sunny winters day, chattering away. And at the end of it I felt so grateful – appreciating the simplest of feats, that of putting our feet one in front of the other. We 3 took steps which moved us in the same direction – all of us in our circle of familiarity and friendship, not cowering from COVID, but coming together to navigate it…

Then the sun and the temperature dropped and we stopped, bumping elbows, then heading away in 3 different directions…

And so it was, on this day of days, that I drove home with a smile on my lips. I felt beautifully blessed, having lived in each moment and savoured each one. And maybe we 3 were socially distanced, yet regardless, we were all distinctly happy.

Three lasses & a dog, coming out of lockdown

It’s OK, not to be OK

So… I was telling someone last week that I was getting stressed trying to get a myriad of tasks completed before my holiday.

“YOU get stressed?!” came the response. Well YES as it happens, I do

I work on managing it, I try not to take it out on other people… But yes, I DO get tense and anxious…

Yet I’m fortunate… I’m on holiday right now and have so many other things in my life to be thankful for, too…

I’m sightseeing, spending time with friends, and today I’ve been soaking in a spa. It’s freedom and bliss.

So basically, I’m blessed.

And yet…

During these days, as in other days of my life, I’m not experiencing entire, unexpurgated joy…

Yesterday I felt really ill, low and thoroughly miserable. I had a deep sense of isolation and felt desperately lonely.

I stayed indoors and span the wheels of my work life. Then I spent hours and hours working on my novel – usually my core centre of contentment, but now a chore…

I was shocked, all things considered, that I was feeling so comprehensively crap.

But then I realised that I just had to let the darkness be… To have its dominion; to air it and allow it.

You see, just lately I’ve been running on anxiety… Impelled / fuelled by duty and crisis. Though this, it’s now clear, was at a surface level. The darkness was beneath and so, it broke through, like it needed to do.

And when I recognised this, I.just.let.it. I listened to it. I was frustrated and angry. I was grieving. I felt like a failure. I went with it and wallowed in it.

Because it’s OK not to be OK.

And eventually the darkness dissipated.

So today my adventures continue and I’m having a spa day, with afternoon tea. A set of external circumstances which I desire and enjoy…

I don’t want another day like yesterday, but because I didn’t fight the darkness then, today I have more clarity. Decisions have been made and bridges crossed.

And now a new day has dawned, I have to say that the world still isn’t perfect and nor am I – but neither are any less brilliant or beautiful for all that.

Self Forgiveness ~ A poetic prayer

FORGIVENESS PRAYER

~ Adapted by me, from the original, by Jonita D’Souza

I forgive myself
for having made those mistakes.
Had I known better,
I would have chosen differently.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for having felt hurt when I didn’t feel loved and wanted.
They never promised me they would, so it was just my unmet expectations.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for believing them when they said I’m unworthy.
They didn’t see my light and spoke out of their own shadows.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for feeling scared and getting hurt when they acted out their anger.
I know now it was not about me – it was their own inability to cope with life.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for the suffering when I felt I didn’t belong.
It made me journey inwards and find my spirit, my true home.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for feeling let down.
They did what they believed was right – my hurt came from what I expected of them.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for having believed that my love is worthless.
My love is precious – but they were too hurt to open up to it.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for having learnt not to love myself.
I accepted it was right not to care about myself, but now I know who I am.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for accepting things that were directed against me.
They were just events that took place because the doers were not happy with their life.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for having given my power away and letting them decide for me.
I felt fear or didn’t know better, but now I’m ready to learn.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for having expressed hurtful judgements of myself, which made me judge others too.
I’ve finally tasted the sweetness of love over the bitterness of the (self) critique-poison.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
for believing I’m unable, I’m small, I don’t count.
I allow myself to acknowledge the truth that I have gifts and I’m worthy.
So I forgive myself.

I forgive myself
that it took me so long to learn to forgive, again.
But I was willing to learn, again.
So now I forgive and respect myself more and more, always.

With huge thanks and absolute credit – in every way, to the original author: http://jonitadsouza.com/a-prayer-for-forgiveness/

Poem to a Departed Pet

LIFE AFTER LOSING GEORGE…
Myself and the remaining pride of cats are adjusting…
~ I’m writing poetry…
~ My self contained, independent black teddy bear of a Tom cat – Taz has turned in to a constant fuss bucket…
~ Whereas my sweet, noisy, attention seeking little Miss – Sophia, has largely withdrawn (but gave me a lovely long cuddle this evening before disappearing off to hide again).
I’m so glad of them ❤

I carry my aching heart invisibly. An icicle of pain at its core. But still it will spill, and so the ice melts from my eyes…

My shimmering shades of grief make a rainbow of love and loss, Raining down a tumbling waterfall of tears.

And I choose not to fight the pain; But to cradle it with compassion. As it sits and shapes within.

Sometimes I’m gripped with horror… Or I’ll re-live the latent trauma Of caring for a creature at his life’s end.

But at the time, I was in care mode. All that mattered was calm and comfort As I watched his breath rise and fall.

Then I’ll think ‘My boy is gone’ and weep. There are quiet leaking eyes or loud ugly sobs; So many kinds of tears tear or seep from me.

And my grief will take its own time. I’ll just let it take its wandering course. No medicating or predicating – just let it be – pure and raw.

You see, I’m BLESSED with this sadness. I’ve cared, fed, fussed and hugged. Sharing my life with one of God’s beautiful creatures.

It’s a simple, primal love That sits softly in the heart, as I carry on. And now its’ shape shifts, since

He has finished with the time that was only HIS to give.

Some very kind souls have asked about making gifts or contributing to a memorial, so I have suggested they make a donation to Birman Welfare & Rescue – a lovely group of caring cat people – here’s the link (if you would like to put something toward this cause too) xx

https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8qYFi4iv2u?fbclid=IwAR0SVR98YpLGb0a44G7IzO62VlaumeOnGAFUuWyvkPc6hN35GZAh_f5zHK0