Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

New Year, New Job

A couple of weeks ago I started a new job.  After nine-and-a-half years working as a housing officer – well, aside from two maternity leaves and a secondment in another department, so really more like seven years as a housing officer – I’m now working in the training department of a local charity.

It’s been quite an experience, starting a new job in a new organisation.  The first week was crazy, trying to work out what my job involves and what my responsibilities are, and meeting lots of new people, most of whom seem to be doing a different job, or are about to start a different job, to what they’re shown as doing on the organisational chart.  And just trying to work out exactly what the organisation does, and get used to a different perspective, working in a new sector.  And, of course, learning all the new social etiquette that comes with a new workplace.

The first week was a classic honeymoon period.  I loved my job.  I was so excited about what I was doing.  My new colleagues were lovely.  It was a really positive workplace culture.  Everything was great.  I had no doubts about the change I’d made, even though it felt like a gamble.  It’s easy to feel you’re doing well at settling in when you have no expectations other than remembering where the toilets are.  (I totally aced that one, by the way).

This week, not so much.  I’ve felt anxious.  Do people like me? Am I annoying them by talking too much? Am I doing well enough at my job? Are they wishing they’d offered the job to someone else? Am I hitting the right level of independent working?  This week I’ve been researching things I know very little about and it has made my head hurt.  I’m used to knowing what I do and how to answer questions – about dog fouling and noise nuisance and trees and fences – and although not everyone I worked with liked me, at least I knew mostly where I stood with people.  This week it’s felt strange and uncertain and almost too difficult. However, I’m pretty certain this is a normal response to a new and challenging situation – reality hitting after a good start.  Things are always changing in the organisation I work for, and apparently it’s not unusual for new people to look like a rabbit caught in headlights for a while.

I applied for this job when my old post was at risk of redundancy. It did seem sensible to try to apply for things which might be suitable for me, in case I did lose my job, but in reality, my new job just felt like something I could really do.  Filling in the application form felt like spending a couple of hours talking about how brilliant I am (I’m actually not brilliant, but I’m good at sounding like I might be) and the interview and presentation, though hard, was a really positive experience.  The day after my interview, trudging round a housing estate getting rained on and looking at rubbish left in people’s front gardens, I thought, ‘If they offer me that job I’ll take it’.  And I did.

It’s not a perfect situation.  Leaving a permanent well-paid job with lots of holiday and a good pension for a one-year fixed term part time contract felt like a gamble.  But it almost feels like a positive incentive – if I work hard and do a good job, my contract will almost certainly be extended, and I like the idea that what I do will have a direct impact on my ongoing ability to pay my mortgage.  And, for the first time in a long time, I’m happy to live with the risk.  Yes, it may all go belly-up and that would be unpleasant, but I am confident that I would survive.  Feeling able to live with the uncertainty, and being able to move onto something new, is one of those markers of progress in my own journey which I like to see.

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Sadness and hope

For the past few months, I’ve been seeing someone.  Sadly, now I’m not.  It turns out that it’s much harder to get a relationship working when you’re in your mid-thirties with two children and all sorts of baggage than when you’re a student in your early twenties.  And sometimes, even if you try really hard and both do your best, some things are insurmountable.

It’s been interesting though.  And enlightening.  And fun.

Stopping seeing him has made me very sad.  For a while, it felt as if all the joy had gone from my world.  Things I had hoped for are not going to happen.  I woke up at 3 o’clock the following morning with the searing realisation that he is gone from my life forever, that his interesting thoughts and perspectives are no longer available to me.  A friendship I had valued and enjoyed is lost.

However, it’s much easier to survive this knowing that it’s not the most terrible thing to have happened to me.  I know from experience that actually, with time, pain does lessen.  I am waiting because I know I will feel happy again.  And, while I feel sad now, the girls still need collecting from school.  I need to get their uniforms ready for the next day and the dishwasher still needs loading.  I find that if I keep putting one metaphorical foot in front of the other, it keeps me moving forwards.  The act of keeping our lives continuing despite my grief forces me to believe that life does continue.

And, this weekend, while the girls were at their dad’s house, I was kind to myself – and so were my friends.  On Friday night I went to a games night where we played K2 – one of my mountaineers died not once but twice due to bad luck and ineptitude – and ate chocolates.  On Saturday I met my best friend in Leeds for coffee, cake and some shopping, and then spent the evening watching Doctor Who and wishing for a boyfriend like Rory.

Then yesterday I headed into Manchester for a Quaker meeting full of inspiration about austerity, protesting and how we relate to the Tories and state power, then a Quaker business meeting and a silent vigil on the steps of the Meeting House about poverty and inequality.  Finally I joined friends for the anti-austerity march through the streets of Manchester, followed by a rally at Castlefield, hearing Owen Jones speak, and discussion on the way home with my friends about how we can bring about effective change.  Being part of a crowd of 60,000 – 80,000 people who all believe, in diverse ways and with different language, that something better is desirable and achievable, is incredibly uplifting.  Seeing so many people I know, and thousands more that I don’t, being prepared to come out and march and take action gives me a sense of hope and purpose.

My mum says that at least I can have the confidence that there are people out there for me.  I’m not so sure just now – having tried to make a relationship work with someone I really liked, its ending feels more like evidence against her theory.  Despite this, I still look back and think this has been a good experience: I’ve learnt things about myself and what I want, and how to do this relationship thing as well as I can.  So I’m moving with hope into the next good part of my life.

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Free at last! But what to do…?

The symptoms of my depression have been getting worse over the past week or so.  I feel much more anxious.  I feel tired.  I feel like crying quite a lot.  I feel like a miserable failure at most of the things which matter to me. I am irritable.  I am unmotivated and I don’t really enjoy doing much.  It’s not fun.

It’s not very surprising either.  There’s a lot going on at the moment: the background stress of the threat of redundancy and the unsettled atmosphere at work, and the return to the pressured school day.  And it feels as if every day there is a new and overwhelming challenge: I arrived home to a letter stating that I had claimed free dental care that I am not entitled to, and as well as being asked to pay for it, I am being charged a penalty of £94.  My entitlement to free dental care and prescriptions has, I think, come with my entitlement to tax credits.  My circumstances have not changed and I did not realise I had to pay: no-one told me.  I need to appeal but I am too tired.  And the night before last I was up for an hour and a half with Big Girl – she woke up feeling sore and uncomfortable and crying with the pain.  I ended up ringing the out of hours GP (God bless the NHS!) and getting her sorted and back to sleep, but the worry, the sense of impotence, the disturbed sleep: the cumulative effect of these challenges is that I am not sure how much more I can carry.

So, here I am at home on a Friday – it’s my day off work and now the girls are at school, it’s an opportunity to have a little bit of time and space, and to get my house tidy and make life a little more ordered. But I also want to lie around doing nothing.  Or, more to the point, I want a break from the effort required to do anything.  I am, always, responsible.  I am responsible at home for ensuring we have food, clean clothes, an environment where Big Girl and Small Girl can be happy and healthy and feel loved and secure.  I am responsible for getting them to school on time and making sure they do their homework.  I am responsible for establishing a good bedtime routine and making sure they sleep.   I am responsible at work for dealing with complex and unresolveable problems, for keeping customers happy, for working with staff in other departments to achieve goals.  My job is actually impossible and unachievable, but I am not sure what level of lack of success is acceptable.  So I would like a break from all this responsibility, just for a while.

Depression is often described as a black dog in your life.  I am not sure how best to use today, my free time, to make living with this dog feel easier.  I could be productive, get things done now so I don’t have to worry about them later, feel productive, feel competent.  Or I could have a rest, have a break, be kind to myself.  There is something about the very act of doing nothing which is beneficial: I am proving to myself that my life is not unmanageable.  If my life were so very pressured, I would not be able to spend an hour watching Doctor Who. If I can spend half an hour lying quietly on the sofa, it must be ok.  And so, I must spend half an hour quietly doing nothing to remind myself that actually, everything is ok enough.  It is a discipline worth practising.

I’m not sure it has to be an either/or question.  I can be productive and spend time resting.  I can do things which need to be done but which I also enjoy – or at least don’t mind doing.  Part of the pleasure of these Fridays is that I am alone and, whatever I choose to do, no-one interrupts me: no arguments or requests for drinks or demands that I pretend to be a donkey.  In itself, this freedom from external accountability is something to cherish.  I can flow around my house, entirely in charge of my destiny, answerable only to myself for what I achieve.  So I wonder if, perhaps, it’s not so much what I do that matters, as how and why I do it.

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A week of two halves

I’m in the middle of a strange week, bookended as it is by my wedding anniversary on Monday and Ex-Husband’s wedding on Saturday.

I’m not really bothered about either event.  I’ve moved on. I’m happy. My life is full of interesting things.  Except, kind of, I am.  The date of my wedding anniversary is burnt into my brain.  Every time I wrote the date on Monday, there was a spark of recognition followed by a little sinking regret and disappointment that things didn’t work out how I’d hoped.  And while Ex-Husband’s wedding is nothing to do with me – two people I don’t really care about entering into an ill-advised union – I realised yesterday that I hope he has a horrible day and spends it thinking about the people who aren’t at his wedding, all the friends he’s lost by behaving like a dick.

So when I say I’m not really bothered that he’s getting married, what I mean is that I’m choosing not to be interested.  I decided to forgive him, to let it go, to walk away from the hurt he caused me.  And that takes practice, and sometimes it needs a bit of patching up.  I am way past the grief I felt at the time.  But like a scab which itches, or a broken bone which heals but aches when the weather is cold and damp, sometimes I am reminded more strongly of the scars that I think will always be with me.

Still, while the girls are away being bridesmaids, I’m having a pretty good week.  Yesterday I went out with a friend for curry.  Tonight I’ve been for a run and watched West Wing.  Tomorrow I’m going to the cinema and on Friday I’m going climbing.  And on Saturday, I’m going on a mystery coach trip with my friend Karen.  We considered crashing the wedding in giant hats and offering up reasons why Ex-Husband and his girlfriend couldn’t be lawfully married, but decided an adventure would be more fun.  We’re getting a coach quite early in the morning to an unknown destination.  We’re spending the day there, going on the coach to an hotel, then on Sunday going to a second mystery destination.  It could be amazing.  But even if it’s terrible, I think it’ll be that kind of so-bad-it’s-hilarious story which can be more fun in the long run.  I am very excited and considering only ever going on mystery coach adventures for all my future holidays.

So, the juxtaposition of remembered grief and eager anticipation, the contrast between what is now and how things were, gives me a sense of hope.  I know I’ve surived this far, and grown and flourished, and that I am surrounded by good friends and I think, I’ll probably be ok.  Even if I do feel wobbly from time to time.

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Adventures into a Brave New World

On Friday I cleaned out my bathroom cabinet, removing burnt-out candles, packets of Gavison which expired in 2011, emptied tubes of stuff, baby nail-scissors, plasters which are no longer sticky and baby shampoo we no longer use.  Into the space I managed to fit all the things which were lurking untidily on the shelf behind the toilet (apart from a few months’ back-copies of the Saturday Guardian magazine.  I recycled those), making my bathroom an almost-pleasant place to be.

Yesterday I tidied and cleaned all the work-tops in the kitchen – washing all the bits and pieces which can’t go in the dishwasher and therefore pile up on the side, and all the recycling which was waiting to be washed and thrown away, and tidying away toys and felt-tipped pens and bits of plastic wrapping which was hidden under the felt-tips.  My kitchen now looks quite peculiar: if you stand in exactly the right spot it looks shiny; if you stand anywhere else you see an oasis of tidiness in a desert of mess.

And today I sorted through all the things attached to my notice-board, removing party-invitations from two summers ago and Small Girl’s hospital wristband from when she broke her leg aged 11 months (now aged 4 years old) and a pile of letters from school, and vouchers and coupons dating back to 2011 and recipes I haven’t cooked since I cut them out of a magazine two years ago, and can therefore probably assume I never will.

I’m not sure quite what has sparked this fit of tidiness, but it feels almost like nesting.  In late pregnancy with Big Girl, I decided I couldn’t give birth until I had cleaned all the skirting boards in my house, my reasoning being that lots of people would come to my house and might judge it not fit to keep a baby in, and that I would probably not have chance to clean them again for a while.  I don’t know about the first point, but I’ve definitely not cleaned most of them since.

I’ve not been hiding a third pregnancy, no matter how much my children would like me to provide them with a baby.  But it does feel like there are new things coming.  It’s the start of the summer holidays, so much more time at home with my children for the next few weeks, and opportunities to potter around tidying (while my children create mess in other parts of the house).  And in September Small Girl starts school, which means I will have child-free Fridays at home. I have romanticised visions of myself using this time to create a clean, calm, well-organised home, shopping for the food we need for the week ahead, changing sheets, hoovering and tidying and sorting laundry, trailing domestic bliss in my wake.  I want to get ready for that, even if we all know I’ll really be binge-watching West Wing for the six hours between dropping the girls off and picking them up.

And I’ve recently been doing some more dating.  I went on three dates with someone who turned out to be a local councillor for a party I have spent my entire life viewing as the source of all – well, most – evil.  Despite this, I liked him very much.  I also went on a date with a single dad who had far more compatible political views and had a very pleasant evening, but nothing more.  It’s been interesting to see what a range of people are out there, and try to work out what I’m looking for.  And comparing how I feel now to how I felt last time I tried dating, 18 months ago, I feel ready for a relationship.  I feel slightly more able to trust people, and willing to give up some of my free time to spend with a boy if I like them (apparently these things are crucial to having a successful relationship).  So while I’m not planning on changing my domestic habits to appear more attractive to a men (and let’s be honest, no-one with a real thing about tidiness is likely to go out with me), I would like my home to reflect the best of myself rather than the worst.

I am realistic about this.  I will get bored.  I will make a mess. I will end up shoving everything in bags and putting it in the cellar, until I am unable to get into the cellar to read the meter, find the car seats or get out the barbecue.  Eventually I will just brick up the door to the cellar, like Henry being shut up in a tunnel because he didn’t want to get his shiny paint wet, and in a hundred years’ time it will be discovered by a future owner of my house, who just thought there was something peculiar about the shape of the kitchen.

But until I get to that point, I’ll see how tidy I can be.

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Raging against the machine. And trains. And everything which is not exactly how I feel it should be.

I was looking forward to my Quaker meeting this morning.  I was eagerly anticipating the silence and seeing friends, and had planned to do some useful shopping while I was in Manchester: stabilisers for Small Girl’s new (to her) bike and some running shoes which don’t let water in.  And I’ve missed quite a few Meetings recently due to failing to get to the train on time.

Well, today the train failed me.  I arrived at the station on time, having got up early and got ready, only to find ‘cancelled’ on the display screen next to my train.  I felt outraged.  No apology, no explanation, as if it acceptable to just cancel trains – and my train at that! No replacement service and apparently no understanding that with only one train an hourto Manchester Piccadilly  on a Sunday, this constitutes a serious inconvenience.

I realise, eventually, that my anger is probably not entirely reasonable.  I dislike change.  I particluarly dislike unexpected change which is outside my control.  I perceive it as some kind of offence against the natural order of things: the unfortunate cancellation of a train becomes a breach of a social contract which almost cannot be borne.

Once I realise the problem is mainly in my head, I try to reshape my day.  No, I’m not in Manchester experiencing silence in my soul as I had hoped.  This is not a disaster and perhaps the day can be saved.  I can go to the nearest Halfords to get stabilisers – and also wander around looking at Bike Things.  I love specialist shops which sell a range of things that I didn’t know existed, and had never imagined people might need.  (I read Bikenomics recently and am now a little obsessed with the idea of becoming a cycling family.  I’m not sure how long this phase will last).  I can do a lot of that tidying and laundry-sorting and washing up which wil make the rest of the week run more easily.  I have been to the park and looked at some ducks and I’m about to sit on the sofa and watch an episode of West Wing, which is like having a very undemanding social life.  It’s not a spoilt, ruined and wasted day, just an unexpectedly different day.  I hope to train my brain to understand this eventually.

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Seeking myself

When my children are away, I have a tendency to feel a little deflated.  The past week and a half has been very full-on: we went on holiday to Butlins – beach, playground, swimming pool, lessons about not running by a swimming pool, bravery at venturing onto the flumes, shows, soft play, fairground rides (here’s my tip – if you have to take your children on big rides one at a time, take the bravest first onto the scary ones, and then explain to the more timid child that they really wouldn’t like it, and take them on something different), ice-cream, candy floss, puppets – non-stop fun.  And then straight home into Small Girl’s fourth birthday celebrations: on Saturday making a cake for her party on Sunday and unpacking; then on Sunday icing the cake, leaving for the party and dropping the cake upside down in the middle of the road.  The party, fortunately, was at a soft play centre, so didn’t involve too much organising, but when we got home Big Girl gave herself a small hair cut to add to the excitement.  Oh, and I also made a mermaid skirt/tail for Big Girl’s ‘Under the Sea’ dressing up day the following day, which had all but fallen apart by the time she got to school.  Apparently space blankets are not as robust as I imagined.  Having remembered how to get into school and work, with a streaming cold, and survived Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday was Small Girl’s actually birthday: lots of presents, a trip to the park, a visit to the supermarket to buy a birthday cake and for Small Girl to spend some birthday money, and then I discovered I’d lost my housekeys so had to call a locksmith out.  My family arrived and we had a barbecue, and then Thursday there was school and work again.  It has felt somewhat like a runaway train I couldn’t stop, an ordeal I am surprised to have survived.  And now my girls have gone to their dad’s house, and I feel like a ship with dead sails. I’ve been driven by my children’s needs and demands, and the requirement to produce food and clean clothes and a good birthday celebration, and now the wind has gone and I am becalmed.

I’m not sure if this feeling is a natural response to having been so constantly busy or if it’s a sign that my life is out of balance.  This feast-or-famine way of living doesn’t really suit my temperament.  I don’t want to spend all my free time recovering from and preparing to be a parent.  But equally I want to be able to enjoy the time I have with my children without feeling exhausted, and overwhelmed by housework.  When first I had my childfree evenings and then weekends, I was so busy, fitting things in, having fun, making the most of every moment.  And then I realised that actually I like having an evening in by myself, and need some space and time to relax.

But now I feel somewhat purposeless, unsure of where I’m going.  I feel like I’m drifting – not so much like a fallow period as wasted time.  I’m not actually doing anything – I’m watching old episodes of West Wing, which are onto their third viewing now, by myself.  I’m not growing or changing or learning anything.  I’m not making new friendships or deepening older ones.  I’m trawling Facebook hoping to feel connected to something and mostly just seeing that other people are doing things which look more fun.

I don’t think the problem is with how I use my child-free time.  I think it’s that I allow myself to get lost, subsumed, when I’m caring for my children.  Somehow I need to refind the boundaries between myself and my children: when I was on retreat, I found that I could distinguish between me and them, their needs and my needs.  Somehow I had become blended with them and blurry around the edges, and the time alone enabled me to become distinct again.  I think I need to find that distinctness again.  It’s hard as a single parent: my children can be demanding and all-consuming, and there’s that sense of competition, of someone biting at my heels – if I am not good enough they may decide they’d prefer to live with Daddy.  I have to make the most of them, because they grow up so quickly and this time is precious.  But equally, I cannot have them be my full life, because they are not always here, and because my hope is for them to grow up and away, and to become independent, and it will be harder to do that if I also want to cling to them as a source of my self-worth and identity.  I am pulled in many directions, and I allow myself to become ragged and thin.

I’m not sure how I can do this, but I think there must be a way: more silence; more community; more sleep; and a little bit of courage. I think I owe myself that.

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Achieving

Completing the Manchester 10k last Sunday was quite an experience.  So many people were running for charities (I started just behind a man wearing a lifeboat costume who lost me quite early on, much to my disappointment), and it felt as if all the supporters, spectators and organisers were working together with the participants to get us all to the finish.  People came out to stand and watch and clap and cheer.  Small children high-fived us.  Charity volunteers held up signs saying ‘Smile! You paid to do this’ and ‘Run like someone called you a jogger’ and passed out jelly-babies.  I ran the first 4k then alternated running and walking until a stitch hit at around 6k.  I tried to pick up the running again for the last couple of kilometers and then, finally, went for what was intended to be a sprint finish, but probably looked more like a desperate stagger across the line.  It was incredibly emotional – the culmination of a few months of training, the support of family,friends and random strangers, and a sense of achievement and relief.  I was delighted to have  actually finished the course, and in about 15 minutes less than I had hoped to, and elated and exhausted all at the same time.  I found my family and we went for food, and then cake and cocktails.  I’m now looking for another 10k to run – now that I know what a 10k feels like, I think I could run it faster and, probably, with more running and less staggering.

Today has also felt quite special.  It’s my divorciversary – the first anniversary of getting my divorce.  I stopped last night with friends who I haven’t seen for a few years, and spent the day with them and their children, and had a wonderful, relaxed time catching up, discussing politics, playing in the park.  It wasn’t planned to coincide with the divorciversary and it wasn’t something we discussed much,except as part of catching up on the past two years, and I’m spending the evening cleaning out my guinea pigs: a lovely-but-normal child-free Saturday.  I’d had vague plans to go out to mark the anniversary but they never quite came together, and I’m glad.  Firstly, the guinea pigs had got quite stinky, and now they’re not.  But, more importantly, the divorce no longer seems significant enough to need any kind of celebration.  A year ago it was a significant event, the culmination of a process which shut the door on a painful experience, but the celebration of that is in living this new, good, normal life I have, every single day.

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Finishing what I started

I’ve just done my final training run before the Great Manchester Run this Sunday.  Because it would be illegal to go out running leaving a 3- and 5-year-old alone in the house, and because I like lie-ins, I’ve not managed to train as much as I had hoped.  But still, I’ve come to like running.  And here’s why:

  • All day after I’ve been out for a run my legs feel a bit more alive.  It’s as if they are saying “Hell yeah! I think we just did something!”
  • I like the feel of pushing myself mentally – there’s something good about making myself do a little bit better.  Often when I’m paying attention to what I’m doing, I find I’m going at a comfortable (a.k.a. ‘slow’) pace.  I tell myself to go a bit faster, and then I do it.  Then I feel like a champion.
  • It provides opportunities to spend hours mapping runs rather than actually running, giving a sense of productivity and achievement without any actual effort.
  • I’ve improved.  I’ll never be a great runner, but I’ve gone from staggering round a 2k run to (this morning) doing 5k, probably 85% running rather than walking for most of it. (Yes, yes, Sunday’s run is 10k and 5k is not 10k.  I know that.  I’m going to get half-way round the course and demand that someone brings me a cup of coffee).
  • I like the idea that if someone tries to attack me in the street, I’m probably fit enough to get away from them.  As long as they wait for me to put on my sports bra and are willing to slow down and walk every once in a while when I get tired.
  • As long as I finish the 10k, I’ll get a medal.  You can’t argue with a medal.

Quite a lot of people I know are doing the 10k on Sunday (and about 39,080 people I don’t know), so it’s nothing that special, but for me it is an achievement.  And it has a particular significance for me – I signed up for the Manchester 10k 6 years ago, raising money for Christian Aid, and then found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with Big Girl.  I pulled out because I didn’t want to put the pregnancy at risk, but as it was too early to tell people, said I was ill (and I was! I felt *so* ill!).  Six years later there’s been a lot of water under the bridge – two babies and a divorce – but I’m finally finishing what I started.

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Retreating and returning

By fortuitous coincidence, I had five child-free and work-free days at the start of this week.  (By ‘coincidence’, I mean that I booked the week off work for the half-term holiday and then arranged for Big Girl and Small Girl to stay with their dad for half the holiday).  Between work, single-parenting two lovely but demanding children, and the effects of my depression, it’s been quite challenging recently and I felt I needed a break.  So I’ve spent a couple of nights at Woodbrooke, a Quaker study centre in Bourneville, having a bit of a retreat.

I went to Woodbrooke about 18 months ago to go on a course for Quaker parents.  I’d expected it to be worthy and a bit lentilly, but the food was lovely, the grounds were gorgeous and it had a fantastic library with lots of interesting books.  I thought it could be a good place to head to for some space and a rest.  And I was right.

A lot of my time was spent in the Silent Room, a small room with a comfy sofa and a lovely view, reading, thinking, knitting and napping.  I wandered round the labyrinth in the garden, my mind wandering and creating metaphors for my life as I followed the path.  I went to the half-hour Quaker meeting each morning but failed to make the evening one as I was already in bed by 9.30 each evening.  I borrowed ‘Creating a Purposeful Life‘ by Richard Fox from the library and spent some time reflecting on how I’d like my life to look. In the Art Room I did some drawing.  I unpicked some questions I’ve had about God and found some new and interesting things to consider.  I ate delicious food and talked to interesting people.  What I most liked was feeling part of a Quaker community – feeling accepted and not quite a guest, not quite a visitor.  There was an open hospitality – cake at 4 pm, drinks and fruit available all the time, tea bags and little pots of milk near all the bedrooms, and the library open to all stopping there, with no concern that I might take advantage of this by stockpiling coffee or stealing books.  I was slightly tempted as I was about a third of the way through a novel when it was time to leave…

I’ve come home feeling that I have more inner resources (though how long they will last before my children deplete them by arguing with me and each other and threatening to ‘never be my best friend ever again’, I couldn’t say).  Practising silence at Woodbrooke will, I hope, make it easier to dip back into when I need to at home, like a swimmer lifting their head out of the water to breathe.  I’ve had time to think about who I am and what I would like my life to look like, and space for thoughts inside my head to unwind and rearrange themselves.

I’m glad to be home again (although after three days of not cooking for myself or anyone else I’d forgotten how to cook a meal so that everything was ready on time) and so pleased to see my girls again (there’s a thing, when they come back, where I just want to pick them up and hold them and put my face against theirs  and enjoy the sensation of having them physically close to me.  It wears off.  Quite quickly) and wondering: how long can this peace last?

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