The Pandemic P’s and how you will flourish in the midst of it.

‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity:

An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’

Winston Churchill

 

Sometimes words just don’t mean much when your life has fallen apart.  There are no clichés powerful enough to make you feel better.  Trivial platitudes don’t cut it when the soul lies lifeless and the heart is torn apart.  We question life itself; what is the point of all the struggle and loss?  It is in the understanding of why, why not, and how I deal in times of trouble, that I was forced to re-evalute, re-direct and re-adjust my life, over and over again.

Some of the scariest moments in my life, I willingly, or unwillingly, contributed to.  They were partly of my making.  Life came to easily to me, and when it all went wrong, after the outfall, I had to face up to some very hard facts – and how I was going to move forward from that point I thought I would never have the courage. Call it growing up. At my age. Call it facing the truth about oneself, but in all the darkness, like now, like the five stages of death, we are faced again with something out of our control, and rather than give into the wasteland, we need to see this as an opportunity to look deep, open the wounds, find the source and change what needs to be changed, to be ready when we can no longer blame the war, but take responsibility for how we are going to embrace what we find in the next step.

The Pandemic caught us all unaware.  It may change, but for now, these are the 5 P’s that most account for my getting through this time, and I hope it helps you too.

 


  • PANIC

Of course.  Not at first, we sort of became numbed individuals as the reality of this illness arrived, like fog over an airport, and we are no longer able to carry on as normal.  Orders to wash our hands, wear gloves and cough into our sleeves, that was all.  Panic grew as the numbers of casualties and deaths increased – this was becoming something serious.  Plans to stay at home, and get to the home we were going to stay in, for a little while … till it all blew over and the skies opened up again.  Bad news became the norm, we really began to panic; about food, medical supplies, not seeing family and friends.  Everything closed up – this becomes real, we are in seige mode.  The war has begun and we are totally unequipped for the onslaught.

The level of panic remains for we have no cure.  Anxiety leads to sleepless nights, frayed reactions.  We are locked in, or locked out.  Arguments happen, snapping at others increases, loss of freedom leads to cabin fever and not working, to listlessness.  Initial banter and resilience wanes. WE are all pessimists, and rightly so – the enemy will not stand still.

Accept the panic, it still comes in waves, but this, for me, subsides as a hibernating bear.  As long as I don’t prod or defy it, I can tred lightly.


  • PAUSE

Difficult.  Being asked to.  We are not a generation of small stuff.  Big lives, bold moves.  Time turns to water. Days to a dripping tap. We are in the shelter of hoarding and waiting.  Obedient. The day before grows stale, as the jokes and memes and catching up with those you don’t really feel the need to anymore.  Longing for those you do grows intense. In the pause, you are willing new things; the learning of a language for a country you cannot visit, the baking of food you have no taste for. Cleaning with vigour to find some order.  Everything known to you looks different. Effort becomes the operative word.  Elastic pants your friend.  The Pause period, which we are still in right now, is one of letting go, be it willingly or not caring a damn, is dangerous.  We begin to accept what we would never before. And we are tired, tired to the bone of expecting, of media, of all the horrendous reality of our state of being, outside the window, and inside our souls. The excitement of the pandemic affair, deflates very quickly.

Times I am so down, listening to myself breath is enough. The fog is everywhere still, but, and it is a lovely but, the eyes begin to focus of the small stuff. The heart flings aside the fluff and the mind … the mind is a mess, but its time for a spring clean.  You have enough time now, no excuses and, oh my, the dust is everywhere, physically and spiritually, everywhere. Recognise that we have no choice but to pause, and in that pausing, recalibrate.

With time on my hands, and planes on the ground, I did the anger, and the wallowing, and the doing nothing in depression, and am facing the third stage.  Like the levels we are being forced to live in now.


  • PRAISE

If you keep a gratitude dairy, you will understand the meaning of praise. Giving thanks for the good things in your life, for moments that mean so much, for others who contribute to your happiness.  I don’t have a gratitude diary, more like an angst journal, but being alone in lockdown, the person I have to face, and give some praise to, is myself. Praise all those I love, they know that, and now it’s time to turn inward.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to praise yourself.  Over, and over again.  Whatever you think about being egotistical and rather be self depreciating, let it go.  You are your own soldier here.  The one going to walk out with, you. Gosh, you have made it this far, warts and all, with all the scars and the journey can only get better now.  Strip the layers of negativity you wrap around yourself and now is the time to do it.  Everyday.

It’s not about losing twenty pounds or running for office.  Not about being prisoner to the past, or martyr to falling down.  This is the time to be super honest, and super selfish.  Praise in the time of pandemic of self love at her best.  Be vulnerable, be honest and then be loving, and complimentary. You are  amazing, and if you need a makeover to be phenomenal, now is the time.

Praise everything you have, and are.  Everything you thought you needed and now don’t anymore.  Praise simple aspects of your day; how you put on your make-up, change the sheets, fold the linen.  Praise the messages you send, the kindness you exude, the ability to finish a crossword/puzzle and savour the way you taste your first sip of wine, toss the pasta – make is a slow, deliberate act of daily things that you do in your own special way.  A compliment to you, your own dance.

To praise is to reflect and say … I am ok.  I am not perfect, but I am no longer defined by others.  When the lockdown ends, be sure of a few surprises … and if you are not alone, no need to share this pact with yourself.  To go all the way to the inner most part of you, is the restoration and re-invention of the rest of your life.  Question everything. You have the answers already.

 


  • PLAN

This time would be such a waste if we did not plan for better.

Now that you have survived the initial wave, sat around watching the paint dry (or every series on Netflix) – now that you have taken stock of the things that make up your life, and your life itself, now is the time to plan.  So often we follow a path in our lives established by environmental factors, or falling into patterns of place and people that we bump along, quite happily.  Some are still on that road, happy and content.  Some have found some bumps and fell into a ditch. There is nothing that truly dictates what we should and should not do.  Just because you don’t come from a family of avid cooks, it is not too late to become a maestro chef, an artist, a journalist.  So you have never lived alone, become a CEO of your own company, or even written a blog, but that should not stop you.

The universe has thrown the room quite open.  Everything is up for grabs. I have always loved ‘The Invitation‘ by Oriah Mountain Dreamer, and thus I send it to you.

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Just saying – this takes courage, and it brings rewards.  This is the time.  Plan for a journey, a career, a whatever – yes even in My Silver Street time, and greatness is close.


  • PERFORM

Here is the most difficult lesson.  The most difficult part.  The follow through.

We will survive this Pandemic.  We will be patient and go through all the stages. When it does end, will we perform? Take all we have been through and take centre stage in our lives, as we should?

I know I cannot go back.

Will meet you at the café of Life for the best coffee and the new stories of us.

Images: Youtube, Love this pic.

It is forgiven to falter when the world is askew …

I’m fine, truly I am.  The world has gone mad, a plague is upon us, we dig deep, we smile and wish each other well … we can do this!  We can, we will and blah … Sunday night (is it Sunday) and if we have to be honest … this is bloody awful.

Take it from someone who has chosen optimism ( a dear phrase) in the darkness that has clouded our lives.  Been through worse, she says, this is nothing compared to the chapters in a long life that one would rather skip over.  This is a but a new challenge … a foreign challenge we have no answers too … and there are the moments, and we are entitled to them.  Be kind to yourself.

In the five weeks of isolation and devoid of physical contact, the days began with ‘I shall build a puzzle’ and do all the things I never had time to do right? Watch movies in the afternoon, eat pasta for breakfast, have wine at two in the afternoon – all rather marooned on an island kind of thing.  We use a razor (this is another story), we tap into thinking our scary hair will empower us – sans all the little lovelies we used to do, are hanging for a while.  The memes flood my inbox, laugh and keep that cheery disposition amidst the silent blaming and thinking, it’s just for a while.  Then things like ‘hang in there, the war lasted four years, Anne Frank hid for five years’ sort of things keep coming my way and I am armoured for the days when I don’t really know what day it is and the news just does not get better.  And then I think, shall I always try to be optimistic, or shall I just be honest and say … this is bullshit, but deal with it anyway.

The new normal.  Accustomed to isolated routine. Apart from flattening the curve, it has also flattened who we are.  Our lives, our individuality is flattened for habits that make us unique.  I like my coffee this way, take this bus, walk along this street, meet in this pub and so forth … we are not allowed, so we become levelled in that … all together in the doing little, worrying about money and jobs, and family and death … we worry about that.  Not so much before, classical, universal issues were something we didn’t have to confront at the time … and Sunday nights, this is what I think about.

I cannot face another puzzle. Truth.  I cannot bear to think that this will go on forever, be excited about making masks out of fabric and stand two hundred feet from another. That Paris and London are like other cities, zombie fashion of desolation – that galleries lie quiet and eerie. People running out of food.  It all seems too gastly, even with the cheerful upper lip fixed firmly.

And then, and then. The sunlight hit my little pineapple.  A gift from my special friends when I left London a few months ago. For a little while.  And I had to just stand, look at it and think for a moment.  That little pineapple represents all the pineapples found around London.  A time when life was exceptionally difficult, life was tenuous, grief all around and for those that could afford it, a pineapple was a token of wealth, of prosperity.  Could cost you up to 350 pounds.  If no pineapple was to be had, to rent it, print it on wallpaper, fabrics, mould the form into plaster casts on walls, in gardens … all about the pineapple.  Even on the tips of St. Paul’s cathedral they are, in gold. Aspiring to the pineapple. Who would have thought?

In 1664 London was plagued. ‘Ring-a-Ring O roses” … we all fall down. This is not new to civilisation – we are in a new plague and we shall survive and I look at the pineapple and think … it is history that will define us. We are making history now, and how we deal with it, will be the making of us. And the beginning of us again.  Delving deep into history is the way forward, for we have faltered, and cried, lamented and feared before. Be it the plague, the pestilence, the wars and now another form of onslaught, I look at my little pineapple and think how life re-built before. To better things. To Sir Christopher Wren and other architects, to scientists and key essential workers, out there, not just dealing but planning to make it better.

My Sunday blah … anxiety and worry is what so many felt before me, when life went crazy and we didn’t know the answers. Like now. I don’t know,  I can’t solve it and I have to believe. I have to have faith that it will pass and it will.  History is a great teacher.

A new normal.  Being present.  Not listening to the doom sayers. Being occupied and planning for next week, next month and next year.  It is going to be fine, going to be good – going to be different but we can deal with that. Not, and not again I say, be excited about a puzzle or food, or wine, or tokens of making it through another day … making it matter when the world is struggling, I am struggling but I am going to be the best, the most amazing maker of a new time.

For now, in my line of business, times are really tough. Tourism will take a long time to recover. But it will… we will always want to explore the world, learn more about our cities, our landscapes, our history and how we fit into it all … it will recover and I will be ready, despite the Sunday blues, it will be the best time to show others what was, the pineapples and how we are survivors, like those before us, to make a new normal – be the best time we live in. Sunday night and I am thinking about the Churchillian in me … and I will be sharing it with you soon. London will be even more magnificent …the world will be new, and magnificent. Trust on a Sunday night, is what I need to believe in. And I do.

Monday will be the optimistic day.  Sunday blues are allowed … be kind to yourself, it will pass.

Keep safe, have the blues, and plan  …

 

Hag Sunday.

The fear is real tonight.  Totally normal, being down and up and chipper and swooping into sulking happens.  Being totally overwhelmed and depressed is part of the game, and tomorrow I shall be happy bunny all again. There are real issues out there, and this lockdown is letting the gremlins seep under the doorway.Sunday night blues.  You know that feeling.

Did I really spend the entire day in a pair of gym pants? The same one’s I wore yesterday?  My mother would be so disappointed.  ‘Darling, you will always make sure you look your best.’  Remember the thing about wearing the best underwear in case you needed the doctor to make a house call … got told that all the time. Ok, so I haven’t resorted to the dodgy underwear, the kind of ‘must have the matching lingerie type of gal’ and admittedly don’t even own a pair of track suit pants, or a hoodie for that matter, so the gym pants thing is indicative of the ‘blah’ state of self-isolation.  Another day of lockdown – the hag rose from the drainpipe.

Day didn’t start that way.  Yay for the new day, motivated and at the ready for productive day complete with programme of doing things to pass the time.

Can lick the walls of this house.  Bleached to within an inch of its life, cleaned and polished – by nine am.  Only a thousand hours to go. Work on hold, email box spits up only travel news, which is nil.  Ok, a bit of exercise needed.  In the mayhem of mouse in the house and literally hurling everything on it’s head to check for any other unwanted visitors, found the turquoise coloured weights I missed so long ago.  Lifted them above my head, once, twice, over that. It’s Sunday, I’ll do some more tomorrow. Danced a little to a song so that should count. Spent some time looking for my eyebrows which we all know at this age, seems to leave my face at certain times when I must be sleeping. Sigh. Shaved my legs yesterday, so that’s another pastime not to be repeated today.  Sigh.  Instead I spent time biting my nails as I looked out of the window for a sign of life. Hello neighbour’s cat on my wall.  Can you make sure no mice coming for tea in the future?

I do believe the wearing of gym pants is indicative of me being active. Holding onto that thought.

At the time ticks away, tonight I find myself regretting the wishing away of time.  Regret wishing that I was so skinny I could eat twenty Big Macs, and not buying a treadmill before the world did. Regret a multitude of things when the only thing still working is my overactive brain. These are trying times and the brain, and heart have too much time to think about the past when the future is a little vague right now. The hag is being wistful.

Others have been in lockdown for so much longer. Others are out there doing their jobs at great risk of the virus, but playing a very important part in this chaos and perhaps I am just feeling a little useless in the midst of it all.

But, and she says but, we are all still here, and must make light of the situation – tomorrow I shall wake and greet the ants in the garden, put on a frock and contemplate how to ban the hag and bring on the powerful change.

This is me tomorrow:

Keep safe, keep sane and if the lunacy descends everyone and then, it’s fine.  You are being human.

 

Images: Pintrest and New York Post

 

Wow, me, time and the mouse in the house.

There are no planes in the sky.  Used to watch them stack over Heathrow and could count about eight at a time.  Nothing now … and yes, we are in lockdown, and yes, the world as is being held at ransom by a deadly foe.  The tourism industry is all but evaporated for now, and we are thinking, will we ever travel again?

I live in hope. The novelty of travelling within my house is all but stale, all intentions scuppered for not being able to get paint, or plants, or anything to actually do some re-decoration and gardening.  Tried to sneak some Rose food into the trolley yesterday, on my first supermarket visit in over a week, and no, it is not an essential item and was promptly scooped out.  I get it, but how are we supposed to have any kind of house quarantine when I have so few tools to get to those odd jobs?

The second spring clean of the week.  Living in Africa, albeit in a lovely Estate for this time in isolation, I have been leaving all the doors wide open to capture as much fresh air and sunlight while the warmer climes linger.  Setting the background so to speak …

Imagine the sheer horror of seeing this mouse scamper down the passage and into one of the bedrooms.  This is (apart from a snake and those hideous rain spiders) one of my worst fears.  This is one of those times I do curse being on my own with no-one to send into battle.  Hastily shut the door lest it decide to do another tour of the house, and after (to return)I stopped screaming, and cursing no end, it was time to formulate a plan.  Fortunately the bedroom also had a door onto the garden, so, standing on the desk, managed to open the door, whilst Wilbur raced around the room … and under the desk.

Tried pleading for him to just saunter outside, his natural habitat … for goodness sake, just be gone from here, you cursed little piece of …  Brooms, bucket and baking pan at the ready, still on the desk, the one woman band of banging on baking tin, prodding behind the desk and actually thinking I was going to trap him under the bucket (although I had no idea what to do next if that happened) took to yelling and stomping on said desk – and at last he shimmied his way outside.  So I thought.

The moment I tried to lock the door, still atop the desk, Wilbur had a moment and promptly left the sanctuary of the flower bed to do a U turn and straight back into the room, this time under the bed.  I could have platzed right there and lost any last shred of humanitarian instincts to save him, thinking only of ridding myself of this invasion. Let it be said that there was a struggle and much more dancing, shrieking as he ran through my legs (me now trying to get him from out under the bed) before he decided to leave, and sit beneath the rosemary bush.  Door shut, every window promptly shut, every living space available for another visit, bolted down, but he had to go … all the way out of my property, which I eventually achieved with a strong water hosing until he decided to up his newly adopted turf.

Will admit, at some point when I had him cornered, I swear I could see his little heart racing with fear.  It equalled my own.

I pray he doesn’t come back.  I am having more than the usual wine this evening to calm the nerves and face sleep with visions of his entire family coming to visit.  All the trying not to kill the ants in my grass and saving wildlife is dissipating fast with this encounter. Still, it made for a few hours of excruciating time lapse in these long, long, long, long days of isolation.

We are half way and let the gods not decide to extend this for surely many shall be going, justifiably, insane.  All for our own good I know, it’s just rather difficult explaining to the authorities, that me and a mouse in the house, is a volatile situation which may require the ban on alcohol to be lifted for desperate times.

At best I have never been a good girl guide, or a happy camper going into the bush to sleep in dirt and have moving things crawl into my pants.

This lockdown in my own house is about the most rustic form of camping I ever want to do – and I get a mouse to add to the ambiance ugh!  Someone I know is laughing at me now …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Time, have time for you now …

 

Let me never complain of not having enough time again … or grumble about crowds, ever again.  I have this friend that always used to tell me when I complained of one thing or another, would say: ‘be careful of what you wish for.’  One of my least favourite phrases – feel like something my teacher would say …  and if I wished for more time, oh Lord, I didn’t mean this much!  A little time, a little extra time, the sort of bank holiday weekend time.  And now the hours on my own are endless  …

The third day of the lockdown had me at Bridget Jones in the bath pulling at her false eyelashes in pure despair, but have since rallied to ‘fruitful exploration of all I did not get time to do, understand, finish and dreamed of but never really believed was possible.’  You are no doubt, doing the same.  We have time now. From waking to sleep we have duvets of time, full, plump and enveloping every inch of you.

Have been rather busy. Doing very little.  Doing little important things which would not be considered important if time was chasing me about. And time brought a mate – a slinky, slightly dodge character (looks a little like the child catcher) called ‘No Excuses.’ This character I do not like much, but can no longer avoid. Good thing, going to be tricky – this is the insensitive character that thrust the mirror directly onto the wine belly which I later found out, belonged to me – where the hell did that extra life ring come from? Looks like the one they find beside the super shallow pond in English parks, red and white and bit of an eyesore in the lovely landscape.  That my dear, is the first ‘No Excuse’ objective. This is the absolute worst time to lob the wine and comforting crisps, really is, but now I have the time to begin some self care and shall not emerge until bootcamp is done.  May sneak a glass or two, sorry Child Catcher No Excuse.

Would rather be walking through Hidcote Garden (picture provided) on a Spring day, just as the tulips are all about to unfold and the Serpentine hedge leads me to a view of Cotswold’s glory.  And I can, as the National Trust, like so many brilliant places – Thinking Keukenhof, the National Gallery, the Louvre – there are many, are offering virtual tours to fill our hearts with awe and beauty.  As I look out at my little garden, Icebergs battling the elements, I can but wonder and sigh … but online I’m watching virtual tours and it’s educational and just plain lovely.

Please look at the various virtual offers out there.

What I found time for today?

  • Picking up those coffee table books and pursue – with tea and no biscuits.
  • Re-reading my children’s story books I loved, almost more than them.
  • Reflecting on what really matters to me now, at this point of my life and sayonara to the hanging onto for all the wrong, sentimental reasons.
  • Thumbing through cookbooks.  When will be have a family feast again?
  • Watched ‘Who’s the Boss’ on Youtube and loving the 80’s Angela fashion. On a run with the ‘oldies catch up.’
  • Pretended to re-design the house for not being able to do anything anyway.  Who would come to help me paint?
  • Go through files and toss … just toss for things I have held onto ‘in case.’
  • Thin out material things to give to those who really need it when I haven’t for a while.

 

 

  • Email/Itunes/spotify/photographs/documents clean out.
  • Sorting through my mother’s many tins of collected tea spoons from ALL around the world.
  • Enjoying the idea that my mother just HAD to collect a teaspoon from every destination all over the world.
  • Loving all the calls and messages – to the point of actually being really busy chatting which makes me feel less alone.

This could go on for long time.  I am conquering day by day – there is no point in being negative anymore (though still allowed the odd wobble).  The world in crises has not lost her sense of humour and I continue to pray.  As Prince Charles, himself with the #COVID19 curse, said in his interview today, gosh and I am happy he seems to be recovering, we do not know when the virus will end, but it will end.  I am hanging onto that.

About the lots of time?  Digging deep and keeping faith – all this time is a time for self discovery my friends, a time for really taking stock and like a new world will emerge, painfully I think, I mean to go through this time to be there with new ideas and new ways of thinking to support, become more engaged and just be so intensely grateful to be alive.

Sending you flowers and beauty at this time.

Here for you xxx

 

 

 

Hello 2020!

‘What we call the beginning is often the end.

And to make and end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.”

T.S. Elliot

Goodbye 2019. You have been a strange bedfellow. Forever remembered as the highlight of my eldest daughter’s wedding and my fabulous 60th in Paris with my family.  The arrival of George, the multi-talented and genie of love that is possible in a dashund pup. Kinship and kindness in my jobs at St. Clement’s and Coutours, and life affirming beauty in the trips taken over the past twelve months. The unceasing love and support from my children and friends.

No life is all at the top of the big wheel and the chapters of painful loss, feeling small and moving yet again peppered the bright lights.  What the year did bring though, for me, was the ability to face these pockmarked moments with courage, something I barely felt over the past few years; and it is this courage which, in the end, has make 2019 a remarkable year.  

New Year’s resolutions are deep in the folds of my mind and I am sure to break them. 

As we begin the next decade, let it be with resolve to be brave.  About the dreams we see dim, bring them to the fore.  About the confidence we find wavers when we need it most.  About the love we hide for fear of rejection.  Have the courage to change our very core rather than settle for comfort and the courage to act against injustice, unkindness, loneliness and fear.

Courage is not just about brevity in the face of adversity.  It is the blade of honesty.  Admitting your faults, mistakes, regrets.  Being honest with yourself is perhaps the most courageous act – facing yourself and having the courage to admit you are not perfect.  Rather awful at times.  It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, of yourself and others.  Of letting go.  Choosing a different path. 

2019 taught me great courage, and in a silent but wonderful way, opened my mind to so many new things. More delight in what I had, stripped me, smacked me around, and lifted me to new levels of creativity, exploration and many, many avenues of life I had waved on by for fear of stepping off the sidewalk. The year has ended up on a happy note.  There is still many details to determine, knowing changes will happen, but not being afraid of what lies ahead.

So 2020, you are welcome. Waiting for you with my best frock on and the biggest bottle of Champagne!

Wishing you all the most exciting 2020, with love xxx

Image: Forbes

 

 

I am the lucky one.

Happy Birthday, to me. It is the definitive birthday.

I hear myself telling everyone I am sixty now, as if it is an aforementioned excuse for anything I may be faltering in, for feeling suddenly slower than I did last week – I can only say it is the weirdest feeling, and I am an idiot for saying it, or feeling so. Self sixty sabotage has raised her ugly head.  She has been banished.

 It has also been the beginning of a wonderful birthday month.  Autumn in London and Paris.  Could not have asked for a more beautiful setting than these two heavenly places.  Now that there is a puppy in the family, the park walks take on a whole new significance and makes them more special.  

My family spoilt me.  Tea at the Ritz, a weekend in Paris, but more importantly, with their time, and love.  

It has been a while since I was on My Silver Street, a good break is sometimes needed; to re-group, review and re-ignite the sparkle once the fires have all been put out.  Very excited about the new, positive phase, post a deal of sadness, but also an immense amount of learning, forgiving (even myself) and appreciation of my life as it is now.

We find ourselves in the midst of the longest separation in history, the Brexit tragedy. The political world is a farce and despite hearing that house prices are plummeting here in London, I will not be able to afford anything more than a deserted and damp garage at the moment.  Undaunted and optimistic she remains.  Things do change. It is Halloween today and the city festooned with pumpkins, cobwebs, spiders and other spooky things. Already being replaced with the Christmas offerings, and as I sit here in Peter Jones, it is dark outside already.  The winter has arrived.  Getting the Christmas list together.

Am going to travel more, slow down when I need to and add to the richness of my life.  Turning sixty was met with some trepidation to be fair, the fifties were anything but easy at times – and let’s see where this incredible Silver Street of mine will lead me.  What about your journey?

 

 

Our parents, at this time. And it is difficult, and it is good.

Spoke to a friend tonight. Her parents are frail, and it is a struggle. The child becoming the parent, the parent wasting and whisping into the shadows of life.  Did I forget?  Has it been awhile?

Your life goes into standby. Not always the best timing for that standby mode  – things are happening in your own life; things to deal with, things unforeseen and all I could say was … I am so sorry, I am so sorry you have to go through this.  I know of what I speak. At the worst time, when my own life was difficult … sort of all comes at you at once doesn’t it?  When life changes so fast.

Some lost our parents at an early age. I cannot imagine the pain.  Many of us are going through it now.  I was a continent away, trying to deal with life and worrying all the time about my parents who, did I ever think of it, felt abandoned in my moving.  They never spoke about it, but it was years of guilt, on my part, trying to fly out as often as possible, paying the bills (somehow the plans for retirement were never enough) and Sunday evening talks.  Till the talking became more difficult, the anger on their part, at the loss of control of their own lives, having to be moved, sitting in corners, hours passing like glaciers in the wintertime.  For me, five years of coping, and always feeling, somehow, inadequate … and times a little frustrated in trying to take care of them when I needed to take care of myself.  That is how it goes with ageing parents.

Others are lucky, live close by, there for the chat and tea.  Not for me.

We all have our own relationships with parents, and ageing parents.  And then … they are gone.

And we are orphaned.

And we wish we did it differently.

And it is something we can never get back.

And I said to her. my heart breaks for you now, you are rushing to their side, and life is half you and half them … but still, good or bad, they are your parents.  This is the time you just take each moment and cherish while you still can.

When it was the orphan thing for me, I forgot the frustration, and the paying, and the wishing it was easier. I would have done it a million times over for the moment of seeing their faces and telling them it was going to be ok. The touch, a flickering smile when you walked through the door, it is fleeting and it is part of you.

How to tell her that these years will fly by in the caring for elderly parents when now it seems so tough? Hindsight is all, as I have learnt in so many situations, only if I could tell her that my hindsight may be her opportune time to get past the stress and really learn, really talk, really let them share their young lives, their lives before you; being ‘not your parents’ and then ‘being your parents’ for it will be the foundation of her going forward.

And the blessing, the good of it?

We did that. I created a journal with my ageing Mum.  We talked of her birthdays, her schooling, her first date. How she met my father, her wedding, dreams and hopes for her children. We spoke of her wishes for her funeral, sorted her will. We had time to get past the mother/daughter thing to learn about who she was as a person, which I never really had the time to consider, until she was frail and worried more about her handwriting becoming illegible and her appetite disappearing.

It was in the frailty that I learnt more about them being individuals rather than my parents.

It was a difficult time.  Heartbreaking. And a lesson.

Today, when I fuss about how my children may not call me enough, that I am a hovering parent, that their lives are going forth, I always think about how I was at their age.  And it was not about worrying about my mum other than, I should call … faced with the ’empty nest’ syndrome, I realise I never considered how us leaving home affected her.  What did she do to fill the time, how deep was the missing, never thought about it, but as I say, hindsight.

Now I think about it … it is ok that when I was in a youthful phase of my life, always knowing my parents were there, the focus was different., we all do it, they probably did it.  As it should be … it is only at this age when they are gone, that I think … maybe I should have been more aware. Yup, hindsight.

But, and I say but, it is when they are frail, the season over, that we must take time to really connect, and value them. Should always value them (are you listening dear children).  So my friend, when the losing them is close … take the time to stop and go .. yeah, it is frustrating, and it is taking up of your time, cherish every moment and just love them, and yourself, through it.

I miss them everyday. Now more for not having them somewhere in the background of my life.

More importantly, good or bad, they tried the best they knew how.  And they loved me.

Love them when they are angry at life, and knowing they are leaving you behind. Love them when they rage and fight the furies, fall and turn their heads in defiance of not being who they were, it will happen to us too. They are afraid. When they are gone, you will realise that they were the making of you.

Make notes. Talk. Comfort.

Images US news Impulse.com

 

 

Times you need to be alone, but trust me, you are never alone.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude.  The latter smacks of zen like karma, that space of oneness with nature, the universe and all is as it should be. A feeling of peace.  Loneliness is the exact opposite – experiencing intense loneliness is the same as having a slow heart attack.  It should kill you, just it doesn’t.  The physical grief of feeling alone is a bloodless, harrowing experience, a numbness of self and despair. It is the worst.  Loneliness I believe, is the worst human condition there is.

This morning I was listening to a quip on the radio and it went something like this. How do you make your parents, grandparents, friends and children live longer?  You visit them. It is heartbreaking to find so many elderly abandoned and living in the real fear of being lonely.  It is not just the elderly, it is anyone who feels lost and vulnerable.  It is an insidious disease.

I speak from experience.  Until a while ago, I was never alone, literally and physically, always meeting, chatting, planning and engaged in the lives of others.  Things happened and in the turn of a season, I felt totally bereft, so acutely alone.  There were days I would walk through the city and wonder if, say I died, would anyone really care? What did my life matter after my divorce, the broken relationships, the letting go, of me. Call it depression or purposeless, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of being left behind with no clear agenda was all I knew. In that state, and if you are experiencing it now, you actually don’t want to reach out do you, you just wallow and wake in the early hours of the morning with feelings of panic, fear and worst of all, worthlessness. What have you lost, what have you achieved, what are you going to do next, what happened?  And you feel so terribly alone.  I have the badge, believe me, but I also managed to crawl out of the void and two things happened.

Only you can get up from the cold, lonely floor of despair.

No rush.  You need to go all the way, and I mean, all the way down to reach rock bottom and then like JK Rowling, start all over again.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Not sure how to begin?  Herein is the first lesson.

You cannot stay there for the rest of your life.  No-one but you can stand up from the floor. It may feel like learning to walk again, but you will.  You need to get up. Being lonely sucks, I know, but it is up to you to say ‘ so what if I am alone, I will not be lonely, unless it is the way I want it to be.’  And then being alone becomes being alone on my terms.  And being on your own will slowly become the empowering medium for you to take time out, re-think, re-evaluate and like the Phoenix, rise again, only this time, on your own terms.  The being alone becomes the doing time, the dreaming time and you will come to value the time you, you unique, misunderstood, imperfect you, takes time out to undertake the most important mission of your life:

Take care of yourself.

And I let myself go. Like the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) I did not resort to the trakkie pants and dirty hair, but I sort of stopped everything else. Eating well, exercising, going out, too much wine, indifference and self inflicted boredom. Being lonely had me being bored with things to do, and so, I did little.  The basic daily things, and then … mindless TV, not going out, not engaging with the world. Thinking no-one else would care, I didn’t. Not for myself anyway. I became trapped in the wallowing.  Take care of yourself, if you look great, you will feel great and great things will follow. Create a diary and be honest. Walk often. Make plans for trips, yup, solo trips are become the thing du jour.  Work, work hard, even if you have to take a new job or better still, create your own. Hello you entrepreneur!

Embrace your loneliness and transform it into a positive things – it is a wonderful transformation.  Soon being by yourself is rather creative and empowering.

The second thing that happened, is that I discovered I was not alone.

You are not alone.

Like an idea, it is never an original one. Your situation is not unique to you. Its life, even though you got dished a few more negatives than those around you, you are still better off than many others. Crushed relationships happen to everyone, empty nest and distant children are part of life (this took me a little longer too accept), losing parents and those you depended on is hectic, but that should not lessen you; you were there for them and if they are no longer there for you, all the time, or part of the time, you are not alone in this.

During my divorce, I spent hours searching for blogs, information, advice or just about anything to make me feel less than a leper on an isolated island, and was amazed at the amount of women, and men, going through the same experience.  Living alone, being part of the grey divorce syndrome, having to find some validation for our lives.  Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation did not have careers and strong financial accounts; imagine ourselves single. Some were suddenly homeless, orphaned, caring for elderly parents.  Widowed too soon. I was not alone.

Thank God for my children who deserve medals for putting up with me whilst enduring their own grief in the separation of their parents. I was too indulged in my woes to really take it in.  Thank God for friends who were supportive, even though I did not think they really could understand.  And thank God for finding, as one does, so many others who are going through the same thing – strangers who connected in the ‘being alone’, became friends.

Turns out I was not alone.  Lonely perhaps, but never alone.  Now not lonely, but solo.

Now, many seasons later, I have become rather comfortable with being, not lonely, but alone. It has been the growth of me – and I had to go through the hell of it all to say this.  I have grown immensely as a person, for being on my own, and taking it all in in the silent hours, thinking it all through, I am more about becoming the best of me than relying on others, to validate who I am.

Take heart. When you think you are on the cold, lonely floor of life, you are not alone.  Never.

Here for you.

Hello to being solo, not lonely, and if you never thought you could do it, you can, and be the best you, walking out from the wings, onto centre stage.

Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit

Been a medieval lass of sorts, but Thank You God, for Broadband.

It’s a simple tale.  Were I living in the 1700’s, with no broadband, I would be dead. Death would have been boredom, or gin. Back then I reckon Gin would have been cheaper.  There was little time to be bored when hunger pains, labour and disease were taking up all of your time.  No, it would have been the gin.

When I give  tours in London and talk about ‘Mother’s ruin’ in particular, I often think, of course quietly to myself … well, what would you do living like that?  Take the gin and drink yourself to death, as living was just not an option at times.  But I digress.

The preface to the story. Past years and staying here a short while and letting most of the while, met my reluctance to pay for broadband in the house.  My visits would come down to three best friends:  my UK phone, my ancient 2008 Nokia SA pay as you go phone and a router with data to be bought, switched on and off and suffice for the time.

As she is here for longer.

Dutifully she decides to get broadband.  The powers that be must have been fighting in Winterfell, where its cold, everyone wants to kill you and no time to heed my call.  I buy data on the router, and more, and more and there is a thief afoot!  The data circles the drain and disappeared before I could say ‘Come back, little Sheba, come back!’ So I complain and buy some more, and more and whoosh … the thief I believe is watching Youtube.  Aside, the little Nokia has the battery life of a sigh and dies regularly so limiting to say the least but I resist here, I want my UK phone, cling to it. Need it.  Costly, but rebellious on that score.

Enough she cries as the Lords are still absent with my broadband – I will not pay another cent for data.  And so the Winterfell of moi begins.

Imagine if you will the scenario.  Daytime visits to connect with the world. I stalk cafés and lurk near the plug point.  I get fat for the shame of it.  Then comes the evening at home. Nothing.  Absolutely bloody nothing.  It’s ok I say, I can pretend I have gone camping and make the most of the hours till morning. Well, um well, it’s six o’ clock.  Okay, I say, it will be about thirty minutes to bath … and then. Seven o’clock. The phones and laptop are silent. Dark now.  Fiddle with thoughts.

Now one thing that did make a million mile trip around the world was the collection of DVD’s.  Remember those?  My fingers trail the movies on offer, all of which I have seen a billion times.  True, I have reconnected with Magnum PI. The entire series of Friends, Midsummer Murders and every other movie from two decades ago.  Find myself counting minutes to bed and for me, that is what I remember my mother doing, it does not suit me.  The world is moving outside these walls and I am pacing the floor, watching the candles burn, listening to the radio (which I thought I liked and now loathe for no Spotify).  Now nothing.  No dailies, no facebook, no Instagram, no connection, Oh My Lord this is excruciating!  Where is the embroidery?

I know my daughter is to New York, son to Wales, other daughter acquiring a new puppy and I cannot deal with not being able to message, laugh at photos or even emoji kiss them goodnight.  Emails are lost, dates for appointments vague, research well, research work, kaput. And the mornings, me up at five from going to sleep at nine, with a cup of tea and wishing the shops would open.  I pick up wi fi outside random shops, drink too much coffee all in the attempt to reconnect.

Note: let’s just add the empty post London diary and I am to drink for sure.  Try to pretend to live like those ages ago without Internet and you know what … can’t be bothered. Perhaps if I were putting babes to bed or talking to spouse about the war it would be different but now … can’t be bothered with the silence.

I think the crying helped.  Today the technicians (will not mention the length of time for the battle must have been lost at Winterfell and all returned to work) arrived.  They connected, me, not so much. More drama, some threats and more wailing but behold, I am back in the world of technology and darling, I do love you so. I am valid again, in touch again and all is well in the household of the mother with children on the other side of the world.

Of course Judith Dufour was hanged for killing her baby to sell the clothes for gin. With such a shite life, gin deadened the senses and murdered the mind long before she swung on the rope. Not condoning anything but after this spell, understanding a little more.  I would have been a hag of note back then, if I had been deprived of basic life, of love and broadband.

Suffice to say, living in this day and age, being so dependent on technology and communicating with life out there, not having it has been more than bottom of the pond scum awful.  And interesting.  Time, rather than the lack of it, became the too much of it.

In this new chapter, with all the doing and Ewings of the day, all I can say is I missed you all out there, it’s lonely without my daily Paris, London, everything fix.  Glad to be back.

And no, didn’t do the Gin. Did the wine as after all, I am in the wine lands which is so much more appropriate, don’t you think?

Now to the business of not going to bed at eight, staring at everything around me and getting back to business.  The business of life as we know it now, and it is good.

Image: TNT magazine.