Latest Entries »

ImageAt a New Year’s Day party, not surprisingly, I got into a conversation about New Year intentions, goals and dreams. The woman I was talking to is someone who very much lives her ideals: she works in a field she is passionate about, and has started a movement in her community, the Red Tent for women, that has far-reaching impact. I told her about the dilemma I faced as I started working through Leonie Dawson’s ‘Create your Amazing Year Life & Biz Edition Workbook‘ in the last few days of 2013, and came to the inevitable bit where you have to list goals and then break them down into ‘to-do lists’. I actually groaned when I read that phrase, ‘to-do lists’. I love Leonie’s work – as a bestselling author and mom enterpreneur she is a big inspiration to me. But I was a little disappointed to come up against that word again. Don’t I have enough to-do lists? Enough demands on myself, trying to juggle all my many projects and of course the biggest project of all, raising a young boy mostly my single-parent household? Isn’t there another way?

How was I going to do these to-do lists without turning them into another perfectionist sledgehammer to beat myself with? The Red Tent lady said, ‘It’s a very masculine way of doing things. That’s how the world works, but it’s not the feminine way. I just have an intention this year: to continue to let the feminine flower in the world’. I love the idea of simply having a broad intention, and letting my work branch out from that. I wanted to agree, and wholeheartedly ditch to-do lists. I am all for honouring the feminine and being receptive; going with the flow and being flexible and spontaneous. But I guess a big part of me suspects I wouldn’t get much done that way. I would probably do a bit of this, a bit of that, and then a bit of something else, and none of it would add up to very much. After all, I am a Piscean.

I’m a messy bundle of contradictions, like most of us. Many people think I am disciplined and hard-working because, for example, I finished a postgraduate degree, walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain, moved countries and got a Diploma when my son was young. But I’ve also had a guitar sitting in my room for years waiting for me to play it – I’ve finally got as far as tuning it – and numerous unfinished short stories, a wad of unpublished poems, and two started-but-not-completed novels. I find it easy to finish tasks for which I am accountable to other people, or which involve participation in a group – but when it comes to my own projects, I need help with motivation to finish. I employ the ‘masculine’ part of me to help me unite some of my projects into coherent over-arching goals, and then find the ways I can cross from where I am, to there. The masculine part of me helps me to see what needs doing, with clarity rather than a vague ‘it’ll happen’, and follow through with determination and discipline.  So, breaking things down into steps and diarising these actions helps me. Much as I might groan.

For me, the ‘feminine’ part is allowing myself to be in the process of that, and finding en-joyment in that, rather than anxiously ticking things off a list and focusing on the end result only. It’s my intention this year to find a balance between the two, and to allow myself to enjoy the gap between my dreams and reality rather than wishing it away.

My favourite part of the workbook so far has been acknowledging the dreams that came true in the last year. Ever eager to get onto the next thing, I hadn’t acknowledged this, and I appreciated Leonie’s reminder to fully celebrate and release the last year before moving on to manifesting the dreams of the next.  I also loved the ‘page of gratitude’, where I actually ran out of space listing all the things I was grateful for in 2013. A lot of these things were moments or weeks out of my life, like Dance Camp East and the people I met there, 5 Rhythms weekends with phenomenal teachers. Others were things that will continue to unfold, like my new friendships in Lewes, the town that has been my home for a year now.

This year I don’t have any ‘resolutions’ as such: just a commitment to keep nurturing my core passions and try to include a bit of as many of them as possible in each day. That’s going well so far: I’m studying or practicing a bit of tarot and astrology each day, as well as journalling, doing yoga, meditating and of course writing. Doing the ‘small stones‘ January mindfulness writing challenge started by Satya Robyn and Kaspalita is a great way in with daily writing for me. But, and this is the crucial but, I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t do all these things every day. Inevitably there will be times when I’m tired, ill or overwhelmed, and the best self-care will be to pare the daily schedule down, and trust that I will pick up the thread again. I’ve become a lot more accepting of that. What are your intentions this year? Whatever they are, may they connect you with yourself and your passions.

ImageImageI’m writing on my bed, my usual working space. Out the window, instead of trees I see brick and windows, white sky. But it’s okay because I have delicious soundscapes in my ears, Fionn Regan, Savoir Adore, and I am writing daily. I feel like a desert cactus that’s finally been replenished. Able to bloom.

Since I last posted, a year ago, I have moved house twice, stopped home educating – Jude started school last week – ended a ten-month relationship, and discovered that I am, after all, an introvert.. Well, I knew I was one, but I also thought I was kind of an extrovert because I’m sociable and outgoing. Then I started to experience such profound fatigue that I wondered if I had M.E. or depression. The gap between what I wanted to get out of my life and what I was, in fact, able to enjoy and achieve, became larger and larger. But depression didn’t make sense, because although I had a low mood for much of the time, and often felt a sense of pointlessness about life, I would still come alive when I had time to engage with things that interest me. M.E. didn’t really either because I slept less than ever when at Dance Camp East in July, yet was full of energy, fed deeply into thriving again by the music, fire-lit companionship and soul celebration.

Then I typed into Google the words ‘Why is small talk so exhausting’ after yet another utterly wearying experience with talking about the surface of life for a couple of hours. I discovered a world of people blogging and writing about introversion. Being an introvert means that you get your energy from being alone, and from ‘deep’ and meaningful conversations and interactions with substance – small talk is very often draining for introverts.  I felt a huge sense of relief: I’d found my home. My favourite so far is Space to Live, by Brenda Knowles. It’s a treasure trove of articles about introversion and how it impacts on parenting, relationships, work and self-esteem. I found myself identifying with every one.

The tiredness I’ve been suffering from for years, most acutely in the past few months, is, I believe, directly related to living a life of extraversion when I am really an introvert. For years, but particularly the past year since Jude finished nursery and I made the decision not to send him to school – to take the full responsibility of Jude’s education and socialisation into my hands.

An introvert is someone who answers yes to many of these questions:

  • When I need a rest, I prefer time alone or with one or two close people rather than a group (yes).
  • When I work on projects, I like to have larger uninterrupted time periods rather than smaller chunks (this is why having Jude at home with me all the time, and therefore being constantly interrupted, was so draining for me, and why I became more and more unproductive in the little time I did have – because there was such a backlog of brain-drain that I had to spend most of that time resting,.then when I finally did get some energy back to do some work, it was time to be back on mommy-duty again).
  • I can zone out  if too much is going on (yes. I can be an absent parent for this reason, at times. The constant chatter of small children, as delightful as it can be for a couple of hours, is impossible for my brain to process after a series of consecutive 13 hour days of it).
  • I don’t like to interrupt others; I don’t like to be interrupted (yes…)
  • I can become grouchy if I am around people or activities too long (even as a child, my mom tells me I used to ask to go home after a while at a party or a friend’s house, and nowadays I can’t take more than a couple of hours in social situations without starting to feel a strain, which can come out as being a bit distant and irritable).
  • I often dread returning phone calls (sometimes)
  • I am creative/imaginative (yes, I’ve been writing books from a young age and always invented elaborate games with dolls and anything to hand!)
  • I form lasting relationships (I have several friendships that span more than a decade)
  • I usually need to think before I respond or speak (this one I don’t relate to as well, as I’m quite quick-talking).

A while ago I read Elaine Aron’s ‘The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You’, and related to it completely. Highly Sensitive People, or HSP’s, have a vivid imagination, are labelled too shy or too sensitive (as a child I was painfully shy), who perform poorly when being observed even though they are usually competent, have vivid dreams, find time alone each day essential, and are quickly overwhelmed by noise and confusion, crowded parties, hectic office life. HSP’s make up some 20 percent of the population, (while some estimates have introverts as up to 50 %), and have a finely tuned nervous system, often sensing things that others ignore such as strong smells, bright lights, and the crush of crowds.

Although I recognised myself in all this, I didn’t really put much of Aron’s advice into action. I felt resistance at the idea that I’d have to miss out on lots of things I wanted to do, in order to prevent sensory over-stimulation (a point which HSP’s reach much more quickly than others). I figured I’d survived so far. I love many different things, and have always had an active and busy life. When I wasn’t looking after Jude – who is, I believe, a ‘high needs’ child – I was very often seeing friends, travelling up and down the country doing courses, and juggling many different commitments and activities. Pre-motherhood, I typically juggled two jobs and studies and went out several nights a week. It took me getting so tired that I was dragging myself like a weight of concrete through my days, and feeling exhausted by bedtime despite an hour-long nap each day, to be willing to change what I’m doing.

I realised that giving up home education, at least for now, was a matter of survival. Home education is still something I believe in on principle – but the reality was that each day of it involved so.much.stimulation, and was ultimately unsustainable for me as a Highly Sensitive introverted mom with an extroverted yet Highly Sensitive child. Four to five days a week we spent most of the day at groups or playdates – forest school, the home ed co-operative – which involved being around lots of noise, conflicting personalities’ needs, and often chaos – and even my ‘days off’, when I was working, involved two to three hours of travel a day as Jude and I bus-ed it around to childminders and to his dad.

Now, Jude is full-time at a lovely, very small community rural school, is loving it so far, and I wake up with a feeling of eagerness and purpose rather than flatness and tiredness each day, as I know that my day will be mostly full of activities that restore rather than deplete my energy – writing, time in nature, reading, connection with like-minded people when I choose it – and that when I pick up Jude, I will have the energy to relate to him from a state of wholeness, presence, and fun (something that fled me during my exhausted days), instead of counting the minutes till bedtime and becoming snappy and absent. My tiredness has fled, and I feel the energy to do things I’ve not been able to do for some time. I spend most of my time while Jude is at school, alone, working on my writing projects and planning for my writing workshops, and this is the way I like it right now.

One of the sticks I beat myself with when I was still soldiering on with home education, was ‘but other moms are doing it’ – even a couple of other single moms. Why couldn’t I? I felt guilty and inadequate, and resolved to just try harder. I tried to rest when I could. But what Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in Women who Run with the Wolves, calls the ‘call of the wild soul’ would not go away. I was literally like a plant without water, trying to squeeze the days worth of headspace and solitude that I needed, into the paltry hour before I went to bed, too exhausted to enjoy it. I now see that it was pointless to compare myself with other moms – I needed to listen to what my particular temperament and tolerance levels were telling me. My ‘comparison disease’ also played out in the endless reading of blogs depicting happy fulfilled home educating lives – where the parents seemed somehow able to put aside their own need for headspace, solitude and quiet – let alone self-actualisation through realising their creative dreams – and simply enjoy their children and their lives together. I kept waiting for my life to start to resemble these blogs, but it never did. I just felt increasingly isolated and overwhelmed.

It has not been without sadness, of course, that I’ve let go of my plans to home educate long term, and I reserve the right to re-evaluate state school for Jude at any point should it not be working out. I’ve chosen to celebrate the fact that we did it for a year, that Jude had that extra year at home, which has prepared him to deal with school from a stronger more confident and secure position. And I couldn’t have known what home education was really like without trying it. I learned what my limits are, and now I intend to respect them.

ImageNavigating the transition from school term to holidays is never easy, and I am grateful right now for my two hours in a cafe while Jude is at the low cost Women’s Centre creche. As many of you know, I finally made the decision to go with my gut and keep Jude out of school for at least this next year and home educate. The root of this decision lies back in his babyhood when I began to read about the philosophy around home education and the problems with schooling. So the impact of suddenly seeing the shape of my life without 15 hours of nursery per week is, to say the least, quite startling.

I often find that once a decision is made, the other side – the path not taken – seems to stand out in bold relief. I know that if I had made the decision to send him to school, I would be seeing all the flaws of that path in minute detail, so I can rest in the middle here, taking it all with a pinch of salt.

A few things have come to pass and to end lately. The vision of my son at school, joining the ranks of the vast majority of our society – there is a kind of loss and grief in that, even though I feel right about the choice; the end of a significant relationship; my decision to not take my place on the Creative Writing MA to start in October after all. Instead of the massive undertaking and financial commitment of a 2 year degree I am doing manageable little bits and pieces that nourish my writer self: such as the Sark ‘WINS’ course, which I started a month ago and am absolutely loving!

Sark is one of the most insightful and inspiring writers I’ve ever had the luck to come across. I loved her book ‘Succulent Juicy Woman’ and have aspired to be one ever since. Her program for writers, WINS, has in the space of a few weeks transformed me from a chronic writing procrastinator to someone who is doing something to do with writing almost every single day. I hope this keeps up! I know that if I get stuck there is abundant support to get unstuck again.

I have some interviews lined up with amazing creative and soulful mothers for my non-fiction project, and have already gratefully received some written material answering my questions from those who are not able to do face to face interviews. I am going to send a proposal to an agent who I have a connection with through an author friend. I am so excited about this project!

My son and I have spent 2 weeks camping this summer so far, one week at Midsummer Camp in June and one at Dance Camp East in late July – a week blessed with the most stupendous unexpected sunshine. We met lovely people, re-encountered lovely souls we’d camped with before, and generally unwound ourselves into the space of blue sky and the simplicity of cooking over a fire.

Image

But I noticed something different this year: the camps don’t feel like the be-all and end-all of my life, as they did the last two years – the first two years in which I discovered them. It may sound sad to say that only a couple of weeks out of a whole year would have such an impact, but they did. I was woken up to a way of living that resonated deeply with me: a way of being in community in freedom and mutual respect that I recognised with my bones. I came home from them absolutely overflowing with love and openness.

This time, though, I found myself almost impatient with the seeming irrelevance of the camps to my everyday life: after all, living on my own with my son barely resembles a situation of sharing cooking, childcare and songs with 30 other people. It’s as if there seemed no point in surrendering into an experience that, beautiful as it is, is not going to last and cannot be translated into my life in Brighton. Some kind of cynicism or disappointment had taken root in me, to my sadness. This didn’t stop me from enjoying the experience as best I could while there: I discovered some wonderful new things, like Taize meditative singing, which had me in tears every time, and circle dancing, and loved singing my way through a 60′s and 70′s songbook with a guitarist in my circle, and performing ‘I’m Alive’ with a small acapella group in the cabaret at Dance Camp East.

But I wonder if the community is simply evolving more slowly here, but happening in its own subtle way nonetheless. Several people I know through the single parenting community in Brighton have supported me recently with both practical and emotional issues – mostly online or via text, but it helped tremendously. Another single mom is looking at setting up some single parent houseshares, and I am dabbling with the idea. I am loving the home education community already, and am so grateful for things like the forest school at Stanmer Park which is like a mini-recreation of camp life for me, once a week, where Jude can make a stick man to celebrate Lammas and also run around with a sword with other boys. I also love my various women’s circles, which nourish me and connect me to my femininity, and am so excited about the collaborations in the form of yoga and creativity workshops I am brewing with other talented women. And it seems that various acquaintances are setting up new social events and gatherings almost every week.

Dance Camp has also renewed my determination to learn guitar. In the style of Sark’s micro-movements, (where you take actions that last no longer than 5 minutes, to move you steadily towards your goal), I have taken my guitar out of the cupboard and put it in the living room, looked at tuners online and peered in the window of a music shop.

I encourage you all to look at the little steps you can take towards your dreams, and see how these little seeds take root and flower. I am hoping that the roots of community and music will slowly spread right underneath the foundations of my life here in Brighton. Who knows where they will come up to light and flower next.

Image

(Jon Steel).

I’m having one of those smooth flowing days that seems to often come after dancing the 5 Rhythms movement meditation practice- and I was lucky enough to make it two classes this week, Saturday in London and Wednesday in Brighton. Somehow surrendering into each rhythm of the dance and following my own changing moments lays a pathway for going deeper into my creative work and also for relating to others in a fresh way.

Funnily enough the effects seem to have nothing to do with how much fun my dance was – at both classes I struggled with self consciousness, inertia, crippling self-judgment, and many other shades in between (interspersed by moments of beautiful connection with both self and other). I guess it’s just about being with all those different states and not running from them, and feeling the river that runs underneath them all. After two years of doing the 5 Rhythms practice regularly I can feel like a complete beginner on the dancefloor all over again, just as when I show up to the blank page, or to a day of mothering, I can feel totally clueless. I start over, and from somewhere the impulses come, and as the facilitator on the inquiry group I’m in says, ‘I happen’, it just happens, life happens.

In my continued effort to get my work more ‘out there’ as a way of motivating and encouraging myself, and feeling part of a community of writers, I’ve had some pleasing results in the past couple of weeks. My flash fiction piece, ‘The Idea of An Aeroplane’ appeared in Flash Flood Journal, a flash-fiction journal created by writers and edited by a team of volunteer editors on behalf of National Flash-Fiction Day 2012. A 75 word version of this piece has appeared on ‘Paragraph Planet’ on May 27th, where the challenge is to make an impact with exactly 75 words. I am also working on a guest blog proposal for the American natural parenting Mothering Magazine, as a follow on from my article on ‘Wild Motherhood’ in Wild Sister Magazine (April issue). Watch this space!

Writing in an unlined moleskine notebook for the first time is bringing out some lively pieces I look forward to developing, which I think would have struggled to break out of my usual traditional lined notebook. The suddenly sunny weather has meant more longhand writing rather than being hunched over a laptop. I am still laboriously reading through my novel and just itching to write some scenes when I am familiar with the plot again; I’m also 2/3 of the way through a children’s story and nearly finished editing 18 poems for submission to the Mslexia poetry pamphlet competition. I am delving deeper into the subject matter of spirituality, creativity and motherhood for my future non-fiction book by compiling a list of possible interviewees – there are so many juicy women to interview! – and looking at other books and blog posts on the subject. I came across this one, which condenses a lot of wisdom in one place.

I particularly loved this quote from Gangaji, from her question and answer session printed in ‘You Are That’: What is inherently free is who you are. Who you are does not become free. It is free. In recognizing this, there is the natural ability to respond. Before that, responsibility is a concept of duty or of something to be shouldered. It may be tempered with love and care, but it is also something to be born. Therefore, your child becomes an objectification, a separation between you and that which you really are. (emphasis added).This is a deadly joke! You are this very child. Recognize this and you are not searching around for personal freedom. Then nothing can be an intrusion.’

This has certainly been my experience lately. As I have been exploring the work of Byron Katie to investigate thoughts that cause me pain and suffering and finding the truth underlying them, I have been astonished at the changes in my experience of parenting Jude. It is literally like having a narrow beam of light being expanded into the sun. When I look at him I feel I am seeing him properly sometimes for the first time, without the barriers created by needing to control him so that my own desires can be met, and the separation melts away to make space for a new way of enjoying being with him. Where every moment I can be led into greater joy and playfulness. So, much material for my book, coming from real life experience!

Inspirational input wise, I’m into short fiction at the moment. Maybe it’s the short attention span and reading time afforded by motherhood, but I find it much easier to pick up something I can finish reading in half an hour. I’m currently on ‘Don’t Know a Good Thing‘, a collection of stories by women writers edited by Kate Pullinger which is just mouth- and eye-wateringly good. Not a single story in it so far that doesn’t move me, confront me, or make me want to put pen to paper. Any good novel recommendations welcome though – I need something to grab me from early on!

Jude is starting ‘preparation for school’ mornings at his new school tomorrow morning. It’s hard to take in he is at this stage already. Two more months of nursery and then long summer days! I’m looking forward to our adventures, and in particular circle camping, dancing on the land and celebrating the summer solstice at Midsummer Camp in two weeks time. Bye for now, and enjoy the sunshine :). Thanks for reading!

Image

As Brighton comes alive with its annual Arts Festival, I feel pleasantly isolated from all the activity up at the top of Muesli Mountain – the affectionate name for Hanover, the hilly area with its many coloured houses where I live. I’m enjoying a hiatus from mothering for 4 days, and though missing my son already it is so delicious to be able to follow my own curves of movement through space and time. To sit typing all day under a duvet, have only three dishes to wash up instead of about twenty, and to go dancing and see friends whenever I like. When I have childfree time my tendency can be to swallow all my creative time in social interaction, to make up for the snatched and interrupted conversations that are a feature of life with a small child. But I have managed this time to carve out some proper writing time, and plan to stick to it!

My ally in this is a simple new lists/time management method I’ve come up with. Nothing revolutionary, but I’ll share it anyway in case it helps. I’ve discovered that I need my goals for the week to be incredibly specific, or only vagueness and procrastination tend to result. For example, I used to have a goal of, say, five hours of writing a week. When regularly nothing more than one or two hours of writing occurred, I tried being more specific: ‘Working on short stories, poems and non fiction project for 5 total hours’. Nah. No difference. So now, I’ve literally broken it down to this degree: 1/2 an hour editing a poem for a booklet competition. 2 hours re-reading my novel with a view to finishing it. 45 minutes on a pitch to a magazine (oops, yet to get to that one!).

And so far, it’s working. I’m doing it for all areas of my life, too. In neat columns on a piece of paper on my wall, where I can cross things off. Instead of ‘clean flat’, it’s the nitty gritty of ‘hoover hallways’, etc. What this new list system has illuminated is the sheer amount of life admin and Breastfeeding Counsellor related admin tasks I have to do each week. And how these tasks tend to dominate and take over, leaving little breathing room for my writing. So again, I’m becoming strict about my time by designating particular days to each task – I will not book anything on a Monday unless absolutely unavoidable, as that will be my writing day. I will leave Thursdays mostly free too, with space for an artist’s date (which will be going to the Royal Pavilion Museum & Gallery today). Three weeks of this system and I am feeling pleased with the result. I’ve submitted flash fiction pieces to two websites, come up with a few new freelance article ideas and summaries, written up some interview questions for a non-fiction project, and done a lot of de-cluttering and filing which frees up space in my head and my physical surroundings. I’ve also got a new weekly yoga client starting next week. Most satisfying!

I’m also trying out a variation on a method a friend told me about, to deal with procrastination. I note down every action I take within a block of time that I’ve designated to work of some kind. That way I can see how many times I’ve gone onto Facebook and done other non-work-related tasks, and having to write it down makes me more accountable and more likely to skip it. I also like this quote from The Organic Sister, an inspirational and empowering life coach, as a way of dealing with avoidance tactics: ‘Is this feeding my soul? Feeding my greater vision and purpose in this world? Is this feeding the souls of others?’

Last time I told you about applying for a place on the Creative Writing MA at Westdean College. Well, I am pleased to tell you (although if you are one of my loyal readers you probably already know!) that I have been given a place on the course, and am to start, part time, in October. I am so excited about having 17 hours a week to devote to my creative writing. I know that the structure and input from talented writers will do so much for my knowledge about this craft, and I will finally be giving the necessary space for what I believe is one of my main purposes in life. In the meantime, my research for grants to fund my studies continues!

Here is a poem I wrote a while ago, which emerged from a writing exercise with my good friend and writing buddy Lou Ice. We like to meet at Marwood”s in the Laines, a great atmospheric coffee shop with comfy couches and interesting roof views at the top, and write for two hours. Lately I’ve been writing poems on the theme of Brighton, my home for 8 years, and in this one I gave some attention to a species of Brightonian that is often despised but which fascinates me – Seagulls.

Seagulls

above the city,

the steeples pitching light

against the cerulean sky,

the sky that makes me feel

like a balloon ready to burst,

that gathers

our summer memories and

lets them loose,

above the city,

the seagulls preen and call,

their steely eyes

capturing it all as they sit

on the roof of the flats above

Hardy’s Original Sweet Shop

in the Laines -

I see one seagull spread his wings, then

re-settle back on the roof,

thinking better of it.

His mate is nestled nearby,

head tucked under a wing,

possibly asleep.

Their secret life is conducted above us all.

The sky is their habitat,

while ours is the grey street,

looking down at our feet.

They see the piping

reaching from top to bottom of the

building with its curlicue brickwork

like the gingerbread house

in Hansel and Gretel,

the makeshift curtain

only half covering the window.

The gull’s mate

is asleep now,

the other still turns his head

like a weather vane,

perhaps observing the mildewed wall face

and the un-used red chimney tops,

the shops that used to be fishermen’s cottages,

and they don’t mind the grey,

because they have the blue,

the white passing clouds

and the sun so close they could dare it.

Back!

I’m back after a long absence. I don’t know quite where to start, so I’ll start where I am. It’s Spring Equinox today and the astrological New Year. I am sitting at my desk with a breeze blowing through my window and a conspicuous cobweb in my line of vision. My friend Loi, who is staying with me for the week to research for a project on people’s lives in Brighton and Sweden, is sitting outside in the garden. Above me is my vision board for this year (picture to follow – camera being stubborn!) which has mostly pictures of outdoor scenes: a labyrinth on a field, a woman in a hammock in a summer dress, gardening, campfires.

For the first time I can remember, though, I don’t feel quite ready for the spring and summer – it seems to have crept up on me unawares. Through the winter I’ve been cooking some fascinating projects, and I feel far from ready to bring them to the light of day. I associate summer with fun and lots of time outdoors, which often feels incompatible with hard work – so the end of my semi-hibernation feels premature, since I am still in the work mode. Sometimes, it’s hard to let the grace – and peace, and fun – come in, when it feels un-earned.

Here is a poem that I wrote recently, its seeds sown in a journal entry at a 5 Rhythms Retreat in February.

Enough

Enough

of the sacred. We turn

and go, confront

mud clods and staring sheep.

In the end

you cannot stay with the joy

forever. The sadness

catches up, bleeds

through your flimsy bones

like translucent fire -

and the way the stones skipped time

on the river, and the moss

climbed the rocks, and we looked

at every knob and curl

of a thousand year old yew,

and Alex stood with her arms in a V

to the Welsh blue,

with the vivid scratch

of a branch on her cheek,

branding her with a kind of kinship.

You cannot hold it,

you need to burrow out again,

collect more of your soul

lost in tatters on the edge

of wilderness

learn to love the sound

of your own voice

howling in darkness.

I dance in the village hall

with its names of dead soldiers on the walls,

my eyes to the sheep

on the hills, the silhouettes

of trees as dusk catches

us in a net of mortality

again.

One of the others, a man

who dances as if with every movement

it were possible to loop the moon

and its currents back into his body,

the warrior sun to take residence

in his joints and sinews -

says “I’ve felt sad the whole retreat.

On the other side of the sadness,

perhaps,

is indescribable beauty.”

Image

(‘Seed’ by Pavel Jonka)

I am picking up the thread of this blog again, to chronicle my continuing efforts to weave threads between the different parts of my life: motherhood, writing, spirituality, nature. Lately there have been some pure moments of connection between these areas: one is the birth of an idea for a book that slowly grew out of some articles I’ve been writing (including one for an upcoming issue of Wild Sister magazine), which will explore mothering as a ‘juicy succulent woman’, one who endeavours to live out of her creativity in every moment. I envision interviewing mothers who are artists or spiritual seekers in one way or another, (and who of us is not, in some way?) and examine their stories alongside my own experience, to provide sustenance to others on this journey.

Alongside this I am editing my magical realist/ supernatural novel along with feedback from a fellow writer and friend, Sara-Mae, (here’s her satirical art blog), and have put my new novel on hold while I wait to find out if I’ve got onto the Creative Writing MA at West Dean College, a dream I’ve had since 2006! I’m working on two collections of poetry, one themed around Brighton, one around different summers of my life. My son is now 4 1/2 and is starting to make inroads into his own independence, flourishing and growing both physically and mentally and continually surprising me, making me laugh and frustrating the **** out of me! Right now he is at nursery school which he is loving, and this afternoon we will go swimming and do some mommy-and-J things. Things feel in balance at the moment – and it’s always a balance that requires presence and attention (and it was definitely NOT the case last week, when I had a severe case of freak-out and overwhelm, but hey…)

I am also working on starting a new family-friendly nature-based camp, inspired by the beautiful camps I’ve been to and have blogged about on here, called Heartsong Camp – watch this space! At the moment I have a few people interested in crewing and giving workshops, and a possible venue – the finer details are being worked out. I have moments of terror that I am even contemplating doing this, but whenever I feel that way something comes along and indicates that the project has its own flow, all I have to do is flow with it, and the right circumstances, people, places and times will occur.

I also turned 32 last month, and two weeks ago got my Breastfeeding Counsellor qualification after 3 years of study. Feels like a time of landmarks, turning points, and things being wrapped up – making the transition from student to practitioner being loosed on the public ;) !

Overall, it’s all been about trust, trust, trust lately. I have been percolating so many different possible ways of living, taking steps towards them, then a few steps back – in December I went to Norfolk to investigate moving here, but have decided to stay in Brighton for now – and throughout I am learning to let go of the outcome, trust the next step, trust that I’m being led where I need to be – and most of all, that it doesn’t, and I don’t, have to be perfect. Allow myself to learn and make mistakes. I love this quote from Annie Lamott: ‘Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you crimped and insane your whole life. Perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while doing it.’

Until next time, keep dreaming your creative dreams and taking one step at a time. Love, Morgan x

…is that you often don’t feel like doing them a few weeks afterwards. I feel in quite a different space from my last post, when I was buzzing with goals and plans. Creating a manifestation collage for 2011 with my Sisters Circle revealed to me that my unconscious was bubbling up with some different ideas from my more linear cortex, which loves nothing more than to spin out endless to-do lists and goals.

Phrases like ‘breathe and relax’, ‘intuitive, ecstatic’, ‘slow down, be still’ and ‘fallow time’ as well as ‘your life, your way’ and ‘explore the treetops’ appeared in my collage, and it makes me feel more relaxed and less driven just looking at it. Despite Jude now being at the Dharma School 15 hours a week, I’ve not been doing as much writing as I intended, but not out of wanting to avoid it or procrastinate: more due to an increase in yoga teaching opportunities and a backlog of admin that urgently needed attending to (really, honestly!), because it somehow never was in the busy-ness of full time Stay-at-Home-Mom-ness: tax returns, admin for my course, blah blah…I won’t bore you anymore. I’m continuing to schedule in writing time week by week, and am confident that I will settle into a good fiction writing routine once my current freelance writing projects are complete. When I am working on my novel, it’s flowing much better and is a lot more enjoyable.

As I’d resolved to do monthly, on Wednesday night I went along to e.g. poetry, an event with published poets and open mike slots. It was good to read some of my work, but my honest feeling was that I didn’t connect with much of the poetry I heard, and in fact I find it a lot easier to read poetry than hear it. It felt very much like a ‘should’ to go there, when I felt more like going to a 5 Rhythms class. That’s another interesting thing about resolutions, plans and goals. Hhmm.

This week, I’m noticing what happens when I just follow the energy where it wants to go, without forcing. This does mean I only did my tax return yesterday, 4 days before the deadline, but it got done. Next time I will share more with you about an amazing workshop I attended last weekend, working on clearing limbic imprints, where all our emotional responses are stored. It has definitely left me with a different balance between the internal ‘slave driver’ and the part of me that wants to just enjoy life. It made me realise that money (while useful) is far less important to me than having creative dreaming time, time alone, and time in nature.

The volume has been turned up on the enjoying life bit, and this is a new experience for me. I’m taking walks in the woodland around the corner from Jude’s school whenever the weather allows – something I was hardly ever able to do when Jude was with me full time, at least not in the same way. I’m having naps when I want to. Lying in bed reading. It’s delicious. My challenge to you this week is to just notice what you really want to do and what you feel you should do – and investigate what happens when you follow the first one a little more (with the usual caveat of it not harming anyone else of course!)

 

.

pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

Happy New Year everyone! This is the first New Year in a while that I’ve really connected with a sense of fresh possibility and excitement – a feeling that I can break through old barriers. I don’t know whether that’s due to finally being more settled in my environment – last January I was still in-between homes – and therefore able to look outwards and onwards again, or because of the Solar Eclipse and recent Jupiter-Uranus conjunction bringing positive expansion, or because we are so close to 2012 and all that that means for our development as humans – but it feels so good!

Last year I had big dreams for myself: solid goals, like living in community, being in a loving relationship, and having completed my novel by the end of 2010. It’s wonderful to dream big but it can also put a lot of pressure on us. It would be easy to be depressed about the way those goals haven’t quite materialised, but when I look at it honestly I wasn’t consistently applying effort in those directions – I kept getting sidetracked from what I was trying to manifest, and letting life pull me every which way. It’s been an emotionally turbulent year, but I’ve come out a lot wiser. So this year I’ve decided to approach New Year’s intentions in a different way: making intentions that are totally down to me. And, just as importantly, are measurable in small steps.

My lifelong friend and fellow writer Rin Simpson blogged about approaching New Year’s Resolutions month by month – sitting down at the beginning of each month and writing down your goals for that month, rather than losing momentum halfway through the new year. I like that a lot. It’s really quite simple: I want to take small enjoyable actions, one at a time, that are related to my big dreams for myself, and that gradually narrow the gap between where I’m standing now and where I want to be. Most importantly, I want to enjoy where I am right now as much as possible: spiritually, emotionally and physically!

Something I found very helpful to do was mindmap around my ideal working day and my ideal home – I confess, I have a digital ‘vision board’ of my ideal partner too, and have a list of qualities I’m looking for in a partner that are constantly refined ;) These mindmaps – which I plan to collage around too, because visual representations are so good at activating manifestation – were so effective at getting me fired up about my life, that it was easy to come up with concrete steps. So, here are some examples of my New Years steps:

To energise my dream of being a successful poet, novelist and short story writer, I’ve decided to, each  month, schedule in nine hours a week to write, and aim for one poetry/short story/article submission per month, as well as a poetry performance where possible.

To move me closer towards my dream of reaching lots of people with the empowering tools of Kundalini Yoga and the power of writing and journalling, I’d like to facilitate one Kundalini Yoga or writing workshop per month – my upcoming New Years Yoga workshop on 8th Jan will focus on New Year intentions and bringing in positive energy to 2011, and I’m very excited about teaching it!  I’ve also decided to keep my determination and focus and see one thing through at a time – e.g. commit to teaching a class for three months, putting my all into it, before trying something else.

    I have plans to take a ‘ready, fire, aim’ approach this year and start finally using the  skills and knowledge I have to reach out to people – for example, I am planning some workshops to help give new mothers basic tools such as breathing and meditation that can be practiced in amongst the chaos. For so long it’s as if I’ve been waiting for someone to give me permission to teach what I know, and I suddenly realised that it can start now!

    pic by Dayawanti D'Sa

    To work on my goal of becoming more organised and efficient, I’m going to do one ‘sort out’ project each month – e.g. file bank statements, throw out old papers I don’t need etc. I’ve been doing this regularly lately and it’s great how much energy it releases, leaving me free to create new things in my life.

    And motherhood of course is not exempt from self-improvement – far from it. I have re-committed to being very clear on my intentions each day, to connect with Jude and put our connection and loving relationship at the forefront of my consciousness when I’m with him. I find when I am clear in my mind about my intentions, I can re-steer my wayward thoughts and actions back towards them more quickly and easily.

    To keep me connected to the spirit that sustains me through all of these things, keeping my focus on the internal rather than the ever-changing external – Yogi Bhajan taught that ‘all things come to those who are stable’ – I want to read, watch or listen to one inspiring thing every single day. It’s amazing what a difference it makes when I take the time to connect with the wisdom of teachers and writers such as Yogi Bhajan, Wayne Dyer, Abraham-Hicks and others who remind me of the greater purpose of my life beyond the roles that I carry out and the actions that I take. It eases stress and uplifts me out of the often narrow focus that can result from chasing after things.

      On that note, here are some quotes I’ve found on my web trawls recently that I found inspiring and uplifting, that deal with creating and manifesting in one’s life:

      Walking with faith tends to turn out better than just having a “concrete” plan. A flexible planwith faith creates miracles! ~Mastin Kipp TDL

      Recognize that you have the courage within you to fulfill the purpose of your birth. Summon forth the power of your inner courage and live the life of your dreams. ~Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

      Life is a handful of short stories, pretending to be a novel.-~~Anonymous
      If we fill our short stories with love a beautiful novel has the opportunity to transpire!~~~Margery@Angelhealingwaters

      Finally, I leave you with an affirmation I like: “I am open to beneficial change’ (vs ‘I wanna stay the way I am!’) (from ‘Simplify, Simplify, Simplify’ on Facebook). Really, all we can do is be open to the flow of change in our lives, and co-operate with it rather than running away. Bring on 2011!

      First off, apologies for my silence of late. I have decided to write shorter but hopefully more frequent posts, which many of you will probably be glad to hear! I realised I’d been feeling the pressure to produce nothing but erudite reflections, but sometimes I think it’s important to just shut up and write, as Natalie Goldberg says. My writer friend Lou-Ice’s (Louise Halvardsson) blog is an excellent example of tracking one’s life as a writer (or whatever it is you do), illustrating with well-chosen photographs (taken by herself usually) and inspiring others with the way you bring creativity into life. When I’ve got to grips with my new camera phone I’ll be adding some of my own creations!

      As Winter Solstice approaches with the reflections on dark and light that it brings, I wanted to share a beautiful event I was lucky enough to be part of last week: the Mothers UncoveredNight of Splendour‘ party and cabaret to celebrate three years of this amazing supportive network for mothers, which one participant remarked ‘ does more for the psychological well-being of mums than the health profession does throughout pregnancy and beyond.‘ The cabaret featured extracts from ‘The Naked Truth’ monologues and ‘Your Stories’. I have to admit I was in tears at several points of the evening as women bravely shared their (and others’) experiences of the light and dark sides of motherhood and every shade in between.

      The very hip band ‘YuMammaMeeMamma‘ had me in stitches in the second half as they sang songs interspersed by hilarious mother-to-mother dialogue that was instantly recognisable – and skirting the edges of provocative at times – and got us all to join in singing ‘We Rock the Pants of Motherhood’ (in harmonies!) at the end. It was so exhilirating to experience motherhood as something to be proud of, something to celebrate and recognise. Instead of an aspect of life that is very much stuck at the margins of society (although of course, I didn’t notice any non-mothers, or indeed non-women, at the event, other than the organiser’s husband).

      I read my poems ‘Three Month Mark’, ‘Untitled’, and ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’ – all stage debuts. (Thanks Lou-Ice and Bernadette Cremin for valuable feedback during the draft stage of ‘The Idea of an Aeroplane’). It was an excellent opportunity to narrow the gap between my creative life and te day to day reality of motherhood. The poems represent three different ‘stages’  of my motherhood journey thus far (all three years of it!), and I’d like to share them. The first one, rather obviously, was written when I was pregnant; the second, when Jude was two, and the last one very recently. So, here goes!

      Three month mark (okay, so the picture is of my full term bump!)

      Tomorrow

      is the three month mark of our baby’s conception

      when our blind cells joined, oblivious.

      We drank vodka cocktails,

      spilt sex conversations

      until my breasts ached walking

      down the stairs for the thirteenth pee,

      and I nearly hit you in a hormonal rage.

      Now my Buddha belly grows rotund

      with this creature

      we created accidentally-on-purpose.

      Friends tell me stories

      of three-month-point abortions

      and miscarried twins

      In six months I will meet you

      I don’t know what you will look like

      or how I will love you

      If you will have imperfections

      grown in the womb

      or pre-destined by genetics

      If I will still love you, then.

      You are my consolation in the form of a bump

      barely visible,

      a secret I stroke and hold with a smile

      at odd moments of the day,

      when work dulls my shiny joy

      and the pointless commute wears me down.

      The shiver along my scalp

      like a bolt out of nowhere.

      As you, angel not yet incarnate,

      unfurl your blameless wings inside me.

      (Untitled)


      Holding my boy & he’s breathing.

      Something the Victorians wouldn’t take for granted.

      But I’m thinking of deadlines on essays

      and time running short,

      The refuse workers strike

      & how rubbish is piling up in the streets.

      I’m holding my son,

      his warm cheek under my armpit

      how little space he takes up,

      so new on this planet.

      But his footprint will grow

      with him, & soon he’ll use more

      resources than 10 Guatamalans.

      It’s strange how,

      when he’s asleep, lying on the pink-

      crayon-streaked sheet beside me,

      I miss him.

      Even as his breath descends

      into his chest: rise, fall, rise, fall.

      And his feet do that last twitch

      before I can do a stealth

      manoeuvre & escape.

      I wait, like a clock with a stiff second arm,

      for the day to release me into my private self:

      The self that knows words

      like ‘aver’, who guards her evening from the warp

      of days given over to chilly playgrounds

      and overheated libraries

      where today, he ran away from me,

      & panic stilled my blood.

      Now emptiness rises in my throat to

      catch me:

      you must live, you must stay,

      you must stay

      mine.

      The Idea of An Aeroplane

      An aeroplane streaks blue sky above,

      Leaving only trails of white.

      I know inside it will be stuffy

      With plastic food,

      But still there is the longing to

      Go

      Forwards, to Thailand

      With its spices and space,

      Or backwards to South Africa,

      Strangely comforting

      With its barren air of possibility

      Every time I hear that

      Distant thrum of a plane’s engine,

      I look up and am temporarily gone.

      Even if I am walking on green earth

      And birdsong is caressing my ears

      With fresh sound.

      Even though I’m walking with your

      Hand clasped in mine

      And even though the russet gold leaves

      Are crunching decisively under each step

      And even though I feel

      As vast as the remembered sky,

      And know that I am alive,

      And here, and real

      Still

      The idea of an aeroplane

      Can turn my head

      Away.

      One of the biggest gaps I experience in life is between how connected I want to feel – and how connected I feel moment to moment, in reality. Connected to what?

      Life, myself, the Universe, God(dess), whatever – to me it doesn’t matter so much what you call it, it’s the feeling I recognise: joy, contentment, openness, and inspiration. Where my energy is flowing and it feels good. Feeling motivated but not compelled to do things – feeling that I am okay no matter what.

      Sometimes I feel really ground down by the seeming mundanity of my life, and the endless repetition of tasks that stay-at-home motherhood involves can feel anything but spiritual and connected. Recently I wrote a guest post for Authentic Parenting about this seeming contradiction. The last couple of weeks, though, something has shifted in my ability to connect with that connected state of being.

      I sometimes spend more energy trying to escape motherhood, than actually enjoying it; using a lot of the mental space I could be using for being present and feeling calm and joyful in the moment, to orchestrate my next ‘fix’ of something completely non-mother-related, like a spoken word event or a spiritual course. Or looking at friends’ status updates on Facebook too much, to feel like I am part of the real world – filling my mind with often irrelevant distractions.

      Because of my fear of isolation, I spent most of Jude’s babyhood rushing frantically around from one activity to another, and it exhausted me. Nowadays our life has a slower pace because Jude often prefers to be at home. Amidst the moments of boredom I’ve started to feel relieved, and to experience that simple contentment of being where I am, with Jude, and knowing him well rather than having a childcare worker share his most significant moments.

      I definitely still find cultural and spiritual events inspiring and valuable, but I’m becoming more realistic about my life as a single mother and not trying so hard to squeeze everything in.

      I couldn’t organise a babysitter for two arts/cultural events I wanted to go to recently. But instead of feeling deprived, I was surprised to find I felt totally accepting – almost relieved to be able to let go of that pressure to do and be all things, and just read a book in the evening when Jude went to sleep. This has been far more nourishing for me lately. Also, it meant I had more energy the next day to be with my son and join him in his enthusiasm for life.

      I’m realising how much energy it takes to be with other people and do task-orientated activities, especially when I am with a high-energy preschooler most of the time, and how much alone time I truly need to recharge.

      I think the shift I’ve experienced in feeling more connected has a lot to do with being kinder to myself about how much energy it really takes to mother in a present, aware way, and allowing myself more rest and relaxation.

      This requires not believing those less than kind thoughts that insist I use my only two or three hours ‘off’ each day to do goal-orientated tasks. The work of Byron Katie has helped me enormously with this. It’s a radical re-conditioning, but worth it to feel that gap getting smaller.

      Follow

      Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.