Category: balance

Creative Soulful Motherhood

Hi 🙂 If you’ve landed here and would like to check out what I’m up to these days, head over to my latest creation: Wild Motherhood, a portal for creative, soulful mothers with free resources, sliding scale coaching services, and a new blog! I’m writing about subjects like being an introverted mother, the wildness inside us all, and the messy imperfection of life as a single mother creative. There’s also more information on there about my writing workshops for mothers, including Wild Motherhood workshops which combine yoga, writing and sharing circles. You can find excerpts from my upcoming book, ‘Wild Motherhood: Keeping the Creative and Soul Fires Burning‘ and join the Wild Motherhood Tribe. As a taster of the book, I am giving away a free E-book, ‘Creative Fuel for Wild Mothers’, which you can get your hands on over here.

If you want to know more about my published writing and copywriting/content creation services, check out my main writer website. 

Hope to see you there!

Creative tips for mothers

Free E-book for Creative Mothers


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.


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.


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.


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.

…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!)


      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.


      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


      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


      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


      The idea of an aeroplane

      Can turn my head


      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.


      On Sunday, in London, I attended my second cuddle workshop. For some of you these words may conjure up a faintly dodgy image with perhaps sexual connotations. Or perhaps you might think it’s ‘sad’ to pay money to go somewhere where you can get a cuddle. These thoughts have all run through my head at one point. In fact, cuddle workshops are emerging out of an increased awareness of the effects a touch-deprived society has on us as human beings who all need touch to thrive, feel connected, and to belong.

      I think this gap is so rarely acknowledged. Those who are not in an intimate relationship – and even some who are – may spend days, weeks, even months without close physical contact with anyone, without having their human skin touched by another human skin. Touch triggers the release of oxytocin which is the ‘feel-good’ factor that creates bonding between mother and newborn baby, between people who are ‘falling in love’, and it helps create a strong sense of belonging and being wanted in any human being.

      While I am lucky enough to have a cuddly toddler, it always makes me wince to see adults wheedling, “Please, give Daddy/Mummy a cuddle, come on,” to an unwilling child. We cannot expect our children to meet our needs – we’re here to meet theirs, after all, and anything else is unhealthy and inappropriate. I think we need to be able to experience touch on our own terms and ask for our own needs to be met, and my experience is that cuddle workshops can provide an arena to explore this.

      The reality is that in a British culture – and the South African one I grew up in is very much informed by this culture – many of today’s adults have grown up touch-deprived in one way or another. I have heard men share that the ‘stiff upper lip’ mentality has resulted in parents refusing to comfort them physically as little boys, and even girls have shared that their parents did not show them physical affection, particularly past a certain age.

      One thing that I realised at the workshop on Sunday is that in adolescence, as sexuality awakens, touch is again ‘on the menu’: but only with a sexual agenda. Is it any wonder teenagers are often so quick to get sexually involved, when it seems to offer them the connection and intimacy they so crave, even if they are not consciously aware of it? After that, unless we were fortunate enough to grow up in a physically affectionate family, touch seems to be forever linked with sex, and we become very wary of touching anyone, and suspicious of anyone touching us.

      I was lucky enough to not really have any preconceptions when I attended my first one at Midsummer Camp last Summer Solstice. I was already in such a ‘loved-up’ state from being part of a wonderful setting, sharing food, play, affection and deep soulful talks with some really special people who became like family during that week – some of whom I am still in regular contact with.

      So, because I was already feeling very open, it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to do a cuddle workshop: to massage and hug others, and be massaged and hugged, and to end up in a huge ‘cuddle puddle’ at the end of the workshop with everyone there. And yes, everyone remained fully clothed in case you are wondering!

      Here are some of the words from the workshop press: “a safely boundaried space in which to connect with others, give and receive quality non-sexual touch and experience the joy and deep relaxation of close physical contact; to discover and let go of hidden agendas around physical contact, and playfully explore your boundaries, enjoyment and challenges around touch. ”

      The workshops also promise to help you “gain tools for getting more satisfactory touch in your life and to learn how to say no (and yes) powerfully and comfortably.” As someone who has struggled with boundaries in my life, practising saying ‘no’, and becoming aware of whether or not I really want a particular kind of touch from someone, was challenging but empowering.

      At Sunday’s workshop, facilitated by James Lockley and Anna Nathan, it really showed that I had been in a touch-deprived zone for a while. I felt much more vulnerable and nervous than I had at Midsummer Camp, and it took me a while to ‘get into it’. I experienced some very difficult feelings coming up when everyone spontaneously moved into a ‘cuddle puddle’ at the end – I felt a need to protect my own space, but I also wanted to be a part of it. I gave myself space to feel these feelings – there was no pressure to be in contact if one didn’t want to – and eventually, when I felt like reaching out again, I joined in, and was glad that I did.

      What I  noticed afterwards as I travelled back to Brighton and dealt with busy Victoria Station and people in various ‘closed-off’ states, was that I continued to feel very present in my own body in a way I normally find difficult to access, often tending to ‘live in my head’. I felt a stronger awareness of my boundaries and less hesitant about moving away from people if they were crowding my space. I also felt a profound compassion for the people I saw, a sense that we were part of a human family that all have the same needs, no matter how much we may try to hide it.

      Just as I was wondering how to create more of this touch in my everyday life back in Brighton, I bumped into a friend yesterday who I am just starting to get to know – and she gave me a warm, heartfelt hug. Like many things in my life, I know I can move closer towards this way of being and feeling with others, if I keep holding the intention and remaining open in my heart. In the meantime, practice sessions are always welcome!

      “Every city has its own internal logic” – Angela Carter, “The Kiss”.

      I knew my city from the first time I saw it. Strange that it is ‘mine’, now, when I was born in Cape Town, but there’s something different about a city that you have chosen to live in. And Cape Town seems increasingly distant and abstract to me now, after six years in my adopted country.

      I first ‘met’ Brighton in June 1998, on a gap year holiday to England filled with pubs, pool and boys. It was only for one summer’s day, but it reminded me very much of the seafront in my home city, and I felt instantly at home. I saw it in an idealistic way, and Brighton stayed in my head for long after that.

      I spent longer in Brighton during November 2003, when I came up for my best friend’s wedding. The unaccustomed cold didn’t put me off: I was in love with the place, taking photographs of the beautiful University buildings, the Pier, even the pebbles on the beach, to show eagerly to my then boyfriend when I returned home (I was trying to convince him to join me when I moved to England).

      Brighton is both more and less innocent than Cape Town with its laundromats and rastafarians competing on street corners with glue-sniffing little boys offering to clean your windscreen. When I first moved to Brighton I thought it was a haven compared to the perpetual threat I felt in my home city. The lurching Big Issue sellers with their cheeky or frozen smiles depending on how much hope is left in them, and the clink of change in Londoners’ pockets as they walked past beggars under Trafalgar Street bridge – all seemed harmless in comparison. All I really saw were the lights and bonhomie of the North Laines, the way people could wear any hairstyle or costume without it attracting ridicule – unlike in conformist Cape Town – and the sunshine glinting off the pebbles on the beach which were still a novelty then.

      In Cape Town there was no way I’d walk through the centre of town at night without a man at my side – so when I first came here the freedom was intoxicating. I walked everywhere without fear. Recently, though, I’ve been noticing the underbelly of Brighton a lot more.

      Maybe it’s having a child, and an awareness of what I don’t want him exposed to – but the gap between the ‘ideal place to live in’ and the place I actually live in, seems to have become ever wider. Every time I walk down Western Road or North Street there seems to be a fight going on – even in the daytime – and I have to positively gird myself up to face London Road and the Level with the perennial alcoholics at midday.

      It’s also the sheer unstoppable force of the city – the way there’s always something stimulating happening, and finding peace in the face of that can be challenging. I feel like I’ve become hooked on it, though, because everytime I consider moving somewhere quieter – like Totnes in Devon, a recent bee-in-my-bonnet, I feel paralysed with fear of boredom, and something missing.

      I know that the sheer amount of choice I have on a day-to-day basis in this city is something to be tremendously grateful for. There are centres where we can connect with others in similar circumstances, have access to communal organic allottment gardening free of charge, many different parks to choose from, some of them beautiful, and of course the unchangeable sea – having grown up by the sea, I’ll always have a bit of an attachment to it.

      I know that my long term dream is to live communally and close to nature. In the meantime, though, and until I find the right people to do that with, I’m faced with the question of where’s best for a growing boy and his mother? How do we meet both of our needs? It’s clear that Jude loves the city and thrives on the excitement. He’s not yet noticed the things that make me cringe. And I have to sit in the gap and know that sometimes peace has to be cultivated regardless of my surroundings. After all, as meditation teachers say, wherever you go, there you are.

      Lately I’ve managed to touch that, but it was only when I decided that I could and eventually would leave Brighton, despite my love for it – that like a relationship with a lover, you don’t have to wait till it’s all falling apart to see the sense in moving on – it was only then that I started to feel the peace even walking down the busy streets with the shouting teenage mothers and the clamouring shoppers. Only then did I start to re-discover all the things I once loved about Brighton, and still do. It had to be a special place to become my adopted city, and often what I hear in people’s voices when they criticise the place, is a cynicism I don’t want a part of – a lack of appreciation for what we have here.

      Sometimes it is about accepting that nowhere is going to be perfect. Obvious as it sounds, this is something I really struggle with! For now, it’s about just taking baby steps towards my vision – and right now, that looks like it may be moving to a smaller town or village in Sussex, where Jude can still easily see his father and I can still see my friends here.

      It’s not perfect – it’s not rural idyll, and I would be giving up a lot, and facing the uncertainty of having to build up a network of friends all over again. But I’m reminded of the huge risk I took moving countries six and a half years ago, and how I have never truly looked back since. In the meantime, I’m hunkering down for winter and aiming to enjoy this city as much as I can while I am still here.