Some thoughts on Yoga

There’s been a long silence on this page, I know I haven’t written like this for ages. Lying down, tapping keys, diffuser on, quiet house. Stuck for time and space my words have been rushed into little Instagram squares typed with one thumb whilst the other stirs a soup/holds a babe/does the laundry. By evening I’m too tired to see a screen, let alone write, replying to messages is about all that’s been getting done. Organising the next day, is all I seem to have energy for. Planning writing days months in advance, losing the spontaneity of a story as it slips through my fingers. Watching the world shift in the last year blowing the family apart. The depths of the tragedy which has wrung out the hearts of my nearest and dearests. Sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say. Nothing to add. That I don’t know how to write anymore. That this blog has become a ramble with no fixed aim? Is it cathartic or business? I yearn to start a fresh one, concise and new, targeted, let this fade into history perhaps…perhaps but then this is my truth; a rambling round and round kind of life.

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Throughout this blog there is one thing I have learnt, been practicing, a thing that has got stronger and stronger in my life, something which seems to constantly be there to fall into, that holds me up even on the very darkest of days, an almost tangible force which only now after almost a decade of regular practice am I starting to feel I finally have a glimpse of what it actually is and that is Yoga. From almost as far back as I can remember I have been drawn to the practice, to the quiet, sacred space it seems to create. I remember watching a woman alone on a Devon beach early one morning when I was a child. She moved and swayed, groaned and breathed in time with the waves, I was hypnotised. The adults I was with hurried me on with a quick ‘Don’t stare darling! Come on.’ I remember she used to appear in my dreams after that sometimes. It’s only with hindsight that I realise she was practicing Yoga.

I think I first started to take Yoga seriously at university, when I was about 18. I remember the flyer for my first class had a picture of a tree on it. I liked trees, I’d been partying a bit too much, I had some notion it would be a ‘good’ thing to do. I remembered that woman on the beach, and I went. I’d love to say that I was hooked from then on that I became a Yogini overnight and dedicated my life to studying the Yogic paths…but it wasn’t quite like that, I was too hedonistic too much of a slave to the rave! I enjoyed it in a somewhat superficial, oh-isn’t-that-nice sort of way. Trying classes, then stopping. It took almost another six years for me to begin practicing at home and even then, through it all I’d say it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve really started to connect to what Yoga is.

It’s become a thread that runs through my life, through Epilepsy and Chronic Pain, through marriage and parenthood, through birth and death, through each day. It’s there in the background constantly. Like a stake pulling me back to earth, grounding, centring, holding. It goes far beyond Asanas, beyond perfect instagram poses. It’s about community and connection, it’s a link to women who’ve become sisters and those who walked before me. It’s thinking about what we eat, watching the seasons spin, and noticing the moon, the ebb and flow of my cycle. It’s loving my family and recognising my place in that. It’s being present with each moment. It’s learning about generosity and ultimately about love.  But more than anything Yoga reminds me how our thoughts create our reality. So we might as well be positive.

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Feel the Fear and do it anyway

I took my daughter to her first swim class today. I have been so looking forward to it, I’m a Pisces, ocean loving, mermaid seeking, selkie-believing, surf(-tri-)er, water lover and I’d always imagined the joy of being in the water with my babe. But as usual, epilepsy raised its ugly head and it didn’t start quite as I’d expected.

I woke up before she did, my stomach a knot of anxiety. Angrily I snapped at my husband and organised our swim stuff like it was a military operation. There seemed to be so much of it! I made a bottle to take as furious tears dripped down and splashed onto the teat. I slapped them away, willing myself to get it together. You see, last night a letter from the pool had arrived. One of those ‘health-check’ forms, you get at every new place you join. I dread those forms.

By writing ‘epilepsy’ on them, I feel like I am giving permission to others to tell me what I am and am not able to do. It’s as if I am awaiting their judgement on my ability to simply be a human being, like you. In the past I have been turned away from; gyms, massages, beauty treatments and swimming pools when I’ve told the truth on a form. Those experience sit heavy in my heart, bring tears to my eyes and stick in my throat. Being denied access to an activity due to people’s ignorance of epilepsy is deeply disturbing for me. The memories make me question myself, doubt my ability, wonder if I am unsafe, unfit and most disturbingly; a danger to others? I know I am not, but events like that make me question myself. Every question burns a little deeper. Because of this, often, I am somewhat ashamed to admit I have lied on forms like that.  I was tempted to lie on the form for these swim classes. I didn’t want the hassle. I just wanted to be like everyone else and enjoy the water with my bub.

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But then I thought what do I want Rue to learn from this? Do I want her to see her mother lying, ashamed and frightened? Or do I want her to see her mother being proud of who she is, telling the truth, feeling the fear and doing it anyway? I am a very experienced swimmer. My medication works. I knew, as much as anyone can ever know, that I would be safe. And then suddenly the choice was obvious. I wrote epilepsy on their form. Kissed my babe tight and off we went. And I thought, ‘I can do this, I am strong.’

I am strong because I tell the truth

I am strong because I have an invisible health condition

I am strong because I think I might accidently hurt my baby

I am strong because I face judgement daily.

I am strong because I face ignorance

I am strong because I have flashbacks of seizures

I am strong because I am Epileptic

I am strong because that doesn’t define me

I am strong because I think all of this and still look after my babe alone

I am strong because I feel the fear and do it all anyway.

And then the class was done. They didn’t read the form infront of me, so who knows what next week will bring but for now I feel better. I feel strong. I hope Rue sees the strength she inspired in me and hope that she learns to be strong too.

Thank you for sharing my journey and reading my words, you all give me strength too.

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Finding Light in the Bad news

I wondered if it’s OK to write about this, but I don’t know what else to do, so I’ll write and share, write and share, that’s my way.

My skin feels hard and dry. Like eggshell. The slightest knock and it’ll rip open. I’ve been thinking about birth and death and how intrinsically linked they are. Rue’s birth flashes back into my mind. For the first two nights after I heard the news I didn’t sleep. The days where ok but at night, when the quiet of the world crept up on me, I’d think of my family in their beds too and the pillow got sticky with salty tears.

Learning someone you love has a terminal illness sucks. There is no good way to hear that. When that person is young and apparently healthy it sucks even more. I guess in a way we all have a terminal illness. It’s called Life. Death is the only certainty. I know that everyone says all that stuff about ‘live every day as if it’s your last’ and ‘ anyone of us could be hit by a bus’ or whatever, but let me tell you. It’s a load of crap. No one I know lives like that. Until it happens in your life, you don’t do it. I certainly haven’t been. Other cultures supposedly have healthier attitudes to Death. But honestly I wasn’t raised in another culture so I don’t know really do I? I’m a Westerner and in our world imminent death sucks big time.

Being given a time frame on someone’s life is even more surreal. It sort of reminds me of pregnancy, seeing those little pink lines of confirmation and then waiting, waiting and waiting, waiting for …..for what? A baby?? I remember wondering if it was real. And I kind of feel like that again now. What is cancer? What does it look like? How long do we have? What are we waiting for?

wise things

There is now a line in my head and across my heart, it’s called ‘Before-The-News’ and ‘After-the-news’ In the days that now sit in the ‘After-The-News’ zone I have found myself having many ‘normal’ moments; Rue’s nappy exploding all over me, breaking cups, spilling coffee, feeling the sea wind bring a smile to my face on a sunny day, enjoying the signs of spring on the way, having long (by newborn baby-standard!) chats with friends. But then suddenly, I’ll see someone out running, or on a bike, hear men talking about football or walk past a particular cashpoint and Wham! this insurmountable wall of horror hits me in the face and I remember. This is happening. Right now to my family. It’s happening. And there is nothing we can do. At those moments I feel like I’m standing in a crowded room screaming ‘STOP STOP, JUST FUCKING STOP’ and no one even bats an eyelid. You see that’s all I want. All anyone wants is for it to stop. For it not be true, for it to be the fairytale it feels like, for the Goodie to come riding in on glistening steed to whisk us all away to happily-ever-after.

People have asked me lately if I believe in God. I suppose they hope we will find comfort in prayer. To be honest the question makes me so angry right now. All I can think is that if there is a God then he’s a Fucking Prick! I’m glad if people find comfort in prayer and in the belief that a mighty magical force loves them, but honestly right now, I reckon we are utterly alone in this life. We are damned and forsaken; a tiny collection of atoms which merge together to make us think we are more important than we are. That is not to say I don’t think Creation is awe-inspiring-jaw-dropping-insanely-beautiful-worthy-and-stupendous. I do. It is painfully so.  But right now, for me, there is no comfort in theology.

There is comfort in my daughter’s eyes the way they look up at me so intently and smile these immense, open mouthed smiles that reach up to her ears. There is comfort in her cooing and argh-ing, her wriggles and almost-giggles. There is comfort in her innocence and trust. There is comfort in the knowledge that all she knows of the world so far is love. There is comfort in who she has in her life now, at this moment, now. Tomorrow is too excruciating.

comfort

I suppose what I’m trying to say in a very convoluted way is that right now I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to work out how that can be (I think this could be a quote from something…abut anyway!!). More and more I am realising I don’t know anything about anything. I don’t know why some poeple are well and others are sick, I don’t know how I can be happy and sad , and I don’t know why we need to die? I don’t know who will be with Rue as she grows up. All I know is that I want to collect moments not things. I want to say positive shit, even when I don’t necessarily believe it. I’m trying to find the light because I know, even in the darkest night, somewhere, somehow, a  fricking cheesy star shines and I’m going to bloody well find it. Otherwise what’s the fucking point?

At this moment all of my family are alive. We have time to make memories, my tummy is full and my healthy babe’s asleep next to me. The sun is shining and the world is a beautiful place. So I’ll try to hold in some gratitude, adjust my fricking queenly crown and keep on enjoying this life a minute at a time, because really that’s all we have. Here’s to every fucking minute!

hope

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Project Virtual-Women’s-Circle

credit: Cluttered Gypsy

credit: Cluttered Gypsy

If I had been born a million or even just a few hundred years ago I expect my experience of pregnancy would’ve been very different. That is assuming that I survived having un-medicated, un-diagnosed epilepsy long enough to reach child-bearing age. Assuming I did, that I was healthy and loved, and forgetting that having epilepsy would’ve either made me an outcast or a witch. One of the main differences I imagine is that I would’ve been born and bred in a small community, perhaps of about 200 people. I would’ve known everyone and everyone would’ve known me.

I would’ve watched all my siblings being born, I would’ve helped out, worked hard. Taken care of little ones whilst mothers laboured. I would’ve listened as the older women passed down their knowledge of childbearing. I would’ve learnt herbs and massages. I would’ve seen women die and babies too. But perhaps not so very often. I would’ve watched the animals mate and labour unassisted, furry wet bundles blindly flopping out and finding their way to milk. I would’ve seen children fed from their mothers breasts till they could walk and talk and take their turn looking after a new one whilst their mother laboured yet again. I would’ve seen and heard the sweat and smell, groans and sighs of love making, perhaps I would’ve learnt that this is how the babies started. I wouldn’t have been afraid. There was nothing to fear, this was just life, it was hard but real, perhaps more honest than the one we find ourselves in now. Birth and Death were everyday, in everything. I read a beautiful article on this thought called ‘I Miss the village I never had’  check it out for further musings on how life, especially for women has changed.

spirit weavers

 

In that ancient community, love, luck and friendship would’ve been my main medicines, my support and strength. So far in my C21st pregnancy one of the many things which has surprised me is the way in which pregnancy affects relationships. I sort of expected it to amongst perhaps my family and child-less friends, but it’s so much more than that. I’ve found that some people I thought would be there to support me have all but disappeared and in their place new unexpected faces have appeared, those both with and without children. It has been another challenge of creating life that I hadn’t foreseen. I expect there will be many more! A positive side of this is that in many ways I now feel much less rooted in Brighton, our seaside home which called us back several years ago, where I thought for a while my heart lay. I’ve realised that the ‘village’ I thought I was in there was a mirage. In it’s place I’ve learnt that I am part of a village. It’s just much wider than this town, it extends around the country, into other cities, into remote valleys and across oceans. This means that I could make a life full and happy practically anywhere in the world. I have a network of friends who are there. Distance and the 21st century way of life gets in the way and I don’t see them as much as I would’ve in ancient times.

To remind myself  of this village I know I am part of I have been reading and researching many life stories of different women, both with and without children, all around the world. Their words have brought me great comfort, inspiration and helped me learn more about what ‘being a woman’ means.  I then decided to reach out even further and gather words from my friends and family to surround myself with for all the challenges ahead, not just for the rest of pregnancy and labour but motherhood and womanhood beyond that too. For those that I had addresses for I sent letters explaining the project. For those I don’t and for those in my web-world, this is your invite to my virtual women’s circle.

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If you would like to take part simply comment on this post with some words of encouragement or wisdom you think might be helpful for me to remember. It could be as simple as “You can do it!” or a quote or anything else you like.

I am then going to print and collect all of the comments and put them on labels on a key ring to make my long-distance woman’s circle of wisdom which I can look through on challenging days. Or perhaps my husband will even read it out to me during labour!!

I hope you like this idea! The ancient villages might be gone, but we are all still connected and I hope this is a little way to remember that connection. I am so grateful that this experience has shown me that I am included, that I’m loved. I feel so lucky to have the tools to connect with all you wonderful people all over the world. Please known I read all your comments, count every like and wrap myself in your words. You cannot underestimate the comfort and support your blog-following provides me with. Thank you so much for taking the time to participate.

A circle of women

 

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