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Even ducks drown!

Oh my!

Will this clownish, nightmare Covid circus ever end? Or have we just got to get used to the incessant bad news on the merry go round of life in, around and after (or under) the pandemic? In all honesty, I think not … but I think that presently life is one rather long round of loss, with the occasional merry win. And this week, as usual, I was thinking that there is some desperate meaning that I have to find in amongst all of this trauma and turbulence in order to swim into calmer waters. If – please forgive the mixed metaphors – if I keep working hard and shaking it off, a bit like water off a duck’s back, the meaning will come to me. I’ll learn from this test, I’ll shake the water off, I can stay afloat. Well, sure enough, I learned it…even ducks drown!

So…this week has seen me desperately preening those feathers, making sure they’re clean and well oiled, pristine and waterproof so that I could swim through some choppy waters over the coming weeks safely. I’ve got a house move scheduled (no…the sale still hasn’t gone through), a farewell dinner with some old, reliable and honest school friends; I should have been leading a funeral for the father in law of another dear friend and singing lead vocals at the first gig not to be rained off since restrictions were eased.

But…first I had some babysitting duties to see to – for sure, that’s one of those merry wins – until Covid struck, and the whole household, including the baby, are really sick. Except for me, with a double vaccination, and a feathery, downy coat preened to perfection…or not, as it may seem!

Those preening behaviours common to many birds, keeping their feathers clean, waterproof, and well groomed? It’s an essential task, not just to repel water from their feathers, but to enable them to stay afloat in order to feed and live. The oil glands at the base of their tails and under their wings secrete a waxy sheen that ducks use to groom themselves, and by scratching with their bills to pick up oil from those glands, they maintain the feathers’ waterproof properties – it is vital for them not to become waterlogged or, just like a stone, they plummet and drown. Of course, you have seen plenty of ducks swimming across a pond, but did you ever wonder what it is that helps to keep them afloat? Why it is that they don’t just drown?

It’s the social interaction that protects them.

Ducks in a flock fastidiously preen themselves – they’re in it together! But a solitary duck, one without companionship, gives up on itself and does nothing to maintain its feathers. It gives up on basic self-care…at first becoming scruffy and a bit disheveled and then reaching the point that those feathers can no longer do their job; they start to absorb water – and they will no longer float. A healthy, socialised duck rides high in the water, maintaining watertight integrity but a lonely duck plummets.

As you might guess, there’s not much social interaction in a house crammed full with plague! And in one where the water has been allowed to become muddy because of some unresolved differences and perspectives, it is hard not to plummet.

Yes, I’m like a lone duck, dependent on my relationships to keep afloat. It’s easy to turn inward, or away; its easy to neglect myself, and then to become unhealthy, even physically ill. It isn’t easy to escape a Covid household and it’s very easy to reach an unhealthy state of mental absorption. Especially when the water outside is so muddied and sullied.

So…what to do?

Well…I guess it is helpful firstly to remember that ducks swim in the water, but they are not affected by the water and that’s the same way that we are in the world but don’t have to be affected by the world. And then it’s helpful to consider how we should resolve issues as they crop up because we need – it is absolutely essential – to engage in a social community that encourages us to keep grooming.

How else can we sustain social buoyancy?

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The Shape of Her

A little Sunday morning poem for you…


She was born a whole circle but they wanted a hole. Twisted into a square but required to roll, she became a cute oval then none got her point. Triangle was next – she was forced to disjoint.

She became a trapezium with sides ne’er to meet then squeezed into a rhombus to make her complete; Next came a hex, a sept and an oct…hammering at edges despite them being locked. So a dodecahedron was next in the frame and, of course, this shape was wholly to blame for not fitting the space or filling the gap. The triskaidecagon just stole all her sap.

She moved on til she reached hexacontadigon. Sixty two edges! You’d think it was strong. But the facets were weaker, her chiliagon(e) ‘long with form and all love for this freak polygon.

For a while she was broken, became a flatline. It fit where it touched and it towed the line…It was easy to walk on, it slid down the cracks – it could morph into nothing, avoiding attacks. The line it got shorter, it almost withdrew…

And then oddly from nowhere a small wind blew…

into a chink and the shape became space. A dot became bubble, and bubble embraced

The fine air within and the new strengthened boundaries that were cast in the heat of life’s troublesome foundries.

It’s wholly the time to love this old ellipse for its shape can withstand the odd solar eclipse.

It’s the shape of the world, of the moon and the sun and the circle of life, once more, newly begun.

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I vow to thee…

I have spent rather a lot of actual physical time in the company of couples lately; couples who have been together for as long as fifty years. At the time when they made those vows, standing face to face, half a century ago, they could not possibly have known what roads they were destined to travel together – either privately or publicly, uniquely or universally.

Since those days when they made those vows, there’ve been so many social changes: religious attachment has waned, interracial and same sex marriages have gained acceptance, pre-marital sex is no more a taboo, home-making is not necessarily a woman’s preferred vocation or domain. And the idea that men should shoulder full responsibility for assuming the archetypal hunter gatherer role is the stuff of seventies sit-coms. Back then, blue-collar workers may have been able to quickly step on a property ladder and support a whole family a half a century ago, but that’s becoming increasingly hard to do and both partners are required to make a financial contribution to maintain any reasonable standard of living.

People, including acquaintances and work bosses or colleagues, are connected twenty four seven and it’s not out of the question to have the most intimate of moments interrupted as you hear from them at midnight or on a weekend or a holiday just because something sprung to their mind. Texting has shifted talking into a whole new dimension.

Back then, there were three television networks! Yes…just three and they actually stopped broadcasting at a scheduled time, meaning that your insomniac spouse’s only option was to stare at the test card for a few hours. Now, we have thousands of channels at our fingertips and can take our sport or our drama or our horror or hilarity to any location, even the loo, thanks to our phones, tablets, and laptops. 

The global population has doubled in those fifty years, yet couples in developed countries are now considering smaller families or none at all; perhaps we can attribute the steady decline of these birth rates to greater knowledge about the world and the issues which threaten its existence. Back then, any attempt to protect the earth would have you labelled (not trolled) as a hippy or a beatnik or a tree-hugger – someone so alternative as to be weird and definitely not mainstream. Today, if you’re not recycling, upcycling or bicycling, you’re being irresponsible and selfish. And being a parent is much more a matter of personal choice, linked to the myriad options for birth control with equitable responsibility, providing more than one reason why the milkman can no longer be held accountable in any way, shape or form. He no longer delivers!

There’s a voyeuristic view on how relationships are going – social media watchers keenly assessing where you go on holidays, how often one partner is away from the other, and even what you consume for each meal. Now those people you invite to your ceremony and reception see far more than they possibly could have, unless you were all having to live together, where they’re able to observe the nuances and foibles of the most intimate of relationships by being in that close-up and personal space.

When you choose to marry today in a public arena, whether in a church or a woodland glade, in the same way couples have for decades, you’re still inviting those you love to witness your commitment. And it’s still a wonderful option to call upon them to support you in honouring those vows, especially as the challenges of marriage have taken on all of these new dimensions. It is an idea to acknowledge that all of these changes will impact your relationship and its potential longevity in a way that no-one has ever experienced before. And that’s why its worth spending some focused time on deciding what you include in your promises to each other. To have and to hold whilst pledging your troth, loving and cherishing, is perhaps not enough of a commitment these days. Being able to say ‘I love you’ is much easier than accepting that marriage is built upon patience, empathy, and an ability to see that other person’s different perspectives.

Traditional religious vows all mention love, responsibility and oneness but not all of them pay heed to the adversity – so as well as sharing the joys of how you first met, what made you fall in love and when you knew that all roads would lead to this moment, ask yourself why you decided to get married, what challenges you envision for your future, and what you want to accomplish together.

In the future, happy occasions will come as surely as the morning. Difficult times will come as surely as the night. Be as conscious about the ways you want your vows to come across as you are about the way you want your marriage to progress and you will be certain to get off to the best start.

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Forging the New!

As the UK approaches the roads towards its journey out of lockdown, I’ve personally had a tough couple of weeks – ones in which it’s felt like the harsh winds of winter will never let up!

Tough, helping myself and others out of that metaphorical winter, with unpleasant weather, whipped into even greater ferocity by some of life’s harshest challenges…

I lead a funeral for a lady who’s love of life was contagious, who was not ready to go; despite it having sent her untold tragedies and significant trials, she was an example of how to live life to the full, even when it was literally sucking the life out of her.

I came second in a job interview for a wonderful opportunity that I felt I really wanted – one for which I put in a great deal of effort and preparation and invested much of my hope. It was not to be, and although I always know that it’s because somehow there’s a better opportunity out there, it’s still a lesson in facing rejection.

I supported a family in a highly-charged court case where the selfish and ego-based judgements of defensive adults were likely to tarnish an innocent, vulnerable yet inspirational young boy. Fortunately, they didn’t but it was a wholly unnecessary and unpleasant experience – one which could have been avoided if those adults responsible had actually been responsible and appropriately altruistic.

I’ve dealt with clever scammers who almost accessed data that would have left me in more ruins than those already inflicted by the pandemic.

I’ve yet again had the completion date for selling my home delayed – it is now thirty weeks in process and still no sign of it coming to fruition. And there is nothing but nothing that I can do about it except to go along with the words and empty sentiment that it is ‘just the pandemic’ which has hampered the legalities.

And I stumbled across an attempted suicide, whilst on a sponsored daily walk, raising funds, would you believe, for The Samaritans! Thankfully, emergency services were on hand to assist almost immediately but I was, nevertheless, scared and really shaken by what I witnessed.

So now, as a result of all this, alongside the increasingly crazy shenanigans of polarized politics and global chaos, I need some emergency service!

When I am feeling drained like this, I know how to treat myself well, in order to re-energise and you’ll find examples of those strategies and techniques in many of my previous blogs or in my book:

The Will To Surthrive.

But this time, I need something extra. Something even more spiritually supportive because there’s nothing more I’d like to do right now than fight the old. I feel like I’ve got a good few punches in me. And, there are so many of us out there, so tired of the incessant change which ironically masks the status quo for those in power, that we’re calling for revolution.

But I know that is not the answer. Instead, peaceful warriors need to call on the concept of “evolutionary reconstruction” as an alternative to revolution.

I found the something extra, as ever quite by chance, through a synchronistic article which popped up in a timely blog. I hope that this does the same for you. It is written by Gary Z McGee and the entire article can be found here:

5 Ways to Focus Your Energy, Not on Fighting the Old, But on Building the New.

I loved this quote especially at the end of the piece.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself, if you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

Lao Tzu

So, today, I’m going to transform myself from Winter into Spring. Like the clocks, I’m going to leap forward with some new found spiritual energy and remember that in helping to heal others, I can heal myself too!

 



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In love, married or single? Here’s my proposal to you!

Are you expecting some romance today? A proposal perhaps?

Here’s one I have for you first! I’ve been proposed to many more times than I’ve been married, so what I’m about to put to you comes from experience and a fair few times when my heart got broken.

None of those proposals occurred actually on Valentine’s Day, and nor were any of them the romantic ideal that the hearts and flowers brigade would have me wish for. Well…actually they weren’t the romantic ideal that I’d wished for, or envisioned either…and there was more than one that proved to be excruciatingly embarrassing…maybe I’ll tell you about it in another blog 😉

But they led to something utterly rather wonderful because my responses, then, and following them, have led to a wonderful love affair and the most satisfying version of happy ever after I could wish for!

And now – despite my escapades with love and marriage and mistakes on the merry-go-round – being in the enviable position where I can marry couples in the most beautiful and romantic of settings, it’s pretty important that I appreciate love in all of its manifestations and that I can use my experiences of it and marriage to guide them at the start of an adventure – one that celebrates how both can bring their independence to such a union and ultimately a successful partnership.

Independence which comes from secure attachment in a marriage, is rooted in the safety of being able to fully express needs, to accept love and support when necessary and to be able to rely on the love of another – one who always has our best interests at the heart of the relationship.

At times, in romantic relationships as well as in friendships or working partnerships, I have used independence as a survival strategy and that’s not great! That feeling is rooted in nothing but shame because I’ve believed that it was so weak to even find myself in the position to need help; and it was rooted in distrust, because I believed I’d never be able to rely on someone because my experiences as a child and as a young woman taught me it wasn’t safe to really do so!

As Valentine’s Day comes around again, I promise that as an independent woman, with a heart that’s been put back together with brighter gold than is ever used in kintsugi and with some of these lessons tucked firmly under my belt, I won’t be spending the day moping in pyjamas and alternating between shoveling spoonsful of ice cream into my blubbering mouth, and wiping away tears…because my heart is full and plump and healed. And I promise you, the proposal that I have for you is more valuable, and more beautiful for my heart having been loved and broken. Because I decide that, whether or not love ever decides to come around again, I’m an independent surthriver! One who loves myself wholly.

So, here’s my proposal to you: whether you’re single, or waiting in the wings, or already part of a betrothed couple on Valentine’s Day, today during the “Holiday of Love,” please accept my proposal to love yourself first.

To remind yourself of how strong, and spirited, and independent you can be and also to remember that when you’re not, vulnerability and reaching out for help is conversely strength. To know that it’s no-one’s job to fix you, or complete you or validate you and to realise it takes a healthy independent ‘me’ to create a happily united ‘we!’


Happy Valentine’s Day to you all…

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Could the media be seedier?

Beast from the East Returns! Season of fear, not cheer! Tournament Axed! Manchester evacuated as Storm Christoph blitzes!

Have you ever heard of ‘mean world syndrome?’ Nor had I until recently but I’ve been aware of its intention for years! I was vividly traumatised, not just for the days that followed, but even now, by an article showing how a tiny child had met an untimely death on an elevator in a shopping mall… FIVE THOUSAND MILES from my home. Why had this disturbing article shown up on my newsfeed? Well, it was accompanied by a side bar full of ads for safety shoes and baby harnesses…

The world’s huge range of media outlets – even those less sensationalist and more credible – can be guilty of hunting for the most horrific, terrifying events – or worse, normal everyday events which they wrap up with terrifying vocabulary – and then stuff it down our necks so that our bellies are full of it. This has the impact of depleting our bodies and muddying our hearts. These sensational headlines pander to something known as negative brain bias; it’s a physiological reaction that we find hard to avoid because we have more stimuli in our brain chemistry for danger and threat than we do for safety and pleasure.

Does this mean journalists or their media mogul bosses are cruel – even murderous? Not necessarily…but they can be mercenary as they do exploit our brain chemistry, creating the markets which increase their advertising revenue. It takes just a little more awareness to redress this imbalance, to redirect our focus toward all the abundant, warming love and kindness there is – both close to home and miles away.

I’ve had at least three conversations with friends and family in the last twenty four hours which show how we can thrive on a little drama – it can make us feel alive, bring attention our way; it’s a signpost that we matter to others when those others react to the theatricality, just as they would in a fourth wall drama. I’ve observed, as those close to me became so engaged in the dramas of soaps, that it dampens their mood for the rest of the day, as if the characters are real. I tried not to react theatrically when my brother, who was lacking in energy, returned from his daily exercise to state that, if he fell into water, he would drown as he wouldn’t be able to muster up the strength to swim – the only stretch of water he was likely to fall into that day was the bath so why this thought had even crossed his mind was a mystery. I simply asked him to be aware of how this negative thinking was drowning his spirit.

Whilst the national news remains full of the pandemic, the storms, Brexit fall-out, it is increasingly difficult (I’m going to borrow my brother’s thinking for the analogy) to stay afloat. Yes, these are extremely difficult times but I’m going to say two things:

One, it’s not impossible to stay afloat and two, we must!

Publicity is the oxygen for many thriving dramas. Think of how terrorists have provided the media with emotional, exciting and bloody news which helps them sell their product. It could be argued that, without publicity, terrorism would have no outlet and, therefore, no utility. Of course, this isn’t the easy solution to acts of horror or terror. But it’s essential to be aware of how the language used to report fuels the fire. And I’m not suggesting censoring freedom of speech in the media; I’m just advocating for a more conscious usage, or interpretation, of language so that we might alleviate the psychological effect of these dramas on our lives.

We don’t have to be our own bad-newsfeed!
We can begin by taking a conscious moment to check in with ourselves and ask. “Is this affecting me directly today? Can I take charge of my energy and well-being? Is what I’m thinking a kind thought towards myself? If not, how might I change it?”

In times of turbulence and in times of tranquility we can choose not to let our energy turn on a penny or a news headline.

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Dry Jan…Wet Feb…Icy March

I’ve never understood the concept, and certainly not the timing of dry January! And why not February, when there are less days? It’s an act of self hate, deprivation and flagellation!

This idea that last year, I deserved all the challenge and bad luck that came my way and that somehow, if I deprive myself of the things I love, for a whole month, I’ll become healthy and thin and detoxed and deserving of a brighter day, is cruel at best and insanely masochistic at worst. It smacks of the same mindset as, ‘I’ll be happy when I have that new ***** (insert whatever is your heart’s desire – car…house by the sea…holiday in Cuba).

Either of these ideas won’t help in the search for elusive happiness. In either scenario, I’m either too much or not enough and it’s only when I accept myself and love myself exactly as I am that I can be truly happy.

I know from my recent house pack up that I am excellent at gathering stuff I don’t really need and pretty good at shopping. And then I’m pretty good at putting whatever I’ve bought at the back of a cupboard and saying I’ll use it on a special occasion. I must have packed ten luxury scented indulgent candles that I’ve never lit! But in the past I’m also aware how, when I’ve shopped, I’ve looked for whatever it is to plug a gap for something missing in my life. “I could become enough…if I have the car, the house by the sea or the Cuban holiday.” But then something happens between the card payment and the car, my house – which is incidentally, only fifteen minutes from the sea, or the airport and I don’t quite get the high from it I have anticipated!

These decisions to have something in abundance or to force myself into appreciating its scarcity are not healthy! They are all promises of “someday when”. If I think to myself, “I’ll wear it when …” or “I’ll use it when …” or “I’ll be beautiful when…” and “I’ll be healthy when…” I am subconsciously saying I can only possibly be content when all criteria of my chocolate box life is met!

But I promise you that, with such a mindset, “someday when” isn’t coming! Ever! And I can be happy with or without these items on my bucket list!

Of course, when I’m trying to pursue a life goal such as developing my Celebrancy business or preparing to run a ten k, I can take advantage of a fresh new start. And January can certainly be that. Psychologists state that we can be more driven to tackle new goals at shared temporal breaks than at random times of the year; fresh start moments give us a boost of motivation by focusing our attention on what we want to achieve.

But I know that if my attention is focused on how bad my past behaviours have been, how my life choices made 2020 all the more difficult to manage, then the only way I can make the horrors of 2020 disappear is with more serious tough love and that’s dangerous – right now and in the future. I’ve been way too good at allowing my inner boot camp voice to shame me into doing things to myself that are abusive and unkind.

Shaming and punishing myself is not the way to successfully motivate positive changes. And so, I have assured myself that tonight I will pour myself that glass of Chateau-neuf, I will light the luxury candle, settle into a luxury bath and then have an earlyish night to get myself mentally ready to take the first step on my couch to ten k run…tomorrow!

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Move into 2021 with joy…

…and presence!

A Blessing for Presence, by John O’Donohue

May you awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
May you have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
May you receive great encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
May you respond to the call of your gift and find the courage to follow its path.
May the flame of anger free you from falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame and anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of your soul.
May you take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek no attention.
May you be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift, woven around the heart of wonder.

Source: O’Donohue, J., (1998). Eternal Echoes. Exploring our hunger to belong. London, Bantam Books. p.139

And this was written by my son…who has these blessings in abundance!

Was 2020 really that bad??

Yes lots of really horrible stuff happened.

Whilst lots faced challenges, many of us got the chance to reconnect with people. No matter the distance, we embraced technology that allowed us to become closer.

Home became a staycation.

Monday afternoons became a Friday night (it’s always after 5 somewhere in the world!)

We experimented with new food from the leftovers of the fridge.

We took on all of those DIY jobs that we never “had time for.”

Everyone prioritised their daily exercise.

We appreciated those professions that we perhaps previously took for granted.

We appreciated everything we had.

Everyone learnt new ways to work remotely.

And so much more…

Rather than wishing death to 2020 make the most of what you learnt this year. It will serve you far better.

Happy New Year all.
Xx

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Bah, humbug!

Were you planning a frivolous, festive gathering? Have your plans been thwarted by a cunning, mutating virus, a bumbling government, muck-spreading media or super-spreading protestors? The old proverb, ‘Christmas comes but once a year’ means we really could be tipped over a precipice of melancholy when the ghost of Christmas future appears more bleak than any past! Unless…

…we take part in some conscious unpicking of the doctrines and dogmas, superstitions and rituals that, quite frankly, plague us way more than any virus.

Why must we necessitate the kind of goodwill and peace-making that soldiers in WWI instigated when they heard German troops in the trenches opposite them, singing carols and patriotic songs, when they saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. They suspended all hatred and animosity, defied fighting orders and met in no man’s land to exchange gifts, take photographs and play impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After Boxing Day, meetings in no man’s land ceased and they returned to bitter battle.

That is no less than insanity!

Does the proverb refer to the spirit of generosity and goodwill that should encapsulate only the festive season? The implication is that people should spend this special time of year focusing more on giving rather than receiving. As it occurs only once every three hundred and sixty five days, people should put aside their differences and be good to one another. The flip side of that is we perhaps spend the other three hundred and sixty four taking. We managed the gestures of kindness and compassion incredibly well in lockdown number one, despite it not being Christmas. We stopped fighting, we started clapping, we volunteered to help the most vulnerable. We celebrated the solo efforts of role models like Sir Tom, we accepted that we were all one. We came together as a community!

It is likely that the proverb originated from an animated short film with the same title that came out in 1936. The setting of the film is at an orphanage on Christmas day. The orphans are excited to play with their new toys, only to find they are broken and damaged. Professor Grampy, seeing their distress, decides to make some new toys out of various household items. He dresses up as Santa Claus and rushes to give the orphans their new presents. He also makes a Christmas tree out of a few old green umbrellas. The orphans are delighted at the surprise. The overall message of the film is that it doesn’t take much to help those less fortunate during the holidays. All it takes is a little conscious effort and some compassion.

And a little loving effort and compassion goes the longest way in having dual benefits. In giving love and care, we experience heightened levels of love and caring that spill over to daily life.

If we think of our daily activities as a type of exercise for the brain and thought patterns, each action that we take every day is a work out for our character traits…for the better or for the worse. In the spirit of “use it or lose it”, we build the positive or negative traits that we concentrate on and workout. If we fail to exercise certain traits, they atrophy. Over those three hundred and sixty four days, we can become more or less giving, more or less loving, more or less engaged with the well-being of ourselves and others. Our daily activities in the world’s gym can strengthen our best inclinations or build on our worst ones.

We can set our Christmas day calendar, and consciously lay the blueprint for the rest of the year, even the rest of our lives. We saw, from the first lockdown, that what we do shapes who we are. If we are kind to ourselves and others, we can find the muscles of generosity strengthened, and we can engage with the whole of life with the very best inclinations so that the spirit of Christmas can be with us every day. Who is to say we can’t put up pretty lights, sip mulled wine and gather round a festive feast at any time of the year?

The spirit of Christmas comes any time we choose.

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Click, click brrrrrr!

Disconnect!

I had a proper meltdown this week!

I’ll be honest – for a couple of hours, I lost it! No, not my phone…my mind! But it was all linked to this Goddamn contraption that has become my bank, research assistant, filing cabinet, personal shopper, tour guide, map, library, yoga guru, Doctor, mental health practitioner, pager, estate agent…the list goes on!

I’m in a support bubble with my son, who actually lives miles away in another county and so we can’t just drop in on each other; but I’ve chosen this option as he and his wife have just had a baby girl – my first Grandchild – and I knew it would be worth it just to be able to be in the same room as her and her Mummy and Daddy. It’s not been an easy time for any of us – solo appointments at ante-natal clinics, little of the joys of fun and friend-filled baby showers for them – and for me, if this ratio of physical time spent with her continues, by the time she is twenty one, it will amount to just ten days with her, if you discount the face-time lullabies from my two dimensional flat face – which actually make her cry! And although the announcements this week signal a better way forward, we are not out of the tunnel yet, as this meltdown helped to demonstrate.

He was sent home from work on Monday, told to isolate for fourteen days as he had been in direct contact with a student diagnosed with Covid. Of course, he telephoned his wife first to share this news and to discuss how this isolation was going to work with a new baby. Then he called me – not in a panic or flap – but to let me know the news as I had met with them, and cuddled the baby properly and changed her nappy for the first time only on the previous day. He was on his way to the testing station. He called me again, immediately after, to share with me the personal details of how this test had gone for him – he used to projectile vomit as a baby if a Doctor tried to examine his throat – so you can imagine the reaction. His trauma and embarrassment was also piqued by his inability to visit the car valet station on the way home!

I remember an unpleasant row with him when he was fourteen; he was supposed to be doing his homework but instead of concentrating on the task, he had the television on, with the remote control by the side of the computer mouse, in a line next to the remote landline telephone, the remote volume control for the music station and his own mobile device. He is of the generation where these devices may as well be glued to the wrist. (I recall sitting in glorious solitude by Lake Bled a few years back, in this most beautiful lakeside restaurant, surrounded by picturesque mountains and forests with the medieval fortress towering above, when four of his most glamorous similarly-aged peers arrived – two stunningly model-like girls, with two equally stunning guys. They spent the entire time totally engaged with their separate mobile devices and connected only with one physical person – the waiter – to order their coffee!)

So, perhaps you may forgive me, excusing my sheer panic when, after sending a message early that morning, to be reassured that there were no overnight developments of symptoms, I had no response for the next six hours. I was in a total flap! Not at first, of course…but as time went on, and I’d received no thumbs up emoji or automatic ‘Can I call you later?’ message to my missed calls, after several hours, I began to worry. And then, with the kind of enticing hook that keeps us addicted to this kind of instant technological connection, I noticed from the data at the top of the WhatsApp that neither parent had been online since the previous day, and by now, I was convinced all was not right!

There have been more times than I care to mention when I have received messages on social media from friends who are a couple, evidently lying in bed next to each other or propped up on their couch; they’ve even conducted a personal dialogue in this very public forum. Talking of feeling piqued, I believe if you are lucky enough in love to be able to physically hold a person during this time of horrible isolation, then put the Goddamn thing down and talk, cuddle, enjoy quiet time, share food, sing together or make love. I am all for disconnecting from technology!

So, keeping my rational head on, I tried to tell myself that this was perfectly normal; he would have to work from home, delivering online lessons via virtual connection, even if he had been instructed to self-isolate. But that only concerned me more, because I felt that he’d have to have his device close by. And anyway, these are the least rational and most confusing times I have ever known in my life – I personally have experienced complete loss of income, loss of purpose, have set up new opportunities only to have them snatched away with lockdown number two.

I have, despite my public misgivings, used social media to escape the terror of this current moment. It is easy if you’re wide awake in the middle of the night to reach for human connection and then find yourself doom-scrolling into the wee hours, consuming more and more news about Covid-19, vaccine and mask protests, and the devastation on the economy. This lunacy means I then wake up agitated, unsettled, and unable to talk to anyone as I live alone. In a moment of mass virtual connection with the outside world, at the end of day, my internal life feels a lot lonely. The irony isn’t lost on me! 

Loneliness isn’t new, but it’s also not just about being socially isolated. The loss of connection and trust is exacerbated by the constant stream into our homes of really disturbing news and then when that news come so close to being a reality in your own inner circle, your own bubble…well! Now, as every other dynamic in our lives has been upended, the dilemma of feeling lonely has intensified. In isolation, I am spending more time online than ever before, trying to build up a new business, (writing this blog!), working from home in total isolation and desperately trying to keep up with new information that will help me to regain my purpose, to recover some financial stability. I know I am not alone, if you will forgive the pun.

But there’s an emotion that underscores loneliness in a whole new way: Ambiguous Loss, a field first created by Pauline Boss. It’s what we feel when we have connections with loved ones, but in every way they feel absent from the relationship. I’ve experienced this when we are trying to support each other in family zoom quiz connections, as everyone else gets to deliberate on answers in their households while I stare at a muted screen, watching their interactions and searching my own chasmic head for the answer to a missing Disney song lyric. And then, there’s the disconnect on those conversations when you’re talking to a someone who is multi-tasking, checking their own social media or watching TV as you chat. 

Followed by those to whom I try to reach out, only to hear back a few days later with a feigned wish to catch up, but the date is never arranged. And now, if I am supposed to self-isolate too, until results from tests are conclusive, even deciding who I can see and who I actually want to see and who wants to see me makes me feel confused and just a bit lost.

I am starving for connection. I am eating without being satiated, taking food without sustenance. I have never had an issue with being alone and have enjoyed soul-replenishing solitude but there are times now when this same solitude is unbearable. I can’t engage with a book or watch a film without my head racing.

So many of my blogs have been uplifting, I hope, with the intention of presenting practical ways of staying strong, of thinking positively, and of maintaining good physical and mental health. But, there are many losses I have experienced this year, I know along with many others, but it is difficult to find the best way of resolving this very different kind of grief.

At times, it may seem easier to connect with our phones than with each other. Trust me, it isn’t!

I have, you will be pleased to hear, forgiven myself for this meltdown – and I will spend the coming days trying to connect myself to nature, to ground with the earth and to disconnect from such damaging technology, so that I can detox and feel whole again.

Results have come back negative, and my son has promised not to have me committed…at least, not just yet!