Stepping stones….

If this blog is to be truthful and act as an invite  to try ‘what happens if’ then I need to start at some kind of beginning. 

Starting or choosing a beginning is not easy. Do I start with my childhood or a specific moment in my life, a changing moment, that then becomes the  stepping stones to some kind of ending? Will such stepping stones allow me to present you with insights and connections  which reflect childhood and teenage memories enough to satisfy your curiosity? I’m not sure. What would you do?

Maybe a good place to  start  is ‘Why do I want to write a blog’, does that help?

It is because when I looked at my website, on its penultimate presentation, I realised,(please recall that real wet blobs rolled down my cheeks), that I was looking at someone, me in this case, who had been made whole, healed. The ugly duckling realising they were a swan 

Okay, it may sound dramatic and maybe even conceited to some  but my journey to that realisation has at times been extreme. As a priest once said to me when I needed to tell him of my perceived failure as a mother and all the inappropriate and crazy things I had done in comparison to all the amazing mothers there are in the world, he said, “ okay, they (other mothers) may not have been as extreme as you but all of them, every one, feels on some level they have failed too”.

So, when,or if, you look at my website and you may think what an adventure I’ve had and it all sounds such fun, know this, like all adventures there are always risky moments and scenarios  which are very uncomfortable if not painful, especially to start with. So, I’m blogging to share my journey in the hope it gives courage to others to do the same.  It doesn’t always have to be as extreme a journey or trigger  as mine but the end result is the same, being made whole.

So my first stepping stone to becoming  whole began with waking up one morning at the age of 45 and not recognising my own hands, I did say it has been extreme! 

In reality I had been burning the candle at both ends, actually it was a number of candles! I was working incredibly hard proving  I could do a job that In reality I wasn’t truly qualified for, which also meant making presentations to hundreds of people as the ‘expert’ in my field  ,studying a fine art degree part time after I’d only been making any form of art for two and half years , dating a number of different males and abusing my system with smoking a lot of marijuana plus other substances . The  ‘cherries’ in this ‘ Molotov cocktail’ were being reunited with one of my sons who then was 13 but I hadn’t seen since he was 2 and my eldest son deciding to marry an Australian girl he had met at a pub and moving to Australia. 

So whose body was I occupying if these hands didn’t seem to be mine? 

Well, that is what I was about to start to find out, with the first of many helpers or messengers I was to encounter. The first one being an excellent GP who listened to me each week and believed that if I was listened to, supported and not processed through the then limited NHS mental health alternatives, I could be encouraged to find myself. The GP allowed me to question the world around me and experiment with trying out the best way for me to be. If you like;  it was the beginning  of my first conscious ‘What Happens If’ I was to attempt. I would go into new situations and try …’what happens if’ I’m cheeky, ‘what happens if’ I’m small and invisible, ‘what happens if’ I ask complete strangers how did they manage to live in the world, or how did they find happiness. ‘What happens if’ I’m loud and brash etc etc.

Each day I went out tried another ‘what happens if’, went back to my flat, sat in complete silence staring out of the window letting my mind wander through the day,  went to bed and wake up at about 4am and write. I’d write about the previous day, what had happened, what I had learnt, all helping me to reach some kind of  conclusion either ‘no, that is not how I want to be’ or’ yes, that seemed to work better’. 

That went on for about 4 months, maybe longer, until one day I went to bed, decided not to eat or drink or even get up again until I had been ‘given’ or found a reason to do so. On the third day, the  answer came! 

A VAN. The two guys who sold it to me couldn’t have believed their luck and must have laughed all the way to the pub where they most probably drank themselves stupid on the proceeds . For me it was a rattling mechanical uncertainty but it was a beautiful bright green and had at the time the main requirement; I could stand up in it.

So Why a van and where would it take me ? 

A blog of Hope & Joy for Christmas

As it is Christmas let me start my blog with a a true story of hope and joy, if you like  a miracle , we’ll that is what it turned out to be for two young women. 

To maintain  privacy I’ve changed their names, Julie, a young Tanzanian girl, and the other a young woman,  Jane, who is registered disabled due to coping with epileptic seizures. The story starts in Tanzania but ends in Scotland. 

As you may have seen on my ‘about’ page  I went to Tanzania for 3 weeks (which turned into  3 months) to visit my best friend who was working at an International School. Whilst I was staying with her I got to know some of her colleagues ,teachers and teaching assistants.  One teaching assistant, a local woman called Ruth, asked my friend if she could meet me  before I left. My friend advised me that it was most probably to ask me for money. But, having experienced what I had in Tanzania, I knew that whatever the reason and however much I would prefer to say no , I should at least meet her.  

Ruth turned up  with her niece, Julie. Ruth’s sister,Julie’s mother , had schizophrenia, an illness which then there was no treatment for in Tanzania. The only help available was from immediate family.  This meant Ruth was using all her salary to help her sister, and trying to protect Julie from her mother’s frequent violent outbursts. 

My friend was correct. Ruth asked me if I knew how to find someone to sponsor Julie ,to pay for her school fees, care , clothes and possibly later, college fees .  I told Ruth I had no idea how to help but I took their photograph,  notes of their story ,contact details for Ruth and promised I would try to do something when I was back in Scotland. I hadn’t a clue how to begin and, if I’m honest, I was also feeling why oh why did I take this on!

So what does happen when you take on this type commitment and have no clue what to do?

Well, this is what did happen.

Back in Scotland I returned to my job, my boss had kindly kept my place available. I was part of a team of 5 carers , or ‘scarers’ as John fondly referred to us as. We cared for John’s 60 year old wife  Gillian, who had developed  Alzheimer’s at the age of 45.

My first working shift after my trip was about a week after getting back to my cottage. I recall that morning because I became aware that during that week I hadn’t done anything about Ruth’s niece, I’m not sure if I even gave her much  thought!

 I imagine you are all now asking ‘silly woman, why couldn’t you have sponsored Julie, or  advertised etc etc’ . But the truth is I hadn’t and didn’t. My own situation and income was too unpredictable to make such a commitment and back then long term commitment was  something I struggled with! 

Anyway, what I was good at was feeling guilty for making a promise and not knowing how to make good. Feeling  pretty desperate that morning I found the photo ,looked at it and prayed. “ please can You show me what I can do for Julie” . Now, before you mock you need to realise that at this time I had not been baptised nor did I pray regularly. Yet, after the opportunities that came my way in Tanzania as a result of other peoples prayers, the local NGO volunteering and the cookbook; what else could I do!

Prayer completed , I chose , or did I , to put the photo into my jeans pocket and went to work.

Gillian, the lovely lady I cared for, had a sister, Sarah, who had adopted, I think it was either 3 or 4 children ,all with some form of disability, all who were then in their early twenties. Due to the shifts I worked , I had never  met Sarah personally even though by this time I had been with Gillian for about a year.

On that same morning , once I was at work , I was ironing when unexpectedly Sarah turned up to visit Gillian. We  exchanged the usual greetings at being surprised to finally have met at last, after which Sarah sat with Gillian in the conservatory while I continued ironing in the lounge. I was near enough if help was required and therefore could hear bits and pieces of what Sarah  was telling Gillian .

This is what I overheard:

Gillan, remember my daughter Jane? Well she is getting very broody but it is sad you know as she may never have children. As a result she has started looking into sponsoring a child. She has looked at agencies that organise such things in some countries in Africa but gets disappointed when the only contact  with the child will be a yearly letter sent by the agency updating you and it won’t be the same child. She wants more than that, she wants to know one child and see that’s child’s progress but we have no idea how to find that”

Well, are you as stunned as I was ? I  was so stunned I nearly burnt the thing I was ironing!

Excuse me’ I said ‘but I couldn’t help over hearing what you were saying as it happens in my pocket I have this ” and pulled out the picture………………

Yep, you’ve guessed  it, Jane became Julie’s sponsor . Julie went on to college and  Sarah’s husband  with the  help of friends in my now local parish  went on to sponsor Julie’s sister.

Have a wonderful Christmas full of hope and joy at the birth of The Child , in Jane’s case it was Julie

First things first

Before I start ‘blogging’ I’d like to give some heart felt thanks to two people who helped turn an ‘ugly duckling into a swan’. They come under the business name of Atelier Designs but I know them as Ian and Kate.

Ian Luck, a wonderful artist and tutor himself, recommended I asked Kate to do my website . I hesitated cos’ for one thing it would mean having to pay! But, boy was it worth every penny!

The process was so organic, honest ,completely collaborative and fun. There was absolutely no stress in it and I was incredibly busy at the time of its development. Kate would email to say ‘take a look’ and I’d feed back. We only had two conversations by phone and no meetings. Shame really as if one lady deserves a massive hug it is Kate.

The penulitmate ‘take a look’ was the surprise ‘punch’ and I literally cried, yes real wet blobs rolled down my cheeks. It was if all the years of doubt , lack of self belief, even pain vapourised. I was actually looking at a person who had been ‘healed’, made whole. That acknowledgment wouldn’t have been possible without  Kate the web designer and Ian, who has  encouraged me for a few years now.

I suppose that is why I want to blog ,why I want  to invite people to come to my ‘what happens if your explore your creative spirit’  workshops ,because what you see before you now has been a journey and some of my ‘What Happens If’ , my choices , have been hard life lessons ,painful, especially for others, selfish, even risky ,some of my protective friends might argue. But! ALL have led to this moment of wholeness, of me finding me.

So, if you are nosey like me and want to know more of my ‘What happens if’ ,the good and the bad, and why living a life of leaps of faith, especially  in the last 12 years, has been an adventure of discovering not only myself but meeting amazing people and encounters. Then can I invite you to my blogs?

They may jump around and as they say on ‘Strictly’ ,presented in no particular order, but they will be honest, open and from my heart. So, please be kind because this Leap of Faith, opening up to you, is actually pretty scary and maybe my biggest  and most risky What Happens If……