For years I thought I might write a blog. I’ve always enjoyed writing but I have only ever written for myself or for a very limited audience. Writing for a blog sounded terrifying – my words, my musings out there for the world to read. But then I did a quick google search. According to Technorati there are more than 8 million blogs online and 12,000 blogs are created every day. That’s OK then – I’ll probably slip under the radar – and I can carry on writing as if it was just for me and a few close friends.
So … why now? What has suddenly prompted me to get my fingers onto the keyboard and start to release my inner musings into the ether? The answer is a total and complete change of scene. Three days ago I left my home, my husband, my two (adult) children, my dog, my two cats, my 8 chickens and my rich and varied group of friends behind in the UK and I travelled to New Zealand for an extended break. Whilst over here the plan is to rest, relax, renew and refresh. To give myself time and space to encourage recovery from ME/CFS. A retreat from normal every day living with a chance to explore both the outer world of New Zealand in all its beauty and wonder, but also my own inner world. Who am I when I’m away from my roles of teacher, wife, mother and friend? Who have I become over the years? What changes can I make in my habitual ways of being that can help me to feel more vibrant and less fatigued?
And the blog? Suddenly I have time and space at my disposal. And a need to feel that in some way I’m still connected with all those who are so physically distant from me. And I made the mistake of telling the other members of the Creative Writing group I attend that I was going to write one. And I told them what it was called and how to find it …
So here I am. But what shall I write?
I’m anticipating that the blog will develop into observations and musings about my journeys- both inner and outer. I’m hoping that it will record the journey from burnout, fatigue and exhaustion towards vibrancy, ease and bliss. But I imagine that these things take on a life of their own and I shall have to find out what develops.
So – what of my journey to bliss today? I shall write the truth… I am moving between awe and wonder at the beauty of New Zealand and the friendliness of the people I’ve met, and utter exhaustion and homesickness. One moment I’m sniffing in the heady scent of jasmine blossom whilst enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face, and the next my eyes are welling up with tears as I watch a chocolate labrador playing in the park, or friends casually chatting and laughing. It is hard to be away from home. It is difficult not to have things that I need to get done. It is strange not to have people I know and responsibilities I need to fulfil. But I remind myself – I’m only on day 2 after arrival. My body is still readjusting to the change in time zones and seasons. My heart is still adjusting to saying goodbye to those at home who I love and care for. So … rather than trying to write something clever and meaningful from this place of exhaustion I thought that I’d share a piece of writing from last year about saying goodbye. It’s very personal and it’s certainly not a travel blog piece – but it does give some insight and understanding as to some of the emotions that I’ve been going through over the past few days. So if that’s not your thing then you can pause here and perhaps come back to visit another day to read a bit more of my journey from ‘burnout2bliss’. But if you’re interested please read on …
I have never liked Goodbyes …
I have never liked goodbyes. As a young child my parents dreaded taking me to visit friends and family because of the inevitable heart-rending sobs that would ensue as they started the process of trying leave, ready to come home.
Even at the end of 8 years at a boarding school where I had felt misunderstood, often unhappy, and had counted the days to my long-awaited departure, I was still uncomfortable with the process of leaving. I have a vivid memory of sitting on the hard bed in the shared sixth form sleeping quarters on my very last day of school. I remember looking around at the faded floral wallpaper with its forbidden blu tack marks and not wanting to take those final steps to walk away. I could hear others laughing and joyful as they shouted their last goodbyes but I sat there immobilised by the realisation that once I left that room a part of my life would be over forever and I’d never be able to step back into it and belong.
Goodbyes were a natural and inevitable part of my life growing up. With a father in the Foreign Office every 3 years or so we left one country of residence and moved to another. There were the most wonderful benefits to this kind of living – travel, adventure and a wealth of new and varied experiences – But those goodbyes…
The first big set of goodbyes I remember was when I was 5 years old and we moved from England to Montreal. I was already traumatised as I’d been told we were travelling by sea and my young mind had conjured up the image of a small sailing dinghy tossing dangerously on the high seas. It was from this fearful state I had to say goodbye to family, friends and all that was familiar. The sadness was slightly offset by the promise of deep snow and icicles in the cold Canadian winters. At the age of 5 my powers of imagination could also present me with a magical wintry scene which was exciting enough to see me through the sadness of departure.
Three years later, however, was a different matter. Aged 8 I’d settled totally into the Canadian way of life and had the kind of close friendships that matter so very much at that age. My parents still talk with a kind of awe about the tears I shed when leaving my best friend Venetia Eisenhour and her small dog Bluebell. I was not so easily impressed by the photographs that I was shown of Pakistan and the talk of poverty and hardship that seemed to form many of the discussions around our departure. Once there, however, I soon found a new best friend, settled into my tiny and inspiring school and found that I adored the wildness and excitement of Pakistani life. I had a freedom and an opportunity for adventure that I’m not sure I’ve ever been able to replicate.
From this place and period of my life which felt both outside and beyond time I began the process which became the hallmark of the rest of my school years. Leaving my parents in some foreign land, and three times a year flying back to England to the confines of an all girl’s boarding school in Kent. I have countless memories of waving goodbye to my parents as I walked through that point of no return at various airports around the world, turning my attention away from the lure of freedom and adventure under a foreign sun and towards the rigid regimes and restrictions of a British boarding school. Goodbyes were a permanent feature in my life at this stage and home was wherever my parents were living at that time – as they say – home is where the heart is.
Growing up and having children myself I’ve had to harden myself a little to survive life. There have of course been times where I’ve found it hard to say goodbye to one stage of life and move on to the next. I have a clear memory of tears as I ironed my son’s first ever school uniform and as I waved my daughter goodbye on her first school trip away from home. Over the years there have been countless other occasions when I’ve felt that familiar desire to freeze the moment, to stay where I am and to hold back the passage of time.
This past year has been a time of goodbyes. Or the preparation for goodbyes. For the first time ever both my children are now out of education and have joined the working world. They have moved beyond childhood into adulthood and there is a new role for me as a mother to discover and fulfil. And I must let go of the old ways of being to embrace the new.
Ongoing health issues have meant that I’ve had to give up some longstanding teaching commitments and say goodbye not just to loyal and familiar students, but more painfully to my own vision of who I am and what it is that I do, or am able to do.
At the end of last year my parents sold their house and downsized to smaller, more manageable place. Those familiar pieces of furniture, pictures and ornaments that had moved around the world with us and created home in so many different countries were packed away to be divided among the family, sold or given away, with only a small proportion kept to be with them in their new, more compact home. And now they talk of funerals, wills and probate in their attempt to prepare me for what we all know is inevitable…
And perhaps this is what it’s all been about. This sadness at farewells and sorrow at partings. This desire to hold back time and stay just where I am. My father tells me of how he remembers the large ships leaving Australia with people on board and on land both holding one end of a streamer. As the boat slowly moved away from the harbourside and out towards the open sea one by one the streamers snapped and people were left holding that last broken link with loved ones. Perhaps I have always felt that pull. That tug on the heart. That place where the ones I love have planted their end of the streamer into my heart and at each parting I have felt the wrenching pull as a preparation for the inevitable final farewell