Saturday 30 December 2017

Stepping Into Magnificence in the New Year

Stepping into one's Magnificence

As Big Ben strikes midnight tomorrow up in London Town, from my house down here in Bognor Regis, my year off will officially come to an end.  When asked by kind friends what I will do now, I tell them that I will be stepping into my magnificence.  This seems a good idea, and a challenging goal to set.  But what is life for, if not to be challenged?  It has been a long year off, away from all I used to do and think, and it is a measure of the road ahead, the road already trodden, and the thinking I have done, to bundle it all up in glory and to step out of 2017 and into my magnificence. 

Background -

I began last year in Mr Bedford's little house in Hurstpierpoint.  Newly widowed, I could only think of life one day at a time.  I remember being relieved beyond measure that I was to take the whole of 2017 off, and at that time, a single year seemed too small, too short, too insignificant to find a way back to normalcy.  Not only had Alan just died, but my mother and my youngest brother Dominic had died too in the months before.  In those bleak winter months, Alan's son and I packed up his wonderful home, giving things away, taking things to charity shops, letting things go.   I remember being convinced that all of Alan's warm clothes, his coats and shoes, his bedding and his socks, all needed to go at once to Syria.  And I found a charity that did that, from Brighton, and car loads of all his good clothes were loaded onto a lorry and taken away to a war zone.  Alan also had a whole wardrobe of suits, shirts and ties.  I found a charity in London that took good office wear to give to people who needed to look smart for interviews, but had nothing.  I could hear Mr B approving of this.  He had a powerful work ethic, born and raised a Methodist, his father a charismatic Methodist preacher - Alan had no time for people that wouldn't work.  He would have loved his suits helping people to earn their way, and to find a job.  Bit by bit, the house in Hurstpierpoint was dismantled until on the first of January 2017,  I packed all my things from Alan's house into the car, and I left the shell of what had been for such a short while my marital home, and went back to my own home.

Once back in Bognor, I gave my lodgers notice.  My lodgers, five of them, were all carefree young lads, all hearts of gold, all approved of by Mr B because they had jobs, and all of them blind to chaos.  I was sad to let them go, but I needed my house back, and it seemed, my house needed rebuilding.

Coming home was like returning too early during a student party.  

  1. There was a double mattress leaning against the banisters at the bottom of the stairs that fell on anyone passing it.  Everyone had found a way to pass it that meant they didn't have to do anything about it.  What mattress? they would say in a muffled voice from under the mattress itself.
  2. There was no front wall.  A car, I am told, crashed into it one night sending all the bricks of the wall crashing into my lovely smelling roses.  Boy Racers, said my lodgers sadly, as they picked their way over the rubble daily, weekly, monthly, past all the debris, on their way out to work, or the pub.
  3.  The bins hadn't been taken out (what - every week?) - ever.
  4. Because there were no clear surfaces anywhere in the house, and no cutlery nor plates any more, everyone had either pizza delivered or ate cereals straight from the box.  When my lovely lads started to move out, all the cutlery, plates and mugs were found knee deep under the beds.  Still full.  It was like finding baby triffids in every room.  
  5. There were discarded wardrobes and chests of drawers on the landing, and mice living comfortably in the sofas on pizza.
I booked the biggest skip possible, had it delivered, and filled it within the day.  

Over the summer, my house has become a beautiful home.  I live in it.  It is filled with light, with gentle but strong colours - light blues and greens, deep pinks and bold reds - and has furniture and lovely things from my mother's house.  It is clean, it is mine and everywhere I sit in the house, I can see beautiful things.  It is harmonious, it is clear, and for someone who needed to recover their equilibrium, it is perfect.  There are flowers and plants everywhere.  I took over my garden and found to my surprise that I love gardening.  It is like tidying the house, tidying the flower beds.  Choosing what goes into the flower beds outside is like organising lovely things inside, and mowing the lawn is like hoovering the grass.  I hadn't time to get too winsome about Alan, Dom and Mum going - I was extremely busy creating this dream home in which to spend every minute of every day, forever, marvelling at how lovely the colours are and how lucky I am to have my mother's lovely things, and how nice my new windows are.  This, I remember thinking, is what being a grown up is all about.  

Jolly times with jolly grandson number one, the Dumpling Prince, George

Where does stepping into your magnificence come into all this?

Having time to stop and retreat, having time to disconnect and slowly let go of all the things I thought I needed in order to be and do what I was being and doing, brought me face to face with myself.  Bit by bit, I was required to take stock.  Where had this life I had lived brought me?  What I had I learned about myself?  Who was I, when all the talking, texting, Facebooking, rushing about was gone?  If I was to sit quietly by myself, and not tell anyone about it, not take photos of it to prove I was still here, not think of it as a career move, and not link it with opportunities to further the story of myself I told the world - if I were to spend time alone without distractions, would I like myself?  Would I even recognise myself?  When all the hype is gone, who is left in the silence, and do I want to know her?

Baby Arthur arrives, much to his surprise. 

Into this time of re creation and re building came a new grandson.  In August, a day or so after my own birthday, and three weeks early came the birth day of a new, tiny, pink baby boy.  He seemed to signify the simplicity and magnificence of life, and inspired in us all the love that goes with such a precious new little creature.  He and his older brother are reminders to me of the perfect circle of life, that I understand and watch and accept, without knowing why or how.  My grandsons have nothing to prove.  They just live, happily, being first and doing second. 

Baby Arthur sleeps on Grandma's hob top 


Towards the end of this year, I began to consider what to do when my year of  restoration is over in January.  What have I learned, and what have I understood about who I think I am?  It is not possible to take up where I left off, I don't want that any more. What I understand now is that I need a lot of space.  I need time to prepare for the things I do, and time to assess them afterwards.  I don't want to be busy if I don't have to be, I want to continue to know myself more.  It's very important.  If I am to be effective in my next stage of living, I must continue this fascinating business of knowing who I am.  If I am authentic with myself, I will be authentic with you.  If I can give myself time, kindness, and patience, I can do the same for you.  It is a life long relationship, like all our best, committed relationships, this relationship with ourselves.  And I am lucky, in the teachers that I have been given.  Alan is the greatest teacher in my world.  My mother, my brother Dominic, and Steve, the first love that started this journey into life and death, are my dear teachers.  As are all the people I met along the way until this point, the day before I step back into the world again.  My teachers, all of them, taught me hard lessons about life, love and death.  They didn't make anything easy, but they gave me everything they had before they left.  

So this 2018 is a time of reaping.  Reaping the benefits from my teachers, and being first, doing second.  In short, it time to step into my magnificence. 

And so ...

I am really delighted to be creating these workshops on the theme of coming home, of taking back our power.  This is the first step into our magnificence.  There is a limit of eight per workshop, it's best to work together in smaller groups when we are talking about such important things.  I have reproduced the details below

  • Sunday, 14 January 2018 at 9:30–16:00                                    

How is it that we wander so far away from home, from ourselves? When we forget who we are, we feel disconnected without knowing why, aware of a sense of loss but knowing that there is more to us than this. Coming Home workshops last for the whole day, and include discussion, creative exploration and deep thinking to explore how we get lost, and how we become homesick for ourselves. We will look at ways to Come Home, what is it to Be Home and centred in ourselves, and how, eventually, we prepare to Go Home when we face, as we all will do, the end of our lives.

We will work hard together in the morning, and explore creatively with Life Boards in the afternoon. Life Boards are a wonderful way to create a representation of how you are feeling right now, which you keep to remind you of the day.

Places are limited to eight people per workshop, and cost £50 per person.

To book please email, a deposit of £25 is required to secure your place.

Please bring a packed lunch, and teas, coffees and biscuits are all provided. Arrive 9.30 for a 10.00 start.

Antonia Rolls has worked with people facing the end of life for the last ten years, both as an artist and a soul midwife. A soul midwife is an emotional and spiritual companion for anyone facing the end of life, at any time from diagnosis to death, for however many minutes, hours or days are requested. Working with people facing the end of life has made Antonia see how important it is to live our lives fully now, right now, and with awareness, before we have to prepare to leave. Life, your life, is so important and learning to live it fully is a life long commitment. Wishing you had understood more as you are preparing to leave life happens all too often. Antonia's Coming Home workshop days are intended to start your awareness that you have much more power in your life than you think.
The Space, Waltham House, Town Cross Avenue, Bognor Regis, PO21 2DS

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Who on earth do I think I am?


Who on earth, I ask myself, do I think I am?  Who do you think YOU are?

I ask this most gently, it is a loving question that has taken much of this past year to articulate.

This past year, my year off, was a necessary reaction to a great tidal wave of nothingness.  It was a profound response to the loss of my mother, followed by my youngest brother, and ending last October with the death of my husband. And now, my year off is drawing to a close.


Soon, I will step out of my mourning.  I will set aside my black armbands, I will open my front door, and taking a deep breath I will step out into the world.  I think January is a good time to do this.  It is mid October now, that gives me time to prepare. Who I think I am is vital to this stepping out.  Who I think I am will determine where I go, what I do, and how I respond.  It is a very good time now, to plan my next steps by considering carefully who, on earth, this earth, I think I am.


If, as I am told, energy follows thought, it is vital to think well.  This may or may not be true, but let us imagine that it is.  We deal with whatever comes our way in life.  Sometimes it is hard to cope with what is thrown at us.  Often we are surprised at our good fortunes and then doubt them, waiting for them to end, to turn bad so that we can feel better about having had nice things happen at all.  We long for love, and don't get it.  We want to be someone, and fear we are not.  Other people have things, do things, are things and just typically, we are passed by time and time again.  We never get this break, that job, we never find the right person, we always get a bum deal.  Life is sometimes good, often bad, and actually, we are more comfortable when it is bad.  Less effort.  It is what we always get anyway, and somehow, despite our complaints, it's what we secretly think we deserve.

If, as for this blog, we believe that energy follows thought, and we realise that we must think thoughts carefully and well, then we must become aware of what it is we actually do think.

This is not a new idea, it is old and well documented.  Think now, what is the deepest, most fundamental thought that you have about yourself? What is, as Neal Donald Walsh asks, your sponsoring thought?  What is the thought that you have about yourself that controls what things come to you, what people are in your life, what life you are living?  What is the energy following the thought you have about yourself that is creating your life?  If your sponsoring thought is, deep down inside you, that you are worthless, then your life will conspire to make that true.  If that is what you really think about yourself, you will attract enough stuff to make it right.  Wonderful!  Says your sponsoring thought, I'm always right.  If, you believe deeply, at a very basic level, that you are hopeless with money then yes!  says life, lets do this!  You will be hopeless with money!  I am always right, says the sponsoring thought again.

Our sponsoring thoughts are much deeper and more difficult to find than the superficial and compelling chattering thoughts in our heads.  Perhaps the thoughts that are so deep and buried inside our subconscious are better described as beliefs. We have so many thoughts swirling around in our heads, it is hard to keep track of them at the best of times.  These thoughts are important, yes, but the thought, the belief, that I am trying to harness is this fundamental one that you hold about who you are. Who, really, do you think that you are?  That, the thought that you have and that you must look for, shapes your life and who you are right now.

It is likely that we have more than one sponsoring thought. They are the bedrock of our experience, they are the messages we give out, they are the beliefs that we have about ourselves that shape our experience.  I may work very hard on my project, I may tell you that it is going well and that I am delighted with progress, but never appear to get anywhere.  I tell you all that I'm fine with this, but secretly I am not.  I  don't understand why I cannot find success.  Perhaps my sponsoring thought is that I do not deserve success.  Deep inside, my sponsoring thoughts are acting out my beliefs, that I am quite simply undeserving of that thing I say I want.  Perhaps my sponsoring thought may also be that I am not worth listening to.  Or that I am not very clever.  It is as if I dress in the morning in a business suit in order to be a business person, but go off each time and surprise myself by digging up a road and feeling wildly out of place.  What I say I am to the world, is not what I am acting out.  Until I notice that one of my outfits is wrong for what I say or think I want to do, until I realise that there is a conflict between what I say and what I do, I will continue to dress in a business suit, and end up digging roads.  What there, is my sponsoring thought?  It could be that I am sabotaging either my business life, or my road digging ambitions. 

I have three difficult sponsoring thoughts.  I can see how these sponsoring thoughts shaped my life as a young mother and artist. I can see how these sponsoring thoughts created so magnificently the life that I actually had, though at the time I felt as if I had no control over anything at all.  One of my sponsoring thoughts is ,"I cannot have anything."  Another is, " I make people angry" and the third is, "I am not the right person, who I am is wrong, I should be someone else".

Part of our human condition at the moment, and I say at the moment because I have no real idea of how it was when I was not here, is fear.  We are full of fear.  I have feared my lack of money.  I have feared my wrongness as a person, I have seen and feared anger that didn't exist in people until I made it exist.   I remember this most vividly when I was a young mother, and starting out as an artist.  Living in Wimbledon in London, I was young, divorced and raising three children alone.  Life was very hard, and I had very little belief in myself, nor any love for myself.  Of course life was hard, it was part of my belief that it should be so.  It was what I deserved, as part of my wrongness.

I particularly feared things that went well for me.  I was horrified by success because my sponsoring thought about good things was both You cannot have anything, and You are not the right person, who you are is wrong, you should be someone else. Success, any kind of success, made me feel helpless and vulnerable.

Since October last year, I have been looking at who I think I am.  How strange, how strange.  I am trying to achieve this thing, I would say, I am doing these actions to prove I can, but deep inside I contradict myself with I cannot have anything. And I am not the right person, who I am is wrong, I should be someone else".  It has been a struggle to make things work over the years, I inhabited a world that supported my fears about myself.  Money was one of them.  "You are so bad with money," people would say.  "I know," I reply, "I am the worst and I have always been this way.  I am hopeless."  The sensible and kind advice I would receive from friends would never work.  "No," I would say, "it's useless.  I am bad with money and will never change"  And so, I never did. ("I cannot have anything").

We have much more power over our lives and ourselves than we imagine.  Yes, it is a responsibility, but that isn't really a problem,  It is nice to be responsible for ourselves.  If your idea of responsibility is full of stern control, then change your idea.  What do you love?  Animals? People? Children?  Computers?  Hot Dogs? It is possible that your version of responsibility is kinder with the things you love, so make yourself one of the things you love, and take responsibility for yourself and your ideas as something you like.


And so.  What are my sponsoring thoughts now?  What happened to the old ones?  Who do I say I am?  Who do I think I am now?

The old thoughts are still there but they are no longer sponsoring me.  They have been outed, and looked at, and loved into something else.  Getting to know myself means I have understood just a little more about the power of love.  All my thoughts now must be based on love.  They must not be fearful and stern, they must be kind and loving.  Do not for a moment think that I am now a rather dippy loved up fairy.  Basing my thoughts on love takes practice and awareness and a great deal of trial and error.  I slip back into my three sponsoring thoughts before I know I have done so;  it is an ongoing job to be aware of how we are thinking of ourselves and self love seems very difficult when we feel vulnerable, worthless, empty, tired of trying and low.  When I am living the result of my sponsoring thoughts  "I cannot have anything,"   " I make people angry" and, "I am not the right person, who I am is wrong, I should be someone else" the kind of thing that seems like self love and the only answer, is to sink into a bed of chocolate fudge and become oblivious.  And actually, the sinking into a bed of chocolate fudge isn't so counter productive (one day I will test this), it is the becoming oblivious that shuts us down and blocks our understanding.  If love is good and kind, generous and uplifting, leaving a glow in its wake, becoming oblivious is not very effective.  Self love, then, is about nurturing and caring for ourselves in small, generous and compassionate ways that uplift us, give ourselves a break, hold ourselves with honour and kindness, and enable us to get back up and try again.  Self love, self awareness, and looking deep inside to understand our sponsoring thoughts, are powerful wonderful tools for a more fulfilled life.  But, it is an ongoing journey.

Here is how negative sponsoring thoughts may look. I see that someone has done really well at something and I feel envious and left behind.  I never find that success.  I am afraid of this feeling, but I am used to it because this is how things go for me.  I cannot have anything.  If I try and do something similar, and make a success of my project, I could call this person up, I could call other people up that may be interested in me - but I don't.  I fear their response.  I make people angry.  Later, someone does call me up and ask me about what I do, and I feel I cannot reply properly and I make a hash of the phone call.  The person who did well doesn't have this problem.  Oh well, I do this often, but I wish to goodness I didn't. I am not the right person, who I am is wrong, I should be someone else.

Here is how it may change.  My acquaintance has done well.  I see what they have done, and I know about the I cannot have anything feeling. I do not allow that feeling to happen, I do not allow that thought to take shape.  I am good I say to myself, I have enough.  I am happy for their success.  I want my project to be successful too, but my success is not based on theirs, it is mine and I am in control.  If it is my project, my success, and I am in control, then what I say matters and people will either listen, or they will not.  Nothing I say will cause anger.  I speak my truth and people want to hear me, I say to myself,  I am interesting and I am good enough.  Later, when I take a phone call asking me what I do, I tell the truth based on what I know and have experienced.  I do not even consider my acquaintance, this call is about me and what I do, not what they do.  I am good at what I do, I say to myself, I am unique, I am just right, and I am glad I am me.  I am most definitely good enough.  And then, because I am full of self love and awareness, I order a ton of chocolate fudge and prepare to dive in.


Who on earth do YOU think you are?  What is/are your sponsoring thoughts?  Are you surprised by them?  Take time to think this through and ask yourself whether what you are experiencing now is a result of what you think.  Bear in mind, and we have not covered this here, sponsoring thoughts are often positive and loving.  And if your sponsoring thoughts are helpful and kind (one of mine is I am very nice which I know to be true, and brings me much pleasure), how happy does that make you feel?


If you have time, let me know who on earth you think you are, both helpful and unhelpful sponsoring thoughts.  Bless you, and thank you. xx

Thursday 10 August 2017

On letting someone else be awesome for a while.

Part One

"Let someone else be awesome for a while," says Mandy.

I am sitting on a stool in her kitchen in the New Forest, trying to explain to her that I have huge plans despite taking this year off.  Really, I am trying to say, I am still someone.  I find it hard to express myself, and feel like crying.

Mandy looks at me.  She is compassionate and wise, she and I have been through much together as soul midwives, friends, and soul sisters.  Mandy looks at me with her fierce, intelligent eyes and stops me.  "Let someone else be awesome for a while," she repeats, and I am silent.

I have taken this year off.  We all know this, and we know why.  My mother, my brother and my husband died one after the other, and as a soul midwife, I walked with them until it was time to stand and let them go on alone.  I retreated far, far inside myself after this, and took myself off to places to be alone, shutting down communication with the world I had known and began the journey through the darkness back into the light.  I am now well over half way into my year off, and have had time to think and think and think.  And the light, well, it never really goes out.  It is always there. I turned away into the darkness to face myself, and to experience silence, stillness and loss, and for that I am very grateful.

In Mandy's kitchen, I am only a few months into the darkness and the silence.  I don't know who I am any more, and I don't know what to say or do.  I don't come out very much, and have become insecure because I used to be so busy, so involved, so on the ball.  Part of this year off is to detach from the busy world of visible soul midwifery, art, being amusing and clever, and most of all, being seen.  But, sitting on the stool in the kitchen while Mandy puts on the kettle, I feel that I don't belong any more, anywhere.  I haven't anything to report, I have nothing to say.  I have sunk without a trace from the exciting, powerful and meaningful world I knew, and the space above my head where I sank, has closed over me quietly and silently.  I have disappeared without a trace and the world has not noticed, has gone on as it ever had, as if I were never there at all.  Mandy is still working, is still making a difference, is still up there.  I am trying to convince her, and myself, for some reason, that I am still worthy.  Here are my plans!  I say to her, Here is what I am going to do, it is bigger and better than before, and when I come back from my year off, I will do all this!

Mandy is gentle, and loves me.

"Stop it."  She says.  "Let someone else be awesome for a while," and takes my hands.  "You don't have to be awesome any more, let it go.  Let someone else do it for a while.  You can be awesome later, when and if you are ready."  And while she makes us our tea, I cry because I know this.  I am lost and sad, and couldn't cope anyway.  The whole point of my year off ("Take two!" says my Irish friend's mother in law.  She has just lost her husband of many many years, and is so very kind.  "Take two!  One is neither here nor there," she says, and I think, that sounds good) - the whole point of my year off is to be with the sadness, to experience properly all that has happened, and to learn to be kind and gentle with myself.

We laugh about this now, Mandy and I.  She is Scorpio, and I am Leo - what a thing for a Leo to hear, and yet - and yet - my Scorpio friend is right.  Bless her, I was trying to be awesome and getting into a dreadful muddle.  She doesn't need me to impress her, she doesn't care.  She sees the truth and loves what is at the heart of the matter, the person in front of her, the task at hand.  You, she says to me, are awesome enough and you don't need to try.  I cry even more.

Part Two

Who are we then, if we don't tell people what we do.  Are we still any good at what we do?  If no one knows what we have done?

Mum's memorial garden space
This year off is not what I had expected.  I knew that I needed time and space, I knew that I needed to face the darkness and stop not only my work, but my everything.  What I did not know, was that the silence and the space in my days would be so very loud.  I did not know that this time away would be simply about facing myself.  When all the external noises and distractions are gone, I am left with who I think I am; I am left with the idea of me that I have created, that has got me thus far.  It is a long time since I had spent time with myself without an agenda. The silence and the space left by taking time out, is huge, and loud and empty.  And wonderful.  In the end.  My teachers, those who have finished their lives here and have gone home, have left me with profound lessons to learn.  What they are showing me, what they have shown me, will take time and space and courage and most of all, faith that the process is safe, full of love, and necessary.  Who are you, they are asking me, and what will you do with what you are learning?

Dom's memorial garden space
(little angel sitting in front)
It is August,  Despite the rain outside, my world is beginning to shine with little lights.  There is peace in my home, the garden is beautiful, and all the reorganisation and repair work in the house is completed.  I longed for beauty everywhere, and now I have it.  My mother's furniture is here, my brother's bed and photographs are here, my husband's shoes are at the end of my bed and I am wearing his dressing gown, and Steve is here in a little box of memories.  The silence and space is quieter, more a gentle calming hum and I am aware of a lifting of spirits.  Perhaps in more ways than one.  In my garden I have memorials to my mother, to my brother Dominic and to Alan, my husband.  And also to Steve, my partner of ten years ago who's death started all this soul midwifery business.  In the garden, I have found myself releasing each one, and myself.  I release you, I say to each one, I release you.  And with that comes a sense of freedom, of love and of rightness.  I release you, I add, in love, so that we can work together.  So that I can move through the rest of my time here as best I can with nothing to hold me back.  I release you all.  And if I release you all, I release me. I release myself from the sadness and loss, and with that release the darkness.  I release you, Antonia.  And I release you Mum, Dom, Alan and Steve.  I release us all.

Alan's memorial lion
and flowers
Being awesome is neither here nor there.  It isn't what I thought it was.  I thought being awesome was what YOU said it was, in relation to me.  I imagined being awesome was doing things and being admired for them.  That isn't sustainable or comfortable.  Being awesome isn't about being something out there, that is trying to be awesome, about what other people think.  Other people make the judgement, and so carry the power.

Being awesome is not public, it's not about anyone else, it's about me.  If something is done well, that is awesome, and that is enough in itself.  And with this, I take huge comfort.  Being awesome is a private affair, it's between me and myself.  If it is authentic, it works.  If it isn't authentic, then I'll have to try again.

Steve's memorial space
I am creative.  It is the key to all things.  As the darkness is lifting, as the lights are beginning to shine around me again, I understand that I have been creating my house all along as an expression of me.  I have made the garden into a place that I have wanted forever, and as the months have gone by, I have made a place in which to live that gives me joy and says everything about the artist inside me, that expresses and creates despite imagining that I am not.  That in itself is awesome.  So despite feeling as if I had lost my place in the world, despite facing the noise of the silence, sadness and space, what was true about me, continued to work.  The creativity, the expression, the artist.  There is great healing in all of this.

Part three

Once, in a church many years ago, while lighting a candle, a very old man came and spoke to me.  He must have sensed that I was sad.  "You know," he said, "all things are taken care of."

Yes, I see that.  Thank you.  And thank you Mandy, you are awesome.

Mandy Preece runs training and help in listening, supporting and being A Rock for those that need our wholehearted attention.  Her website is here.  It and she is awesome

Wednesday 14 June 2017

A ball of light in my room. Feeling the grief.

Recently, I dreamt of Alan, my husband.  He was standing a little way back from us, on a path, concentrating on his phone.  Don't disturb him, I said in my dream to my companions on this path, he will come when he is ready.  I knew in life how he could be overtaken with his phone and I knew that we should not go near him in the dream, that he would come to us when he was ready.   The dream ended then, leaving him forever on his phone, and we forever waiting.

And then, another night, I dreamt I was part of a studio audience at the filming of a television show.  My part of the audience was to ask questions.  Next to us was another group of more important people to ask questions and in that group I knew was Alan.  I was not allowed to see him, he was hidden from me amongst his group.  I tried to see him, but I couldn't. I knew he was there.

I feel as if I am in water.  I am very deeply under the water sometimes, but I can breathe, so that's good, but the light is very far above me.  It is silent and slow down there and I can be bumped and jolted on the stones, caught in the rushes, tumbled about in the flow, or I can just lie still.  Sending little bubbles to the surface, not caring how I got there, not wanting to move.   When not far down under the water, I can break the surface and look around me.  Goodness, I say, look at all those people on the land.  I may swim and splash around, but I don't think of leaving the water, I am comfortable here.  I don't choose where I am.  I wake up in different parts of this stream, river, sea, ocean and take note that right now, I am here.  I am here.  It feels strong, it feels slow, it feels deep, it feels shallow.  It feels terrible, it feels calm.  It moves me against my will, I move freely of my own will.  It is warm, it is cold.  It is where I am for now, for however long it takes.  Perhaps for ever.

I am half way through my year off.  I have taken a year away from everything so that I can remember, think about and mourn my mother, my brother Dominic and my husband Alan.  Three losses, three deaths, I can't work out which one to focus on.  It is hard.  All three are a jumble of images, memories, regrets, I talk to all three and feel that sometimes they are there, but most often that they are not.  I think of Mum, and Dominic floats by.  I think of Dominic and Alan appears.  I think of Alan and Mum walks past.  This time is full of confusions and I am powerless to change it. 

I knew that I would have to face these losses.  I knew that it would be hard, and I would rather not have to deal with it. In the past, I would move on, get busy, have a time limit, and hurtle through grieving, through difficulties, to the time limit and beyond, wiping my hands on a cloth and telling myself that I have done a good job and now, thank heavens, it's time to move on.  I don't like depression, misery, sadness and tears.  Looking back, this avoidance has done me no good at all.  Sadness, experiences, losses, all the things that mark our passage through this life we live, need to be acknowledged, need to be noticed, need to be addressed.  If we don't, they come back to bite us.  We can't avoid pain.  Theoretically, I know this.  Now, I am feeling it.  I would be mad not to, I was part of the dying as a soul midwife, a daughter, sister and wife. My daughter and I held my mother as she died,  and Alan's brother and son and I held him as he died.  Dominic died when we had left the room so briefly, and there was only him and his beloved God.

I am letting it all happen for the first time, I am allowing myself to sink with this grief, and I welcome it.  It says to me that I have loved.  These people I have lost are worth this sorrow, and this is my offering to them.  To feel the depth of their absence, to come to understand who they truly were, and to remember, remember, remember. I have let go of my work, my timetables, my plans.  I can't keep an online story going on social media, I no longer read anything to do with soul midwifery, end of life, grief or art.  Floating under water like this, I cannot easily think of many things to say, and so I don't make much effort to speak to new people.  Or old ones. 

In this way, I am obliged to spend time alone with myself.  I am obliged to hear the things running through my mind, to notice how my body is feeling, and to take my inner life seriously.  Silence is a great teacher.  How can I know how to do this grieving, I tell myself.  How can I know.  There are times though, when I understand something, I understand suddenly why this is all fine and I am fine within it.  Then there are times when I doubt myself so deeply that I feel my own life is coming to an end.  When I am peaceful, these things make a gentle sense, when I am confused, I do not know where to find relief.  But all things are passing, and these things flow away from me and I am ready to find a place to rest and to breathe again. Physically,  I have developed pains in my arms and legs that sometimes make walking difficult.  My body does not work as it used to, and this is exactly how Alan used to be before he became ill.  He would complain of the same things as I have now, though his was because of his passion for sports and for pushing himself far too hard.  I feel I am imitating his body. I know this is a grief reaction, it feels very strange, and there are times when I don't feel any pain at all.  But because Mum, Dominic and Alan were such good people, I am safe in this whirlpool, in this unfamiliar place of pain inside and out.  I will not come to any harm.  I will come through.  I hope.

I want to spend time with Mum, Dom and Alan.  I want to meditate so that I can hear them, I want to fall asleep so that they will come in dreams, I want to ask them questions, and have them find a way to answer.  They are not here.  They are not here.  But sometimes, I think they are here.  I woke in the night recently and looked up to the corner of the room.  I knew something was there, and was not surprised to see a gentle glowing ball of light. Oh! I thought, that is there to comfort me.  It's Mum, I thought smiling, as I turned to sleep again.

There is great comfort in my world too.  My friends are so kind, and my family and Alan's family are feeling exactly the same loss as me.  We support each other.  We are not alone, I am not alone.  I am surrounded by kindness and understanding, surrounded by sensitivity and acts of generous compassion.  This helps so very much.  But no one can walk another's path for them and having taken this first year off to let the sadness happen, I must then let it happen.

I dozed off a few days ago and in my semi dreams I saw Alan sitting in my new room at home on my new bed, laughing, laughing with sheer joy.  I came to, smiling, and will keep that image of him forever now, as how he is to remain in my memory.  And I have taken possession of Dominic's old bed, in which he slept for twenty years.  It was made for my Grandfather about ninety years ago.  It is a large, dark wood, very high off the ground single very old fashioned bed. 

The night after Dominic died, I left the hospice and went back to stay overnight in his rooms at the Cathedral in Edinburgh.  Dominic was a Catholic priest.  Oh do not make me stay in his bed, I thought, do not make me do that.  But there was no other bed for me to sleep in, and so I climbed into the sheets that Dom had left a week ago, and lay in the shape he had left and thought that I may never survive this.  But I slept instantly with a peace and depth that left me in no doubt that this experience was not one of tragedy, in his bed, but one of joy, a gift and of love.  And so, now I have Dom's bed in my house, delivered from Edinburgh.  I sleep in it and I sleep very well.  Soon, when my new bedroom is decorated, I will leave Dom's bed and join Alan as he sits on my new bed, laughing with his head thrown back with sheer joy. 

And in the corner of my new bedroom, my mother will comfort me during the night with a gentle golden ball of light.

My Alan and me xx

My beautiful Mother x

Dom! xx

     Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee
All things are passing;
God never changeth;
Patient endurance
Attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth
In nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth.

Saint Teresa

Monday 20 February 2017

Love is all there is


Recently my body and soul had a chat.  My mind was present but not listening.  My body had stern words for my mind.  You are not listening, said my body, and so I am going to break my foot.  And if that doesn't work, I'm afraid I will have to have flu.

So be it, said my soul, love is all there is.

La la la said my mind with its fingers in its ears.

The love affair continues

It is three months since my husband Alan died.  It is nine months since my brother Dominic died, and sixteen months since my mother died.  It was my gift to soul midwife each of them, and their unutterably precious gift to me to allow it.  To give as much as we each gave to each other as the dying happened has wiped me out to the extent that I have offered myself a year off to make sense of what it all means, and to understand who I am in the process.  I am, in other words, pooped.  Mentally, physically and emotionally.  Spiritually, I am being asked to stand back, consider, and remember that love is all.

Love that goes out to others needs to come back to me too.  The greatest lesson now is to acknowledge this, to make a decision to love myself, and to take all the time that is needed to understand what this means.

Love is good.  Of its nature it is only good.  To love yourself sounds enlightened, but actually doing it feels awkward.  It feels self indulgent.  To love oneself means doing in a little light narcissism.  Loving oneself and not becoming too antisocial looks a bit like this.  I will love myself more, I won't let other people get to me.  I will accept myself as I am and be kind to myself.  Early nights, no more puff pastry, and seeing the good in everyone. And that is it.  Having said that, it is enough.  We carry on as before.  We still don't know who we are, we still don't listen to ourselves and we certainly don't think of giving ourselves time.  If I was to say these words to someone else, I would follow through with time, action and intent.  If I say them to myself, I simply cannot.  Or so I think.

If I am to truly love myself, I need to know who it is that I am loving.  I know who I appear to be, I know who I want you all to think I am, but in my quiet moments, who really is Antonia? Have I asked her what she needs?  If I say I sit in silence with her, can I hear her if she speaks?  Do I listen?  Do I care?  Who is that person I have made a commitment to love.  I am so curious, I think despite all I have been taught to believe, that she may be really something.

If I am to practice love for myself, I must take the time to find what works.  I must focus my attention on myself.  If I am surprised that instead of being happiest as the centre of a large crowd, I am lost and lonely, then I was wrong about what I thought I liked.  Perhaps I feel safer on my own.  I didn't know that.  Well, I do now, and I am amazed.  What else do I not know? 

Time and space

My year off is in its fourth month. This is about recovery, finding the way back to myself, understanding where I am in all that has happened.  It's very hard to know exactly what it is that I am not doing in order to have time off.  There is always so much to do.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and so not going into the studio, not painting, not soul midwifing, not writing, not doing AGD or one woman shows creates a space which I willingly, enthusiastically, fill with something else.  Bring it on! My mind says, let's keep busy! So time off becomes simply not doing one set of things, and doubling up on all the other things.  This is when my body stepped in and threw me down the stairs. 

I fell down the stairs early one morning.  I knew I had broken something because of the pain.  If I lie down for a minute, I thought, and take two paracetamol, I'll be fine.  I was taking my grandson to his playgroup that morning, and I couldn't under any circumstances, not do that.  So I thought, if I put my boots on, it will contain my badly swollen foot.  Excellent.  I managed to do that, and spent a difficult day hobbling about.  I think I have broken my foot! I said to everyone, Ha ha ha!  No one else thought it was funny.  I must have looked pitiful as I tried to carry a large one year old around as if I could walk properly.  I'm glad she's not my child's Grandma, the other mums must have thought, she's potty.

A week later I went for an X Ray.  Of course it was broken.  I had spent a week pretending it wasn't and suffering for some obscure reason that I cannot fathom.  It was the day that I got the special broken foot boot that my body said, in exasperation, and now it's time for flu. 

Still life with broken foot.

I thought I was dying.  I don't remember having flu before, ever, and so didn't know what it was.  I dragged myself to the doctor expecting him to diagnose Ebola, but he simply told me it was flu, to go to bed and stay there for a week.

In bed, in my lovely clean, soft, crisp white bed, I gave in.  I sank into the comfort and surrendered.  I cannot move, I thought, I cannot think and was aware that this is what I wanted all along.  To do nothing, to be still, to be incapacitated.  And then I heard my body's message.  I have done this for you, it said.  Your mind has been in denial, you have been in denial, and now you must stop.  And so I did.  I let go.  I lay there for a week, my foot on a cushion, and slept.

The sick bed, with treats provided by lovely friends.  Managed these biscuits bravely.

Now, the spaces left by stopping work are still empty.  I am looking at time differently.  The morning will come, the afternoon will come, and night will fall.  If I do nothing, and time goes by, and I watch it go by, it doesn't matter.  I sit in my chair at home and think of the things I would like to do in the home.  The day will come when they will be done, the day that they are done is just a day, and when the things in the house are completed, there will be another day.  Everything that happens is just a moment in time, is over, and time continues.  I like sitting with myself, I like seeing how I feel about things.  I like the freedom to watch the minutes, the hours, the days go by.  My mind can hear my body and vice versa.  They like the harmony when they work together, which takes patience, attention and perseverance because my mind loves to go mental so to speak, and create disasters and misconceptions and judgements.  And my body likes fried foods and cakes and if it could, it would fry cheese and eat it all day.  If allowed to go off on their own, both body and mind will make a nonsense of the other, it takes conscious effort to keep an eye on them both.

A space to watch the time go by and keep an eye on the mental cheese frying

What my soul says

Watching all these goings on, my soul makes itself a cup of tea and smiles.  All this, it says, is already known.  You are learning nothing new, you are simply remembering.  Oh you are so good at obscuring things, at complicating things.  I am often speaking to you, and because you doubt my simplicity, and because you think that complicated things are more profound and better, you don't listen.

Love is all there is.  If you send it out, you must allow it back.  Love does not have favourites, it does not judge, and it has no needs.  Love simply is, and I am filled with it, for you, and for everyone around you. 

My soul stirs its tea and pauses.  We are one, you and I, with your body and your mind.  I am always here, always watching and always in love with you.

What I say


Happy she's not my child's Grandma.  George and I are very happy with our FaceTime chats.
(Thanks to George's Mama Lexi for taking this)