“So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door…..”

“So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door…..”

In the park there is a constant ebb and flow of people. People exercising. People circulating energies through the serene movement of Tai Chi – every morning at 10am in front of the bandstand should you wish to join. People cutting through. People detouring in order to exhange a street for a winding path flagged with luscious green grass beside the lake. People walking their dogs. People drinking. People playing. People being people.

Late this afternoon I was walking Winston. I was falling into the gentle mindful experience which I try to be present in each time we walk in the park. Part of this means I am aware of the people around me, but at the same time need to remain unattatched to what they’re doing around me. This is intrinsic to my growing and deepening mindfulness practice.

I noticed the air. It was cold but not bitter. It was not moist but it couldnt be described as damp. I felt thankful for my sheepskin gloves. The wind was insistent. The wind was neither aiding nor abetting my movement. The blustery rhythm however was not regular enough to excite a breathlessness within me – which happens with the right kind of wind. The sun was starting to say a slow Wintery goodbye. I felt grateful to have enjoyed the sunshine today – not commonplace for February in The Netherlands. The ground was hard beneath my feet. I noticed within my body the release of endorphins starting to mobilise. I noticed the half smile on my face.

I heard a voice behind my right shoulder and turned to face the man who had spoken.

It was a man of around 60, riding his bike, wearing a baseball cap which was frayed around the rim. His dark chocolate brown hair was greying but his smile was bright.

“Strong sturdy dog isn’t it, a bulldog? It’s back and behind is so strong, and round and perfect.”

Hoping that he wasn’t in fact talking about my behind in a vaguely disguised dog remark, I replied warmly that I loved Winston’s behind – and that Winston was a great dog. He proceeded to explain that he had a Jack Russell, and that he thought of her when he saw Winston’s behind because her back and behind were a little fragile. I said the appropriate dog owner to dog owner “Awwwwwww cute, shame about the fragility” and started to continue moving. He fell into my rhythm but on his bike, and went on to explain that she was his companion, that there was only him and her at home now – his wife had died just over a year ago.

He wakes up in the morning and rolls over and says “Good Morning” and he swears that she answers back – in her own doggy way. They have a routine together now. They wake up in the morning – he says “Good Morning” and she replies – then he lets her out into the garden so she can do her business. He cleans it up and then they can go back to bed for an hour or so.

He explains that his wife died of a brain tumour, and that before that she had been prone to lung infections. She had loved animals but because of her fragile health they had resorted to keeping a pair of canaries rather than any other animal. He laughs loudly and says “Imagine the chaos – two canaries flying around! We couldn’t keep them in a cage.” His laugh rings out and he smiles with a distant look in his eye and says “You know, she knew she was going to die. It was about eight months before she did that she started to insist that we got a dog, despite her ill health. So we got the Jack Russell…..I think she wanted to know that when she left, the dog would still be there. So that there would be someone there for me when I opened the door as I came home from work. And she is there. She’s there waiting for me behind the door.”

He refocused on me, and we shared a blurry moment. I can’t speak for him but I noticed my heart was full of love, and worried that it may brim over through the tear ducts in my eyes.

I rubbed his arm and said something simple about the beauty of the companionship of dogs. Then we smoothed over the raw emotion by sharing a moment passionately enthusing over the efficacy of sheepskin gloves in keeping your hands warmer than any other glove, and for the second time in the space of twenty minutes I felt thankful for my sheepskin gloves.

And we parted.

As I walked away I marvelled again at the way love never dies. How it lives on in our minds, in our dogs, in our sheepskin glove warmed hands, in our shared windy moments in the park, in our hearts, in our souls.

I hope that his beautiful wife rests peacefully, and looks in every now and again on Ricardo and his Jack Russell with her fragile back and behind.

Yesterday I fell apart

Yesterday I fell apart

Not completely. Let’s say my façade fell apart. My mother and baby group tribe got to see the real messy, emotional, vulnerable, snotty, sweaty and mascara melting side of me which I strive to keep so well hidden….

Yesterday was day two of my back flaring up. No baby wearing – the stroller was out (oh how my self judgements raged about being disconnected from Jasper/how I’m failing at the attatchment parenting model/gremlin grumbling ad infinitum). I lost my tram pass (grrrrrrrrrr) so bought a single ticket (cue bigger GRRRRRRRR) and found some redemption in the pleasure of giving a free pass to the first person waiting at the tram stop I debarked from. Then I remembered I was 35 minutes late…rush in to the building as fast as possible – never mind the back twinges!

I came upon my new mummy friends and their bubbas sat around in an oxytocin filled room, sheepskins, blankets, fleeces, big innocent eyes, new teeth to speak of, bare bouncing bottoms, warm sudden wet fountains(!)….for the first time that day I felt like I could really breathe. I was greeted by a big kiss and “You’re looking hot today!” Indeed I’d highlighted my eyes with a stripe or two of liner, somehow hoping that a little jet black mascara and Mac serpent green would galvanise me and prevent me from losing my marbles.

My little man was excited to be in the building, which he already associates with joy, connection, laughter, song and development. He greeted everyone with big flirty Gemini smiles, more than happy for that moment to be centre of attention in a room full of love. He was a useful distraction for me; an extension of my facade. I brushed off my wince of pain as I sat down with a brief comment acknowledging it wasn’t anything physical, just some emotional turbulence manifesting physically. And our mother and baby Shiatsu massage session started. Monika was magnificent – connecting with everyone in our group individually and collectively. We all learnt a lot. We breathed deeply. We let go. We watched our bubbas let go and love us even more in our spacious open selves.

And the session ended. Monika graciously, generously went to one of our mums – a true warrior goddess recovering from major surgery on her intestines but eager to see us at her earliest opportunity. We busied ourselves chatting and beginning to clothe our naked mini beings.

I felt Monika’s hand before she said “And you Mama….lets work out whats happening with your back”.

The touch of a human. The touch of a mother. The touch of a balanced centred and well intentioned woman, a nurturer. Wow; always a pleasure – but as a solo parent and a single person one of the things we can miss the most is the loving touch of another. Already I felt relief. What ensued was Monika inviting me to lay face down on a yoga mat – my little man was quickly tended to by a loving mother with spare hands(!) – and Monika set to work on my spine…. Pretty quickly there was a big build up and release of heat, the tension seemed to vibrate underneath my skin, my spine tingling with the targeted manipulations. The tears fell, fortunately my hair covered the side of my face, but then the heat and the sweat took over, the thoughts tumbling –

“Oh jeeeeez….how will I manage to spring up and surreptiously wipe up this pool of tears, snot and sweat as I head off to the bathroom once she’s done?”

“What is wrong with me that a massage does this to me time after time?”

“Breathe…ouch that hurts….breathe….ouch that hurts….breathe”

“Oh my god I’m supposed to be leading a session with these ladies next week – who the hell will respect me enough to participate NOW?”

…..you get the picture!

Monika’s magic hands sensed it was time to stop kneading. She advised me to stay still for a few moments, reassuring me that Jaspie was just fine. I thought “Jump up, drag your sleeve over the wet patch, look at the floor and make a dart for the door – no one will see your mascara streaked panda face- go go go!”

My body had other plans. It threatened to spasm. The fear came. I froze. I eased myself back on the floor.

Darling Esther arrived at my side with loving arms and gentle cooing tender words. Reassuring and distracting, encouraging me to take some time. The rest of the thoughtful, considerate group of women held the space, gave me space, took their space and led by example: they allowed the experience to just be what it was, in that space, on that day, and loved me anyway. No sideways glances. No whispering. No knowing looks. No false comments about “everyone falling apart sometimes” or “hormones eh?!” No single mother pitied projections, no meaningless “I don’t know HOW you DO this on your OWN”.

Once I’d manoeuvred my sobbing damp self off the floor, I was held. They mothered me. They continued to hold the space around me. Judgement free, hurry free, question free.

So I had fallen apart. Not completely but not far from. My façade had fallen completely away. My sisters got to see the real messy, emotional, vulnerable, snotty, sweaty and mascara melting side of me which I strive to keep so well hidden.

My aching back still grating. The fear of a spasm lock down still playing out in my head. My mascara still tracing an interesting angle vertically on my cheek. But feeling seen. Feeling valid. Feeling cherished.

And the falling apart; it was OK. Really. It was more than ok – it was a huge relief. It was an opening. It was authentic. And we connected even more deeply than before. We bonded; our hearts wide open and non-judging. We “saw” each other. Me through my lens of tears; they through lenses of empathy and compassion. My falling apart represents progress for me. Letting go and letting people in. And through letting it all hang out and being totally accepted even in that snotty messy version of me, I get the added bonus of feeling SO much healing gratitude that my life is blessed with 150 minutes, once a week, with a sisterhood that does what our ancestors and our tribal counterparts know heals the spirit of a woman more than any drug or any therapy session could ever do.

With heartfelt gratitude to my sisters and their beautiful bouncing gurus from ‘Tiny & Mighty’, and wishing all who read this post a bare minimum of 150 minutes of utter and complete acceptance and authentic connection, this week and every week.