Call me a Chameleon!

Call me a Chameleon!

chainimage-chameleon-colorful-lizardimage credit: chainimage.com

As I mentioned in a blog post on my professional Facebook page a couple of months ago; I heard myself referred to as “The Trauma Doula”. This is not because I inflict trauma upon my clients you understand (!) but more because I have chosen to specialise in supporting women (& their partners) in unravelling traumatic experiences and their impact on the journey of pregnancy, childbirth and the post partum period. So around and about Amsterdam I speak a lot about Birth Trauma, about VBAC, about Caesarean Birth, about sexual abuse, about domestic abuse and about the ways and means we have at our finger tips to support our hearts, bodies and minds in unpicking the thread that these types of trauma can weave through our experiences of these special moments in our lives.

Anyhow, I digress! Never having really had a “nickname” because Ilena doesn’t really rhyme so easily with other words;  (someone did unsuccessfully attempt to spread “Ilena the Painer” some 22 years ago) I decided that “The Trauma Doula” was also not really one I was keen to perpetuate within the Amsterdam Birth Network or the wider network of families and parents-to-be.

So it got me thinking….what would I like to have as my nickname or “trademark”? To mention but a few fabulous doulas in Amsterdam with nicknames; the wonderful Maartje de Bruijn-Bruning from MotherMe is referred to as “The Duracell Doula” due to her unwavering high energy support, my beloved and multi-talented mentor Jennifer Walker has recently become “The Spinning Babies Doula” due to being one of seven approved Spinning Babies trainers, and the lovely Wendy van der Zijden IS “Holistic Doula”,due to her passion for all things natural and holistic, so what would I (or others) coin as a nickname for myself?

Well after waiting a few months for an answer, earlier this evening it struck me:

Am I “The Chameleon Doula”???

Now in other contexts of life, the notion of being a chameleon might not work so well: who would want a dentist come gynaecologist come antiques dealer to fill in a root canal? Who would trust a baker come plasterer come politician? What about a chemist come footballer come gardener? Maybe not….(!)

In the world of birth keeping however, I believe passionately in the value and significance of this ability to camouflage into the surroundings, and shape shift as appropriate. For me it is important that as a doula I can support you in a homebirth setting, in a hospital induction, in a water birth at a birth centre, or in a planned caesarean birth – all equally.

Now what does that actually translate into in terms of what I actually do during birth support? Let me be clear and tangible :

  • I love space clearing with sage, palo santo or incense
  • I love to offer insight into herbal teas and mineral supplements
  • I love to sit with you as you learn about the physiology and chemistry of birth
  • I love to use yoga principles to help you stretch out the body
  • I love to hear your feedback after having reviewed the lastest scientific research on Vitamin K
  • I love to sit with your midwife as you present your preferences for your care
  • I love to help you pack your birth centre bag
  • I love the curious and sometimes intense taxi ride to the hospital
  • I love to coach you through the fears and doubts that arise as you navigate those final cms in your living room
  • I love to bust out the essential oils for you as you’re hooked up to the CTG
  • I love brushing your hair and applying make up as you enjoy the relief of the epidural
  • I love to heat up your body with my warm hands as I channel the healing and rejuvenating energy of Reiki through your body
  • I love to talk you through what I can see as you lie back on the operating table ready to meet your baby
  • I love chanting with you as you prepare to bear down and push
  • I love to coach you through the mental blocks like a hockey coach as you continue to push like you never did before
  • I love to capture your incredulous awestruck face as you take in the face of your baby in person
  • …and I love everything in between! I have to shape shift pretty dramatically in one birth between all of these tasks.

My clients reflect this chameleon like appearance; I serve artists and corporate lawyers,  recruitment consultants and managing directors, performance coaches and stay at home parents….and every professional and non professional parent in between. Religious parents, atheists; trilingual expat parents, parents fluent in the local dialect; parents who prefer allopathic medicine to parents who utilise holistic medicine; etcetera. All of these individuals have sought support in pregnancy, birth and postpartum parenting….none of them can be labelled in any one way – and here their “job titles” and some “parenting choices” are just a couple of reflections of who they are or what is important to them.

Surely I have to be a chameleon then?!

I was incredibly lucky to have experienced a shape shifting or chameleon like birth story for my first child…it was like a four part story: through a home birth, an undisturbed hospital water birth, a  full working day of the full casacade of interventions, culminating in a beautiful if unexpected Caesarean birth. Being a chameleon as a professional doula in Amsterdam means that I can support you in any birth setting, through any change of plan, through any and every choice you make, and through any outcome – always unconditionally and non-judgementally.

I realised through my own personal experience the true value of having birth support who can comfortably switch birth settings, who can effortlessly adjust to the mood and atmosphere as birth unfolds and everything shifts dynamically. For me the ability to be a chameleon seems intrinsic to the nature of a birth keeper…to be a professional who can shape shift easily and effortlessly and yet hold true to the core essence of their values and beliefs.

What does the core essence of my professional pledge look like?

  • Unconditional and continuous support

  • Non-judgemental support; I have no agenda

  • An open mind, an open heart and open hands

  • Respect and reverence for the uncertainty and miracle of the journey of birth

  • Positive and empowering communication

  • No protocol or prescription for care; on the proviso that it is clear that my support is non medical by definition

Whatever my personal choices might be in my pregnancy, during the unfolding of my birth stories, and as a parent I hope they don’t influence whether or not you decide to hire me…I would like to think that I have a successful and demonstrable track record in providing support as outlined above to all families who hire me; whatever their choices.

If you would like to enquire about the flexible and interchangeable services of The Chamelon Doula (!!!) then please email me to organise an introductory meeting where we can explore what doula support could look like for your family.

hello@ilenajoannestandring.com

 

Ina May Gaskin comes to Amsterdam – and YOU are invited!!!

Ina May Gaskin comes to Amsterdam – and YOU are invited!!!

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Maybe you have heard the rumours???

Often described as “The Mother of Authentic Midwifery”, “America’s Most Loved Midwife” and notorious for her practice’s exemplary results and low intervention rates, Ina May Gaskin has gained international notoriety for promoting natural birth: and it is true – she is coming to Amsterdam!!!!

Maybe you thought, “Tickets will be sold out – no chance I’ll be able to join”

Well the daytime event with Ina May Gaskin on the 25th September 2015 was so popular it sold out in a matter of days, but the organizers and Ina May got together and decided to arrange another event on 24th September 2015 and so here is…

> > > YOUR INVITATION < < <

to join us for………..

AN EVENING WITH INA MAY GASKIN

24/9/2015

19h00 – 21h30

@ CREA Theatre, Nieuwe Achtergracht 170, Amsterdam

This event promises to be an inspiring evening listening to Ina May’s stories from the notorious natural birthing mecca “The Farm”
Ina May is keen for the last hour of the event to be a dialogue: so bring your burning questions!
What do you want to ask Ina May Gaskin?
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Event costs:
#EARLYBIRD# 65.00 euros* before August 31
75.00 euros* from September 1
*Prices are BTW inclusive
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HOW?
To register for your ticket now before the event sells out and still at the early bird price for another five days, please e-mail Lievnath Faber at lievnathfaber@gmail.com
or
Dana Esther Lindzon from Mamawise at dana@mamawise.nl
Ina May’s books will be for sale at the CREA before and after the event, please bring cash should you wish to buy (no PIN on site)

I’m attending with the organisation: so I hope to welcome you to the event and enjoy the evening together!
In case you haven’t already seen it – check out Ina May’s TEDTalk

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Assuaging parental doubt….just for tonight

Assuaging parental doubt….just for tonight

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Have I held you enough? Stroked you enough?

Did I smell you enough? Taste you enough?

Did I kiss you enough? Hold your eyes in mine enough?

Did I laugh with you enough? Did I cry over you enough?

Did I guard you enough? Release you enough?

Did I buy you enough? Shield you from consumerism enough?

Did I feed you enough? Weigh you enough?

Did I hear you enough? Speak to you enough?

Did I document you enough? Email you enough?

Did I share you enough? Spend time alone with you enough?

Did I watch you enough? Did I let you roam enough?

These are just a fraction of the questions that plague me as a new parent daily it seems. Fortunately when you are awake I don’t have time to think – you get everywhere; your hands in the butter, your feet in the cat food, your whole body underneath the dog….climbing the step ladder, coasting from sofa to sofa. My mind is glad of the break as it focuses on the development of eyes in the back of my head to make sure the sockets are protected and the radiator pipe isnt too hot for your little paddle hands as they curl around it anyway and you look up and ask “Whaaaaash da?”

We are approaching your first birthday so I’m not really sure I can class myself as a new parent anymore?! Yet every day I wake up with you it seems like I meet you again for the first time, or maybe thats just right now as the Wonder Weeks ap tells me you’re going through a very significant leap.

Here we are in bed. You asleep alongside me. Starfished between me, the sheepskin, the duvet discarded and your chunky little thighs resting akimbo. Your breath calm and shallow. A half smile on your face; the remainder of the “tickle tickle giggle giggle” call you were making as you slowly surrendered to sleep. Moments later you whimper, heart breakingly heart broken….a memory from today?

It passes and you sigh. So do I.

I take in your curls, they were dark, they have lightened in the sun – you adore the great outdoors. Your perfect button nose, your long curled lashes framing those eyes of yours. Your wonderful, deep, soulful and opalescent blue lagoon eyes. Your skin a shade darker, bronzed slightly in the sun.

And my mind whirs into action again. Did I offer shade and protection enough from the elements today?

Pfffffffffffffffff! Enough.

Just as I tell you nightly:

“You are, you have always been, you shall always be – enough – just as you are. For you are you, perfectly imperfectly you; and that is enough, more than enough for me. There is nothing you could ever do to stop me loving you.”

Tonight I might tell myself the same.

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.

An Open Letter To…..

An Open Letter To…..

Dear Natural Birth Movement,

As you know, in June this year I gave birth to a beautiful bouncing baby boy. He was born 2 weeks and 3 days over his due date. The 36 hour journey he I and I took together was in parts both the highest and the lowest, and the lightest and the darkest hours I remember living. The nearly 16 weeks I have spent with him since have been pink, fluffy, warm, fuzzy and heart explodingly incredible. There have been moments where I have had to pinch myself, to check if this new life is really real and even now as I write my heart is full and my body enjoys another flood of Oxytocin just thinking of him.

But then I remember why I write to you, and my heart hurts a little as I access again the grief, the shame, the guilt and the confusion you have caused me. This is a cocktail of emotions I never thought you’d inflict on anyone, let alone me, and yet I see you inflicting it unwittingly on others too. Perpetuating the same self important frequently impossible standards, the same standards I feel you have measured me up against, and against which I feel I have measured short. I want to write about and share my full birth story – sing it from the rooftops!!!! But before I do, I need to lighten my load and create some more space inside by getting something off my chest.

We need to talk.

I’m leaving you.

I’m moving in with the Empowered Birth Movement. She and I, well we’re better together than you and I ever were. Let’s face it – there were a few moments we stood high on that soap box together weren’t there? My getting together with the Empowered Birth Movement is better for the people around us; our female peers, their partners and birthing companions, the care professionals nurturing new mothers and their babies; and it’s certainly better for me and those I am privileged to assist as a birth coach and doula.

I notice you’re shocked.

I was too.

It all started about 14 hours into my birth story. The first sign I was in labour was that when I woke up my waters had broken and I had “menstruation pain”. As Thursday wore on my labour intensified and I was happily astounded by the amniotic fluid which intermittently gushed out around the house (Note to self: I must remember to thank my best friend and doula again for following me around with towels) Then I saw a pale greenish colour appear. The fear kicked in: would this mean that we would have to go to hospital – that dreaded place of unnatural and intervention riddled deliveries?

It did – my midwife and I didn’t want to stack risks with me being a first time mum and being already 42w2d. I felt disappointed, as if I had failed at the first hurdle somehow. My contractions, which I had enjoyed riding at home in the shower chanting Ong Namo with Snatam Kaur, felt painful for the first time as I had to navigate the short 5 minute journey to hospital. The bright fluorescent light seemed to embody all that was unnatural; all that went against what you had promised me when I prepared for this day and since choosing to birth at home. I could almost hear you say I told you so. I rallied back and forth with the question “Is it really meconium? Do I really need to be here?”

So there we were in the hospital; you and I and our strongly worded birth preferences which I had negotiated fiercely with the hospital at 42 weeks, then again the next day again to gain more clarity in the “grey areas” which had appeared in the conversation you, me and my midwife had had with the senior midwife and the gynaecologist at the hospital. I was fearful. Despite the fear, I drew on the oxytocin my body was saturated with and opened up to the midwife who was on duty. I asked her to stay present with me, to maintain eye contact with me whilst doing internals – to speak to me about the interior of my vagina and cervix and no one else. Hour by hour in doing so with such consideration and tenderness she gained my trust and I in turn hers, and she let me labour on unassisted. You seemed surprised, but I didn’t linger on the growing ill feeling between us as my son and I had work to do.

Fortunately you stuck around and set up the birthing pool in the labour suite bathroom, you nodded approvingly at the various essential oil compresses, the crystals, the yoga postures, the homeopathy kit, the relaxing music and the affirmations.

Cut to 30 hours into the story following a couple of interventions, a journey back and forth and back again between 6cm and 8cm (YES that can happen!); I had an IV dripping synthetic Oxytocin into my veins and my uterus was leading my body in an almighty fight against the invading chemicals. And that’s the moment when you really flaunted your true colours: I felt like a failure asking for pain relief. I asked however, and my wish was granted. I avoided your gaze. During the three hours I spent floating away on the magic carpet of Remifentanil, intermittently glimmers of conversation came through;

“You’re nearly there! 9cm – great!”

“Your contractions are really effective now….”

But I was exhausted; from chanting, swaying and squatting, from the fight for intervention free plateaus and progression, from the 32+ hours with only 2 light meals, from being my own advocate throughout as a solo parent, from you and me fighting about our conflicting expectations of eachother. And despite all that fighting, during those hours floating away I found my truth: that my son had brought me healing enough throughout pregnancy without having to make the passage through my cervix and vagina and heal that trauma too. (I am an abuse survivor)

“Don’t worry” I heard, “You’re 9.5cm and in minutes you’ll be at 10 – if you can’t find enough energy to push we have everything we need to help you achieve a vaginal birth.”

‘No. Thank. You.’ I thought. ‘Stay away from my vagina.’

“I want a Csection” I heard myself say with conviction and certainty.

Whilst my relief at finding the surrender I had been looking for was almost palpable, I couldn’t make eye contact with you.

In the four months since little JT was born, we have come head to head at many crossroads. I have found you tutting in the sympathetic “Oh what a shames” which I receive when I explain he made his way earthside via his own stargate. I have found you lurking self righteously in the Facebook comments of an “informative natural parenting piece” on how epidurals do indeed pass through the placenta and babies’ alertness is adversely affected; callously telling a woman who said she shouldn’t be shamed for giving birth to a dead foetus with the help of an epidural that in her case “it didn’t matter that the epidural crossed the placenta”. I have found you in the form of a prenatal yoga teacher withholding the happy stories of babies born by Csection to clients in my new friends’ post natal meet up class; the insinuation being that these stories weren’t the optimal outcome that the teacher had been encouraging her students to strive for. I found your influence in the story of my brave warrior friend who gave birth to her beautiful daughter at 27 weeks – where she defends the fact she had a Csection by explaining how dangerous it would have been for baby to have become at all distressed during a “natural delivery”.

I hear you dripping all over the expression “normal birth” – for what is a “normal birth” these days anyway??? I hear you in my final doula course training – a fellow student defending a brutal sounding gynaecologist she had witnessed manually dilating a woman from 8cm to 10cm to keep her in the proper timeframe and avoid being transferred to an inferior public hospital (I verbally winced at that idea); and your final defence? “Well at least she didn’t have to have a Csection.”

I read you as I come across a quote stating that it is a women’s right of passage to give birth naturally and vaginally; and I am left once again wondering if somehow my own experience (which is that the right of passage is in fact becoming a mother: a journey which started from the moment I was conscious my body was housing an embryo and not from the moment I felt the ejection reflex and started to push) is somehow invalid?

So no; I’m afraid these militant ideas you keep don’t ring true for me. I’ve opened my eyes to the countless women who also feel they have to apologetically explain their choosing an epidural or outside intervention – through myself having felt that need to defend; and now I’m starting to understand and realise why so many women unquestioningly hand over their power to medical care providers completely in the face of your dogmatic alternative. They’re frightened they won’t make your grade.

There is good news for me, and my fellow sisters who think along the same lines as I do though!

The Empowered Birth Movement is working hard to inform women about their rights, the possible choices and the protocols and side effects of the choices available to us in birth. The Empowered Birth Movement is exploring and inhabiting that vast expansive space between your natural birthing utopia and the carefully scheduled medical approach to delivering babies. The Empowered Birth Movement is bringing information about all options – judgement free – to the public sphere, bringing candid new images from all types of birth stories so that women can visualise for themselves what will feel safest for them.

When we talk about healthiest birth experiences we have to look at “health” holistically; physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. And I have you to thank for bringing me to that perspective. Speaking as a mother, as a doula and as a birth coach though, I can tell you first hand that there are many reasons why the “healthiest birth” choices for a woman may well include comprehensive pain relief and or surgical assistance. Those reasons range from having a phobia of blood, to being a survivor of sexual abuse and being keen to avoid a trigger, to simply not wanting to experience the pain of vaginal childbirth.

Whatever the reason – we are entitled to make our own choices. As female peers, as mothers, as birth workers, and as birth activists we have to STOP pushing preferences and shaming women’s choices. Birth activism and reclaiming birth is about informed consent and empowered birthing – not a natural birth at all costs. And it’s certainly not about attributing shame to any mother’s birth story because she fell short of the latest soft focus home water birth video on Youtube.

So here we are.

My bags are packed.

I’m ready to go.

Shall I leave my keys on the shelf in the hall on my way out?

The Tribe Contagion

The Tribe Contagion

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Jim Rohn

As a coach and self transformation enthusiast, I have heard and read a lot about the people you surround yourself with; your “tribe”. I fought this for a long time, plaguing myself with ideas about obligation, loyalty, duty; “Yeah but who else does he have to talk to about his relationship catastrophes”, “She’s just going through a difficult period – its only been a decade of difficulty – she’ll turn a corner soon”; blah blah blah. I thought my tribe were mostly positive, inspired, ambitious and interesting people, so it didn’t matter that some were a little less so. Then I stumbled across this quote and the mathematical logic of it really struck a chord. I realised the “some” were indeed affecting my average.

Over three years ago I consciously started engaging with my existence; I began my mindfulness practice. This involves being present in the here and now moment; allowing full feeling of physical sensations, emotional experiences, mind generated thinking, heart centred thinking; truly being. Being mindful starts with the self, one’s own mind, one’s own thoughts. However not being a hermit (though there are solitary shell days which I enjoy very much) and thriving on contact and connection with people, very quickly my practice began to take in the physical, emotional, and spiritual reactions to others. In the broadest sense of mindfulness when I say “others” I mean other objects, other people, other animals, other experiences, other behaviours, other communication, other physicality, other anything. The noticing of ‘the other’ is inevitable as part of a mindfulness practice – because the mind persists in it’s separation of self before succumbing to peace, acceptance and oneness. In the context of this post I mean other people.

So in noticing my multi faceted reactions to the people in my life, and the people I encountered in life, naturally an inventory of states began to take form. Very quickly it started to become clear to me with whom I was feeling most at peace, most at ease, most courageous, most inspired, most able to be vulnerable, and crucially for me; where I was mostly hooting with laughter.

Naturally then, without confrontation, and always blessed with love and gratitude, some relationships just started to fall away. This didn’t happen entirely without action on my part, reducing my facebook friends by 350 people was a significant action. Another action, which was perhaps even more significant, was learning to flex my “no” muscle. I am still actively training this muscle, and have learnt a lot about communication in doing so; expect a post on the “no” muscle.

Another action was reestablishing boundaries in the relationships which still had a chance of evolving into a vessel to serve us both, sometimes those boundaries worked for us both and we have grown closer together, sometimes they didn’t work and so we have taken seperate paths. I noticed the liberty of letting these relationships fall away. I noticed the loving gift of an honest no. I noticed the expansion of internal space and possibility. I noticed the heady excitement of random meetings with new people now there was more space in my being, in my heart.

In letting people fall away we are allowing a WIN WIN WIN WIN scenario.

WIN 1: you spend time with people who invigorate you

WIN 2: they spend more time with people who want to spend time with them

WIN 3: you create space for new people to enter your life

WIN 4: those new people get to be invigorated by you!

And one last point to honour the wise Jim Rohn; your average becomes exceptional. Outstanding even!

In Loving Memory of Margaret Standring 14.03.1931 – 19.08.2014

In Loving Memory of Margaret Standring 14.03.1931 – 19.08.2014

It seems befitting that my first post be my goodbye to this woman who meant to much to me, and inspired so much in me, particularly through her death this year.

“I confess I’d started to jot down some memories of Granny before she passed away. Partly because it was clear from the first doctor’s call in July that we were approaching the end, and mostly because in spending these beautiful last weeks with her and recalling happy times together, one memory sparked another, that in turn another, and I became anxious to make sure I got all these precious gems down on paper.

It was difficult however to know where to start in writing these words to say to you today, as knowing where to start; what best depicts the very best of our magnificent Granny is a tough job as there is such a wealth of memories to choose from. Such profound love, such generosity of spirit, so many valuable lessons taught, so much laughter, such delicious recipes, so many skills, so many gifts (and I mean both gifts of character as well as material, and we all know she loved to shop!); she brought so much to our family and no doubt to you her many friends.

I decided to share one of my first memories of Granny by way of a beginning. Being sat alone as a little girl of three on the stairs at Windsor Road watching a terrific storm brewing. The sky darkened and I ventured out in my thick Yorkshire accent which tickled Granny no end, “Granny?” No reply. No doubt she was busying about the garden or garage in her usual whirlwind way. The lightning struck, the thunder growled. I burst into tears. Seconds later Granny swooped in, her lovely face soft with concern, her wide open arms my very own port in a storm. She encompassed me in a tight cuddle, reassuring me that she would never be far away, and certainly would never leave me alone. My heroine. Unbeknownst to me at that moment she continued to be my unwavering port throughout various childhood and adolescent storms.

During one of these evenings we spent supporting eachother as a family recently, we laughed at the memory of an eight year old me flinging myself on my bed wailing “Granny! I want my Granny – she’s the only one who understands me….” Only two years before I had been the only one who could understand her in her hospital bed following her stroke. Perhaps the lack of fear and projection and the curiosity of a six year old meant that I was simply able to focus on the sounds she was making and was able to work it out, but it felt like, and I still believe it was mostly to do with our strong connection and bond we shared.

She made an incredible recovery from her stroke. Relearning almost all of that which had been lost or impaired in order to continue to pass it on; a teacher through and through. She taught me SO much. I remember getting to reception class and being confused why not everyone could recite the alphabet and write their name already. She taught me how to draw, how to paint, how to formulate perspective in a piece of artwork. She taught me the pleasure of playing a musical instrument, fondly encouraging my sometimes rather tortuous practicing of the violin, the piano and the flute. She taught me how to press tongue(!!!), how to make lemon cheese as soft as butter. She taught me that as women we must nurture ourselves, with good food on the inside and with luxurious products on the outside! She taught me the pleasure of having beautiful things in my home environment, the pleasure in buying, wrapping and giving gifts – she always so kindly poured over our gifts and their wrapping as we gave them to her; she was beyond question my favourite person to buy a present for. Thoughtfully she always wore one of the presents we’d bought her whenever we visited – some I even forgot I’d bought once or twice, she obviously never did.

In recent years her brain was affected by dementia. Sometimes this was difficult to see, and painfully was very difficult for her in her more lucid moments as she knew she wasn’t “quite right”. To be honest though we had some terrific laughs at the expense of dementia, like the Christmas day when I went in to give her a good morning cuddle and a cup of tea and sang “Happy Christmas Granny!!!” to which she replied not skipping a beat “Happy New Year!!!” Another beautiful gift of dementia was that it slowed her down. On my fridge I have a few cheerful pastel coloured photos from a couple of years ago when my sister and I enjoyed some warm sunny summer afternoons with her in Carwood Nursing Home’s garden. There we were – not “doing” much, not saying anything of any real consequence – just basking in our reflected pleasure in eachother’s company. Despite the illness; the twinkle in her eyes, the interest in her eyes, the kindness and the sheer love in her eyes all almost palpable, never lost.

Her last weeks, intense weeks of both incredible light and terrifying darkness as she progressed toward her transition, feel too fresh and too intimate to share today, so I’ll finish by sharing the words a close friend and confidante shared with me. “We live as we live, and then we die in just the same way we have lived.” In being beside Granny this last month I can confirm this is true. She died with tremendous strength, determination, courage and grace.

I believe that she also learnt an important lesson in the final steps of her journey however; how to really let go. And so it is with a mixture of strength, determination, courage, grace, and the vulnerability and the surrender required to really let go sometimes, that I will continue along my journey as a woman, a daughter, a sister and a mother. Grateful to the core for all she was, all she brought and taught me, grateful for the privilege of being at her side in her last weeks on earth and for this illuminating experience of death. Promising to share what I can of her legacy with my own family and friends.

Thankyou Granny.”