The Lake District: on two wheels and two feet

The first time I ever visited the Lake District was for a mountain biking weekend one cold but sunny November. It was the days before digital cameras, so the photo of me falling into a stream as I tried to cycle through it is buried in an album somewhere: but what I do remember is that the weather was beautiful and that I immediately fell in love with the area.

Living in Cumbria (it’s 12 years next month), I still love the county and a trip to the Lakes usually engenders feelings of going on holiday, even if only for a half day. There’s also plenty I have yet to explore and to learn.

Despite my pre-children mountain biking weekends all those years ago, I haven’t cycled much in the area. So when my friend Jeremy suggested a 20-mile bike ride in Borrowdale and around Derwentwater I accepted eagerly.

He picked up my bike, Edward and me in his van and having dropped Edward at school we drove down to Keswick. As we cycled up the Borrowdale valley I thought back to running around and swimming in Derwentwater, and how each activity gives a slightly different aspect to the lake and its valley. The river near Grange was higher than it had been when Penny and I ran from Grange to Seatoller and back but whilst it was cooler, the weather was dry. We stopped to admire the Bowder Stone, which I hadn’t seen before, and its new steps, as someone Jeremy knows had something to do with them. I tried to imagine Victorian women in crinolines climbing up to admire the view, parasols in hand, and was glad to be clad in flexible lycra.

We cycled as far as the NT farm and cottages at Seathwaite before turning round and retracing our wheels to Grange. Here we turned to the west to go up the road that runs along the foot of Cat Bells, and I thought back to swimming in Derwentwater below there just a few months ago. I have loads of similar photos but it’s such a lovely view and one of my favourite lakes, by now dressed in its autumnal colours. How rapidly the seasons change and the temperature drops: various hardy swimmers are still open water swimming (without wetsuits) even now, and will continue throughout the winter, but I’m not yet anything like acclimatised!

We cycled back through Portinscale, discussing wanting to try some of the mountain passes and debating which would be the best to try first, and arrived back in Keswick in plenty of time for cake (Jeremy) and smashed avocado (etc. – me). On the way home we dropped into Rheged to look at Jeremy’s exhibit in a national landscape exhibition: I’ll leave the photos to tell their own story. I love the way Rheged have positioned it so the light creates a map in the shadow.

Only a short while later and I was down in the Lake District again, this time based at Monk Coniston for an assessment weekend to see whether I’d be good enough to be a walking holiday leader. As I drove down – over the Kirkstone Pass, as I love that route and it’s the most direct – the sun was setting and there was Windermere below me, shining as the sun went down. I never tire of getting to the top of the Kirkstone Pass and seeing the lake all the way down below me – I rarely stop to take a photo though.

I felt a little apprehensive about the weekend but before long Rachel, the other woman on the assessment (there were 3 men as well), and I were chatting away, comparing notes about 3 children, being divorced and life generally.

The following day the two of us were walking with Paul while the 3 men went off with a different assessor. We headed in a north-westerly direction up the Yewdale valley, alongside the Yewdale Beck for much of the way and seeing lots of remains of mines and quarries – we stopped for coffee in one, gazing around a corner at snow on the higher fells. There was a real feeling of human industry having returned to nature.

That evening was night navigation and we spent an enjoyable couple of hours trying to find our way in the dark up to Tarn Hows and back. I realised that either the battery on my headtorch was getting a bit low (it’s rechargeable) or I need a better headtorch; and we ‘calibrated’ my paces – I now know that c.63 of my double paces equals 100m.

The following day all 5 of us ‘candidates’ were out together with two assessors, starting at the New Dungeon Ghyll and walking up towards the Langdale Pikes. I had never walked further than the first waterfalls and pools before, and the stunning weather – the sky was a vivid cloudless blue until the afternoon – combined with the beauty of the fells made for a hugely enjoyable walk. I’m really looking forward to next summer and swimming in Stickle Tarn; there was also a small pool looking over Stickle Tarn: both reflected the sky and fells like mirrors. One day I shall do the entire Pavey Ark – Harrison Stickle – Pike of Stickle walk.

As we walked back down I could see Blea Tarn in the distance, and again thought back to swimming there not so very long ago. We could also see Windermere and Morecambe Bay, including Heysham power station; there’s something very gratifying about being able to orientate yourself because you recognise landscape features.

While writing this I’m studying the map again and my eyes are caught by ‘Castle Howe’ and ‘Ting Mound’ at the eastern end of the Wrynose Pass (the pass of my 3-hour wait for the breakdown lorry after swimming in Wastwater). Googling what they were, I discover that this could be an iron age fort of some sort and that the Ting Mound was used in the 7th-9th centuries as an open air meeting place. Apparently the route through Wrynose Pass might have been in use since neolithic times.

Perhaps this is what appeals to me most of all about living in this fairly remote, underpopulated part of the UK. The relative lack of development means that history of all periods surrounds you: the neolithic route and iron age hill fort; the roads, forts and great wall of the Romans; the names of Saxon and Viking settlements; the ruined castles of medieval times; the industrial archaeology of the Elizabethans and Georgians; and the tourism industry which more or less started with Wordsworth and continues to this day. The multiple layers of varying waves of human interest and influence; but over it all nature continuing with its own awe-inspiring beauty, ranging from the grandeur of the highest fells to the delicacy of a mountain flower.

Ladies of the Lakes (1)

I announced recently that I wasn’t going to do any more charity dinners, but that I would carry on having friends to dinner. As I only had a couple of ‘donating’ guests for the most recent dinner, I cancelled it as a charity do and instead invited friends to dinner. There ended up being 9 of us.

I kept the menu much the same – there are a host of recipes I wanted to try from Antonio Carluccio’s The Collection (which my Mum had kindly bought me when we went out for lunch to Carluccio’s at Cribbs Causeway) so I chose a 4-course menu from that book:

Insalata all’Abbruzzese (vegetable and tuna salad – basically an italian version of Salade Nicoise, which is one of my favourites)

Manilli de Seta (Silk hankerchief pasta with pesto – I was very proud of the pasta I made, which came out beautifully thin due to my Imperia pasta rolling machine: but I was really lazy and despite buying the ingredients for pesto I actually used Sainsburys fresh pesto, even though it would have been dead easy to make)

Stracotto (which means ‘overcooked’ – beef brisket cooked slowly in stock, a mirepois and white wine), served with Patate e Porcini (potatoes and ceps, except I used ordinary mushrooms. But a few of the potatoes came from my garden, as did the sage leaves)

Zabaione con salsa di cioccolato amaro (zabaglione with bitter chocolate sauce. This turned out well except the bitter chocolate sauce could have done with being lighter – it turned into solid lumps of chocolate and had mostly sunk by the time I served the desserts. I think the ratio of cream to chocolate needs to be different – and perhaps adding a bit of butter might help?)

It was one of those fantastic evenings which went well from the beginning, with 3 or 4 lively conversations at all times. The atmosphere was great.

Three of us had already arranged that we would go wild swimming in Crummock Water the next day. The weather forecast had looked a bit gloomy and damp but in fact the sun was attempting to come out and although the air felt slightly cool (if you were standing out in a swimsuit), the water was lovely – two of us even took our wetsuits off and went in just in swimsuits, although my fingers had turned green by the time I got out. As previously, it was great to be swimming at water surface level, the fells around dwarfing us. You feel completely part of nature and, as Jo said, ‘it’s very calming’. It was her first time ever wild swimming – but I think she’s hooked!

We discussed how we should go about celebrating Anne’s 60th and her goal to swim in all 16 lakes: we decided we needed to be in the water for at least 30 minutes each time in order to be able to make it ‘official’. The next lake we’re aiming to swim in is Ullswater, and as we drove back we picked our name: Ladies of the Lakes. Crummock Water was our first ‘official’ one – so 15 more to go!

Ageing and such like

I have come across various quotations recently, including one today which said ‘it’s never too late to become the person you want to become’ and another – an advertisement by the Sanctuary Spa – encouraging women to relax and to ‘let go’ .  As I am just starting a college course, aiming for a change in career and it’s my birthday next week, both got me thinking.

Changing career is both exciting and daunting.   I am old enough to be the mother, if not the grandmother, of some of the other students.  But for some while now I have wanted to do something more creative.  Singing and writing were never going to pay the bills; cooking on the other hand, although at most levels not as well paid as surveying, could do.  I am torn between wanting to do something which is fulfilling for me; having to provide financially for my children; trying to balance work with looking after my children (picking them up from school, not too many hours in after school club, trying not to ask their father to look after them more than I do, etc. etc.).  I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing – I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone in many ways – but I do know that drifting along as a surveyor is not satisfying, not fulfilling and, ultimately, doesn’t seem to be providing the right opportunities to make of it either a career or a vocation any longer.  I’ve applied for jobs and got nowhere, whereas already opportunities for catering are coming my way.

The other issue I’m debating in my head is whether it’s selfish to find something which is fulfilling, career-wise (which is why being able to provide for my children financially is an important factor).  The Sanctuary advert popped into my consciousness at just the right moment: my Thursday evening run had been cancelled (partly by me – the weather was atrocious) and I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and a bit low.  Straight away I was thinking about my ‘to do’ list and how, as I wasn’t going running I then ‘must do… singing practice; learn/practice Italian; sort out my college folder; write all the features I’ve been meaning to write; go out for a run anyway…’ as if the suddenly empty time had to be filled.

The Sanctuary advert pulled me up short.  I roamed around a bit on Facebook, finding an inspiring clip about a man who had started running at 95 and long jump at 97; I lit some candles and had a bath (I normally have a shower as it’s quicker), lying there for ages not even reading but with bubbles about a foot higher than the surface of the water, just day dreaming; I eventually did some singing; and then I roamed around a bit more on Facebook and pinterest before writing this post.

I haven’t done all the things I could have done; but instead of feeling sad and sorry for myself I’ve enjoyed having some contemplative, peaceful time on my own.  I’m happy that I’m following my dream of being more creative, and excited about my change of career and where it might lead me: and I’m glad I’m doing it before I’m too old.

I still have a list of things to do, or that I wish to do, and I don’t want to live to regret not doing anything – but at the same time I know that sometimes it’s OK just to take some time out and do nothing.  As the Italians say, “la dolce far niente”.  And at those points, when you’re happy enough and confident enough to stop – to have a break from the rushing around we all do – you can look into yourself and see who you really are.  And you know what?  I like who I am (phew!).

Just photos

Anyone who follows me on Facebook, ignore this… I just wanted to upload (or download) all the fantastic photos from Caldbeck Fell, taken yesterday evening, 6th June 2016, to my blog as well as FB.  I keep looking at them as they make me feel good about myself!!!  I don’t think I’ve ever before felt so happy about a whole set of photographs of me… and this is at age 54, going on 55, when I’m definitely past my best but perhaps happier in my own skin (despite the wrinkles, grey hair etc.)…  I am really, really impressed by what Phil Robbins has achieved and if anybody wants to commission him, either look him up on Facebook or ask me for his contact details… he is an artist!

My broken heart feels a little less broken and my Inner Goddess feels a little stronger!

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Feeling good (it’s the little things)

I’m feeling good today.  Happy, in a sort of low-key way – which is good – a sort of calm happy contentment rather than the wild highs of exhilaration.

It helps of course that the weather is perfect.  It feels almost Mediterranean – at least for Cumbria.  It’s been in the high 20s (degrees C) and sunny for a couple of days, but with a lovely warm breeze which reminds me of being by the sea.  Perhaps the fact that it reminds me of the Mediterranean demonstrates just how long it is since I’ve been anywhere near that particular sea, but for now it will do!

It was a good weekend too.  I got some fantastic feedback for my solo (Stanford’s Bluebird) from the choir concerts this weekend – one of Helen’s friends came up and said enthusiastically ‘you have such a beautiful voice’, and Lis, who used to sing with the choir, said it was ‘sensational’ the first night and even better the second.   All very good for the ego and what was nice was that, without meaning to sound big-headed, I felt I had sung well too.  On the second evening I was standing at the opposite end of the church to the choir and they sounded great: you rarely have a chance to hear the choir you sing with properly, particularly not in performance, so I felt privileged to be able to hear them as well as being allowed to sing what is such a beautiful, soaring solo part.

Deborah and I had some photos done on Saturday morning by Phil Robbins – that’s one of me above, my eyes looking, as someone so beautifully described them once, ‘greeny slate’ – for us to use in promoting ‘Two Red Heads and…’  We then had lunch in Number 34 (no. 34 Fisher St., Carlisle) followed by non-alcoholic cocktails specially mixed for us in the Quarter Lounge – both places I can highly recommend and am hoping to go in again (look out for Deborah and me singing at the Quarter Lounge open mic night on June 12th).  The risotto in Number 34 was one of the best I have ever had – not too gloopy but not too dry either, and very tasty.  The cocktail was a citrussy elderflower mix – really refreshing.  Phil took almost 500 photos of us and I’ve seen 3 or 4 so far which look great – I’m really looking forward to seeing some more.  He has a good eye for an unusual camera angle or pose.  We’re also awaiting some photos taken by Claire’s partner Colin at our Songs for Bob recital – she’s told me they’re really good, so I’m awaiting them with bated breath too!

Then on Sunday evening Deborah, Helen and I went to see Florence Foster Jenkins at the cinema – at times hilarious and at other times rather sad – a good evening’s entertainment.

By the end of the weekend and today I felt lovely: somehow slim and attractive: I felt good about myself.  Which is nice as I’ve been feeling that I was looking a bit ugly recently!  And the good feelings continued this morning, despite the fact that it was Monday, when a box of Hotel Chocolat goodies arrived with the postman (they have already all gone, devoured by my two (cuddly) sons and me: they were delicious) as well as some Marks & Spencer vouchers – and I’ve won a ‘Bee’ cleanser which I’m waiting to arrive in the post as well.  Even driving for a work meeting was uplifting as I go down the back roads to Armathwaite and all is green and gorgeous and I can pretend I’m a rally driver (a slowish one at least) on the rural roads, lovely views of fells all around.

It’s funny how it’s little things which can make your spirits gleam.  Perhaps, as is reflected in my last post, it’s to do with being receptive to them.

 

 

 

 

Places for contemplation

This blogpost has been some time in gestation.   I’ve been travelling around the north west, and travelling always makes me contemplate life: I’m also currently reading Jostein Gaarder’s novel-come-philosophy book, Sophie’s World, and have just finished Lyn Thurman’s The Inner Goddess Revolution.  All heady stuff (I’m going to read about the Crusades next… one middle-eastern originating monotheistic religion fighting another… don’t they think that maybe they worship the same God, who would be disappointed in the squabbles and blood shed over the detail of how to worship him?).

I want to quote from Thurman’s book as it relates in part to world philosophies and religions, and is relevant both to men and to women, as well as echoing many other things I have read over the past year or more.

“The time we have on this planet is precious and so very short.  We have to live each day in a sense of awe at the gift we’ve been given, and to treat each day with joy [Me: sometimes more easily said than done…].  Imagine how you would feel if each morning you were on a holiday…

You can do that, you know.

A holiday is a ‘holy day’; a day that’s spiritual and sacred… You’re given a brand new holiday with each sunrise… you can choose your path forward.  You can follow your dreams and be outrageously authentic… 

You change, the world around you changes, and you become the change.  The world needs that.”

What is clear to me from all this reading and thinking is that the majority of mankind has always felt that there is a spiritual side to us human beings; but also a consciousness that we are somehow both small and great at once – part of a larger universe and yet each of us capable of greatness, should we choose and should we follow our ‘true’ path and let ourselves shine.  Perhaps for some that’s almost an impossibility: for some day to day survival is the priority, and profound thinking is a luxury. On the other hand thank goodness there are those who do think profoundly, and have done over the centuries, as it seems to me that those who don’t think strategically, altruistically and wisely enough are those who at times have led us into meaningless wars.  There was a fascinating programme about the Crusades which I caught on catch-up TV a couple of months ago, which made me consider how blinkered in their thinking the medieval Crusaders were.

The travelling has also made me think about the ‘spirit of place’, however – the Genius Loci as the polytheistic Romans called it.  Even nowadays there are some places which draw us more than others: some draw many thousands of people (look at Stonehenge over the ages); some are more personal.  I’ve written about my special places in this blog many times, but out in the warm sun – for the first time this year I could just have worn a t-shirt – for a run this morning I thought about it again.

I love living where I do.  I love this wild borderland, further north than the north, and its deep sense of history, even if it has been a troubled history of conflict and death.  I also loved living in the Pyrenees, for similar reasons: I lived in an area which had swapped backwards and forwards between France and Spain, was a great distance from the capital city (and therefore ‘misunderstood’ if not ignored) and also which has the hills and the sea.  And today it made me think about places for contemplation.  They seem, for me at least, to be places with a strong sense of the physical as well as being soulfully uplifting.

The other day I was in Southport on business.  I’m rather nosey about places anyway – I’m not very good at just going somewhere directly and then turning round and heading home again – I like to explore a bit.  There was the long, long pier, just begging me to walk to the end of it, out over the sea.  As I walked the wind got stronger until I stood at the end feeling as if any moment I might be lifted up and blown away.  The sun was out but over the land to the north rain clouds could be seen: in fact as I travelled home that day there was snow on the top of Shap Fell.  From where I was standing I could see North Wales in one direction and Blackpool in the other.  The power of the wind was exhilarating.

A few days later I ran up Talkin Fell.  Again, the power of the wind was incredible but lifted my spirits.  This time I was, of course, high up and the sea was distant – and I stood on the top of the hill and shouted.  Despite the force and strength of the wind, I felt strong: rooted to the ground and yet with my head in the clouds (well, almost).  It’s an intoxicating feeling and in fact it’s always with some reluctance that I leave the top and start my descent.  In Ridge Woods I’m in amongst the trees and it’s they who are rooted to the ground with tops in the sky: funny how strong they seem and yet after a gale or storm there will be those which have fallen.

And then I sing.  An act which is physical (you can’t sing properly without some physical effort) and yet which is also effortless… I find my voice soaring high thrilling but I have to be firmly rooted to the ground to let it do so.

Which makes me think that life is all about balance and contradictions – which is just what I’ve been reading about in Sophie’s World.

What or where are your places for contemplation?

 

 

 

Children – and finding peace

At top of Hartside 10th Nov (2)The pendulum swings… I was on a high for much of last year, loving my newly-found state of being single and free from being a domestic drudge (as I had felt).  I loved my child-free time but also loved seeing them, and had enough money to treat them to things and take them places.  Having felt trapped and resentful within a marriage which was plodding along, the love having died some years earlier, life then swung the opposite way.

It’s now settled back down a bit: but the interesting thing is that I now miss the children far more when they’re not around than I did for much of last year.  I love my single time, when I can write or sing or meditate or see friends – but the house feels empty and I miss the touch of warm squishy arms and children’s kisses. It’s made me realise how very hard it is for people to separate when children are involved: how low David must have been feeling (and for a long time) to want to leave badly enough that he was prepared to risk not seeing much of his children.  He and I have no feelings for each other, apart from a vague sort of friendship, if it can even be called that – the things that annoyed me about him when we were together still annoy me, but I’m now separate from them rather than living with them day-to-day: likewise I’m sure the things that annoyed him about me still irritate him at times in the same way. There’s no way we’d want to be back together, and the children seem to have adjusted happily to their new life with two homes: and at least we only live a few streets apart.

But the love you feel for your children… well, that’s surely the strongest love one can ever feel.  Certainly I was overwhelmed on the arrival of all three of my children at just how much love I felt for them: a love which seems to take over and possess you, which you can’t deny.  And with all three of them there is a special and individual angle to that love: the horrible ‘labour’ I had with Alex and the fear that he would die, so the relief when he was then finally in my arms, and the joy of my maternity leave; the beauty of Isabella who, even being delivered by c-section, was exercising her lungs and making her presence felt before she was out in the world; and the miracle that is Edward, who I had so late in life and yet who is – like the others – so perfect.  And so Heavy Metal and funny and loving.  Anything approaching that depth of love occurs infrequently between two adults and is a different thing in any case, a precious and rare thing.

As these thoughts and more whirled around in my head, I was reminded of something I wrote last year.  Here it is:

Finding Peace

Peace is, in the words of the hymn, the still, small voice of calm.  It resides somewhere inside your ribs and runs like a silent light through your body from tip to toe.   It doesn’t explode energetically with the vim and vigour of joy; it runs deeper than mere contentment and acceptance; it is less materialistic and self-centred than fulfilment.  All those are elements which can lead to peace but the real sense of peace is that connection with the world – with the universe – when all is still and for a few moments you can just Be.

Peace can be found in the eye of a storm; in the tiny things which happen in the middle of the tumult and craziness of everyday life.

When I lived in bustling, busy, big cities, peace was often hard to come by.  In the heart of the city a visit to a cathedral would provide some peace.  I would step in off the rushing street and wander in amongst the shadows, small against the grandeur of the building, hoping that not too many tourists would be there chattering and clicking away with their cameras.  The age of the building and the fact that I was just yet one in a long line of people who had trodden these stones, some perhaps with similar worries and woes, was a comfort.  I might sit in a side chapel and contemplate life for a few moments; I might light a candle in the hope that somehow my anxieties and pain would be carried up and away and be eased.  When I stepped back out into the hustle of the rush hour I would carry a morsel of peace with me: for a short time.

The countryside has always provided more peace for me than the centre of a city.  There is something soothing deep into your being about sitting overlooking water, or pausing at the top of a hill or mountain with the wind in your hair, or running amongst the trees.  It’s a force so much more powerful than man: it can take life but it also gives life.  It can provide a tangible sense of escape: get on that water and where might it take you?  All around the globe, if you choose.  And ultimately it reminds us that we are part of nature; that we are made of the same matter as the stars: ‘star dust to star dust’.

Peace is running up to the Ridge and looking across to the Solway Plain and over to Scotland.  It’s pausing for a breather with the sun on your face while running through Rowbank Woods, and looking across at the northernmost Pennines; or lolloping through Quarry Beck Woods with snow floating down with a whisper around you, creating a hushed world where only the crunch of your footsteps and the gentle rushing of the stream can be heard.  Peace is running to the top of one of the hills overlooking Lanercost Priory, once so troubled and now so tranquil, to see it huddled there amongst the greenery, centuries of history wrapped in its walls; or having ascended Talkin Fell on a clear, sunny spring day to gaze across at the shadowy Lake District fells or towards Scotland where the ghosts of ancient reivers charge silently across the border.  Peace is running up Carron Crag in Grizedale Forest and seeing a world of peaks spread around you from the top, pointing hazily up amongst the clouds.

But a deeply fulfilling peace is the children asleep at night after an energetic day.  However fraught or frenetic with fighting or fears the day has been, when they are asleep they look seraphic.  As I creep into their rooms to kiss each of them goodnight my heart fills with a deep, peaceful love.  I have made lots of mistakes in my life but bringing these three people into the world was not one of them.

Goodnight, my cherubs; my best beloved.

Endings: but life goes round

Heart on Talkin Fell
A heart discovered on Talkin Fell

I was criticised the other day for my blog being ‘all about me’. I’m not quite sure what else it’s meant to be: it’s an attempt, by writing honestly about how I feel about things, to try to work them out and also, I hope, perhaps help other people who may be in a similar situation. I have always found sharing problems with other people and getting feedback, both good and bad, helps work things out. You realise you’re normal and that you’re not the only person in that particular boat, and if you’re lucky you learn and move forward.

Those who ‘see’ me on Facebook will have seen that last Monday I posted that it was the first day of the rest of my life; the first day of the first week of the rest of my life.  I had resolved not long before that to do some things differently.  The climax came on the Sunday evening when I felt as if my life was collapsing again and ended up phoning the Samaritans.  I didn’t feel so much suicidal (I had checked in the medicine box and thought that a handful of nurofen and a couple of paracetamol would at the most give me a bad stomach) as if everything was about to fall apart.  The Samaritan at the end of the phone told me he thought I was being too hard on myself; something reflected by friends.

I have always, I think and hope, questioned myself and been open to admitting my faults.  The problem is that at times in the past I have perhaps taken too much of the responsibility for blame and not had enough self-esteem at the same time to consider what I’m doing well.  People have called me amazing and told me I’m strong, but there have been times when I have felt exactly the opposite.  I always remember the scene in Pretty Woman when the Julia Roberts character says to the Richard Gere character that it’s easier to remember people’s criticisms of you than the good things: that struck a chord with me at the time and has meant in addition that I am also conscious of trying to help the people I love feel good about themselves.  Sometimes, however, by doing so you lose your own sense of self – in trying to work out what someone you love wants and needs and to give it to them – and then inevitably everything crashes, for whatever reason, and you need to receive something back in order to pick yourself up and work out what it is you really want and need; and to love yourself again.

It was therefore that I began the week – which was also the beginning of March and therefore the beginning of what used to be the new year, and of spring – resolved to be true to myself and to have some faith in myself: some self-esteem.  I knew I had two very difficult and potentially hurtful conversations coming up that week with the two men who are the most important, emotionally, in my life: I had to work out what I wanted and what I felt about myself, and to be courageous and true to myself in those conversations.

As it happened both went all right.  The conversation, with the man whom I have loved more deeply and passionately than I have ever loved any man, resolved a situation of emotional uncertainty which has been dragging on for months since writing him a letter basically asking where I stood.  This week, as I ran home from seeing him and talking to him, I felt a sense of something having lifted – of freedom.  It doesn’t mean it’s not painful, nor that I have stopped loving him, but I am no longer wondering what on earth he feels about me and what he wants from me, and I feel free to move on.

With the other important man, my ex-husband, things went even better.  We talked about an issue from earlier in the week – he had been as worried about it as I had – and we then had an amicable meeting to arrange various things that afternoon.  I am proud to call him my friend: he is an honest guy who has the self-esteem to be straight with people.  In fact I remember that was one of the things which I liked about him early on: he seemed to have sorted out many of his ‘issues’ even as a young man of 27 when I first met him.

Looking back over the time since my marriage break-up, I think (and hope) I have grown in my sense of self and self-worth, despite the ups and major downs along the way.  I FB_IMG_1454138601360perhaps needed to ‘crash’ so low last autumn in order to build up a more genuine sense of my own worth.  I am sure there will be more ups and downs to come: it’s the nature of life.  But I believe that I have turned an enormous corner.  I can’t explain how hard I found Thursday, when I had to speak to both those men: how much easier it would have been to have run away and buried my head in the sand.  But I feel that I refused to be put down and criticised by either of them and that I am the stronger for it: I rose to the challenge.

Which also brought me to feeling that this has been a gigantic turning point, and that it’s probably a natural end for this, my third (or fourth if you count my previous ‘Days out with Children’ on Cumbrialive), blog.  I have other writing to do and will continue with a website which may have some blog posts on it, but this has served its purpose for now.  I’m still running and singing and still have three children – I will always be ‘runningin3time’ – but 2015 is over.  It was the year I felt free and attractive after my marriage broke up; it was the year I developed a huge amount of singing confidence (and I have to thank, in part, the man who always said my singing gave him goosebumps and that he knew I could sing before he heard me properly do so); it was the year I found myself capable of falling in love more fully than I ever had before and when one man in particular paid me the fantastic compliment of making me feel that I was the most beautiful, lovely, woman in the world to him: I felt classy.

The poem I wrote in January 2015, only about the 2nd or 3rd post of this blog, seems appropriate again today:

Water poured down the window panes:

and too readily down my cheeks.

But on the third afternoon the sun burst gloriously forth

and up on the Ridge the trees in the wood and the grass glowed golden

as I ran forward in the late afternoon sun.

Shadows lengthening across the hillside, gazing contemplatively

across to the waters of the Solway Firth and to the hazy hills of heaven beyond,

my heart lifted into the sky and its wounds washed by water gently healed.

As the river ever-changing, so is life:

Move forward.

…and continue to sing!

 

On a cold and frosty morning

The car was covered in a thick layer of frost and the temperature gauge told me it was minus 4.  I was already dressed for a run though: looking out of my bedroom window from my toasty warm house the sky was blue and beckoning.  The plan was to go for a run and then get on with some work.

It’s a funny week so far though.  I have plenty of things I need to plan but other than finishing off some valuation work yesterday, no ‘paid’ hours so far.  I needed to get on with planning but then Claire asked me if I wanted to meet up for a coffee… well, one coffee and scrambled egg with smoked salmon and toast was followed by a another coffee… and by then the ground was warmer.

It was lunchtime when I eventually got out up the hill – my usual favourite Ridge route (if I’d had more time I would have headed up Talkin Fell, and if I didn’t know my toes were going to get cold I would have gone out on my bike).  Having had a good chat with Claire and a similarly bolstering chat with Sarah last night (NB everyone I know is called either Claire, Sarah, Nicola, Kath or David/Dave), I was in a relaxed and fairly confident mood.  Whilst I have some concerns about my lack of money-generating hours this week, it wasn’t enough to make me miss or shorten brunch with Claire nor to avoid going for a run.  In fact it was such a beautiful day the outdoors was calling me to come outside.

I didn’t even have that many deeply philosophical thoughts, though I sent some ‘wishes’ towards a couple of people from up on the hill.  What did run through my mind however was about people calling me ‘strong’.  You may have read my post a couple of months ago when I was claiming that I wasn’t ‘amazing’ but just ordinary: sometimes I don’t want to live up to being strong either.  However perhaps it is something to be proud of: and strong by no means equates to ‘unfeeling’ (in fact I sometimes think I feel things rather too much, but I’d rather be emotional and honest than not).  What struck me today though was that my recovery from feeling so low in November, which is what has made people call me ‘strong’, is as much due to my friends as anything.

I wrote a ‘story’ yesterday, which is very personal and – even for someone as open as I tend to be – not for publication.  What I can tell you is that it ended up speaking about the heroine having fallen into a deep black hole; a place she had been before but never so agonisingly painfully.  She clambered back out, but due largely to helping hands from friends.  That is me: if I am strong emotionally, it is only due to the enormous support of friends, who have listened when I needed to talk.  The best ones, of course, have not told me what to do: they have given me the benefit of their wisdom and experience but supported me in whatever I felt I needed to do.

I also need to ‘give’ that to someone else.  It’s not always easy: but true love is about accepting someone, including that they are – as we all are – trying to do their best in this life.

Meanwhile Claire gave me a limited edition print of her gorgeous ‘poenies’ painting – I will post a photo of it framed once it’s in pride of place on my wall too.

Thank you my friends.  Without you I would struggle.

 

The Kiss

Klimt's The KissI have a notebook, which I was given for my birthday, which has Klimt’s The Kiss on the cover (twice, front and back).  It’s one of my favourite pictures and I had forgotten I had it until, having bought a framed print for the wall, I then came across the notebook too.

I looked at it more carefully today.  Doesn’t the woman look happy – more than happy – blissfully unaware of anything other than her lover.  He adores her; she knows that and is wallowing delightedly in it.  She can even hold back a little as he covers her in kisses, knowing that he’ll hold her close: even so she’s holding on to his hand and has one arm wrapped around his neck.  She may appear to be less passionately involved than he is, but she’s not going to let him go.   She is melting into him, allowing him to worship her.  She is his Queen, and she has closed her eyes in the ecstasy of being loved; wanted; desired; adored.

Beautiful.