Category: Grief & healing

My house of belonging |
All our inner life and intimacy of soul longs to find an outer mirror. It longs for a form in which it can be seen, felt and touched. The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression. The body is a sacred threshold and it deserves to be respected, minded and understood in its spiritual nature. — John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

As it turned out my fibroids were too big to be removed laproscopically so instead I had an open myomectomy last Monday. Fourteen fibroids were removed weighing one pound in total (!!) The largest ‘broid, as we now call them, was 8cm in diameter. My surgeon took a photo of them to show me afterwards and a) I love that he did that b) they aren’t pretty and c) I’m amazed I carried them in my body. My two-night stay in hospital was an HSP nightmare but I’m now safely at my mother’s house discovering what it’s like to recover from abdominal surgery.

The body deserves to be respected.

Yes. This. A thousand times, this.

I’ve been cycling through different beliefs about my body over the years: I am not my body. I am so much bigger than my body (still believe this). Yet I am utterly my body. My body is my soul made flesh and bone. In the past there was always a distancing between me and my body. “It” was defective leading me to believe I got shortchanged in the body department. Thankfully this has been changing, as I wrote about here.

My house of belonging |

There has been no distance between me and my body during these last 10 days post-surgery. Every twinge, every pull, the passage of every bit of food through my system, has been felt and experienced. The first time I sat on the loo and had some success I hugged my arms around myself in relief and kissed my own shoulders, silently telling my body I loved it. The first shower made me cry emo tears of gratitude. My body is magnificent. As I told Jo the next day, I will never talk shit about my body again. My body is my truest companion. We’re in it together.

Our bodies have their own animal wisdom, their own way of doing things that we have no control over. My body knows how to knit itself back together. When the hospital called to check in and see how I was doing, I told the lady who rang about the twinges and stabbing pains I’m getting: “It’s your nerve endings joining themselves back together” she told me. MY BODY IS DOING THIS ALL ON ITS OWN. The excision of 14 fibroids resulted in a helluva lot of internal stitches, so even as I watch my external wound heal (a 7 inch cut) I know there’s so much more work happening deep within me — in more ways than one.

I’ve been journalling about the connection between the fibroids and my seemingly perpetual singledom over the last decade since his death. The surgery feels like the most symbolic clearing out I could have had, old hurts swept out as my sacral chakra got retuned, ready for the next stage of the journey.

Today I turn 42 and I’m doing so much better than I was a week ago. In fact, so much better than I was five years ago. Or ten years. Better than I’ve ever been before in my life. Aging suits me. I like it.

The body is your only home in the universe. It is your house of belonging here in this world. — John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

Sunday evening, lying on my bed wrapped in a blanket my mother crocheted for me. The wind is battering the window making the panes shudder, the guttering outside creaking in protest. There’s a storm coming tonight they say, the biggest storm for twenty years. I’m leafing through the pages of my old journals. 2003, 2004 and 2005 already relived and tear-stained — now I’m wandering back through 2006. I hadn’t intended to read so far, but I want to know how the story ends. I turn the page and read a description of my imagined future life and immediately my heart starts beating faster — everything I’d written describes my life as it is today. Where I live, what I earn, the work I do, the places I have been. My achievements. My goals. The way I spend my days. All of it was written out on October 25th 2006. But what makes me smile the most are the pieces of the future I hadn’t even imagined: my love for my nephew, the deep friendships I treasure. Work that feels meaningful. The connections I’ve made. I couldn’t have imagined any of that, yet it came to be anyway. I open my current journal and set my pen to the paper: what future life can I conjure up now, knowing that something even greater will arrive, the pieces of the future I can’t yet imagine…

I’ve joined a couple of dating sites. It’s been a year since my last (rather botched) attempt at online dating, and while it isn’t my first choice of how I’d like to meet the right guy, it’s my signal to the universe that i’m open to moving into the next stage of my life. You’ve got to be in it to win it, right?

Of course, lately I’ve been feeling increasingly content with how things are. I’m in love with my little flat and so happy I made the move to this part of London. Work is bubbling along, and I’ve got some big plans for 2014 that I feel ready to tackle. I see my friends and family enough to feel connected and loved but not so much as to feel overwhelmed — i’m happiest in my own company, and more importantly, I’m okay with that! I’ve been having actual conversations in my journal about whether I really want to “give up” all this calm contentment for the potential rollercoaster of a relationship. But the wiser more evolved part of me knows that there’s so much more I could learn about myself in relationship to/with another. That being on my own for the last eight years has been the most empowering period of my life, and now it’s time to see what other magic can be made walking the path alongside another person.

The naughtier less evolved side of me knows that when i’m lying in bed alongside my beloved after not a single wink of sleep all night, I’ll be smiling and thinking “giving up” the calm contentment was totally worth it. This girl cannot survive on bread and water for another eight years, let’s put it that way.

So I’ve pinned the available sign on my door and so far it’s been what I was expecting. Several messages from twentysomething guys asking if i’m up for “a bit of fun”. A handful of messages from gentlemen who were clearly absent the day they taught punctuation at school (no judgement there, just the acknowledgement that these things matter to me). A note from a man who seemed polite in his message but upon reading his profile i discovered he was The Angriest Man in the World. I’ve read profiles written by married men openly admitting they are looking for affairs. There was a guy fishing for a BDSM partner. A cross dresser. And several rugby team’s worth of blokes who are “easy-going and laid back”, like to eat out at restaurants and whose favourite film is The Shawshank Redemption.

I’ve also had a peek at some of the ladies in my age group — interestingly, i thought all of them looked lovely.  I could see the beauty in every single photo I saw. We girls certainly know how to a) pick a nice photo and b) make the best of ourselves (the majority of the boys, however, look like serial killers. What is it with blokes and photos?) I’m happy to report that I didn’t feel any competition with the women on the site — it was just reassuring to see i’m not the only single 40-year-old out there. Part of me actually wanted to write to them and suggest they check out some of the nicer guys I’ve spotted. I think I may have missed my calling as a matchmaker.

It’s far too early to know if this is going to be a successful mission and I know I’m going to have to pan through a lot of silt to find the gold, so I’ve signed up for six months with the intention of staying open and not taking it too seriously. The right guy for me might not be on the site(s) yet. In fact, he may never be and we’ll bump into each other outside my local supermarket. Who knows? What I do know is so many of my friends have found love this way it would be silly not to at least give it another try.

There’ll definitely be a few more dating posts in the future as frankly, some of the messages i’m getting are just too hilarious not to share :)

I wasn’t going to write this post. If you’ve lost a loved one you might be able to relate. I wanted this day to be just another day in the long line of days that is my life. I’ve grieved all my grief and healed my pain, and he remains in my heart but as a friend of lifetimes. I miss him sometimes, and once in a while i’ll find myself wondering what we’d be doing now if he was still here. I don’t even know if we’d still be together. Perhaps not, who knows? But as it is, he and I are still in touch, through the dreams that have never left me. The feathers he lays in my path wherever I happen to be in the world. The books with his messages. The random things I find in impossible places. Eight years later and I’ve let go of all the anger and frustration i once felt towards him. I’ve learned the lessons of our relationship, and built a life around me that’s honest and independent and all mine. That I don’t share it with a significant other is less to do with my attachment to him (for I no longer am) and more to do with circumstances and fate.

I flew to New York last week for a few days, my 40th birthday present to myself. While there I got my new tattoo, the one I’ve  been planning for months. I’ve been searching for years to find the right artist, and when I discovered the work of Cris Cleen I knew I’d found my man. His style, his philosophy and the integrity I see in his work drew me in immediately, and when I saw his interpretation of a swallow, I just knew.

Swallows are a traditional tattoo motif — historically sailors used them to show off their sailing experience. From Wikipedia:

“Of British origin in the early days of sailing, it was the image of a Barn Swallow, usually tattooed on the chest, hands or neck. According to one legend, a sailor tattooed with one swallow had travelled over 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km); a sailor with two swallows had travelled 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km).Travelling these great distances was extremely difficult and dangerous in the early days of sailing, so one or more swallow tattoos denoted a very experienced and valuable sailor. Another legend holds that since swallows return to the same location every year to mate and nest, the swallow will guarantee the sailor returns home safely. A sailor would have one swallow tattooed before setting out on a journey, and the second swallow tattooed at the end of their tour of duty, upon return to their home port. It is also said that if the sailor drowns, the swallows will carry their soul to heaven. The swallow also represents love, care and affection towards family and friends, showing the loyalty of the person always returning to them. The bird also represents freedom and hope.”

To me, the swallow represents my independence and my freedom, a reminder of qualities I will always posess even if I fall in love again. She marks the completion of the healing journey I have taken, flying in the direction of my heart to show I will always return home — to myself and to my loved ones.

On a purely practical note, I placed her on my right forearm to balance the tattoo I have planned for my left arm. She’s my most visible tattoo to date and that feels right to me. I know tattoos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but to me they are bold and beautiful, permanent adornment infused with meaning.

My love didn’t have any tattoos himself but he appreciated mine as they were a part of me. In the last eight years there have been many changes: my weight has fluctuated, my eyesight has worsened. My hair has sprouted grey in places and creases have formed where they weren’t there before… But this bird inked on my arm is the most radical change of all and it’s one he will never see — at least not with physical eyes. And that is as it should be, for this swallow will be appreciated by another lover one day, his fingertips tracing the outline that ghostly hands cannot.

And I welcome that day’s arrival with an open heart.

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