Delaying the big reveal

in the pub
We attended my cousin’s funeral yesterday. Only a few years younger than my mum, he was really more like an uncle to me. A sweet and deeply kind man, he lived a simple life with the ones he loved and it feels dreadfully unfair that the last few years of his life were plagued with illness. So many beautiful words were shared about him at his funeral, it made me wish he was there to hear them. And I’ve communed with death enough to know that he was there, but for those of us left behind it’s not enough. We want them here, in the flesh, breathing, smiling, holding our hands.

After leaving the crematorium we went to look at the flowers laid out in the garden. On the way back to the car Mum said she wished she’d taken a photo so I ran back to snap a few shots with my phone. In that moment I was thinking only of my mum, but after taking the pictures I reflected on how even though I didn’t have photos of the flowers laid out at another crematorium, I could still remember the white lilies and freesias, and the roses I’d laid out myself. Walking back to the car, with not a soul around me, I turned a corner to find the most perfect grey feather lying on the ground at my feet. It actually made my heart jump. “Oh,” I smiled, “I was wondering where you were.” It never fails to amaze me how they keep in touch with us. I continue to find the feathers in the most important moments and the most needed moments. Always the feathers, sometimes seeming to appear out of thin air.

Little miracles.

In the pub afterwards we shared drinks and stories, looking at photos and getting to know the members of D’s family we hadn’t met before. As my sister and I gingerly sipped our halves of Guinness we started planning our own funeral (as you do). Because, you see, we’ve already decided that we will be popping our clogs on the same day. By then we’ll have reached the end of our nineties and having outlived everyone else we’ll be ready to get in the car and drive off a cliff, Thelma & Louise style. We both agreed that we’d want to have a gathering beforehand so we could hear the kind words that everyone shared. We’d kiss our children and grandchildren goodbye and tell them not to miss us too much because we’d see them on the other side soon enough.

Abby said she wanted to be laid out in a white dress — like the Lady of Shalott — on a huge pile of branches. This would then be floated out into the middle of a lake at which point a burning arrow would be shot, setting the pyre alight. I agreed this was a stellar idea, and the conversation continued with the discussion of a joint pyre and whether or not we’d have prayers or meditation at the ceremony (Abby wants prayers, I want meditation — there will be both). When my sister said no one would be allowed to wear black I nodded in emphatic agreement.

All this might sound a bit morbid or inappropriate considering we were at a funeral, but I actually found it incredibly comforting. Death has to be one of the last taboos we have, something we all have to face when our loved ones take their leave, hopefully in timely and expected ways but often not. Learning we’re all going to die is so shocking. I remember the finality of my pet rabbit dying and trying to untangle the idea that it was permanent, that we couldn’t make her “better”. I can still remember trying to imagine what being dead was like — would it be an abyss of black nothingness? I don’t recall putting much stock in the clouds-and-harps of heaven, but as I got older, and started reading more new age-y books, I began to formulate theories about what comes next. In some twisty way I can’t wait to find out, but I’m happy for the big reveal to be 50 years from now.

Last week Noah and I were reenacting Frozen-lite with his dolls and at some point one of the girl dolls died only to come alive again with true love’s kiss (he watches a lot of Disney films). Even then I wondered what it was going to be like for our tender sweet boy to learn about death — how can we possibly explain it to him? Through the smiles and tears of yesterday’s gathering, my heart was warmed when I saw D’s grandson clutching the hand of his grandmother during the ceremony. These little people make everything better, they really do. Noah was playing at nursery all day, and I’m glad that for now he believes in Father Christmas and fairies and true love’s kiss. There’s plenty of time for the big reveals of life… just not yet, not yet.

(For D: I have no doubt that you’re reading this from the big golf course in the sky. Rest in peace, dear cousin x)

25 things you don’t know about me (maybe)

25 things you don't know about me (maybe) | SusannahConway.com

 

We’re coming up to my 8-year blogaversary and in that time I reckon I’ve shared all the beans by now. Let’s see…

1. I don’t have a driver’s license. Still. I’ve learnt to drive three times, and if you put me in a car right now I could drive the thing. But for some reason me and driving just hasn’t clicked long term. It’s something I regularly feel embarrassed about.

2. Having said that, there’s not much else that embarrasses me these days.

3. I let my bathroom sink get really limescaley before I give in and clean it. And every time I think “I should do this more often.”

4. I just hate doing housework.

5. I’m very tidy though. Bordering on obsessively so.

6. I know where everything is in my flat. It helps that I downsized when I moved back to London.

7. None of my crockery matches. My plates, bowls and mugs are a mishmash of colours and styles and it makes me happy. 80% are secondhand.

8. I’m always late. I’m sure it drives my friends mad. I just always think I have more time than I do.

9. I just had deja vu writing this list. I think I may have done this before. In fact, half the time my posts feel like a rehash of older posts. I worry I’m getting repetitive in my blogging old age ;-)

10. I never completed my A levels at school. 23 years on I can authoritatively report this has never mattered one bit.

11. I made a conscious decision to stop reading newspapers when the Tories got into power. Sometimes I feel I’m missing out on world news, but mostly I just feel a lot calmer.

12. My middle name is Catherine.

13. My next book for Chronicle is a photography book about London! On shelves spring 2016 (It would have been next year but our hideous winter meant we’ve had to put the deadline back.)

14. I own 5 pairs of boots, 2 pairs of trainers and lots of flip flops but no shoes.

15. I can’t walk in heels. At all.

16. I can do a good impression of being extroverted for about half an hour in a social setting but then I have to run away and recover somewhere quiet.

17. I have only ever dated extroverts. My three big loves were extroverts. Might be time to try something different.

18. I have no shoes, but I do have 150+ bottles of scent and perfume oil. Planning to write a post about that soon…

19. I like and will eat pretty much anything, but I will literally spit out fresh coriander/cilantro. Even the smell makes me gag.

20. As a teen my favourite band was Wham, but now I pretend it was Duran Duran. #80steenshame

21. I’m currently on week 13 of wearing my Invisalign braces. I’ve wished for straight teeth all my life but must admit it’s not the most fun I’ve ever had. Eight more months to go!

22. Moleskine notebooks turn me on. I’ve used them as my journal for the last 11 years and love the uniformity of my stack of 28 black Molies. No. 28 is the Hobbit special edition.

23. I have never read The Hobbit.

24. Speaking of… I once met Leo Sayer.

25. My biggest regret is that I didn’t say I love you more. But I am so grateful to be here now, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Got any beans you want to spill? I’m all ears!

Be back soon

xanthe“Compassion for others begins with kindness to ourselves.” – Pema Chodron

I hate leaving this space bare but I’m currently honouring my need to be more present in my offline world. It feels a bit like hibernation, or maybe it’s more like the pupa stage the caterpiller goes through before spreading her butterfly wings. Things are shifting, that’s for sure. Neural pathways are being rerouted. Old assumptions are being challenged. I’m still going to the gym two or three times a week and the changes in my body — which is frankly a trip to witness — are mirroring the internal metamorphosis. Which sounds heavy, I know, but it’s the best way I can describe it. Sometimes you have to take a sledgehammer to the walls to clear the ground for the rebuild.

French HousetubeOne piece of good news from this last week: Chronicle Books have accepted my book proposal! Once it’s signed and sealed I’ll share more, but I can tell you it’s not the follow-up to This I Know. I know some of you have been waiting for that, but I’m still living it, so for now I’m looking forward to getting my teeth into a book that’s going to be quite a creative challenge for me…. really can’t wait.

stripsNext week Megg, Sas and I are hunkering down with 20 beautiful brave souls for our Unravel Your Story retreat, so this space will remain silent for a while longer. When I get back I’ll be preparing for the last ever live Unravelling classso much change ahead — so do join us if you can. And if you have a moment, you might want to watch this and then this.

I miss you already…

late bus

In search of la dolce vita

dolce vita
‘If you do nothing unexpected, nothing unexpected happens.’ — Fay Weldon

As often happens at this time of year, I find myself existing in a transitional space. Last year I was preparing for the big move and now here I am, almost a year back in London and feeling pretty settled, all things considered. The August Break proved to be just what I needed as I explore what it means to build a life that doesn’t revolve solely around work. For the last four years work has been everything. The book, the tour, the courses, the retreats, the travel. Giving all my energy to the business was absolutely necessary and I don’t regret a minute of it, but now I crave that elusive balance of work AND a personal life. I have moments when I wonder if that is even possible — and the answer is no, it’s not, if I continue to work and structure my days in the same way I’ve always done. So things are slowly changing around here as i try to create more space for a life away from my laptop. It’s a work in progress…

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‘Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.’ — Rumi

I guess it’s no surprise this desire to be out in the world coincided with me dipping a toe back in the dating pool. I’m discovering that it’s easy to be vulnerable with my work hat on — the core of everything I do comes from my personal experience and sharing what I know (and don’t know!). Likewise it’s easy to be vulnerable with friends and family — they’ve seen me at my best and worst and, amazingly, they still want to know me. But opening up and being vulnerable with somebody new? As my sister pointed out to me the other day, I’m very good at being Confident Sus, “but you need to let them see the softer side of you, too.” I think it’s fair to say I’m still learning the steps to this dance…

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‘Sometimes in tragedy we find our life’s purpose. The eye sheds a tear to find its focus.’ — Robert Brault

September has brought that back-to-school feeling with her. Next week I’ll be opening registration for the very last live session of Unravelling. It’s time for a change and if I’ve learnt anything useful over the last few years it’s to trust my intuition when it comes to this wee biz of mine. Unravelling was the beginning and now I’m ready to go much deeper with those original concepts, so once I get back from our retreat in October I’ll be developing two new courses for 2014. Even as I type that I realise I could so easily slip back into my workaholic ways, so I know my challenge for the rest of the year is to work smarter not harder. To make space for play as well as focus. And to trust in serendipity — in work, in love, in life.

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If you’ve ever wanted to Unravel with me now is the time to do it! I’m already planning the weekly videos and want this last live session to be a really magical one. I’m happy to offer a special alumni rate to all former Unravellers who want to work back through the course with a whole new group of lovelies — email me for more details x