Northumbrian beach Sept 2020 taken by me

Tis the start of Advent. Well it is in the Celtic Calendar and I have started my Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas Book Celtic Advent book. Even though this has not yet come up as one of the thoughts in it I felt that over this Advent season was a good time to be looking at the past year. So I’m looking at – Loss – today and I’m going to follow this up in a few days with – Gain – as I journal into what I have gained over this period.

We’ve all experienced lots of loss and change this year. Those “prophetic words” of Rest, Renew, Resore, etc seem a long time ago, and I think many of us rested for a bit and then tried to get on and do. We did not do as the Cormorants do and rest until we are ready to fly again.

I was thinking through what I’d lost this year – my income from Airbnb and from the writing workshops I used to run; with my husband working from home I’ve lost my lunchtimes to just hangout; I’ve lost the volunteer work I used to do up at the Castle (now home to I’m a Celeb); at the begining of lockdown I lost being able to ride, got back in the saddle for August and Sept and then feel off and bruised my ribs; and the plays and productions I used to put on in church, with lockdown starting just as I was bringing together a Psalm Sunday play; I’ve lost out on earning money doing things with local schools, and had 2 paid events that had to be cancelled in June this year; I’ve lost the freedom that comes from the times my husband goes away with friends and when I can get away on writing retreats or visits to friends.

What do these things say to me I thought? What have I lost most of all?

It is the praise. It is someone saying I’ve done well – whether this is from my riding instructor and friends I ride with; from Airbnb guests who give me a good review; from those who attend writing groups who have had a good time and tell me; from the pupils and the staff when I run a fun workshop that we all enjoy; from staff but also visitors at the Castle who would tell me what a good job I’d done. Yes my husband is great at saying thank you for his lunch and supper, but he never notices if I’ve cleaned, and only notices that I’ve made the bed since I hurt my ribs as I need his help. Ok so Airbnb guests didn’t notice that I’d cleaned but they would give a 5 star rating for how clean it was.

I don’t miss the Airbnb, what I miss is the compliments, the telling me I’ve done a good job. I don’t miss the money from the writing workshops whether adults or schools but I do miss the fun I had with the people but also the thank yous. I miss being told I’m good at something, miss achieving, miss that buzz of running a group, of meeting new guests, that nervousness of getting on a horse. I miss the adrenaline buzz.

In journallingthrough this the other day the phrase popped out was “I want something to be bothered about“. But it made me wonder how much we all resist resting and resetting because we have to take stock, rethink, wonder what we have been doing and return to a place of finding what are passion is and what we can “be bothered about.

So we do need to stop, to think about what we do and why we do it, so that when we do restart we can do so with a passion. So I know I need to be something that will involved that nervous adrenaline buzz. For others it will be something different, but are you willing to stop and ask yourself what is the bottom line of why you do what you?

christmas solstice

The Coming of Christmas

I know this is probably a bit early to use the “C” word but it is what’s been buzzing in my head. And yesterday was the start of Celtic Advent – in the Celtic Christian calendar there are 40 days of Advent just as there are 40 days of Lent – so here we go.

View across Dublin, sunrise March 2016 taken by me

he days are getting shorter, darker, wetter and colder as they lollop towards the end of the year. It is a time when we should be slowing down and reflecting on the year. If we tapped into our pre-industrialisation roots this was the time when our ancestors in the North would stay home and wait, wait to see if the sun would rise again, if the days would get longer or whether things would just get darker and darker. Sounds a bit familiar that – wondering if it is just going to get darker and darker? Solstice means “sun stands still” and it is almost as if the sun is thinking about whether it will start to climb again. In fact. But 4 days later it appears that the sun decides to stay around for longer, which is why Celtic Christians pick 25th December as the day to celebrate Jesus’ birth so show that when there is a fear of darkness fully encroaching over the world the Son of God came to turn back the darkness. It was also a way of showing Jesus to be the fulfilment of a pagan festival.

Our bodies still remember this but we fight against the natural reaction of our bodies with our warm centrally heated, light houses, and the commercial extravaganza that this season has become. Even in Church we make it into a busy time and a buying time.

In “normal” times I would be at my wits end at this time of year planning Christmas plays where I never seemed to get the cast until the day before, planning a nativity skit with 2 or 3 close friends who “got it”, as well as planning trips off to see friends and family down south and who was coming up to visiting us. Much more into my 21st Century busy boots rather than my ancient roots.

I am a planner who doesn’t like plans which means that I start my Christmas planning around October. I make lists that I then leave all over the house[ on the kitchen table, on the notice board, in my study, in my pockets; lists for this Christmas play and the skit and for other things I would have been roped into in church; lists for presents I think I should be buying; lists for the food I wanted to get for the “big day”; a timetabled list of our trip south.

I buy my Advent books, which this year is Christine Sine’s Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas which I bought ages ago, and has been sat on the arm of my sofa so I don’t forgot to use it, looking battered and tired, and I’ve signed up for a couple of Advent writing course. Then because I don’t like plans I’d lie in bed and worry about the play, the shopping, etc but not get things done.

Of course this year we don’t know if we are going to be able to see any friends or family because of Covid rules. The weather is too unpredictable and days so short meeting outside will be difficult. Church can’t have lots of people in it so there’s no Christmas plays. I can’t go rushing round shops or Christmas markets buying things for people who probably don’t want them anyway! [Note gift giver is very low in my love languages!] Should I get lots of food? Will anyone be coming to visit us? I know my kids are hoping to but …

My body is feeling sluggish and unmotivated, which could be to do with covid rules and guideline, or could be because I can’t get out much because my ribs aren’t mending as fast as I would like. I’m sure they are mending as fast as they think best. But I do wonder if this year I am accepting my ancient roots more because of the restrictions, because I have had to slow down, had to spend more time inside just resting and thinking. At this time of year our ancestors would be resting from the busyness of harvesting and the preserving of the harvest; salting, pickling, bottling, making into wines, etc.

Maybe winter is a time to feel a bit low, to hibernate, and to ponder whether this year the sun will forget to shine and things just will get darker and darker. Perhaps this year God is staying that we all need to accept that feeling of lowness, examine its origins, to not try to rush around making it go away and trying to make things like they were last year. Maybe we need to hunker down and pray that the sun will rise again, that the light will return and that in the coming year as the days increase so will our energy, our productivity, our joy. And that the darkness will flee.


Words – and Say What You Mean

Free pixabay image

In 1968 the Bee Gees sang “It’s only words and words are all I have” which made it all sound so simple. But words mean different things to different people. The first holiday my soon-to-be husband I went on showed that. We were in the Peak District and he suggested going for a walk. We had walked before around our home town but those had been to the tea-shop to cake and a long natter. Once in the Peak District his “walk” meant something totally different. What he meant was “all day hike” but myself and my kids were expecting a gentle stroll really.

Here in the UK Wales has just come out of lockdown and England has entered it. One of the big controversies is over “non-essentail good” and how people interpret that. Also what do you see as “essential“?

Garden Centres are still open but bookshops are closed. Supermarkets are open but they have closed off their clothes sections. My florist can’t open her shop but can work from hom. I must say I would have included “car screen wash” until Saturday when I needed some. One man’s non-essential is another man’s essential.

Now take it a stage further – I’ve just read “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge in which she talks about “insitutionalised racism“. I am now reading “God of violence yesterday, God of love today” by Helen Paynter in which she calls institutionalised racism “institutionalised violence“, which is much harder hitting, I believe. Both women are talking about the same thing but using different words. The above examples are of using the same words to mean different things.

So often what we say we don’t mean or we think we know what we mean but don’t have to vocabulary to express it. But also we don’t slow things down enough to either explain what we mean or to ask what is meant by. I would have had a much better time that first walk we did together in the Peak District if I had said “when you say ‘walk’ what do you mean by it?” I believe there would have been less upset if the Government had said what they meant when they said “non-essential” but also I think the media when they recieved the story would have been doing a public service if they had asked “why have you picked these things are non-essential?” and “what do you mean by non-essential?” But no one does. The media made a mountain out of a mole hill and the government stayed quiet. I got upset with my soon-to-be-husband and he got upset with me being upset with him! As we all do when people are upset with us!

I wonder too if Helen Paynter can get away with calling racism violence because she is a white middle class woman talking about God but Reni Eddo-Lodge would not have been able to because she is a black woman talking about her experiences? Sometimes it is as much the speaker as it is the words used that we filter what is said though. So maybe next time we think we’ve heard something maybe we need to be bold enough to ask what the speaker meant by that and also to question the cultural lens we are looking through.