I was talking to my husband a couple of nights ago. I reflected on the ways that life seems to need a bit more fine-tuning for me than the average bear.
I’m enjoying it though, you know, the fine-tuning. Sitting down with my Google calendar on the cusp of a new term, and making sure there is space. Space to book in a day for oddly compelling jobs, like sorting out the crap drawer (we all have one… the random keys, Blu-Tac, tape-measure kind of drawer).
Space to swim in the river Dart or the sea down at Jacob’s Ladder. To take a flask of peppermint tea and rest by the water’s edge.
Fine-tuning this term has meant resisting the temptation to take on a few more paid hours. To recognise that Eldest has both excitement and challenges coming up as she starts high school, and she may well need her mum more. She sometimes talks about her fears of me becoming unwell at the start of a new academic year – it’s such a season of change.
But this year the change is good. It’s a change in my expectations of myself, a willingness to leave space and embrace it. Two Septembers ago I was afraid of the space, driven by a fear that – at 40 – I was pretty much at the last chance saloon in terms of finding a career.
This September I’m at peace. The work will still be there when the time is right.
Outstretched arms tanned by the peaty water
Bracelets of sunlight gold
Caress of swaying reeds
The fells slumbering giants
Rain-mist falling on closed eyelids
Upturned clouds in the water
The only sound the ripple of each stroke
Sun sinks pink and amber into the horizon
Pale moonrise beyond the cliffs
Duck-dive just to feel the cold exhilaration of sea-salt tangled hair
Sea, moon, you and I
Thank you, beautiful world and
Thank you, swimming companion –
A friend through ebb and flow
Flat, still sea blends softly into the horizon
Tingling hands, catching breath
Coolness and deep surround
The sea, the sky, and I
Run gasping into the breaker spray
Full of power the sea pulls us
Tumble of white
Icy cold exhilaration
Skin pricked with goosebumps
Delicious salt-sting as I pat with my towel
Quickly into my down jacket
Smoothed stones & hot mint tea
Give thanks to the sea
Readers of the last few months may have gathered… I am a huge Nashville fan. I am committed to not giving away any series 5 plot spoilers for my friends on this side of the pond, so let me just say that Rayna is one of my heroes (and I do know that she is a TV character – but she’s my hero anyway!) I love the way that we have seen her grow as a mother as her girls have entered turbulent teenage years, I love how passionate and open-hearted she is, and I love the way that we’ve seen her struggle to balance her career and her dreams with her life as a mentor, mother and lover.
There’s a scene in Nashville a few years back where Rayna has to play at a Country Club benefit. I remember her raising her eyebrows and assuring her band leader, “These are not ma’people” (try and imagine a lovely Southern drawl)
But here’s the thing, Rayna grew up with those people. Yet the comfortable world of the elite wasn’t for her. She knew they weren’t her people.
Ever since we moved from a cosmopolitan, diverse Northern city to a sleepy market town in the South West, I’ve been searching for “ma’people”. The direction life took us when Eldest was born meant that our local conservative, evangelical church began to feel less and less like home. We had too many questions. One of the reasons I left Facebook earlier this year was because I felt so aware that the views of many mainstream Christians just don’t reflect mine. These are not ma’people.
When life throws a lot of crap your way, it’s interesting how it can help you find your people! Over the last ten years or so, my friendships have deepened with other people who know what it is to feel broken. My little WordPress community is full of amazing people who are learning to live with limits. Next weekend I’ll be meeting up with the other mums from the ‘Head up, Heart strong’ film who have all battled postnatal illness. We will be sharing cocktails and stories of relapse. These are just some of ma’people.
This week I took a new step to reach out and find ma’people. I joined Team East Devon Swimmers for an evening swim in Sidmouth. The water was 12 degrees C and the swimming was magical! It was a special thing for me after a number of years living with mental illness to meet people based firstly on a shared interest, rather than on a shared experience of suffering. I learned a new word – Thalassophile – meaning someone who loves the sea. These too, are ma’people… and I can’t wait to get to know them better.
Here’s where we will be swimming. Just beautiful.