All my life, I have wanted to be at home, more than anywhere else. Every day after school I’d grab something to eat, race up to my bedroom and curl up with a book, happy to limit my traveling to places in my imagination. When I played with my dolls and teddies, I loved tucking them in.  I do the same now with my youngest. It’s going to be hard to let go of those times when my children get big.

‘Cosy’ was and still is one of my favourite words. I love pulling the curtains on a winter’s night and knowing my family are close by. Sitting having coffee with my parents, or watching a movie huddled up with my little family on the settee gives me so much contentment.

Of course, leaving home as we become adults is a necessary part of life. I found it challenging, especially when I spent a year in France. Looking back, I see that homesickness actually took away from the amazing experiences offered to me. I never fully gave myself to anything as my heart was too devoted to home. I regret that now, but I don’t think I could ever do it differently. Once a home bird, always a home bird.

As life brings its own inevitabilities of age, sickness and loss, I’m realising that what we, I, understand by the word ‘home’ has to change.  Home cannot be a physical place with unchanging people.  We can’t let our hankering after the way things were or the people we miss, blind us to the remarkable life that’s still out there waiting for us.  I have no idea how to do that and I wish I did.

I wonder if we need to be more nomadic as time goes on, bringing our sense of home with us, whatever journey we’re forced to travel.

My greatest comfort is the sure knowledge that a forever home with our heavenly Father  is at the end of all this, and all the people we miss so desperately are there, waiting for us.

Happy traveling, and don’t forget: there’ll always be books and biscuits along the way!

Looking forward.

Early this morning I remembered something. A few years ago, a GP asked me if I was able to look forward to things in the future.  Sadly, I couldn’t think of a single thing I was excited about. All the stuff I was dreading and worrying about had pushed out anything good.

So today, my challenge to you is this: can you find something you feel happy anticipation over? Every time that heavy, dark dread threatens to grab you again, can you focus on the happy event instead? It’s a mental exercise but I think it’s doable.

When the radio or TV reminds you it’s only seven weeks to Christmas, how do you feel? When you look at the week ahead, do you just want it over with?

All my life I have coped with difficult things by saying, ‘it’ll be over soon’, you know, stuff like exams, times away, child birth, sleepless nights, medical procedures, the dentist’s, moving house and so much more.

That’s more than thirty years lost in wishing things over.

When does the loving life bit begin?

Christmas is a really good time to put this into practice. Already, I’m stressing about the dinner, what to buy in this anti-plastic, anti-waste age, why I have completely lost sight of the actual meaning of it all. Someone said to me yesterday how much he loved Christmas, ‘because my wife does it all’. Let’s leave a moment of silence after that…

Can you ‘do it all’ and still be excited about it? Can you stop the torrent of thoughts, to-do lists and tasks and re-discover the excitement you had when you were small? Can you look forward without dread? I hope so. Just get other people to stop stuffing themselves with chocolate orange and step up and share the burden. Or let someone else do it all for you. What a present that would be.  And give some time to those who are facing it all alone this year. That in itself should stop you thinking it’s too hard. They need us to be bright and strong. They need us to give them a reason to look forward without dread.

Did you notice that the binoculars in the photo are facing inwards? It’s time to flip our perspective and focus on what, who, really matters.

Write a different list. Not of the things to do or buy, but of the people you need to look after this Christmas. And another of the times you’re looking forward to. I’m off to start mine now.

No need to check this one twice.

If only there was another me

Last week in my Pilates class, the instructor asked ‘Ruth’ to bring her arm up a bit. I looked round and asked ‘is there another Ruth here today?’. Of course there wasn’t, but there was always a chance she wasn’t talking to me, that I was doing it right.

It got me thinking about taking on my self, facing up to the reality of who I am these days. Most of the time, I wish I could take a day off from being me, a holiday from remembering to take my pills, organising other people to walk the dog, struggling with the smallest of physical tasks.

I’m certain I’m not alone in that; imagine being able to send someone else in to work on your behalf or cook the dinner some nights when you just can’t be bothered.

I heard the phrase ‘a shadow of her former self’ a while ago, and it saddened me how accurately if described me. Seeing old friends, those who knew me before, is really hard, because I have to show them the person I am now. I don’t like looking through old photos, because I wonder how on earth I could carry my son, climb that mountain or walk that far.

I know that those feelings of painful remembering are all round us. Especially for those who are grieving. Life now is just not what it was.

I wonder how many shadows I walk past or stand beside every day. How many hanker after the selves they have lost for some difficult reason. What do we do? How do we find ourselves again?

Here’s the truth – we will probably never be the way we were before, but we have to celebrate who we are now. There will be something stronger, something softer in there, if we only look. Let’s carry our memories and allow them to give us hope for what lies ahead. Let’s walk alongside the people who love us no matter what threatens to change us.

Let’s remember to help the shadows around us find something brighter to hold onto, and if we can, support them with the things they can’t face anymore. As we forget about ourself, we might accidentally find it again.