IN SIGHT OF THE TIDE: Living The Dream

That’s what others called it when I announced I was leaving a lifetime’s career in healthcare to move to the West Country and take up a creative writing course: Living The Dream. I was always aware that reality would be different to my imagined plan but it’s still painful when actuality kicks in, as it has this week.

Mr M is feeling tired after his first day back working so I’m taking an evening stroll to the beach alone, leaving him to watch England lose to Italy. I draw my hood up against the chill dark drizzle. Summer is clearly over.

But my old frenemy, Anxiety, has come along for company. Of course she has. She prefers to turn up between sundown and sleep time when my defences are lowered and my mind freer. Even the rhythm of the waves and the speed of the receding tide seem stressful rather than restful with her in step.

After my first day of study, reading up about the course expectations and preparing for seminars this week, the anticipated standard for a Master’s degree defeats me. What was I thinking, applying to do this? It’s thirty years since I did my Bachelor’s degree. Whatever made me think I had this level of skill or talent?

Then, like London buses that never come alone, a bustling queue of worries forms in my head:

What if this move doesn’t work out?

What if I get ill and can’t compete the course?

What if I get really ill and this proves to be my last year of life? Should I stay or move back?

What if I have panic attacks like I did when I moved previously?

Is this place safe to walk after dark on my own? What are the crime statistics? What time does the police station close?

And suddenly I realise I feel lonely.

Even though I moved here with my Lovely Man, even though I have a faith that teaches me I am never alone, these facts don’t ease the pain of missing my old friends. I was always exhausted after a day at work or an evening at Boys’ Brigade, desperate for some peace and quiet and alone time to recover from being sociable. Now I wish I had appreciated those friendships more at the time. And I find myself wondering what the rules or guidelines are for how often I can initiate contact with old colleagues without appearing selfish.

It’s such a disappointment. I’m such a disappointment.

I perch for a moment on the edge of a damp bench, remembering the yoga meditation I did last night, focussing on long inhales and exhales through my nose and picturing, the waves as my worries advancing and receding. I recall some old advice that the way to find friends is a to be a friend. I can’t do much to change my situation tonight but I can do something.

So I message one old colleague to ask about her holiday. I pop a post on our MA WhatsApp Group wishing those beginning seminars tomorrow a good start. I text my sons to see how their day has gone. And it helps.

The next day, I notice one of my rings is on upside down and in the wrong place. It looks awkward, unfamiliar. I’ve never worn it this way round before. I think it might dig into my knuckles like this. But after some consideration, I decide I like the difference and that I’ll keep it for a while, see how I get on with it.

And I suspect that ring is me.

IN SIGHT OF THE TIDE: Commuting

It’s an early start, the first time I’ve set an alarm since we moved, as I set off in the light of an autumnal sunrise to catch the train to Plymouth for my university Induction Day.

I’m not the only one up and about in the quiet freshness. A pair of school students walk in front of me, heads down to their phones. A jogger passes, ear buds keeping her focus on her run rather than her surroundings. But a couple of dog walkers exchange friendly “Good mornings” with me and as I look around smiling, taking in my new environment, a coffee drinker on a balcony waves hello.

It’s a very different commute to the Surrey rush hour drive I did for so long. I’m reminded a little of the rail journey I used to take many years ago between Harlow and the outskirts of London but this is a far more rural experience.

For a start, there’s only one train an hour, just three carriages, not half full, on a single-track heritage line. No ticket office but a friendly guard, who checks my eticket and partway along the route gets off the train to change the points so we can reverse and continue to the mainline station. We follow the meandering river, sometimes in the actual riverbed, slowing down or stopping for the ungated level crossings along the way.

Trees and shrubs surround the line, with Cornish grey stone cottages bordering the stations, whose names all speak of the local geography: Sandplace, Causeland, St Keynes Wishing Well. The greenery is different to the Hampshire pines I’m used to, more deciduous and I’m already anticipating the colour changes as the seasons turn. I spot oak and rowan and I think London plane but much I don’t recognise. As we pass, I determine to learn to identify all the varieties.

At the end of our little local line, we get off and cross the road to the main line, which runs between London and Penzance. The next train, apart from its GWR green livery, couldn’t be in more contrast: an intercity with too many carriages for the length of some of station platforms on the way to Plymouth. (It will pick up even more when we arrive there). Plush seats with electronic signs for their availability, less leg room, more passengers who don’t meet your eye, it feels more like a plane than a train.

But the views still distract me from my flask of coffee and prayer journal that I’ve brought with me to pass the time constructively. Golden light on one side from the sunrise, silvery shadow on the other where the low sun has yet to touch. Fields and livestock. Hills, valleys, and impressive viaducts (in that same Cornish grey stone). And then we’re on the bridge over the magnificent Tamar. The railway bridge runs alongside the road one: architecture and Nature equally dramatic.

After this, the surroundings become more mundane as we travel through the Ocean City but I still enjoy the novelty. Graffiti brightens the grey. I’m looking for markers that will alert me to when I need to get ready to alight.

Plymouth station appears and it is a contrast to where I started but it’s no Kings Cross or Paddington of my past. However, I am grateful for its convenience for the university.

Larger than life sized posters of healthcare alumni advertise the university on the short, curved climb (who knew Plymouth was so hilly?) past the car park. I notice an intriguing gateway, its red bricks individually decorated, at the end of an otherwise nondescript street, and make a mental note to investigate more closely when I have more time.

And then I’m into the open underpass, which is more like a small park than the grimy urban ones I knew in London. Wide pavements, grassy slopes, clear signposts to key places, deliberately rusted statues of more alumni, and two women behind a stall advertising Bible classes, who call out a cheery greeting about the sunshine. I’m so distracted I miss my turning and have to retrace my steps.

A few minutes later, I arrive on campus. I’ve plenty of time to get my bearings, have another coffee, and work out exactly where I need to be. I will be uncharacteristically early. This is indeed a new life.

IN SIGHT OF THE TIDE: Settling In

Well, we’ve arrived.

When I pictured moving here, because we had previously booked a couple of weeks’ leave, I had thought we could be tourists for one last time. I saw us visiting St Ives, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Antony House, and exploring Bodmin, maybe even an ironic trip to Trago Mills. I thought we could get on with the business of actually living here after a week or two’s holiday, once my university course started and the lovely Mr M had to return to work.

I hadn’t allowed for a number of things:

How many items we need for the house: from desks to soap dishes. There’s a big difference between what is essential for short visits and what’s needed for daily working life. What’s a novelty to go without on a break is an irritation on a regular basis.

The lack of storage: more things to add to our shopping list – bathroom cabinets, extra shelves for the pantry. This is a much smaller house than our old one and it’s going to take time to find a home for everything.

The amount of rubbish to clear out: our garden waste bin has been ordered but won’t arrive for 8 days and we have bags of cuttings to get rid of. The cardboard is piling up with the Amazon deliveries. And tomorrow’s waste collection is cancelled due to the Queen’s funeral. Tuesday is now dedicated to the nearest recycling centre.

How much admin there is when you move. I mean, I have moved before but I’m out of practice! There’s council tax and electoral roll details to change online, 4 pages of paper forms to complete inn order to register with the local GP (plus 3 proofs of ID and address), as well as the university enrolment and induction.

How dirty the house was: Not surprising as we haven’t been here for a month but I simply couldn’t relax seeing the dust on the skirting boards and marks on the doors. So I spent my first two days cleaning. It’s really not like me at all. But the satisfaction I got from damp dusting the surfaces you can see and those you can’t, then wiping down all the paintwork (and that includes a lot of panelling in this house) was immense.

It felt like I needed to literally make a clean start here. Get rid of the dross and detritus of the old and start afresh. It’s a good feeling.

There have been other good feelings this week too.

We’ve started a daily routine walk to the beach. We’re getting to know our neighbours. The pink or gold sunrise on the white houses of the hill opposite silences me with its beauty. The train journey to Plymouth is the most picturesque I’ve ever been on (more on that another week).

Plus our sons have visited this weekend, kindly bringing all the things we couldn’t fit in our car a week ago. And the town has been filled with live music all weekend, where local pubs and venues came together with local musicians to replace the cancelled music festival – the atmosphere, quality, and variety has been amazing.

We’ve another week before our work routine starts properly but we’ve resolved to prioritise the jobs that need doing and will help us settle in. We can spend weekends exploring this beautiful county. Hopes and plans are great but so are flexibility and prioritising.

A happy bit of admin: collecting my university card

IN SIGHT OF THE TIDE: Packing

Tomorrow is the big day when we actually move, which makes today our last day of packing.

But it’s a strange kind of packing. We’re not going on holiday and we’re not emptying one property to move to another. We’re turning our holiday home into our home-home.  So how do we do that?

The Lovely Mr M and I have differing approaches, which I shouldn’t be surprised by after thirty years of marriage and yet…

His view is to only take the essentials: a bag of summer clothes, his work computer, a couple of guitars.  My approach is to take everything that our holiday home doesn’t have and that we might need in at least the next three months: extra kitchen equipment, most of my wardrobe, all my craft projects, family photos, food that our boys won’t eat, books and writing resources. And I’m still sure I will have forgotten something important!

You can guess from this which one of us is the optimist and which the pessimist, who is naturally spontaneous and who prefers to plan, who is the visionary and who is a details person.

I have tried to prioritise what I pack. I have thought about the Marie Kondo approach of asking myself if something ‘sparks joy’ before deciding to take it but I find her tidiness too depressing and clinical to create a relaxing environment.

I have remembered William Morris’s golden rule to ‘have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ Now this I can work with. But there can be a problem with downsizing when you find so many things useful or beautiful or full of poignant reminders.

And there is still that question of how to make a home of a holiday home: how to make it into something more personal and familiar, how to fill it with the security of family history and memories. We’ve already upcycled furniture and made soft furnishings for our Cornwall house to bring something of ourselves to it. But now I feel I need something more to ease me through this major change.

It is a matter or prioritising, a skill I used to teach patients for managing fatigue. I too need to ask myself “What matters most?”, to adapt the 5Ds* of fatigue management:

  • Do I need to take this now? Or could I DELAY it? (Much as I want to get settled in Cornwall, I do need to remind myself that we will be coming back for visits when I can pick up other things then)
  • Do I need to take it myself? Or could I DELEGATE it? (If we can’t fit my knitting bag in the car, our sons can bring it next week)
  • Do I need to take it at all? Or could I DUMP it? (Let’s just say the local charity shop has done  well out of us recently)
  • Do I need to take all of it in one go? Or could I DIVIDE it up? (I have managed to halve my craft supplies by answering this question and I feel surprisingly smug about that)

In a way, packing is a psychological and spiritual exercise. Working out what matters to us and what doesn’t, what we really need and what we don’t, what benefits us and what gets in the way.

Gyles Brandreth on a recent podcast talked of having ‘lockdown nostalgia’, a yearning for that simpler way of life where so much modern complication and noise was swept away. I understand that. Part of our reason for moving to Cornwall is to recreate on a regular basis the less cluttered life we have lived there when visiting.

We can’t do that if we fill our home with unnecessary stuff.

The writer to the Hebrews urged Christians in the race of life to “lay aside every weight” (KJV) “as well as the sin that dogs our feet” (JB Phillips).  I feel as if I have been doing that – sadly my job had become a weight rather than a calling and stress tripped me up too many times. Now it’s time to look at my possessions in the same light so that I can stop falling short and live a better life.

It is why my sewing and knitting are important to take. I don’t want to veg in front of the TV or a computer screen out of exhaustion anymore and I suspect my degree subject will make reading less of a leisure activity for the coming year. So I want the calming rhythm of knit one purl one. I want the challenge of mastering a pattern. I want the satisfying joy of making something unique.

So on with the work of prioritising and packing. And here’s to the joy and work of unpacking in the week to come.

(* Sharp eyed readers will see there are only 4 Ds in my list. The original 5Ds refers to doing rather than taking; hence the 5th D results from answering no to the first four so you can now DO whatever you are considering)

IN SIGHT OF THE TIDE: How Did We Get To This?

Tidal Harbour View

Chuck, Charity, Keep or Cornwall: these are the categories I’ve been sorting so many possessions into this week in preparation for our move.

In some ways, it’s liberating simplifying our lives, working out what’s essential, what’s loved, and what could be better used by others. I feel like a snake shedding an old skin that has become too tight and cumbersome.

But it’s also exhausting. Not all decisions are easy. Not all goodbyes are a relief.

And I am still saying goodbye – to colleagues, to neighbours, to church family. This final week before we leave is a strange transition time, slightly unreal, a letting go of one place but not yet belonging in another. I find myself contemplating how we got to this stage, to deciding to make such a significant change in our lives.

I think the roots go back a long way to answer that question. Now I can see hints, God’s nudges if you like, building up over years, a bit like rewatching a movie with a twist to see the clues you didn’t notice first time round.

In some ways, I can trace the beginning of the process to the pandemic lockdowns. Like everyone, I hated much of it but I came to love the enforced simplicity. As the restrictions have lifted, whilst I have welcomed things like being able to travel and see family again, the stress and pressure (especially in healthcare) has built back to beyond previous levels, and I long for that simpler routine, which we have always found in Cornwall.

Walking more. Eating more healthily. Less tech to be entertained or distracted by. Writing, reading, making. Spending more time outdoors.

I guess it’s a sort of ‘hireth’, as the Cornish would call it: a longing for home, a deep yearning in the bones for something lost.

Discomfort has also been pushing me away from my current, soon to be previous, life. Two failed promotion attempts. A growing sense of exhaustion. An increasing sense of no longer being a good fit for my job or my voluntary work.

But then there’s been the pull towards something new.

This year I’ve been working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I know it’s not for everyone but, like many, it’s proved significant for me. One of the practices I’ve adopted from that, despite long held cynicism, has been writing out daily affirmations, one of which is:

My dreams are from God and God has the power to accomplish them.

It reminded me of God’s famous promise in Joel 2.28:

“Then, after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions.”

It got me thinking that maybe my decades long held dreams of moving to Cornwall, becoming a writer, and doing a Masters degree came from God. And if they did, then not only did He have the ability to fulfil them but He might actually want to.

So when chatting to my husband about possible jobs and courses in Cornwall with my husband, slightly despondent that none of the opportunities I had found filled me with any enthusiasm, I mentioned the Creative Writing MA at Plymouth University I’d idly looked at in one of those internet rabbit holes I’d fallen down. In an ideal world, I said, that’s what I would love to do. But I didn’t seriously consider it.

Until he said: “Why not? Why don’t you go for it now? You don’t want to wait for things like that until you are too tired to do it.”

He’s a wise and encouraging man, my husband.

So I decided to apply. To knock on the door and see if it opened. Other doors, like the promotions, hadn’t. Perhaps this one would. If this was God’s direction for me, He would open it.

I remembered an old piece of wisdom I had read about three harbour lights that when they lined up enabled boats to safely find their way in. The article suggested God works in a similar way, that when we ask for specific guidance from Him we should look for three things: circumstances coming together, Scripture, and advice from trusted Christian friends.

Over the next few months, all those came together for me. Verses like:

“Seek and you shall find, Ask and you shall receive. Knock and the door shall be opened to you.”

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.”

I went on an Association of Christian Writers’ weekend, where I was encouraged both by responses to my poetry and blog posts, but also individually by writers I respect and far further along the path than me to pursue the MA application.

My family helped me pick examples to include with my submission. I wrote my personal statement from the heart. I did some preparation for my interview, which flowed like a conversation and I positively enjoyed. When I came downstairs to tell my family I’d been offered a place, I could barely contain my excitement. My husband said he had never seen me so happy about an opportunity.

I felt so light, so right, so on course.

The situation started to fall into place here too. Our sons, both recently moved back to the family home, have a base for job hunting or their own studies at a local university. My husband’s boss ok’d him to work from Cornwall (he’s been working remotely for some years now) but he’ll still have somewhere to stay if he needs to go into the office. Someone stepped up to take over as Boys’ Brigade captain.

Not that this is the whole story. There have been plenty of doubts and questions along the way. Several phone calls to Plymouth in between patient visits because basic details about my interview hadn’t come through caused quite some stress. Getting Covid in the run up to leaving my job left me feeling guilty at abandoning my colleagues before I’d gone. Sorting through possessions, looking at views for the last time, and saying goodbye feel like a bereavement.

But here we are.

This week I’ll be enrolling online and packing. Then we’re off. Turning a holiday cottage into a home. Transforming a hobby into a fulltime occupation. Making a blank canvas into a life.

“If I settle on the far side of the sea [or the Tamar!], even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”

A New Start

It’s a big deal coming to the end of an 18 year job.  Thanks to it being peak holiday time, being split across two sites, and a variety of shifts, I feel like I’ve been saying goodbye for weeks. In fact, I probably have.

I had a leaving lunch 4 days before I finished, presents given on two different days (and another to come), and left my tech for someone else to hand in as my last day proved the typical pile of urgent issues to deal with on the day before a bank holiday weekend.  

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotion, or perhaps more of a ghost train as I haven’t seen all of them coming.

So why have I left a job I adored?

Well, there has been a push away from the old and pull towards something new. In terms of the push, I will only say that changes in me and my employer led to me wanting something where I am a better fit. And the pull? The opportunity to move 200 miles to try living a simpler, healthier life by the coast and develop something more concrete with my writing by studying an MA for a year.

We’re in a blessed position that my husband already works remotely and we have a holiday home to move into. Other circumstances have fallen into place as our sons have moved back to our current home and can use it as a base for jobhunting and commuting to university themselves. And I don’t forget the blessing of being able to afford this, albeit with a few adjustments. All that gives the luxury of trying the life for a year and then deciding if it is for us long term or not.

I have a sense that God has been quietly guiding things into place. That He has listened, perhaps even planted, the dreams sometimes spoken and sometimes hidden in my heart. And that He has proved far more personally generous than I ever knew.

It’s still a momentous change. Excitement and fear feel remarkably similar. But I will try to hold onto all those promises in the Bible that God goes ahead of us and has prepared a place for us. And that I do not go alone – humanly or divinely.

As part of the new life I’m moving to, I’ve decided to make some changes to my writing commitments. That means I won’t be regularly linking up with Five Minute Friday for the coming year, maybe longer.  Instead, I plan to blog regularly about our move and new life in Cornwall (series title to be announced). In the meantime, I want to thank everyone involved with Five Minute Friday because you were the means that got me blogging regularly and that led to a number of opportunities, including this change to work on my writing fulltime. You have been key to developing both my skill and confidence. Thank you. I hope we will still follow each other as friends. Please sign up to follow my blog (if you don’t already) if you want to know how this adventure turns out. Love and God bless, Liz

Stolen Memories

When my mum had her fall which broke her hip, one unexpected (to us) effect it had was on her short term memory.

During her hospital stay, when the social worker called me to discuss a care package for her at home, I realised she didn’t know about Mum’s memory loss and therefore had a distinctly inaccurate picture of her capabilities. Especially as Mum was able to cover with great social skills.

She’d assessed her in the morning. By my visit in the afternoon, Mum had no idea anyone had been to see her.

She told me Mum was independent in toileting. Her evidence? She’d watched her walk to the toilet with a Zimmer frame. Having been in the bathroom with Mum, I pointed out that she had blocked every single toilet in the ward with reams and reams of toilet roll because she didn’t remember that she had already wiped herself so kept repeating it. She needed someone with her to supervise every time.

I asked the social worker how that would work at home. She told me my dad would be able to manage that. I queried whether that was a reasonable assumption, given his dementia. Another thing Mum had forgotten.

When we think about memory loss, we think about people repeating themselves. Or we think of extreme changes in character and behaviour. We don’t think about the sheer practical impact:

Not being able to use a toilet without help. Not recognising hunger or thirst unless someone else is there to prompt and encourage. Not remembering the need to use a walking aid.

These functional things that my parents forgot how to do? I want to forget these memories.

These issues dominated their last years. And whilst I learned so much from the privilege and pain of caring for them at this time, it’s not how I want to remember them. Or at least, I don’t want it to dominate and colour all my memories of them.

I want to remember the Mum who taught me all recipes are only a guide not a set of instructions. The Mum who spent long phone calls telling me all the details of the lives of people I didn’t know. The Mum who loved, as much as I did, wearing our matching pink coats or green rose patterned dresses. The Mum who sang the alto solos in the church choir with such beauty.  The Mum who welcomed everyone into her home and heart.

I want to remember the Dad who taught me the Greek myths when he pointed out the constellations. The Dad who stroked my arm to calm me when I was ill. The Dad who shared with me the frustration and joys of dog training and dog shows. The Dad whose careful accounting enabled me to be the first in my family to go to college. The Dad who laughed when the park keeper caught me paddling in an out of bounds lake and when I told him I’d tested just how fast my new car could go.

And as I recount these joyful memories, more come to mind.

I guess, providing a fall or dementia or anything else hasn’t stolen the abilities from us, we can, to some extent at least, choose what we remember and what we forget.

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for a limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Together

Have you ever done any of those personality type exercises? I’ve completed several. Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Love Languages – you name it, I’ve probably done it! Some I have done out of choice and a desire to learn and communicate better; others have been at the behest of management at work.

They’ve all given me some insight into my motivations and skills and comfort zone. The Enneagram proved the most meaningful for me. The more I’ve done the less ‘new’ information I’ve discovered. But several have pointed to my being an introvert.

We’ve all heard the terminology, haven’t we? The popular view is that extroverts are sociable and introverts are shy. The official definition is more about extroverts finding their energy in company while introverts are replenished by quiet and alone time.

The category I fall into is an introvert who looks like an extrovert!

I have great skills for social situations: I have attended national conferences alone and found people to connect with. Heck, I have spoken at national conferences! I have held dinner parties. I’ve given speeches and compered events. I’m not afraid to speak up in meetings. I know how to make friends. And I am interested in other people.

But doing all this exhausts me.

My idea of heaven is a quiet beautiful place, undisturbed, with an infinite supply of books to bury myself in! I am way more comfortable in a small group of people I already know than a big one. Where I don’t have to put on a show or make an effort to work out what to talk about or how to read the social situation.  Where I won’t feel overwhelmed by noise – walking into a dining room a few months ago with the echoing hubbub of chattering people who already seemed to be in their own social groups was hellish. At the same event, sitting in a quiet lounge over coffee with one new person, intermittently chatting and reading, was delightful.

If you read my poem Crowd https://thestufflifeismadeofblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/16/crowd-five-minute-friday/, you’ll see what is going on in my head when I walk into a party or event.

But in the end, it’s all about balance, isn’t it?

I know I can too easily get wrapped up in my own labyrinth of thoughts.

Like today.

I have been caught up in all the details of our approaching move to Cornwall. Leaving my job, changing cars, what to take and what to leave, and worrying it will all be derailed by my being ill at the moment.

Then along comes a Theseus in the form of my husband. We talk it through and perspective returns – about timings and sharing tasks. And I remember the Ariadnes in my life, who support me practically: like my sons who cook and garden while those tasks are hard for me; or the Christian friends who continue to pray for me; or the work colleagues who have been so understanding and supportive.

I am not on my own. And Genesis 2.18 reminds me that we are not designed to be (too much) on our own. God gives us companions for the road. I need to remember to step outside of myself and spend time with them.

Even if I need to retreat again later.

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for a limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Que Sera, Sera

Did you ever look at your child and wonder who and what they would be?

Did you look for clues in their inheritance and imagine them having a love of reading, a talent for music, a brain for maths?

Did you picture a career for them, based on school skills and teenage hobbies? A psychologist, a teacher, a performer?

Did you envisage their future relationships, what they might bring to them? Kindness, humour, generosity?

The longer I am a parent, the more realise my limits of control. We can encourage, support, advise. But we cannot decide for them. We cannot make them in our own image.

 We can give them opportunities to discover their joys, their gifts, their path. We can provide a safety net if their ventures fail. We can offer the wisdom of our experience if asked.

We can teach them our values, our faith. But it is their decision whether to adopt them for themselves.

And whatever they decide, we can pray for them.

And place them in the hands of the One Who all that has made them and all the possibilities of what they may become.

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for a limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday

Chance of a Lifetime

It’s been a significant week for me. After 20 years as a leader and 13 as captain, I have resigned from my Boys’ Brigade Company. As was said at my last evening, it’s in my family’s blood: my dad was in BB as long as when Junior Section was known as Lifebuoys and both my sons spent their childhood and teenage years in BB. I initially went along because my eldest found it hard to settle in any new social situation and I ended up staying longer than any of them!

I’ve been sorting out paperwork and online files to handover to the new captain this week. What’s taken the longest has been the photos. Especially as my husband is such a keen photographer and has chronicled so many of our BB events: Display Evenings, Sports Days, Battalion competitions, anniversaries.

So many memories and faces have marched before my eyes. So much laughter. So many achievements. So any hairstyles!

In the past 20 years, I have abseiled down Welsh mountainsides, catered for over 50 people, judged cake decorating competitions, built towers out of spaghetti and rafts out of breadsticks, sponsored animals at a local zoo, ridden rollercoasters, slept in an underwater aquarium (on a steadily deflating air mattress), and spent many nights under canvas.

No wonder the Boys’ Brigade tagline is “The adventure begins here”!

I’ve also written poems and dramas, formulated new games (usually variations on old ones!), edited prayers for worship, and published articles in the local paper. I’ve read stories and given my testimony I’ve made flags, collages, and props. I’ve carried out management reviews, risk assessments, and financial changes.

I’ve laughed – in mad games and at silly jokes. When 4 new boys joined one section together, whose names all began with J, I struggled to remember who was who so we added a J to the beginning of everyone’s name, including the leaders. Sometimes I’ve joked that new leaders should be given a supply of paracetamol when they qualify. And when new parents have asked which room we meet in the church, I’ve told them to just follow the noise.

It’s been difficult at times – frustrating and exhausting. But it’s also been a perfect counterbalance to my job in palliative care. The life and energy of these people at the beginning of their lives gives me the perspective I can lack in my paid work.

And now my BB adventure has come to an end. I’m off on new ones.

Looking back, I am so grateful for all the opportunities it gave me. I received so much more than I gave.

(You can find out more about The Boys’ Brigade here: https://boys-brigade.org.uk/)

Every week the Five Minute Friday community free write for a limited time inspired by a given prompt word. It’s also a fantastically supportive groups for writers. You can find more inspirational writing here: Community – Five Minute Friday