‘I’d like to pay off the full balance, please.’
When I was in a hospital. Again. This seemed so far away.
When I was working two part-time jobs, but the biggest time investment was sleeping off my antipsychotic meds. This didn’t even feel important.
When I was living in a flat share, exceeding my income every month. This was unthinkable.
When we blended our families, extended the house so that there was space for children of our own. This was impossible, distant.
When we financially supported two households and four children with different needs. This wasn’t even on the radar.
When I decided it would be a great idea to give up paid work, to be at home with the children? This was laughable!
But I did it. I rang the Student Loan company, and paid off the full balance.
This week I have been thinking about … snow.
I haven’t had a choice about it either way!
Snow. Then sun, replaced by snow by sun by snow.
Snow drifted to knee height at the front door.
Snow keeping us in the house, keeping Mr HB away.
Snow stopping all travel – snow giving us the first red weather warning for years. Snow silencing the roads, burying my car a little more every day.
Snow pulling a sledge with kindling and children in it (no, hang on, that was me.)
Snow bringing a whole village out onto the streets – ‘there’s still milk in the Spar!’
Snow filling a village pub on an otherwise normal Thursday, for cake and tea.
Snow, and post after post on our village Facebook page offering help to those in need.
Snow: reminding us of our amazing community.
Gratitude: easy to remember
first-world, privileged snowflake bubble
I float about in. If I
started counting my blessings
we’d be here all day.
Gratitude: easy to forget
on a day when
my brain fires negativity
at me, I’m tired,
the kids won’t co-operate,
there are no clean school shirts in the house.*
Gratitude: found in the
Love and family,
home and identity,
food and fire
space to be, create, live.
Gratitude: found in the tiny of the tinylife.
I changed my screen wash
(blessing no. 458972, I have a car!)
put in less water,
The result? A transformation!
A clean windscreen – not smeary, dusty,
or the dirty of
‘I hadn’t noticed it was always dirty until
it was clean…’
Like when you clean your glasses – and a whole new world appears.
Christmas anxiety. A wash of feelings, pulling and pushing in opposite directions. I’m a sociable person, I love my friends. Now it’s December and I’m all ‘hopefully we can catch up before Christmas?’
I invite, or accept invitations, with joy, and then approach the days themselves with dread. Will I spend hours on my return, mulling over a throwaway comment I made, seeking malevolence in words that were not meant to hurt? Deliberately sabotaging my own friendships, and my own fragile resilience?
So last year, I stopped saying ‘let’s meet up before Christmas’ and started saying ‘have a lovely Christmas! See you next year.’
To anyone reading this who feels anxious around Christmas, I just want to say: you don’t have to see anyone, if you don’t feel like it. Look after yourself, OK? And I’ll see you next year.
Here is an update on how I am feeling.
I am nearly two weeks into taking my daily pill. I have some paid freelance work today, and I’m driving to the meeting where I’m expected to take a minute of the proceedings.
My usual thoughts at a time like this are as follows:
‘I won’t be able to keep up with my shorthand.’
‘I won’t be able to read my shorthand back.’
‘I won’t be able to follow what is going on.’
‘I won’t make my deadline for the draft.’
‘Someone will tell me I am not dressed smartly enough for this job.’
And my personal favourite: ‘Am I heading to the right venue at the correct time?’
I am driving to the meeting.
I am thinking – ‘I’ve got this.’
It was a good call to go to the GP.
Ten of the Best Things About Autumn
by Penny Hext.
- Woodland walks: fungi, fallen leaves, seeing tree shapes outlined against the sky.
- Short days… longer nights. More time for a) beauty sleep b) bedtime reading c) erm… recreational activities.
- Winter woollies. Colour and texture hide a multitude of sins. Summer’s AGES away!
- Hair lasering. Start on that beard now. (Moi?)
- Night-time sky walking. The best possible backdrop for creepy ghost walks. Go on. Try it!
- Enjoying Autumn colours: reds, russets, auburns, coppers…
- Time to take stock and recalibrate – before the year ends. You’ve still got time to fulfil your resolutions!
- Wildlife spotting: squirrels, herons… figuring out where the heck birds roost at night. Nests are for fledglings.
- Mulled wine.
- Puddings. Those brambles and apples you gathered in September need eating, don’t they?
Penny is a writer who lives in Edinburgh
I open my mouth to respond to the question from my kids’ piano teacher, but my oldest gets there first.
‘I want to learn that last bit of the piece,’ they say.
And they’re off. The piano teacher and student – a conversation I struggle to follow to be honest, I’ve never been able to play the piano. They are talking over my head. I’m not required.
But I consider it. It is terrifying to think of all the conversations my children will have to negotiate their way through without me there, throughout their whole lives.
Here is evidence that it will be OK.
Here is evidence that they can ask for what they need, want, and be heard.
Here is evidence that adults around them also want the best for them.
So I listen. And I allow them to talk.
Ten things I love about summer rainfall
OK, for some of us, it’s been hot and sultry. But for others, it’s been a damp summer so far. So why’s that automatically a problem?
- It gets the birds singing! (OK, they’re being territorial.)
- It gets the earthworms wiggling – pink and naked – on the green, green grass…
- Elderflower blossom – any blossom – smells much more intense.
- It frightens away bite-y insects. Except for midges. Nothing scares off midges!
- The ‘sturm and drang’ of an electric thunderstorm. Bring on the forked lightning!
- Watching sparrows queue to fluff their feathers in a fresh flowing puddle of water.
- A summer soaking is really revitalising. Especially after a long run.
- It showers sticky city pavements to carefree cleanliness.
- Rainwater tastes fantastic (watch the animals head for it).
- It’s free… as in ‘the best things in life are’.
As the sun came out more frequently, so did the grass. Soon the garden was its usual (ahem) mess. Swings, slide, broken plastic bubble machine, and tufty, tufty green shoots. Our bit of the back lane sported an exotic mix of dock leaves, dandelions, and grass so long it looked like a crop.
Mr HB was *not* happy.
‘Why don’t you cut the grass then?’ I said, silently adding, ‘while I go and take some video for that project that seemed a good idea four months ago and still isn’t finished.’
So he did. The weeds are still out the back, mind. I can see them from here.
But we’re lucky. If we’re grumping about having to cut the grass, it means we have grass to lie on, play on, make daisy chains from, even cut. Once in a while.
It’s Easter Sunday, and he is risen.
I don’t realise that I hold a strong faith, until this rolls around again, and I clear my diary to come to Church on a Friday, and then twice on Sunday – including the early service in the garden, where the birds make more noise than the children and we share communion on dew soaked grass.
He is risen.
I don’t pretend there aren’t other paths and I would fight for your right to follow whichever one you want. For me, knowing that Jesus suffered physical and mental torture means that he walks with me in my tinylife.
He is risen.
Acknowledging this cycle: birth, death and everything in-between, in a Springtide when the world regenerates itself, reminds me to keep going – one foot in front of the other.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!