Birthday love letters

IMG_0556When is the last time you wrote a letter? Not to ask for something but just to say something? October is always a special month for us; it holds our eldest boy’s birthday and our wedding anniversary in its autumnal grasp. So, when the leaves begin to fall and my breath puffs in foggy clouds in the mornings, my mind is always thrown back to either pre-wedding jitters or pre-birth jitters!  In October 2006 I could not fathom how the ‘person’ that kicked and punched with such conviction inside me could pass through me leaving me intact (!?)  Suffice to say, he arrived safe and well and I fell head over heels in love as soon as he was slapped on my chest; bloody and gooey and looking a bit worse for wear.  I remember it so clearly, so very clearly… and yet  the calendar tells me it was almost nine years ago?!

Those early years were a head-on collision in life lessons for us. He was an unplanned pregnancy. I had no inclination for children at the time – one day – yes, but not until much later. My husband and I had had a whirlwind romance, he’d lost his mother, we’d got married, we’d moved house and moved in together, a lot had happened – quickly. It was time to slow down, not speed up towards the monumental step of parenthood.

Anyway, thankfully sometimes life just gives you what you don’t realise you need. The first few years of our marriage were rocky and he was the reason that held us together, he was the reason I wrote my first book, he is the reason I’ve tried harder at life, ever since. He has grown tall and strong, if I’m lucky I have another two years before he eyeballs me. Now, he is more likely to piggy-back me, than the other way around. My little chunky blonde-haired boy lurks amid the dusty confines of my memory, but he is out of reach. I know he existed because I can see him locked inside photograph frames, but I cannot match him to the tall, handsome, big-toothed boy who rolls his eyes at me despairingly with his theme-song of, “MUUUM!”

Why can’t I remember? Why can’t I summon up that little boy from the depths of me and remember the smell of him, or what it felt like to carry him, or hold his little hand in mine? Sometimes, I think I do remember, but it seems so implausible that all these years have passed and that little boy has been and gone.  That is why I am so glad I began writing him letters. Eight years  ago, on the eve of his first birthday, I wrote my boy his first birthday letter and I’ve written one every year since.  Now, faced with the tragic holes in my memory, I am grateful because I have no idea what I wrote to him back then when he was still aged by weeks and months. Because you forget all the little things. Our memories wipe over so many of the tiny details. My letters record the changes in him in the intervening twelve months, his interests, where we’ve been, what we’ve done, how our relationship has changed, how he is growing away from me step by step.

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I imagine presenting him with my secret bundle of letters, the early ones all dry and onion skinned with age, when he is twenty-one.  I know he will have grown away from me almost completely by then, we’ll have weathered many more storms together and perhaps I will just be an embarrassing motherly irritation to him (heaven forbid) by then. But they will be my love letters to him; each one recording invisible memories telling him how much he has been loved. They are a testament to the power of the written word, I wish I’d done it for my husband too. Who could you write a birthday letter to?

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A Little Silence goes a Long Way.

Last weekend I went on a mini yoga retreat. As part of it we had an introduction to meditation. Maybe it’s an age thing, but increasingly, I am finding a need for some ‘me time’ in my life. A few precious moments away from family demands, a screen, noise and the general 24/7 interference of modern living. A little silence helps me to cope. It can be an opportunity to slow down time and remind myself of my goals.

The end of the school year always causes reflection; I’m in awe at how my boys have grown physically and mentally in the time it has taken me to make a cup of tea – or at least that is what it feels like. Again, I find myself wanting to stop the clock and pause. I join with all the other mums at the school gate to complain that it’s going too fast. We watch helpless on the sidelines as our children race fearlessly through their childhoods. And yet, juxtaposed against this is my own slow sludge towards my goal of getting published. Eight years and two books and still no closer. I am desperate for it to happen. I am frustrated that it is taking so long, and yet, how can that be when everything else around me is happening so fast?

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It’s this state of contradiction that yoga helps with. It helps me to stay in the ‘now’ it helps me to believe that life will take its course and what will be, will be. It keeps me strong and helps to counteract the countless hours of sitting that writing demands. Yoga and meditation are not about loud music, or pumping up the cardio. It demands stillness, focus and concentration of breath. Can life get anymore stripped back than simply taking notice of how you breathe? A writer’ s head carries a world of fictional characters inside it, each one with hopes and dreams, flaws and attributes; these people are alive to us and sometimes I find it hard to cope with the demands of them combined with my actual real-life!

I’ve come to realize that my writing itself is a kind of meditation. It’s what I need to try and make sense of the world around me. I use what I know,  and what I don’t know, to unclutter my mind. I sit, mostly in silence (though I’ve trained myself to write wherever I can), without the interference of phone or Internet and I download onto the screen infront of me. I think it’s the solitary silence that gives writing it’s mystic. In a world were most people sit amongst open plan offices surrounded by people, phones, printers, sitting alone for hours on end without human or online contact can seem… well, wierd. But it’s as simple, and as complicated as that. My fictional characters need space to grow, to live, and for that I need a clear head and preferably silence.

How do you unclutter? How do you stop time and reflect? Maybe blogging is your way of ‘downloading’. When is the last time you sat in silence? Try it. I’d love to know how you get on.