Mothering Myself

This morning I woke up in my hotel room, feeling rested and calm. I stretched one foot out to the right, one arm out to the left, sliding them along the crisp white hotel sheets that I would never have to heave out of the washing machine.  The smile spread from the corners of my mouth all the way to my ears while my eyes stayed shut. It was beautiful. I’d gone to bed at 9pm and my watch informed me that eleven hours had passed between. Eleven. Deep sleeping hours!

For the good of our souls, sometimes just need a break from all the relational roles we carry.(2)

I woke, packed up my things and prepared for the day. I’m down in the hotel bar now having a coffee before I meet the beautiful Sarah, in person, at last. She’s an all-time favourite blogger of mine. The coffee was made for me by a barista who spoke about the complexity of the bean with an earnestness. I smiled at him, but thought about how I will not have to stack that cup in the dishwasher, or refill a kettle, or check the expiry date on that milk.  Just drink it.

I am such a fan of Sarah, as a writer and a person. Meeting her is very important to me.  I can’t wait to wrap her up in a big hug of thanks. To enjoy food and conversation with her and Annette from I Give You the Verbs! Dear Kate had to go and do some very exciting new work stuff, but you can check out her blog here (next time, Kate!) After our bloggy brunch, Miss Annette and I are lighting off for the Yarra Valley for a girls weekend. We’ll take the meandering way, and she promises that I can stop and take pictures to my heart’s content along the way.

Sarah, Annette and Rach
Sarah, Annette and Rach

This trip to Melbourne is something I’ve been longing to do for years. A chance to revisit my past, reconnect with people I haven’t seen for years and finally meet some I’ve been talking to online for a long time. But even more than the gorgeousness of all that, this trip, for me, is all about respite. I just needed to take some time out from all of the ‘adulting’ and be me, on my own, for a bit. The Rach who isn’t looking after anyone but herself, just for a few days.  I need to mother myself.

I need to stretch out, on a big big bed, all alone. To stand next to my soul sisters and spread my arms wide to the sky. To sleep and wake when I feel like it. To please myself doing anything I feel like doing; compromise free. I’ve explored, I’ve shopped, I’ve chatted and I’ve been blissfully quiet. I’ve drunk wine, I’ve taken a trip down memory lane at my old boarding school, I’ve eaten anything and everything I feel like eating without a single bite being cooked by me.

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It’s been gloriously selfish and deeply important for me to do all that.

When you become a mum, you don’t know that you are becoming something other than an ‘individual’. It’s something you have to learn. And once you have learned that by heart, there won’t be respite for a long, long time. My kids are now 8 and 11. The teenagers are now 17 and 18. The family has grown to a point that I’ve been able to set them up to manage their lives without me for a few days. The hubster is doing a stellar job with them. Their schedules are all being met.

I could probably have done this earlier, but I wasn’t internally strong enough to push for it. Sometimes, even with great families, it does take pushing for it. You have to fight for yourself the way you’d fight for your brood.

Respite is something we need to fight for as women, as givers, as mothers and wives. For the good of our souls, sometimes women just need a break from all the relational roles we carry. Freedom to just be ourselves, to turn the nurturing inward. To have a rest from all of that responsibility.  That’s what I’m doing.

I highly recommend it.

It might not be a trip to Melbourne. Maybe, if you have one, it’s a visit to your Mum’s place. Or camping in the spring, all alone. Or a solo movie. It might be a journey to see your cousin, or a drive down winding country roads. Find your respite, sisters of mine. I promise it will feed your soul and bring you joy.

It might be easier than you imagine to make it happen.

Go on.  Tell yourself to have and break and then, for goodness’ sake: go do what you’ve been told!

The Grammar of my Fears

Note: the lyrics in this post are a collection of lines from three sources.  I have combined them in my own order.  The original writers of all the songs are Emily Saliers (of the Indigo Girls), Rob Hyman, Eric Bazilian (of the Hooters) and John Denver.

I drove across some of the most beautiful countryside in the North Island today. Listening to the music of my young years.  The Hooters and The Indigo Girls might be odd CD-stack neighbours, but they harmonized with John Denver to give me a soundtrack that melted the miles into memories of my past.  I love them all fiercely and sang loud, alone in the closeted interior of the car. Green fields and cows whizzed by my windows as I lost myself in lyrics I had forgotten that I remember.  Holding the notes for just that bit longer than the song called for; holding on to the ephemeral essence of earlier times.

Where do the children go?  Between the bright night and darkest days?
If I had a song that I could sing for you,
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way

And if you break down, I will remind you, Ooh of what you were yesterday
Oh mercy, what I won’t give.  To have the things that mean the most,
not mean the things I miss…

All you zombies, show your faces… I know you’re out there
All you people in the streets… I see you

as the bombshells of my daily fears explode,
I try to trace them to my youth

I squeeze the sky out but there’s not a star appears;
begin my studies with this paper and this pencil

and I’m working through the grammar of my fears…

My road trip today was to visit the hubster’s dad.  He and his wife are over eighty, and in the cruel nature of old age, have been weathering one health crisis after another. This time, it was John’s turn to be rushed to hospital.  The nature of his emergency sent him south, so he and my mother-in-law are in different hospitals, hours away from one another, and hours away from us. I make mental notes to myself to move nearer to my children if I make it to my eighties. We’re so far from them. It makes it hard to be the moral support they need, let alone the physical help. So today, I was visiting John.  He’s the sole carer of Mary, who has Parkinson’s Disease. Between them, they have been in hospital more than out of hospital over the last year, and it has been a very hard road. My heart goes out to them, so far from one another. Like teenagers, they get told off for hogging the hospital phones. He wants to know how her dinner was last night. She wants to know if his feet are warm. She wakes up alone and panics, wondering where she is and why.  He wakes up alone and knows there is a long rehabilitation road ahead if he is to bring her home again. Mid conversation with me, he sucks in a quick intake of air, trying to hold back the tears. His eyes lock onto mine while he tries to wrestle control over his emotions. The tears come anyway. It’s not kind, old age. Life is always too short, even when you’ve been alive a long time.

It makes me thoughtful. The whole way home I am ruminating over that line from an old song.  About the things that mean the most, not being the things I miss. I think about how much I have learned in all these years of being alive. And how so many of those things are unproductive, unhelpful, unkind to me. I am unlearning all the things that have kept me from happiness. All the insecurities and fear of failure, all the horrors that because things have happened before they will again. I think about all these fears that have shackled me. And about how I am breaking free of them.  I’m examining the context and syntax of every one. And scratching my pencil through ingrained thoughts that I have taken for truths. Thoughts that don’t stand up to scrutiny.  Every thought that stops me from enjoying my health and freedom. How ridiculous they seem, laid out in front of me. Relics of my childhood, ready for an edit.  I don’t know a better way to live my best life than to do this.  Working through the grammar of my fears.

Maybe you have fears like this too?

When I was really sick, I promised myself that I would not take health for granted if I ever got better. I promised myself I would live a life not bound by my fears. I would seek opportunities and take them.  I would find the areas that filled me with insecurity, and tackle them. Look for experiences that fill me with joy and collect them. So that is what I have been doing. Last Sunday, I did a lingerie shoot.   Out on a windy grassy, knoll, in full view of the public utilising the walking track that skirted the location; I took off my clothes and posed for photos in my smalls. It was liberating! I think if I can do that, I can do almost anything!

PIcture from my lingerie shoot of my legs and the statement "I am unlearning all the thoughts that have kept me from happiness. One faulty line at a time" Rachel F Cox

I’m going to leave you with a verse from a beautiful song. Think about those young years… who you were… who you want to be. Maybe there’s some editing to your interior monologue that you want to do, too.

…when we last talked we were lying on our backs,
looking up at the sky through the ceiling
I used to lie like that alone out on the driveway
trying to read the Greek upon the stars, the alphabet of feeling
Oh I knew back then, it was a calling that said: if joy then pain.
The sound of the voice these years later
is
still the same.
-Emily Saliers

Adiós hermosa Chilena

(Farewell Beautiful Chilean Girl)

I love a road trip.
Today I’ve been down to Thames and back.  It’s a three hour round trip, not counting our stop.  For me, that means roughly three hours sitting. In my comfy car seat that makes for a pretty quiet day, though more tiring than sitting here in my bed.  I love the moving window views, but most of all, I love that I have the kids cornered.  Can I admit that!? On a road trip, we will talk, listen to music and re-connect.  And, like it or not, I will educate (because you can take the girl out of teaching, but never the teacher out of the girl).  Poor kids.   Yep, three whole CDs worth of education! Small wonder they fall out of the car at the end of a trip like a sigh of relief. Today, my travelling companions were Bee and Fifi.  Nine and Sixteen, but roughly the same height; vanilla and chocolate beauties, sporting, by chance, the same chin.  Fifi is here with us on exchange from Chile, and right now she’s feeling contemplative and emotional.  She’ll be heading home soon, after half a year in the land of the long white cloud.  Our beautiful countryside lived up to it’s name.  Cloudy skies and drizzle.  Vivid green fields and rolling hills. And lots of time to talk about life, travelling, the meaning of life and music.

A road trip isn’t complete without a soundtrack.  So Bee chose on the way there, and in testament to Fifi’s tolerance, I chose on the way back. The subject of investigation today was the importance of excellent lyrics (we agree that Rod Stewart was a bit lacklustre in that department).  The subtext was the importance of lyrical music.  I do feel my age when it comes to music;  I like a back story in a song.  A message.  A bit of universal truth packaged up in a melody that keeps you humming all day. I much prefer it to some fast-talking-bass-beating-boom-bah. I hear the sentiments of generations past coming out of my own mouth!

And… because my travelling companions were ‘my’ girls, I wanted to highlight with my song choices just how special and beautiful they are to me.  I do worry, about girls growing up in this world.  I worry about this post-feminist swing back into the badlands.  I see the sexualisation of girls in the music media and it seems so much more extreme than the gasp-inducing fifties advertisements that marginalised the value of women.  Back then, women were denigrated to their value as housekeepers.  Now, it seems to be their value as para-pornographic dancers, gyrating to some male gangster’s tough guy rap.

What happened to the work of our mothers?  The feminist discourse of the seventies seems to have become so diluted.  We are getting back there to the time where men are accepted to be the boss and women are simply sex props, without a voice. I worry about that.  Looking in the rear view mirror at my nine year old baby… and seeing sixteen year old Fifi’s face, just as fresh and beautiful and unscarred by life;  I just want to wrap them up.  Keep them here, suspended in a beautiful moment in time.  Before men and the messy business of love.  Before they change the way they see themselves and start to doubt the very thing that makes them so beautiful, right now.  It’s who they are.  All their dreams.  Every hope they hold for the future.  So breathtakingly beautiful it makes me want to cry.

 

Photography by Be Couper 2014
Photography by Be Couper 2014

I’m putting two songs into this farewell post today, one from the soundtrack on the way down to Thames (Taylor Swift) and one from the way back (Tim McGraw).  Both, for the beautiful girls who travelled the road with me.  Here’s to you two.  ‘Our’ baby girls (I know, you’re not babies anymore). Good people with so much ahead.  Kia kaha, sweet ones. 

And to Fifi in particular, Haere ra.  It has been an extraordinary experience having you in our family.  Go well, go far, and every now and then, look back and remember our Land of the Long White Cloud.  Our skies will be crying for you, long after you fly through them and back to your home.

(Fifi, you’re actually your own Mommy’s ‘baby’ but we feel lucky to have borrowed you for this important season of your life. Here is a ‘daddy’ song for you, from Uncle …and the rest of us too. XOX)