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Surrendering to the Season

 

Autumn begins weaving herself, and me, towards Winter. I drag my heels determinedly against the prospect of months and months of ice cold weather. And yet, those annual mists and mellow fruitfulness lull me with their charms. Foolish me, I whisper. Deep inside, though, I know the truth. The energies of this season serve to remind me to balance the light and the dark. As ever, my deepest nurturing comes in the silence. I take myself into that delightful realm of intentional solitude.

 

 

My evening walks through fields, woodlands, up lanes, to the stone circle, and across the ancient cemetery beckon me to welcome the inner dark. Endarkenment, surely, is just as essential as enlightenment? The rich earthiness of fallow fields speaks to me of the growth which emerges from the dark.

 

 

 

The cave of Winter taunts me, and my bones ache in anticipation of the cold, but I know, if I try, that I can step, gracefully, deep into the essence of what it means to live authentically in this world of dilemma. Autumn is here to teach me, gently, about death. What do I need to let go of in my life? These are questions for all of us, of course.

It isn’t random that we have seasons. Metaphysically, they speak to us of change. As we become more attuned to the cycles, we come to understand our inner self more.

 

 

The abundance of the harvest season amplifies the gratitude I hold deep within. Golden leaves flutter before me, symbolic of just how generous an act ‘letting go’ can be. Silhouetted trees, their leaves now friskily flitting about upon the chilly breeze, are a reminder that nothing in life stays the same. Of course, we can’t hang onto the beauty of Autumn!  And perhaps, that is the whole point. The season of letting go serves to show us how beautiful it is to let ‘fade away’ anything that no longer serves us.

 

 

My walks are a gentle invitation to Mother Nature’s suggestion that we surely must die before we can be reborn. Conscious of change all around me, I take nurturing from the early sunsets which frame the sandstone church in the cemetery, and the smell of woodsmoke on the air.

Geese are on high, another reminder that times keep moving. With each rapidly passing day, I am reminded of my mortality. That I, too, shall die. My ego shouts ‘but there is so much left to live for’, and I agree (even if I’m not always certain what the point of life actually is). My inner alchemist just watches patiently, as always, knowing that no matter how much I forward plan and fill my diary, all I really have is this precious moment.

 

 

Risky Business

Recently, someone I’ve known for about fifteen years said to me: “You don’t take risks, do you?” I was absolutely gob smacked. It really threw me for a while for two reasons. One was that it made me realise she didn’t know me at all, and the other was that my life has been nothing but a succession of risk taking.

It would be easy to look at my current life: all cosied up in a cottage I love, and spending my days doing work I enjoy, not too mention enjoying a honeymoon with my husband now that we’ve no children living at home. I have handcrafted my life to be one of daily pleasures. Maybe it looks, to the untrained eye, as if I live in a bubble immune from the pain of the world.

 

 

 

When I started counting off the risks I’ve taken in my life I came to the conclusion that, despite appearances, I am still a fab risk taker.

What does it mean when we talk about taking a risk? To my mind, it means doing something that has a potential for failure. It may mean that we’re stepping into the unknown. But it also means we’re doing something that takes us way beyond our comfort zone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a risk taker. Growing up on 700 acres in rural Queensland, Australia, much of my childhood was spent barefoot. Each time I stepped out the door, I was at risk of something biting or stinging me. My mother had made the ‘best cubby house ever’ from an old dunny (outdoor loo), and decorated it into a little shop for me. It was so beautiful. The downside was that to get there I had to trek through some land where snakes loved to slither. Each time I headed to play, I sent a silent prayer up to the Gods: if you love me, please don’t let me see a snake.

Every time I went on one of our dozens of horses, I was at risk. And in those days, we simply didn’t wear riding hats. And half the time we didn’t bother with a saddle, and sometimes we even skipped using a bridle or halter and would simply use our whole body to guide the horse. One time I came off a horse, and I landed bang on my coccyx. I was about ten. It hurt like hell, but somehow my body adapted to the dislocation (don’t ask me why it was never treated!). I had no idea that injury would end up (after dislocating it twice in childbirth) leading to about twenty years of excruciating back pain as an adult. Risk, yes. I had a childhood full of it. And that’s not even counting in the many trees I climbed that I couldn’t get back down. I always managed to get down but my lanky little body often took hours to work out how to do it.

Each time I jumped over our waterfall into the dam I took a risk.

My childhood ‘play’ was about as risky as it is possible for childhood to be. We’d do crazy things like put on a parka and raincoat and float down a creek when it was in flood. We’d turn a corrugated iron rainwater tank on its side and using pedal power run inside of it to make it roll down a road. Ask my sister Heidi about risk. She’s got a fab scar on her cheek to prove it. We’d often toboggan down our hill on cardboard. Not so fast as corrugated iron! And fast soon becomes ‘no go’ when it hits a eucalyptus tree. I can recount dozens of risky acts in childhood.

Around the age of ten, I took off from an interschool sports day (I hate sports) with a bunch of lads and we headed towards the river for a swim. On the way, they got talking with a truck driver who’d broken down. Me, being the little conversationalist that I am, got talking with him too. The boys finished their conversation about mechanical stuff and left. I stayed talking with my new friend for hours. We talked about all the things that interested me, like angels, reincarnation, auras, and so on. We swapped addresses. Now, if your ten year old daughter stopped and talked to a truck driver for hours (not to mention playing truant from school), you might be freaking out. It was a risk. My friendship with Bluey lasted well into my adult life until he passed away. We’d spent many years as pen friends, and he even came to visit my parents to assure them there was nothing ‘dodgy’ going on. From my part, if felt such a relief to have a friend, besides my mum, with whom I could share my strong spiritual beliefs.

At the age of sixteen I caught a Greyhound bus and moved 2000km away from my family home. I had $100 in my purse, and nothing but my mother’s good wishes. She said she understood my need for freedom.

At the age of nineteen, I was pregnant. Didn’t expect that! However, after my boyfriend insisted I have an abortion (so I didn’t ruin his life as a ‘perfect Lutheran son’) I decided I’d be a single mother. Gulp. It was one thing looking after myself, but oh my goddess, being responsible for raising another human being? I pulled my socks up, and told him ‘no’. Mother Nature had other plans. The foetus shrivelled up, and I required a D&C. I can tell you right now that going under anaesthetic is always a huge risk! It was not something I ever intended doing in my life again (I’d have four more operations during those early adult years). When I emerged from anaesthesia, I was crying. The surgeon snapped at me and said “What are you crying for, the baby was dead anyway!” Oh to go back in time and slap his stupid little face.

Three years later, I was pregnant again. Truth be told, I thought I might just miscarry again, so ignored my tummy getting bigger and bigger. Eventually I went to the doctor who discovered that my ‘baby’ had in fact become a hydatidifoid mole (essentially turned into a large bunch of grapes = tumour). He said that if I’d left it another month, I’d have been dead. Back under anaesthetic! RISK. Tumour removed, and the next year was spent having weekly blood tests and chest x-rays to ensure I didn’t end up with cancer in my lungs. By this time I was living back in Queensland where I’d gotten a job as a phlebotomist (someone who takes your blood) at the local hospital. I ended up taking my own blood each week! Given I dislike pain, and cringe at anything to do with needles, that I managed to do this to myself each week was pretty risky!

What I haven’t yet mentioned is that I’d had a childhood of being sexually abused. Every time any man (other than my dad who was about the only man who didn’t do that to me) came near me, I was filled with fear. Would he do those things to me? When you’ve been sexually abused, your aura has holes in it so you somehow keep attracting paedophiles.

When I was working in the hospital lab, my boss was a fun guy. We dated for a bit, and then he moved overseas. The new boss (who I found physically repulsive and creepy from the outset) had heard about our relationship and clearly thought he could step into A’s shoes in more ways that one. I felt ill, and made it absolutely crystal clear that I was not interested (and not just because the idiot was married).

He persisted, and I kept declining. The work situation was intense. I went and saw the hospital counsellor. I was becoming ill with stress. In one of our conversations, she asked me what job I’d do if I could just make it happen. I told her I’d love to be a writer. She immediately asked me if I’d been to the local paper to see about working there.

Well, little risk taker Veronika took herself down to the editor and put her heart on the table. “I want to be a journalist.” To his credit, Neil didn’t laugh at me. Instead, he asked if I’d be willing to come in each evening after work and volunteer. Hell yes!

So, I started that night. My job was to phone the emergency services (fire, ambulance and police) and see if there were any stories. At the end of that week, Neil came up to me and said he had no journalists rostered on for the weekend, and ask if I was free to write and photograph stories. Oh my god yes! Now, if I was averse to risk taking I’d have said ‘no’. I’d be too paralysed with fear of doing it wrong. After all, I had NO experience. He showed me how to load the camera (no digital cameras in those days!). Guess who had a front-page story on Monday morning?

Several times over the next few months my editor would say to me “How did you get that photo?” I could see the colour disappear from his face when I’d described either climbing to the top of a derelict building or crane or going out on a lake in a speedboat. “Veronika, my insurance doesn’t cover you doing this like that. Stay on dry land.” I’d become a professional risk taker and had no idea that I was doing stuff others deemed dangerous.

In the meantime, the situation at my hospital job was getting worse. The hospital manager called me in and said my boss in the lab was complaining that my work was shoddy. I broke down and told him the truth: my work was absolutely fine, the issue was that he was sexually harassing me and that I wasn’t interested. The hospital manager was a genuinely lovely man, but he felt his hands were tied. He told me I’d have to go: that it was, in his exact words, easier to hire a new phlebotomist than a scientist.

After a lifetime of having had men walk all over me (in one form or another), something in me shifted that day. The injustice of going through life being treated like “I” didn’t matter was going to end.

I took my case to the Ombudsman. As it turned out, there was no law (at the time) to protect staff in Queensland hospitals from such harassment. Guess what? There is now! Yes, I took a risk. Every time you speak up, and every time you say something is NOT okay, you take a risk.

Somewhere around this time I had started to write more poetry. Before long, I had a small collection which I self-published (HUGE RISK). There was no such thing as social media back then.

 

 

Publishing my own work meant traipsing up and down the city and selling my books to bookshops and newspaper shops. It also meant checking in all the time to see if they were selling, and suggesting better places for them to position my books (oh if only I had that sense of self these days ~ it would make marketing my books so much easier). My poems were deeply personal and autobiographical. If publishing that isn’t risk taking, then I don’t know what is.

 

My work at the newspaper gave me a foot in the world of media, and I shall always be thankful. Before long, I took another risk. I decided to move to New Zealand. I wrote to my old friend, Bluey (who now lived in a cave!), and asked if he’d meet me at the airport.

I stepped off the plane in Auckland. No Bluey. Crap. Next-to-no money on me. Crap. One of the ladies I’d been sitting near on the plane saw me and asked if I was okay. I explained my dilemma, and she took me to her house for a couple of days. Phew. In the meantime, Bluey had finally received my letter. He arranged to come and get me.

So there I was in a new country, no income, no job. But within no time I had a roof over my head (not a cave roof), and got work on an orchard cutting wire. Yes. Cutting wire. BORING. I soon got work picking apples, and then work in a Steiner Boarding School. I was dating a lovely, lovely man, J. Lovely, expect for his ex-wife who wasn’t at all happy that I was on the scene. She made my life hell. Imagine waking up at 3am to see your lover’s ex-wife standing over you. FFS. It was like something out of the movies. To say I was at risk of a nervous breakdown was a bit of an understatement. For my own health and well-being I knew it was time to move on, even though it was going to break my heart. It was at this time I learnt the danger of being in a co-dependent relationship: it’s one where you think if you love hard enough you’ll be able to change the other person. The thing is he simply didn’t have what it takes to put up a boundary and tell his ex that she needed to stay away.

I packed my bags and moved to Tasmania, that gorgeous little island at the bottom of Australia. I managed to pass my time creatively by writing book reviews for the newspaper in Launceston. My heart was aching and I really wanted to see J again. In an act of who-knows-what, I changed my middle and surname by deed poll. My surname was now the same as J’s. (It still makes me laugh. I’d written to tell him and he had opened it during a business meeting and nearly fell off his chair!) After two months, I returned to him only to find (cue: tears) his bloody ex had moved all her stuff into his house.

Air fares aren’t cheap. I could hardly go back to Tassie. What to do? Bluey was heading up the country to Auckland. I asked if I could hitch a ride. About half way up country, we stopped so I could buy the New Zealand Herald. I immediately looked for rooms to rent. As soon as we hit the city, I found a phone box and called. I arranged to go straight there and look at the room. Perfect, I said. I waved Bluey off and knew I had to find a job asap.

One of the things my mother had taught me early on was that sometimes you have to ‘jump off the cliff’ (aka take risks!) and to trust the angels will catch you. Truth be told, I have lived my whole life this way.

The Universe had my back. I quickly secured a job with the New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as their media officer. My primary role was to write a book on the society’s history for their upcoming Diamond Jubilee celebrations. I was already vegetarian, so the care of animals came naturally to me. However, working within that field and seeing the horrendous cruelty that goes on, not just domestically, but within the animal-food industry, absolutely crushed me. I couldn’t bear it. Soon it was no longer enough just to be writing a book. I needed to take action. I was horrified in learning about the plight of hens kept in battery cages, and I headed to war. I was going to put an end to this. With my journalist hat on, I immediately started writing articles left, right and centre about where people’s eggs come from. It’s an uncomfortable subject. People don’t want to know they’re involved in animal cruelty and would rather turn a blind eye and just pay other people to do it for them. Things heated up, and my boss (bless him!) called me into his office. He was shaking in his boots. Five top men from the Egg Board had come. They wanted me sacked. They wanted to sue me. I was causing damage to their industry. If I look back over my whole life, this moment was one that will forever remain a highlight: I felt so powerful. Five old men trying to lord it over me. My response was this: I haven’t written a single word that isn’t true.

Those jumped-up men knew that. They knew they didn’t have a leg to stand on. I will forever be proud of my role in launching the Ban the Battery Cage campaign.

During this one-year contract with the NZRSPCA, I was tasked with taking a VIP (the head of Eurogroup for Animal Welfare) around the country as part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations, culminating in a conference where he was keynote speaker. We hit it off the second we saw each other at the airport. Within half an hour of meeting, we were talking about my job coming to an end, and how much I’d love to work for an animal charity group in the UK called Compassion in World Farming. He said he could organise an interview for me. I couldn’t believe it! True to his word, he put in a word for me.

I left NZ on a one-way ticket (once again, with next to no money ~ ah well, that’s what you get for spending a year working for a charity), with no job or accommodation to go to, just an interview. What sort of person takes such risks? Seriously? Am I just an idiot? Maybe. Or maybe I just really believe in myself and the Universe.

Arrived in freezing England (oh my god, who knew a place could be soooo cold?), and David met me at the airport and drove me to the interview after whisking me off to Brussels for a few days to recover from jetlag. I’d applied to be a media officer for CIWF. I was stunned to find a job offer in my hands by the time I’d left the building. One of the people who worked there mentioned a B&B he stayed at nearby, and checked with the landlady to see if I could stay there. I stayed until my first pay check and was then able to get a studio flat. I’d arrived in November, and with Christmas coming up I was aware that I’d not have any friends or family near me. David asked what I was going to do. I jokingly said how much I’d love to see my old friend Amy who lived in Pennsylvania. Bless! He bought me a ticket to visit her for Christmas. I was so happy. One small detail: The flight left a day before the office closed. My new boss wasn’t having it. I had a choice to make. Have the time of my life and see my best friend, or be a ‘good girl’ and obey the rules. You have no idea how much fun I had in the USA! #risktaker One of my favourite memories in this lifetime was spending that New Year’s Eve in an outdoor hot tub with snowflakes drifting down.

 

I arrived back in the UK with no job to return to, and somehow ended up down in Cornwall. I stayed for a few months managing to get a job wrapping flowers for sale in service stations, and staying with people who were kind enough to put me up. I started to miss New Zealand, and felt drawn to go back. Although my work and passion had led me into animal welfare and rights, I’d been having such a strong pull towards becoming a mother. It all happened after I was woken from a dream where a voice told me I’d write “the beautiful birth book”. I had no idea what it meant, but went into the local New Age bookshop the next day. Two books on waterbirth literally fell off the shelf in front of me. I had no idea the turn my life was about to take.

I managed to get a tax refund and used the money to get a ticket back to New Zealand. I arrived home with about ten dollars. Usual story. No job. No home.

Within hours of landing, a friend offered me a job in a jigsaw puzzle factory (to date, one of the most boring jobs of my life, but I am, of course, thankful that it gave me the chance to get on my feet), and I quickly had shelter. Nothing is by chance, of course, but my new landlady attended a place called Unity: it was a metaphysical church/school. She invited me along. I immediately felt at home amongst the New Thought teachings. Before long, I had a job working there, first as office manager, and then teaching personal-growth workshops. It was at this time that I trained to become a wedding celebrant.

One day, a man came walking through the door and I dropped everything. Where the heck did I know him from? All the women around me were divorced, and were as taken with him as I was. But, he was 19 years older than me. He was hardly going to notice someone like me when he had all those available women his own age. Mind you, I’d thought that about J, and he was 21 years older than me.

Oh how this man made me laugh. He was so funny. But it was more than that. He was different to any other man I’d ever met: there was a depth of kindness and sincerity that I’d never experienced before. It felt as if I’d always known him. I invited him for dinner, and we moved in together the next day. Bit of risk, don’t you think? Next month we’ll celebrate 22 wonderful years together. You could say that was one of the biggest risks of my life.

I was pregnant six weeks later. We, in our culture, often talk of the risks of pregnancy and birth and whether a child will be healthy or not, but how often do we consider the risks involved in sharing our life with an unknown person for possible the next eighteen years. We have no idea of whether we’ll gel with the child we’re bringing into this world. It’s a huge risk having a child.

I was absolutely delighted to be pregnant. I did yoga, aquanatal classes, walked regularly, swam with the dolphins, and made plans for my waterbirth at home. Everyone around me said “you’re so brave having a baby at home”. Given my mum had her last three babies at home, unassisted, it didn’t seem like such a big deal. But, to the world, I was taking a huge risk.

Twenty two months after her beautiful birth, we welcome our second daughter. Six months later, when my husband’s work life changed, we decided to move to Australia in the hope he’d pick up work there in his chosen field of voice over and broadcaster. We were given the wrong immigration advice (although he was a NZ resident, he was a British citizen), and arrived in Oz with two babies and Paul not being allowed to work. Holy crap! We’d sold everything to come to Australia. Risk, risk, risk. I had two breastfeeding little ones, and there was no way I was leaving them to go to work. What to do? Well, honestly, we were on the bones of our bum for six months. Somewhere near Christmas time there was a competition on the radio: Sing a Christmas carol and the winner will have $1000 to spend at the local shopping mall. My darling sang as Pavarotti, and won the competition. The mall had a travel agent. I’d suggested that if we came to England (even though I’d vowed I’d never go back to such a cold country) he’d at least be allowed to work. So, plane tickets bought, and me just scraping through in time with Indefinite Leave to Remain, we arrived in the UK. We’d left 38 beautiful degrees Celsius and arrived to minus 12. I cried. We came with two toddlers, a ventriloquist doll, some suitcases…and £10. If anyone ever tells me again that I don’t take risks, I might just…

Paul’s brother kindly took us in, and within a short time Paul managed to get some work. Within three months we moved to the village we’ve lived in now for 18 years.

You’d think that would be enough risk taking for one life time. By 2002, I had the bright idea to start a magazine on natural parenting. For twelve years I published a subscriber-based magazine. Each issue is a risk. It’s a risk financially, because you NEVER have any guarantee if people will continue subscribing but you are obligated to keep publishing. It’s also a huge risk editorially. Or, at least it was for me. I wanted to adhere to a strict ethos which was all about meeting a child’s biological needs. This is not an easy stance to take. It immediately means you RISK alienating readers as well as advertisers. Financially, the first few years were particularly risky. I was starting from nothing. Although I had journalism experience, I certainly didn’t have design experience (as is evidenced from those early issues). Each magazine was put together in my home, in and around busy family life.

A year after starting, I decided to buy some land. RISK!! Having grown up on 700 acres, I needed to get my hands in the soil and have a sense of freedom. It was a financial risk buying the land as I had to take out a loan. Two loans, actually. What I didn’t know at the time was the huge, and life-changing, risk I was about to take to my health. From that point of view, it turned out to be one of the worst risks of my life.

The land had a right of way which involved going through someone else’s land. It never occurred to me that it would prove to be a problem as I had deeds. But what I didn’t see on paper was the biggest a***hole of a farmer, who made it his mission to make my life hell. He had wanted the land, and most certainly didn’t want a woman with young children up there growing flowers and fruit trees. What started as an absolute joy, going there each day with my girls to grow food, became a living nightmare. Just getting to our land became a risk. He’d tip truckloads of turnips on the track so I couldn’t drive down. He’d padlock the gate. He’d cover it in barbed wire. He’d put a ‘dangerous bull’ sign on the gate. In short, he did everything he could to stop me getting to the land. One day he and his wife barricaded me and the girls in our car, his wife in a vehicle on one side, and he in his tractor behind, and then came up banging on the window and effing and blinding at us. Ah well, at least the five page statement my little girl wrote was enough to have the Crown Prosecution Service bind him over.

Long story short, he took us to court on the grounds of ‘trespassing’. I had been following my right of way deed, going directly from his gate to my gate, but he wanted me to go another route, about two metres to the right, on a steep camber that my car couldn’t manage.

If you’ve ever been involved in a court case, you’ll know the toll it takes on your health. While all this was going on, I was publishing my magazine and homeschooling our two girls, and dealing with major back pain from my old horse-falling-off injury. My stress levels were going through the roof.

Court came and we ended up representing ourselves. By this stage I had severe but undiagnosed adrenal fatigue. I could hardly stand up, and would eventually need about three weeks of bed rest.

I took a risk going to court. A huge one. Financially, but most importantly for me, emotionally. I had literally put down roots on that land: planting hundreds of fruit trees, a hundred blueberry bushes, hundreds of raspberry canes. We had goats, a polytunnel, vegetable beds. This place was my children’s playground.

One thing I was clear about: that rotten farmer was NOT getting my land. I sold it to a friend for WAY less than I’d paid for it. Broke my heart, but at another level I felt grateful that it wouldn’t all be ripped out just to have sheep on it. I trusted that she would treasure the land.

The years between 2003 and 2006 were deeply painful, and the risk I took to my health is one of such damage that I am still paying the price with a frustratingly fragile endocrine system.

Also, around the year 2003 I dislocated my shoulder for the first time after slipping on wet paint. I have never known such excruciating pain. I would go on over the years to dislocate that shoulder more than a dozen times, and the other shoulder about half a dozen times. It got to the point my arms were permanently pinned close to my sides. I was scared to reach up or move them in any way. Every physical movement felt like a risk. And don’t even start me on stepping outside when it’s icy. My huge fear is falling over and risking another dislocation. Women who say childbirth is painful have no freaking idea of what pain is if they’ve not had a shoulder dislocation.

Last Summer, I decided to do the Couch to 5K programme, and in eight or so weeks I learnt to run five kilometres without stopping. Sure, I don’t run fast, but who cares? I don’t. What I do know is that every single time I run, every single time I go to the gym or an aquafit or Pilates class, I am taking a massive f****** risk of putting myself in a situation where I might cause a dislocation. I’m also hypermobile.

 

If I wasn’t a risk taker, I wouldn’t leave my home. Hell, I wouldn’t leave my bed. I wouldn’t exercise. I wouldn’t do anything. But I do take risks. Sure, I have the luxury of being in a marriage that is beautiful, easy and harmonious, and living in a home that feels peaceful, but does that mean I don’t take risks? No. The fact I choose to abstain from alcohol and drugs doesn’t mean I’m not a risk taker. What it means is that I am comfortable and confident in my self and my life choices that I don’t need to anaesthetise myself from life’s harsh reality. I can simply be.

I am self-employed. I have been since 2002. Every single work day of my life is a risk. It’s a risk financially and creatively. I never know where the next celebrant client is coming from, or if they’ll come. It’s the same with my astrology clients. And as for my books: each time I put a book out into the world, I risk rejection. I risk people saying “well that was crap!” Being a writer is an incredibly vulnerable career and not for the weak of character. I write for myself, but if I want to earn a living from my words, then I am risking myself every single day.

It’s true: I love my life. I love my family. I love my home. I love my work. But I got to this place through one thing, and one thing alone: risk.

 

I Create Love

Love. It is essential to human happiness. But where does it come from? How do we grow it in our lives? Why do some people have an abundance of it, while others are deprived?

When I wrote my book, I Create My Day, I chose to include the twelve areas of human experience so that the reader could go about creating a full life based on intention, clarity and desire. Intimate relationships are an important area of human fulfilment. They help us to see ourselves. And they show us where we are ‘asleep’ and where and how we are ‘awake’.

The key to creating more love in your life is to see that it already exists within you. No one can give it to you if you don’t recognise it, and equally, no one can take it away. It is always there, though for many people it is shrouded beneath fear and layers of pain. We are, quite literally, a manifestation of love from the Unlimited Universe. What another human being can do, though, is show you how much love you allow to live within yourself.

To create a love-filled life, it is essential that we can feel what love is because otherwise we will sabotage every relationship we ever walk into. I am so grateful to all the men I’ve loved before because they were stepping stones to a relationship in which I would finally see my full self. What do I mean by that? Every relationship in our life is a mirror. We see our reflection in the face, arms, smile, heartbeat, habits, life views and love of another. When we ‘fall in love’, we are usually falling for an illusion. That is, we ‘hold up high’ what it is we like about the other person. Then reality sets in. Sometimes we don’t like what we see. But, blaming and shaming another is no better than throwing our hairbrush at the mirror because we’re having a bad hair day. It’s not the mirror’s fault! (It’s my dad’s fault for passing on hair with curls in the wrong places! ~ just kidding.) The mirror of relationship shows us who we are. If we don’t like what we see, we can go within and change our behaviour or inner irritant (or we can keep pointing our finger at what we don’t like in that person).

We can give thanks for this crash course in personal growth. But does someone’s annoying behaviour mean we have to lose sight of our true nature: to love? If we’re clear that what we’re seeing isn’t something huge within us, and that we’re ‘vibrating’ on an entirely different level, we might choose to walk away. I’m a firm believer in the saying: we become like the five people we hang out with the most. I’m incredibly choosy about who I spend my precious time with! I simply don’t want to spend my days with people who bitch, moan all the time, are unkind or critical.

I choose to be with people who vibrate at a level which seeks to see all that is beautiful, pleasurable and wonderful about this world. A rich and fulfilling life is one whereby we consciously choose what we want more of in our days. I choose love, beauty, abundance, fun, pleasure, creativity and kindness. How about you? What do you choose? What would you like more of?

If someone we’re intimate with has an annoying behaviour, we can let it irritate us and we may seethe, or we can speak up kindly and express how we feel by said behaviour, or we can rant, rave and shred that person to pieces. Whatever we do, it’s always a choice. The difficulty with the latter behaviour is that is quickly becomes a habit that destroys the heart and soul of an intimate relationship. To truly be close to someone, you need to feel ‘safe’. I’m not talking about ripping off your clothes and having a ‘shag’. Anyone can do that! By true intimacy, I mean baring your heart. Putting your feelings on the table with a purity and vulnerability that means you TRUST the other. That simply doesn’t happen unless you feel safe, and you’re not going to feel safe if someone is ready to shoot you down. Love allows you to feel safe.

Some people are under the false illusion that because a soulmate is someone you have an intense connection with, that can mean you might be inclined to fight all the time. But you love each other, so it’s ok! Not in my world. A soulmate would never tear their partner in half, or be spiteful, nasty, patronising or disinterested.

It’s often said that marriage is hard work. That has not been my experience in almost 22 years (next month) of living together. There are essentially two states of being: love or fear. A marriage which has two people choosing to love openheartedly and consciously, and choosing to do this every single day, is not hard work, and never will be. One which constantly brings fear-based behaviour is going to be hard labour (with no time off for good behaviour!). But you know, it doesn’t have to be like that. Egos cause more damage than a War Lord’s arsenal. Fear comes about in a relationship because we aren’t feeling the love. Where has it gone? Was it there in the first place? Or was it just lust that brought you together? Love doesn’t ‘die’. How can it? All another person can ever do is show you how much love is within you already. They can, by all means, help you to express that.

Love begins and ends with us. The quality, harmony and happiness of our intimate relationships is in direct proportion to our level of self-awareness, self-love, self-care and self-nurture. If we are unable to love and tend to our selves, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, then we have no ‘well’ (or experience) from which to draw on in order to bring such care to another human being.

I often witness people in marriages where they are cruel and destructive (emotional and mental abuse is just as vile and unacceptable as physical abuse/violence), or allow themselves to be treated in this way. We only ever get in life what we tolerate.

Here’s the key: no one has a gun to our head. No one forces us to stay in relationships that don’t bring us to Higher Ground (in this culture, anyway). We choose it. Each day we stay with someone who doesn’t reflect the beauty, love and kindness within us, is a day of our life we’ve thrown away. It’s another day that we say: “It’s okay, I’m not loveable, treat me like shit. It’s okay not to respect me because I don’t respect and value myself.” Quite simply, we get what we put out. What’s in our heart is written on our forehead.

When we love another human being, we ALWAYS want the best for them. We instinctively and lovingly want to raise them up. It wouldn’t occur to us to be unkind or envious of their success or creativity or joy. When we make the choice to share our lives with a significant other, what we’re saying is: you are so important to me that I’m prepared to blend my life with yours, and I will do everything I can to support your dreams while honouring my own.

At the heart of a truly loving and harmonious relationship is: balance, peace, and fairness. In many ways, an intimate relationship is like a plant: it requires care. If you neglect to meet basic requirements, it will wither and die. Relationships, like humans, flourish and grow when given optimal care. It is our nature to reach for the light.

If it doesn’t come naturally to you to put the well-being of your ‘loved one’ first, then it would be worth looking deep within to see which part of you is malnourished (as well as looking at why you stay in the relationship). To create love in our lives, we must BE love. And that inner artesian basin of love with one’s self needs to be continually renewed with life-giving nutrients. Intimate relationships are wonderful learning grounds, and show us exactly how much we value ourselves (or not).

Marriage need not be a prison, but a way of life that is deeply liberating. It can be a place from which we are given a mirror that shows us our full beauty and capacity to love.

Love is a deeply creative force that brings forth life. You can’t bake a cake without ingredients. You can’t grow a relationship of joy, abundance, and kindness if you don’t use love to nourish the soil.

Veronika Robinson is an author and celebrant. She’s been officiating weddings for almost 22 years. www.veronikarobinson.com She absolutely loves being married, and is so grateful to enjoy every second of loving and being loved.

The Life You Want

One of the questions that has been dominant in my mind for a few years has been: “What am I really good at?” Yeah, sure, there are plenty of things I’m good at, but what I really mean is: “What do I excel at?” I’m a classic ‘Jill of All Trades’, and have lots of skills at my disposal, but do I actually have any God-given gifts?

 

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The thing about having various skills is that it doesn’t allow one to master a particular skill when we’re being all “butterfly” about it, skipping here and there to enjoy the next passion. I even toyed (ever so briefly!) with the idea of going to university so I could become an expert in a particular area.

 

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And then something happened: something that changed my perception. It was mid December last year, and as much as I’m not a fan of the British Winter, I do look forward to Christmas. I genuinely love it (my family’s version, not the commercialised one) and was savouring the sweet and gentle crescendo of having my younger daughter come home from uni, and then the three of us travelling to our other daughter and her partner, and scrumptiously gorgeous granddaughter, for some more family time.

 

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I had an overwhelming ‘push’ to go and visit my dear friend. She’d been struggling for a long time with life, love and loss, and was the Queen of “Putting up the Drawbridge” (her words). I tried ignoring the voice telling me to visit her, thinking that if she wanted to be in touch she’d reply to one of my emails or visit or pick up the phone. We’d been friends for 18 years, and she knew that our door was always open to her, day or night, no matter what.

I followed my intuition (rather than ego), and turned up at her door unannounced. It took her a long time to answer. When she finally did, I didn’t recognise her. I cried. Had we passed on the street, I wouldn’t have known it was her. That she was standing in her doorway, was my only clue that it was with her. She was skin and bone, and her skin was shrivelled to that of someone twice her age. Hunched, with more than 50% of her vision gone, I knew there was a LOT of work to do to try and repair her health.

She was ashamed that she’d gotten to that state, and didn’t want to let me in the door. Well, I was hardly going to leave! Damn that bloody drawbridge! Her house reflected her inner and physical state. For someone who dearly loved their home, it was quite shocking to witness.

I spent a few hours with her, and promised I’d return. I then spent a whole day with her: cleaning her house, washing her hair, giving her a little foot massage, and just chit chatting all day long about this and that. The big stuff. The little stuff. I had made a couple of big pots of soup to put in her freezer so she could just take a portion out each day and heat it up. I knew my efforts were a drop in the ocean, but I’m also an optimist and truly believed that with time and love we could get her back on her feet. If I could help her get strongly physically, then we had a better chance of shifting the emotional and mental health. I begged her to come and live with us, but she wanted to stay in her own home.

Despite the grim situation, we even managed to laugh several times. It was a joy to see the light flicker in her eyes. All was not lost! We hugged for the longest time, heart to heart; and we both sobbed. We had eighteen years of friendship under our belt, and knew each other’s deepest secrets.

As I was leaving, I asked: “What can I do for you?” She replied: “Take me to the vet!”

The truth is that had any compassionate person seen an animal in that condition, they would have taken them to be ‘put to sleep’. Pain and misery is uncomfortable to witness if you have any level of empathy.

 

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I drove away with a heavy heart, and the light bulb went flashing on! “Veronika, you are really good at looking after yourself!”

Hell, yeah!

I suppose because I take my level of self-care and nurturing for granted ~ because it is so ingrained in what I do and who I am ~ I had never fully recognised it as one of my greatest gifts (even though, ironically, my friend had mentioned it many times over the years). Between her home and mine, another book was gestating inside me. The seed was planted. I would dedicate it to her, and she could use it as a workbook on self-love. The way my friend and I were mothered in childhood was completely different. My mum was the ultimate role model in self care!

 

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That friend, who had shared many Christmases with us over the years, and joined in family meals, and talked on the phone with me for hours, and went to the movies with me, and helped me plant an orchard, is never going to read that book.

She chose to leave this earthly world at Christmas. Her pain has ended, but I feel mine has only just begun as I try and ‘process’ everything about her life, my life, our differences, and my eternal optimism that the second half of her life could be so much better than the first fifty years, and that she could have joy, pleasure and meet a true soul mate who could be fully there for her. She is never going to walk through my front door again, or sit in the garden with me sipping tea. We’ll never discuss books or philosophy again. Certainly no more shared walks through the woods when the bluebells are in flower. There are no more hugs to be shared.

My grief is raw, deep, harrowing. I can only hope that I emerge as the Wounded Healer, and do for others what I couldn’t do for my dear friend: help them love themselves so much that they thrive in this world. That they recognise that self-love is priceless, and the fuller we are with a high-level of nurture, the more we can give to the world around us.

 

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Last weekend, I posted some pictures on Instagram of what I’d been doing. I’d gone for a run in the lovely countryside around my village. There was a pear and vanilla gluten-free vegan cake on the bench that I’d baked. Snuggled on the sofa by the woodstove, I immersed myself in a fabulous book. When the Sun beckoned me outside, I did my first spot of gardening for the year. I was in a state of joy and peace.

I started receiving messages from people saying things along the lines of: I want your life.

I guess what they were witnessing through my photos was a sense of contentment. And that is (grief aside!), how I feel about my blessed life. I’ve had more than my share of ups and downs over the years, but through it all I have always honoured my fundamental need for pleasure (and every human is born with that need).

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My senses are nourished on an hour-by-hour basis, through beauty, integrity and simplicity: love, flowers, wholesome food, my husband’s gorgeous coffee, music, friendship, water, solitude, lovemaking, nature, hot showers, essential oils, touch, laughter, and so the list goes on. It never occurs to me to deny myself the joy of pleasant scents in my home, or to not take advantage of gorgeous rays of sunshine. Whenever I can, I make time to meet with friends for a cuppa or a walk. I exercise most days of the week, whether that’s walking, running, gym or aquafit. Meals are made from scratch, and with love. I cherish the hours I spend with Mr Sweetheart. The key to my lovely life is that I don’t assume I’m going to be here in a year, though I most definitely plan ahead! I adore my diary!

My joy for life comes from today: here. Right now. And with that, is always the intuitive pull towards what I enjoy. Rainbows on my walls from the sunshine going through the window crystal. Yep. Fresh fruit in various hand-carved wooden or glass bowls. Yep. Flowers here, there, and everywhere. Yep. Beautiful music in the background. Yep. Jasmine essential oil infusing the air. Yep. Woodstove on. Yep. Cuddle with my darling. All day long! Company. Yep. Solitude. Yep. Reading. Yep. Walking. Yep. Time for a run? Yep. An urge to be creative? Yep. Doing work I love. Yep.

 

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Creating the life you want is about listening, and saying yes. It’s what I call the Sacred Yes.

There are times when I’m faced with something I don’t enjoy, like annual accounts or washing the mud off my car because it’s always getting filthy with living rurally. And grief isn’t one of my favourite things, either. But when I’m faced with such things, big or small, I find cushions to bring me comfort. I can do the BORING accounts with coffee in my favourite mug, and a candle burning. I can rest my eyes on beautiful flowers in between inputting figures into a database. Music can soothe my soul while the maths part of my brain is being tortured.

 

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When washing the car, I tell myself I’m getting strong leg muscles each time I squat! I fill the bucket with warm water and a hint of lemongrass oil (for my pleasure, not the car’s!). I let the piano music CD nourish me while I rub that pesky mud off.

And as for grief: if it flows through me, it helps. I give myself permission to hibernate and just be with the tears. I allow myself to snuggle into bed that bit longer, or allow the shower to get that bit hotter so I’m warmed down to my bones. The dawn chorus makes my heart lighter, so I listen for as long as I can before the rest of the day beckons.

Creating a beautiful life doesn’t grant you immunity from the shitty times, but it does offer you the grace to humbly see just how much there is in life to be truly grateful for. Even the hurt offers up beauty, if only we can see it.

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We are humans incarnated on this Earth to experience BEING HUMAN. We have this idea that we do all our growing through pain, but I don’t believe it has to be that way. Why can’t we grow through joy? Love? Passion? Contentment? Satisfaction?

I start and end each day with the affirmation: I am so grateful for my beautiful life. I repeat it in my mind throughout the day, too, whenever I’m not having to think about anything else.

Gratitude is life changing.

My guiding purpose in life, and for the rest of my days (and maybe years, if I’m around that long), is to create as much pleasure, love and beauty as is humanly possible. Like the flowers that grow in my garden, I want to hold my head to the sunshine and sigh with nothing but bliss. To melt into the warmth and light. That’s the life I want. That’s the life I have.

 

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