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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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The stiff, British upper lip, and that need to be ‘dignified’ during a funeral, may, at last, slowly be giving way to authentic grief. Unexpressed tears become acidic in the organs, and are of no benefit to anyone. Funerals, when done with a personal touch, offer a way to bring family and friends together to share in mourning that is honest and uninhibited.

 

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Template, cookie-cutter style funerals are, bit by bit, becoming a thing of the past as people start to realise that they can create a ceremony which honours their loved one and their beliefs in a way that is true to them. Most funerals last for about 20-30 minutes. It’s no time at all to sum up a person’s life, let alone celebrate it, and yet, in many cases due to the choice of venue, this is what we must do.

Bringing personal, heart-felt ritual to a ceremony is vital if we intend to support the healing side of grief.

A funeral/memorial is a major part of acknowledging that a loved one has died. Gathering with others, we face our grief. A funeral somehow makes the death ‘more real’.

 

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That moment, always so painful, when the curtain closes or the coffin is lowered, confirms what we have been experiencing. Our loved one is gone.

Authentic grief is when mind, body and soul align to understand that our life has changed, and our loved one is no longer here (at least in the sense we understand it, physically).

When we are participants and witnesses in a personalised funeral, we are given space to focus on the loss and start the process of living with the change.

Grieving is a time in which we have to adjust to the change of status, in terms of the relationship we once had with the deceased, to living with memories. One of the beautiful things that can come out of a funeral is the sharing of memories. We each have stories to tell, and when we share these with others, it helps to build a fuller picture of the deceased and how they lived on this earth.

 

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At my father’s funeral, I heard many stories about him that I hold close in my heart. It’s always special to have other people’s insights into a loved one.

 

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As an astrologer, I am interested in Saturn’s recent ingress into the zodiac sign of Sagittarius, for this is the part of us which seeks meaning. This is where we ask the big questions: Why? What is the meaning of this? Why did this happen? What happens after death? Perhaps over the next couple of years, during this transit, more and more of us will be seeking the meaning of life more than we ever have.

I do believe the ‘why’ questions become an important stepping stone for the bereaved.

Having said goodbyes to several people in my life recently, it only serves to reinforce that old calling card of mortality. We are all dying. Some of us sooner than others. Having three friends with major health issues has only amplified this message for me, and the need to enjoy every single day.

Death, dying, saying goodbye. These are as important in life as birth, puberty, graduation, weddings, and so on. If anything, they remind us to hold life as sacred. Being able to grieve authentically, at a funeral and elsewhere, is vital to moving onwards.

When someone we love dies, there can be an inner voice that wants to yell at the world ‘stop! Don’t you know (name) has just died?’ A funeral is one of the few times in our grieving journey when the world, or a small part of it, does stop for a short time…long enough for us to say good bye. Our attention becomes focussed on this dedicated grieving ritual.

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When my father was killed in a car accident almost four years ago, I flew the long-haul flight to Australia. I was looking forward, in amongst the pain, to seeing my mother who I’d not seen for years. Although my parents had been divorced for a long time, I knew she’d be there. After all, she had eight grieving children. The only thing was: she didn’t come to the funeral. Her phone went off the hook. It was only after the funeral that she made contact again. My mother hates funerals. She’s not alone there, of course, but she lost a few siblings in childhood in war-time Germany and spent much of her childhood crying. Grief hurts. There’s no denying that. And, to be honest, even the less vain amongst us don’t want to be seen with red puffy eyes and mucusy noses!

A funeral is a way of not only saying farewell, but of welcoming in those in your community so they can love, support and nourish you. Of course, we can never take away another’s grief. That’s impossible. We can, however, say how sorry we are for the loss. We can bake a cake or make a pot of soup. We can bring flowers. We can offer to do housework or errands. There’s no end to the support we can offer. And perhaps, in losing our loved one, we have moments of gaining more love from elsewhere ~ if we allow ourselves to do so. Our broken, wounded heart needs tending, and it is too easy to close ourselves off to the love that is all around us. No one can ever replace our loved one, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find succour in other types of love and affection.

At a funeral I officiated recently, I overheard one of the mourners say to someone, who she was surprised to see there: “What are you doing here?” (The funeral was quite some distance from where the guest lived). Her reply was simple: “I’m here to support you.”

And that is why we go to funerals. To support each other. To symbolically or literally hold another’s hand and say “I feel your pain.”

 

 

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There is still such a fear and taboo around funerals. The tide is changing, though, and if you ever find yourself at a funeral where it has been personalised and officiated with reverence, you might just come to see how deeply healing and transformative such a ceremony can be.

http://veronikarobinson.com/celebrant/funerals-memorials.shtml

 

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Scorpio is the zodiac sign associated with death, letting go and release.

 

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It’s been interesting for me to see this play out so literally in my life. The girl cat was put down two weeks ago, and today our old car, which has served us well for six years, was sent to the scrap yard. Release. Let go. Goodbye.

 

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It has been a time of decluttering and clearing out. The difference I felt when I walked into my writing room this morning at 6am (after yesterday’s major clean out) was huge. It felt like “I” had been cleansed, not just the room. That’s the power our living space has over us. It becomes a mirror of our internal world. How often do you apologise for your living space when a friend turns up unexpectedly? Do you bless your home or make excuses for it?

It’s funny how ‘stuff’ just creeps up around you and quickly becomes part of the furniture. With the best will in the world, it’s easy for a chair or table to become a dumping ground bills, gym bag, letters and so on.

I always know when I’m a few hours from my period arriving: I can’t tolerate any mess of any description. Even the possessions I love could, at those times, be easily thrown out. My body has a complete need (a desperation, even) to purge everything and anything. My body is expecting the environment to mirror the monthly detox and cleanse.

By nature, I’m instinctively drawn to a Shaker-style simplicity. Quiet, simple, clean, peaceful. This is what my soul craves. This isn’t something easily attained when living in a family situation!

 

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View from my writing room

All around me, the trees are letting go of their leaves. There is no waste, though. They will eventually rot down and become part of Mother Earth. I love the way she recycles everything. Though not a lover of the cold (or being cold), I do adore and celebrate the beauty and majesty of Winter, in particular the bare trees. I love how everything is stripped back to basics.

If you’ve not yet read issue 5 of my online magazine, Starflower Living, I write about grief as a time to withdraw from daily life. Clare Cooper writes about learning to let go. Samantha Parker explores the meaning of soul mates. And, with Halloween tomorrow, you might be interested in the origins of this tradition. It began as a celebration or festival of the wise grandmother. And there’s also a piece on the power of the burning bowl ceremony.
Just a reminder, too: Issue one of Starflower Living is available for free. Visit www.starflowerpress.com

 

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How do we know when it is time to let go? I believe it is when something or someone or a situation no longer feels right or good to us. Letting go is like exhaling. Sometimes we need to take in a rather large amount of air first.

 

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The decision to have our girl cat put down did not come quickly or easily. It was a painful time, but her needs were more important than ours. Like cleaning a room, the change in this home after she’d gone was huge. It wasn’t just because we missed her, but the energy her illness brought to this home was felt throughout. I hadn’t realised just how much until she was no longer here.

Energy is everywhere and in everything. This is why it is so important that we consciously purge negativity from our life on a regular basis. If it isn’t something that comes easily to you, then do use this time of year to release and let go.

 

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At my desk

New Year’s Day is often seen as a time to make resolutions and goals, and yet, this time of year (to my mind) is pretty perfect. The veil between this world and the next is considered to be thin during Samhain/Halloween. It is a time to connect with our ancestresses. As we head into the darkest part of the year (here in the Northern Hemisphere), we can plant seeds of intention into the dark earth, trusting that they will germinate. First, though, we purge. We let go of all we don’t want from our lives, and then fill the vacuum with ‘good’ ideas, intentions, habits, people.

Right, I’m off to completely declutter the kitchen cupboards. And bake some pumpkin brownies!

 

The was the first Autumn leaf of the year to catch my eye

The was the first Autumn leaf of the year to catch my eye

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Riding the storm

I’m about to start putting together issue 5 of Starflower Living (a monthly online magazine).

The themes for this issue run alongside those of the New Moon in Scorpio: soul mates, sexuality, transformation, empowerment, letting go, old baggage, psychology, secrets, depth of character, compulsions, deep emotional connections, ancestors, debt, inheritance, jealousy, abandonment.

Health issues: sexual organs, organs of elimination, menstrual cycle, sexual infections.

The due date for articles, artwork, adverts and photos is tomorrow, October 4th. Please email your submission to me at: office (at) starflowerpress (dot) com or veronikarobinson (at) hotmail (dot) com

Before submitting, please be familiar with our publication.
http://www.starflowerpress.com/living/index.shtml

Love, Veronika xxx

On an Autumnal day in New Zealand in March, 1996, I gave birth to my first child at home in a birth pool by candlelight. Mozart’s music played in the room, and she arrived in this world peacefully. She didn’t cry or fuss, but just looked into our eyes and took in her surroundings.

Half an hour later, it was time to cut the cord (if I knew then what I do now, we’d have had a *lotus birth and not cut the cord). She howled and screamed. It has been said that cutting the cord doesn’t hurt, but she clearly felt ‘something’ as our physical connection was severed.

 

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

 

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For eighteen years, we have shared our lives. At seven this morning, we waved goodbye. That umbilical cord was well and truly cut. And it bloody well hurt me too. She’s on her own now. This part of my mothering journey with her is over.

I’m no longer there to protect her, make sure she eats her greens, warn her off certain boys, and prompt a bedtime to ensure adequate sleep. My job is done.

I look forward to hearing all the stories about university life. But today, I grieve. Today I trust the tears which fall so freely to cleanse old wounds.

I have found it interesting in these past few weeks how differently people respond to pain. Those who have attachment parented their children ~ they understand. They allow me my grief without trying to band aid over it.

And then there are people who are quick to remind me that she’ll be home in ten weeks. It’ll zip by, they say. Maybe. But I doubt it.

If you ever miscarry, someone is bound to say ‘never mind, you can try again’ or ‘it wasn’t meant to be’…rather than just honouring the loss. They mean well, of course, but it doesn’t help.

Yes, Christmas might be just around the corner (at my age it’s always just around the corner!)…but that’s more than 150 meals we won’t be sharing together. More than seventy mornings where I won’t get to see her smile or share a cup of tea.

As a bonded family, every day is a lifetime to savour. So, in some people’s world ten weeks is nothing. This morning, for me, it is a long time away.

I appreciate she’s not going off to war or ill in hospital. She’s a beautiful, healthy young woman with adventures ahead of her ~ but that doesn’t make the cutting of the umbilical cord any less painful.

The eighteen years between giving birth and saying goodbye, now THAT has zipped by.

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If ever there was a zodiac sign to represent personal growth, it’s Scorpio. I am now taking submissions (writing and art/photography) for issue 5 of Starflower Living magazine.

Issue 5 themes for the New Moon in Scorpio (due date, October 4th): soul mates, sexuality, transformation, empowerment, letting go, grief, old baggage, psychology, secrets, depth of character, compulsions, deep emotional connections, ancestors, debt, inheritance, jealousy, abandonment. Health: sexual organs, organs of elimination, menstrual cycle, sexual infections. email: office at starflowerpress dot com