Thursday, 17 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
I've spent this evening singing Christmas carols for charity with the Roundhill Choir, the neighbourhood of a friend I'm staying with. It's another example of the way I've changed since becoming a mother.
Monday, 23 November 2009
Saturday, 26 September 2009
This poem emerged out of a homework exercise for my mothers' writing group, which was to write from all five senses about a scene or place you haven't been to before. I cheated a little, because I wrote about a festival I attended last year too, and about fire dancing, which I've often seen - but I certainly got in contact with my senses in a way I hadn't before. Here it is:
The Fire Dancers
Their ropey muscles entwine with man’s oldest force of nature:
Dancing their fear out
Under the empty smell of stars
We, watching, taste the burning oil on the air,
Hear the crack and whir as chains spin,
Their hard metal a safe distance from my
Boy’s soft yielding skin.
The wine fills my pores as my eyes trace the
Fire dancers’ fluid motions,
Hear the swell and hush of voices
And the expectant
Punctuated by a baby’s cry.
Feedback welcome! And now for a little update. J is doing well in nursery so far - his settling in sessions and the first two proper sessions have been absolutely fine, with no tears at all. And apparently he didn't even ask for me until the end of the session at the last one! I'm still looking for another job, and went for an interview on Thursday that seemed to go well, for a company whose ethos I really resonate with...so fingers crossed...I should hear soon. I'm also waiting to hear if I've got an interview for two other jobs, and I'm able to do some work-from-home freelancing for the company I currently work for, to tide me over. So I have hope that things will work out.
My living arrangement plans have changed a few times since I last wrote. The community plan didn't come through for various reasons, but mainly because I decided I didn't want to be the only person with a small child in a house full of childless people. Much as they might love children, everyone wants a little peace at the end of the day (or in the middle of the night, or on a Saturday morning) and I would feel too self-conscious and apologetic if my son was the only cause of disturbance.
I then decided to look for a place on my own, but looking at studio's, more in my budget, was rather disturbing, and one-bedroom flats far too expensive when you factor in agency fees and deposits. So...now I will be staying at friends' houses for two weeks until I move in somewhere in the middle of October. This might be a houseshare with a single father, an acquaintance I've known since I moved to Brighton who is also into yoga and meditation; his daughter, and two others, which feels like something that could work. Plus the house has a garden, always a bonus!But my final decision will wait until I see the house - it's about to be painted and have some repair jobs done on it first.
I was astonished to see that I now have 108 complete typed pages of my novel, when I was splicing bits together last night! Somehow I hadn't realised it was that much. I'm going to get my good friend and fellow writer Lou-Ice to have a look at some of it soon (no, I won't lumber her with the whole thing!) and tell me what she thinks. I finally feel ready to let my 'baby' see the light of day.
I've been reading two fantastic books, 'Broken Open' by Elizabeth Lesser, co-creator of the famous Omega Institute, and 'The Value in the Valley' by Iyanla Vanzant. Both are 'strong women' books about how to tough out difficult times in your life and find the lessons therein. They are powering me up as I continue to face uncertainty and challenges with a steadfastness and patience that I never knew I had. Either motherhood has increased my stamina or my long-term practice of yoga and meditation is bearing fruit in a faith that I actually feel grateful to be able to manifest; grateful for this opportunity of broken dreams and new beginnings to access my warrior heart. Bring it on!
Monday, 31 August 2009
It seems that uncertainty is to be my friend for a little longer. At this point I don't know where I will be working or living in a month's time. Something that probably wouldn't have unduly disturbed me in my pre-motherhood life, but is now requiring a lot of concentration on 'letting go and letting God'.
The company where I started a job just over a week ago, can only offer me a month's contract due to needing someone to work full-time. 'Discrimination', says a little voice in my head - after all, I'm a mother of a pre-schooler, I'm not on an even playing field here - but I'm trying to see it more as a sign that there's somewhere else more suited to me.
So...my search begins again. Exciting things are happening on the living situation front, though: together with a friend, I am looking at creating a 'conscious community' of like-minded people to live together in Brighton or Hove, from October. At the moment fliers are circulating on the web, and soon to be distributed in real life too. I feel positive about finally creating a living environment that reflects my values, and sharing it with people who feel the same about the planet and about spirituality.
A big 'letting go' is coming in the area of childcare arrangements....as with so much about parenting, I've discovered once again the truth of 'never say never'. Never say you won't do something, because you probably will, whether it's shout at your child, give them sweets or...put them in nursery.
After reading Oliver James' Affluenza and Steve Biddulph's Raising Babies: Why Your Love is Best - Should Under 3's Go to Nursery, I was dead set against the idea of J ever going to a group care situation before the age of three. There are lots of reasons which I won't go into here (I've probably discussed it on another post anyway), but basically I'm now finding that a nursery for 4 hours a week is the best way to meet my childcare need. A good friend whose little boy went to nursery at 10 months and has thrived, (to the point where he doesn't want to come home sometimes!), has reassured me a lot, but even so, I feel sad about letting go of one of my 'big ideals' in parenting. J starts his first 'settling in' sessions at a small private nursery next week.
The funny thing is, everything seems to be coming together at the right time. Even two months ago I would never have imagined J being ready for this amount of separation from me, and not being left with people he knew well. He has always been incredibly 'attached'. But just recently, he's taken great strides forward in his 'independence' (I hate using that word in relation to such dependent beings as babies and toddlers, but you know what I mean) and ability to withstand separation. He is genuinely enjoying the company of other children and seeking them out. Just a few days ago I watched him run around the park, with complete confidence, initiating games with children older than him and not looking back to me once. I felt proud - and, yes, a little sad. But more relieved than anything else.
After investigating child-minding options and finding that they're basically the same as a nursery but with less staff, I decided a nursery would provide more safety and peace of mind for me - and having seen the staff from this nursery out and about with children several times, and being impressed with their warm, natural and 'non-hovering' interactions, I decided to try this particular one. My other childcare hours will be taken up by a very kind friend who's doing a 'swop' with me, and by J's dad who has a day off. So...it's not that bad really.
J has, so far, adapted remarkably well to all the changes, but at the moment he has a cold and his need for 'mummy' has come out a bit more. I'm finding an unexpected side-effect of working part-time is that I appreciate my time with him more, and am more able to focus on him when necessary (except when I'm stressed!) We spent a week at a friend' s house and he loved playing with her children, barely noticing that we were outside of our usual environment.
What's been getting me through all of the uncertainty and change is a very simple, yet amazingly effective breathing exercise from Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, which I got from his book 'Be Free Where You Are'. Doing it twice a day, and whenever I feel tense or need a 'pick-me-up', is helping me to stay calm and be in the present moment. I highly recommend it! Prior to that, I was doing a Kundalini Yoga meditation called 'Creating Self Love' daily for a couple of weeks, and I'm now also doing the Buddhist metta bhavana (loving-kindness) meditation - on myself. As a mother, continually giving, I'm finding I need to give some of this energy to myself.
And it's coming out in unexpected ways, with more energy and inspiration for my creativity. My novel has sprung back into my consciousness again this past week, and I've been scribbling away, really enjoying the characters and feeling them come alive. Who knows when I'll ever finish it, but for now it's great to be inspired to write.
Well, I think that's enough from me for now! Next time I hope to update you on the developments with the budding 'conscious community', and on how J does with nursery.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Has it really been two weeks since I last posted? I've been running around like a whirling dervish, applying for jobs and going for interviews. It's been both nerve-wracking and exhilirating. I'm sad at having to let go of my Stay at Home mom role, but necessity calls now that I am officially a single mom. Big transitions all round. I'm doing a trial first day at a new part-time job next week - nothing creative or particularly inspiring, alas, but in a way I like to save my creative energies for my writing and parenting. The main considerations right now are, of course, money, and using as little childcare as possible - so, this audio transcription job having flexible hours appealed to me.
This is a really mind-blowing book - beware! It is all about letting go of control, in favour of authenticity. I think if everyone parented this way, we'd have a hell of a lot less neuroticism and fascism in the world. It's all about treating your child with the same respect you would any adult. Letting go of the notion that you can control any other human being. All you can do is gently guide and show them through your own behaviour, how to treat other people, and help them to deal with their emotions lovingly.
The SALVE formula involves first of all, separating yourself from your child's behaviour and emotions with a silent self-talk. When our child does something, an automatic tape starts to play in our head: for example 'He is naughty. He shouldn't do that. If I don't stop it, he'll be an out of control brat' - sound familiar? When you can work through that in your own head, realise that it is only old beliefs and not 'the truth' in this moment, you are able to resist reacting automatically, and give yourself space to respond authentically and lovingly. You are then able to apply the 'A' of the formula: 'Attention on your child'.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Every month I create a list of writing goals, many of which I end up 'carrying over' to the next month. But at the end of July, I was surprised to see that without thinking about it too much, I've achieved all but three of my nine goals. One of the goals I enjoyed reaching the most, was my first 'reunion' poetry performance in a long while, with the Writing Sisters Collective at the Brighton Poetry Society evening. Not too bad, considering the amount of personal upheaval in my life at the moment.
Yes, I am going through big changes in my domestic situation, which I don't yet feel ready to write about on here. But an unexpected direction in my writing this month has been starting a new children's story, called 'Petra the Pixie'.
I wrote a children's book called 'Journey Through The Elements' a few years ago, inspired by walking through a beautiful woods near Kirstenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa. I literally 'spoke the story aloud' to myself as I walked, and then came home and wrote it down. It took a couple of years to finish, and then a while later I developed an alternative, much shorter version for younger readers called 'The Lonely Oak'. One of my incomplete goals for July was to rework this story. However, I've been inspired by Ruby and the Star, a beautiful story written by one of the moms at my mothers' writing group, and am now thinking about different directions that I could go in trying to reach an audience with 'The Lonely Oak'. Right now I'm looking for an illustrator - any takers?
'Petra the Pixie' was birthed out of a writing exercise, adapted from one by Julia Cameron (author of 'The Artist's Way' and 'The Right to Write' among other amazing books): Imagine you're sitting against a tree. A storyteller is sitting on the other side - what do they look like? What kind of story is he or she going to tell you? And...you've guessed it...simply write the story.
In fact I started writing the story during one of J's naps, sitting against - yes, a tree - in Hove Park, after attending an NCT summer picnic. It's about faery dust and the wishes of children, and it's a lovely bit of escapism from the rather raw reality of my life at the moment.
In trawling the web for writing exercises for my group, I've come across some lovely work by others. I'll leave you with these questions from The Writing Nag, a rather useful blog I discovered recently. It's about how to fine-tune your creativity by getting blocks out the way; becoming more organised and just getting on with it (never my strong point).
1. What one thing could you do this week to feel more organized? feel less stressed? help your finances?
2. What have you been procrastinating? Why? Can you schedule this task or ask for help in getting it done?
3. What are you missing in your creative life?
4. When I think about ____________________, I feel overwhelmed.
5. I'd like to call/email/write _________________.
6. If I was my boss, I would have fired myself for _____________.
7. One habit that I could change that would positively impact my writing (or whatever form of creativity is your bag) goals is __________.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Inspiration seems to be the theme of the past week. At my Breastfeeding Counselling Course tutorial yesterday, we were asked to share with each other what is currently inspiring us about breastfeeding. What came up were people, and for me, as s chronic 'book worm', books. But I've also been thinking about what inspires me generally, as a writer and human being.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
I'm often amazed by the effect of uplifting company on my mood. Yesterday I was feeling a bit down and bored with the whole Stay-at-Home Mom routine. Morning time felt like wading through quicksand as I tried to eat my breakfast, read to J, and deal with his frustration when he couldn't get Eeyore to fit on top of the microwave.
Meeting up with a good friend and fellow mother later that afternoon, in the lovely Royal Pavilion Gardens, I caught some unexpected sunshine - both in the sky and in my mood. The key, for me, is honesty. I've met with fellow mom friends where that plain-speaking connection was absent, and gone away feeling even more alone. Susan Maushart's book The Mask of Motherhood discusses the phenomenon of mothers pretending everything is OK to each other, and therefore robbing themselves of the true support they could offer each other.
I'm not having any truck with that anymore. The ambivalence of motherhood, as well as tips and tricks on how to handle toddler tantrums, are the bread and butter of my conversations with my peers. Being a stay-at-home mom but feeling guilty for wishing you could get away sometimes. Or being a work-ouside-the-home mom and feeling guilty for being away so much.
One of the less-talked about things my friend and I discussed was the successive 'stages' of motherhood. How, now that we've got past the first year (and I'm nearly done with the second), it's hard to look back to that symbiotic, all-consuming early motherhood stage. Like once you are a teenager, you dissociate yourself from the things of childhood, not wanting to be reminded of that painful dependence.
Similarly, I find I'm gravitating more towards mothers of older children, those my son's age or older. Those who can show me the progression a little further down the line, and who are not still completely wrapped up in the newborn stage, where you live, eat, breathe and sleep baby. I'm also starting to do things such as plan poetry gigs, like my upcoming ones with my Writing Sisters Collective at Brighton Poetry Society on the 27th July, and the Out of The Ordinary Festival in September. You can listen to some of my performance poetry on my My Space page.
There's absolutely nothing wrong with the 'submersion' stage, and it's entirely appropriate at that stage. I was like that too. But now I'm starting to spread my wings and take moves towards re-establishing my own life. Today I visited the Brighton Buddhist Centre, had a chat about their programme of study and meditation and sat in their shrine room in much-needed silence; sat on the seafront and meditated looking at the sea; read a short story; went to the library; and now I'm procrastinating before getting down to some work on my short stories! All of these things rejuvenate me and bring me back to a sense of who I am, in parallel to J's increasing independence.
(Image courtesy of Brighton Buddhist Centre website)
Friday, 10 July 2009
Do you ever wake up with a thread of a thought on your mind, and then lose it as soon as you get out of bed? Or do you have dreams that stick with you throughout the day, even though they seem so removed from your everyday life? These 'first thoughts', or dream thoughts, can prove very fruitful in the creative process.
The theme of my Mothers' Writing Group homework from last week, was 'Following the Golden String'. I got the idea from Jacaranda Press, and basically it involves writing down your first thought(s) on waking, then later in the day sitting down and doing some free writing, stream of consciousness style, emerging out of that word or phrase.
Frequently my first thought on waking is merely an incoherent 'Aargh', as I wonder how I can possibly get some more sleep, and my toddler, J, is climbing all over me. So after a few days of being unable to recall a first thought, I decided to write about a strange dream I had instead. Often I remember my dreams quite vividly, and in the past have kept dream journals.
So here is my dream poem, followed by another poem I write quite 'on the spot', while sitting in the beautiful Woodvale Cemetery, where I often do my writing.
When I got off the plane,
I didn’t recognise the place.
But I knew, somehow, it was
I could travel with an eye,
Of motels & striplights & cowboy rodeo –
Things I don’t know, but could imagine,
Mainly from books.
But I’m thinking about Ralph Waldo Emerson
And Walt Whitman and TS Eliot’s
‘The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock’
And I think what they all had in common
The emptiness and openness of the land.
I walk, and my steps are as big as this place,
As big as the moon,
And it’s limitless what I can do.
©Morgan Nichols, July 2009.
Like a chief inspector
Eyes appraise me
White butterfly darts across
- he’s gone
©Morgan Nichols, July 2009.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Being able to sit down and focus on something is so wonderful for me. When G and J returned from the park and the shops, I felt ready to take up the mantle of mother again, quite willingly.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
We're in the middle of a heatwave! Funnily enough people seem to expect me to handle it well because of my South African roots, but after five years of living on this island, I've lost all ability to tolerate heat. In fact, the weather has brought home to me (as if I needed reminding) just how different life is once you're a mom.
I write because I am alive
I write to calm the inner fiery girl who wants it all,
now. I write because it’s the first thing I loved:
holding a pen, letting it drift over the page,
waking up these people who never existed
I write because I cannot draw.
I write to clear out the old
To make way for the new
I write because I don’t want to be a boring mom
and talk about hovering.
I write because my home is on the page
I write because the words were born in me,
no visceral experience can
replace the feeling of a word
cutting right through to my core
I write because I’m 29 and I don’t have time to play around anymore.
I write to sift through my pain and bring it into the light
and see that it gleams like crystal.
I write because I could never catch a ball
or ride a bike or kiss a boy or be wanted
when I was thirteen.
I write because I can reach your mind and know my own.
I write because it saves my life.
I write because I am alive.
And I write because acid trips are
not enough, sex is not enough,
a warm day on a blanket on the grass is
not enough. I am enough
in the moment I write.
Monday, 8 June 2009
dotting the green and sometimes
stealing children's food -
but now they are like statues,
one preening with his scalloped yellow beak
another with a grey beak,
this is where he belongs,
He eyes me but I have no food.
In the distance the screech and whir
of the children's playground
and the descending circles of muck
on the pond.
the seagull walks off,
unimpressed, and I remember coming
here when Jude was too young to run
and experienced the green and the seagull
and the pond through his passive senses only
and how my loneliness has dimmed since then
now that he accompanies me
in speech as well as body,
and seems to say he loves me
when he looks up at me,
breast in mouth,
and says 'baby'.
Saturday, 6 June 2009
A year ago I ran a couple of writing workshops for mothers, working around themes of motherhood. My intention to start an ongoing group for moms has now finally flourished, and the first group meeting took place yesterday at my house. There were three of us and we hope more will join us soon...although space is limited due to the little ones! We used colours in the room to jump-start a writing exercise, and explored the topic 'I am/I am not', which I've often used myself, as inspired by one of my creative writing guru's, Natalie Goldberg.
It felt good to be part of a living, evolving writing space again, as it's been so long since I attended the Poets Cornered group in Hove, which had been my writing inspiration and support for 3 years. I like the fact that we're all women, and all mothers, as this creates a sense of community and unity, and an appreciation of the issues we all face. Of course it's challenging trying to write amongst the noise and movement of babies and toddlers, but I hope that we can forge our way through.
For now my main writing project is my short story collection, - I say 'main' tentatively, since it is receiving far less time and attention than I'd like - which I began during the First Steps in Fiction course I did a few months ago. Its theme being motherhood, I do sometimes long to escape the very topic and do something completely different. Like return to my sprawling novel about witches, druids and forests...but somehow the huge head space I need to do that work is not there. If it's snatched moments I get, then short stories are more doable for me right now, although it's a form that I'm still learning. I'm writing an article a week on complementary therapies for a website called NHS247, due to be re-launched in July. I'm aching to write poetry again, especially after digging out my old copies of 'Mslexia' (magazine for women writers) and reading some of the prize-winning poets in there. Reading a 2004 interview with poet and novelist Anne Michaels inspired me: mother of two small children, she apparently wrote in the wee hours of the morning, every night - dedication or what!
Unfortunately, I am far less dedicated to my writing, and I do need sleep. Especially as J continues to wake in a similar pattern to a newborn. His talking has come on a long way; his development really spiked while we were in South Africa and everyone saw a big difference on our return. He's now saying short simple sentences like 'Look, there ball' and 'Ball box in', 'helping' with the gardening, and walking around the streets of Brighton pointing at, and naming, absolutely everything.
My yoga teaching has evolved into doing one-to-one sessions rather than classes, which feels right for now. I've been hard at work getting the word out, doing yet more fliers, etc etc. As ever, time for my own practice is scanty, but I'm getting a lot out of meeting with my Kundalini Yoga sangat fortnightly. J now says 'yog, yog' when he sees my mat, and 'joins in' by copying the exercises - he's particularly proficient at spinal twists and life nerve stretch!
My Breastfeeding Counsellor Training, begun in March, is now taking on more speed as I have drafted my first two essays and been busy 'interviewing' mothers at the Hanover Breastfeeding Drop-in about their experiences. I'm very excited and motivated about this path, and find my voluntary work at the Drop-In so worthwhile and moving. To talk to a mother who is struggling to breastfeed and full of the emotion of that, and be able to move with her through the pain and somehow help to contain it, is one of the most fulfilling and inspiring things I have done.
Thursday, 5 March 2009
At 17 months J is now saying more new words than I can count, able to conduct rudimentary 'conversations', and has an ever-increasing capacity to make his needs and wants known. He has been positively obsessed with 'cook-cook' for months now, not only in our cooking, but doing his own pretend preparation of meals, improvising with whatever is available (but usually insisting on having real pots and pans). I feel more confident as a mother and am enjoying it a lot more, though as always there are exasperating and exhausting moments. I'm also just recovering from a bout of mastitis, which, fortunately, is the first time I've experienced any sort of breastfeeding problem - but this left me wiped out for a good few days.
I've been touched by the comments people have left on my blog after reading my article in Juno magazine about surrendering to motherhood. It's wonderful to hear that other mothers and mother-writers feel the same as I do about motherhood as a spiritual journey.
I recently read Buddhism for Mothers which takes some of these ideas further, and gives us real illumination on how to live in a more peaceful, centred way as a mother. One of the most useful concepts in this book was how to witness the many different passing moods and emotions of parenting, without getting caught up in them and giving them too much power. My meditation practice is always an effort to develop this ability, but I've been inspired by this practice to make all my mothering acts a moving, living meditation, and indeed my whole life.
The last few months have seen more emphasis on the non-fiction side of my writing career. I've been continuing to write for Suite 101 and seen a gradual increase in traffic to my articles; writing an almost daily, paid blog; and doing all the research that goes with those endeavours.
My computer breaking down a couple of weeks ago, however, has facilitated a shift in focus back to my fiction. As soon as I had to step off the treadmill of real and self-imposed deadlines, I realised that fiction is really what my writing soul yearns for, and that I need to give it some space to flourish. The 10-week course I'm doing, 'First Steps in Fiction', has given me impetus to write every week, and to start a short story collection, and I wrote a couple of exactly-70-word paragraphs for Paragraph Planet which are both appearing on the site. and now that I have to fall back on mostly handwritten work, I'm able to slow down and allow ideas to percolate. It's good to be back in a more creative writing mood. It's all very well being 'productive' all the time, but then I can start to forget why I am a writer in the first place.
Inspired by Paulo Coelho's The Witch of Portobello, a fantastic book a friend gave me for my birthday (my 29th) on 22nd February, I have started to think about my 'witch' novel again - which I'd put on the 'back burner' since last year. The ideas Coelho explores are very similar to what I intend in my novel, and his book helped me to realise that there is a way of expressing these concepts - of the power of nature, the Goddess, the feminine energy - through story. Coelho has a disarmingly simple way of conveying the most complex ideas, and a very unique writing style. I also felt moved by his book's message of living one's truth, regardless of how it may inconvenience those around you.
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