For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Time Out

I've said it before, writing this blog is inspirational. And educational.
The time has come to walk the talk, to do what I wrote about in my previous posts.
Take time for living.
Focus and prioritize.
Today is Myrna's 12th birthday. A day she's been looking forward to for at least three months, a day we had so many plans for. But somehow it went differently. She has more or less accepted that, she knows what's on our plates at the moment. But I'm not happy about it.
I know when she went down with terrible stomach pains last week it wasn't just because of the usual pre-birthday nerves. It was also because she struggles with big heavy things that maybe I could make lighter for her, without taking her Self away.
So, I'm going to give myself a chance to catch up and make up and focus on the Pink Theme Party she's got organised for next Saturday.
I'm determined to help her make it a Day of Celebration.

Tomorrow we are going to look - for the second time - at another house than the house by the river. It's in the same area, it's a semi-detached with four bedrooms, they'll have pets, and it's available from next week, probably. We are not the only ones interested, so it's exciting - and nerve wrecking. Also, we haven't had a definite yes or no about the first house.
If we say yes to this one, it just might mean we miss out on the house by the river.
If we don't say yes to this one, it might mean we miss out on both.
It seems a simple choice, but it really isn't.
I have spent the last 24 hours more or less withdrawn into myself, trying to determine what to do.
And I realised I was afraid to say yes to this house, because it would mean I'd definitely give up on the house by the river.
But I've weighed all the pro's and con's very carefully and I've come to the conclusion that if I do get the chance to say yes tomorrow, that's what I'll do.

I'll not go into all the details now, because I am just too tired and my body desperately needs a rest from typing, from computer. Also, I want to focus on Myrna's birthday and party, on creating a new home for myself and my family, and on staying sane and healthy. That feels like enough work as it is, really.

I'll blog if there's news to report and who knows I'll need the therapeutical help of blogging before long... but for now the focus will be elsewhere.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time flies like an arrow - Fruit flies like a banana

I like that quote from Groucho Marx. I first saw it in Newcastle Airport, on the wall of the waiting area. Just the right place for it.

Time has always fascinated me. I can remember that even when I was very young I’d be lying in bed, contemplating the strangeness of time.
I remember trying to figure out how it was possible that something that was measured so precisely still felt differently all the time.
Waiting five minutes for the schoolbus in the pouring rain felt like an eternity, but the same five minutes were just not time enough when I had to get ready to go. Five minutes of practising my scales on the piano were endless, as opposed to five minutes of listening to music before having to go to bed. And even at a young age I wondered if time maybe existed in different realities, simultaneous time zones. When, much much later, I read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials I immediately thought that he must have been thinking along the same lines.

This past week has been a good example of the tricks time can play on you.
I can’t believe that it’s been more than a week since my previous blog on here. But I do know it took a lot of patience getting through those seven days waiting for news from the estate agent. So how come I was screaming out for more hours in the day to get my work done in time? When I sign a contract to translate a book the deadline always seems reasonably far away, but somehow the closer I get to that deadline, the faster time seems to go...

When I attended the “Soul in Education Conference” in Findhorn (2000) one of the many valuable lessons I learned that week was from
Satish Kumar. The essence of his message was:
‘When God made time, he made plenty of it.’
I remind myself quite often of these words and I find that just by saying them out loud I am creating breathing space. Also, it is a healthy counterweight for our modern day creed ‘Time is Money’ that has taken control of our lives, of our world. Your success in the world seems to be measured by the amount of things you can cram into a day. Quantity determines quality.

Children learn from a young age to do as much as possible in as little as possible time. Their lives are lead first by their parents’ diaries and later by the school’s schedules. How often would a young person have to listen to the words: “No, there’s no time for that now.” Or “Come on, hurry up.” No wonder that when they get to the age where they think they’re in control of their own time, a lot of them prefer to do absolutely nothing and resent pressure of any kind.

Looking back, I think one of the first things my children taught me was to forget about time and totally be in the moment. When I first held AL in my arms there was just no before or after. No thinking about what or when to do next. Only utter wonderment, utter love.
Through my children I learned to look at the world and at myself in a new way. Well, no, not new. I went back to looking at things through the unspoiled eyes of a young child.
AL must have been about six months old when she was outside in the garden, in her baby chair, her eyes fixed on a spider weaving its web just above her head. Nothing could distract her from it and I didn’t try, but watched with her. And watched her. Saw how she reached out with her hand, but found it was too high for her to touch. More watching. Then she started to make little shrieking sounds. The spider froze momentarily in its web and then continued. She shrieked again, the spider froze again. And so it went on. I am absolutely positive that she was ‘learning’ that her actions caused a reaction with the spider.

What DO children learn from that continuous time pressure? Well, my youngest daughter told me that. In Holland we quite often went to the Open Air Museum and spend the day there. One nice summerday I’d set up the ‘picknick point’ on one of the benches in the Museum’s playground. Myrna, who must have been seven at the time, was quite happily playing in the sand and AL and Owen were in the farm next to the playground, milking a goat. Because we came there nearly every week the children knew their way around and the staff knew the children, so it was all very safe and relaxed.
Then two busloads of children on a schooltrip were literally unloaded near the playground. There were at least sixty children, age 9-10, and six teachers/adults. The teacher in charge gathered the whole lot by the entrance and shouted: “We will be here for twenty minutes! Don’t take any clothes off and keep your shoes on! Don’t go outside the playground! In twenty minutes precisely everybody has to be back here!”
And then they released these children. Turned them loose. Myrna had already come out of the sandpit and was sitting on my lap, watching and listening in total amazement. The adults all sat together on the bench next to ours, smoking, and casting disdainful glances in our direction. They were chatting amongst themselves, not watching their charges at all. And these children were screaming and swearing and pushing each other off the swings and the climbing rack. The language was absolutely appalling, but it fitted their behaviour.
I felt I had to say something about it to Myrna, so I made a remark about how they weren’t really being nice to each other and how awful it was that they didn’t wait their turn, and more disapproving judgments.
Myrna looked at me as if I was the dumbest person on the planet: “Mum! Did you not hear what that teacher said! They have twenty minutes to play. Twenty minutes! Now, if YOU only have twenty minutes in a playground, you wouldn’t want to waste that with waiting, would you?”

Educating the children outside the school system has given us the freedom to do things in our own time, at our own speed. In Holland, when we had the business and quite a few ‘social obligations’, our life was still very full and busy. Moving to Cumbria, England, gave us the chance to start all over again and to step out of the ratrace. In a sense, I think it was literally life-saving, because Ken was suffering from a severe burn-out and looked as if he could have a heart attack at any moment. It has been absolutely amazing and miraculous to feel and observe the good it has done all of us. Time is a healer, that’s for sure.
With no social or time pressure we were also able to experience autonomous learning to the full, and I have watched in absolute awe how much and how well the children - and Ken and I! - have learned. By just living our lives, listening to our own bodies and souls, and by being in tune with the world around us. We have arrived at a point where our diaries are quite full again, but the difference now is, that the diary is there to serve us and not to rule us. We are the centre of our own world again, we live our own lives. Time is a great teacher.

When you take time for living, learning will follow... naturally.

Have a wonderful time!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Ups and Downs

I need to sit down and empty my head into my blog. Writing can be so therapeutical, because it helps me untangle my thoughts and feelings. I need to do the same with myself as what I’ve written on the notice board in the kitchen for the house: De-clutter, Make Space.
Our pace of life has suddenly changed and I am finding it a big challenge not to panic and not to rush into things. To stay in control, but at the same time in balance. To actually allow all those thoughts and feelings and accept that the seemingly opposite ones can exist simultaneously. In my family and even in myself.
Myrna is full of faith, but lacking patience. Owen is on the verge of a depression and tends to withdraw even more than usual. AL is insecure, nervous about what this means to her future. Ken, bless him, is determined that the house by the river is ours, but worries about our financial situation.
And I recognise all of that, and more, in myself.

Over the years I have learned to trust my first impulses.
And my first impulse when I heard that we’d have to leave our house was: Faith. I know we are going to be alright. We are loved and cared for and we deserve abundance.
That first impulse was reflected by instantly empowering responses. So much support and help from all sides. That house with our name on it, calling out to us. Good people, friendly people. Magic all around us. Without any certainties whatsoever I still felt strong.
Power, Faith, Love.
I’ve saturated my heart and soul with it and imbedded it in my Being.
And Gratitude.
I am overflowing with the feeling of being truly Blessed.

At the same time I am as human as can be.
As time goes by I am experiencing doubt and despair. My head is buzzing with all kinds of questions: Is this not just too good to be true? Am I really deserving to have such a beautiful house in such a beautiful spot? What if we can’t afford the rent? O my goodness, what if we can’t get that house, where are we going to end up? It has taken us such a long time to settle here, for the children to find friends and activities they like, what if we have to uproot all that again? What if... What if...
Also, I realise that all this is happening after I made a conscious decision to ‘come out of my hiding hole and connect with the outside world again’. One side of me is recognising that everything around me is now engaging to make that step possible and real, the other side is wondering if it wouldn’t have been better for all of us to just stay holed up. But there’s no going back.

It doesn’t help that my body has sort of decided it will not be helpful with any physical work. My rheumatism is at a new low and a couple of weeks ago I’ve made the big decision to see our doctor and ask if I can get some help in managing the pain. It was good to talk to him. He took new blood samples to check the level of rheumatoid factors and inflammation. Also, he suggested I’d maybe do a little less working, maybe even apply for DLA for myself, to be able to concentrate on the other demands in my life. He is and always had been very supportive of our home education and appreciates the efforts we put into it. I realise that having him for a doctor is one of the many things to be grateful for.

I suppose the biggest challenge for me personally now is, not to go into fighting mode. And while I’m typing this down I realise that that’s exactly what the past four years have been about. About discovering just how much you can ‘achieve’ and ‘learn’ by just staying in the flow. The peaceful space that surrounds us here has helped us discover the peaceful space within ourselves. And from that inner peace we were able to find our inner strength. And now, from that inner peace and strength, we’ll be able to find our way in the outer world. Without having to fight, without having to go against what we feel is best for us.

The words my dear sister gave me a couple of days ago are becoming more meaningful with the minute. I have contemplated them, meditated on them and they are now the mantra of my heart and soul.


The first two lines were not too hard to understand and integrate. Although I obviously constantly need to repeat them to myself. But I’d already made the picture of the ‘new’ house the background on my desktop and I was waking up in the mornings thinking I was already there.
Trust the process is, to me, all about allowing everything that’s going through my mind to do just that. Trusting that things are happening to make sure that the very best thing for us will come out eventually. And even trusting myself to make the right choices at the right time.
But doing nothing, that to me seemed quite impossible. Would I have to sit still and just wait and see what happened? I am such a strong believer in taking responsibility for your own life. Also, I am a control freak. How can I do nothing?
But I now realise that ‘Do Nothing’ should be seen in the Buddhist way. I shouldn’t do anything that blocks the vision. I shouldn’t do anything that interferes with the process. I think my task now is to tune myself completely into the vision and the process and do absolutely nothing that ‘feels’ unnatural, forced, out of the flow.
I need to stay in touch with that inner strength and peace, that allowed us to grow towards where we are now. I need to stay in the natural flow of that.
Of course I can do things. I can make sure that I know all there is to know about our right to stay in this house until we’ve got a suitable new place. I can do everything within my natural power to ensure a stable financial situation, which might include going for that DLA.
I can arrange to see the owners of the house by the river and make sure they know how wonderful it would be to have us as tenants.
I can start de-cluttering this house, do more clearing out, make sure that the children are involved in a positive way without having to miss out too much on their usual routines and activities.
I can finish the book I’m translating as soon as possible, so that we’ll have a bit more of the much needed money...
There’s so much I can actually do, and still do nothing.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Visualising the future

Today Ken took Owen to see 'the house' while Myrna was having French lessons in Penrith. With just the two of them Owen could take it in at his own speed, in his own way. He hasn't said much about it yet, but neither has he said he doesn't want to live there. In the course of the next few days his comments will come out.
While there, Ken took some photo's (apologies for the bit of camera strap showing on some of them). It helps to visualise ourselves in there. We've spoken to JC and she's taken note of everything we've said and offered. Now we're going to need a lot of Patience. And again, Faith.

This is what you see after driving over the single track for half a mile. The outbuildings on the left are in use by a farmer, and wouldn't be included for us.

Doesn't Old Faithful just belong there? This is the house, with the two smaller outbuildings that are probably going to be included. Would be good to have, for bicycles, garden tools, bits of wood and all these things that really shouldn't live in a house...

A view of the house from the - metal and concrete and very shaky - bridge over the Petteril. With the blossoming trees!!

The back of the house. It looks a bit messy, maybe, but notice the gorgeous Gothic style window, that's even more beautiful from the inside. And look at that garden that goes right around the house... plenty space for dogs, trampoline, polytunnel, greenhouses...

The sagging wall on the riverside...

And this is the view of the house when you follow the track further up hill. Not bad, hey?