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Away to the Peak District & pause for thought | Part 3

Every since I became a parent I felt grateful; grateful because as a couple we could afford for me to stay at home and be with our children in their early childhood. I have loved it, appreciated it, immersed myself in their world and learned so much from it. On the flip side – I’ve followed my husband’s career – wherever it’s taken us. From England, to New Zealand, from New Zealand to California, USA, and now – who knows? Giving up a paid career, meant saying ‘Yes’ to wherever my husband’s career took us. I lost the right to say, ‘I need to stay here, this is where my work is.’ I have, on the whole, been happy to go where the river has taken me, but this latest journey to live in California, and my recent visit to my birth country, of England, has given me time for reflection.

Peak District

A big part of me would love to return to my home of England. I would love to live in Hampshire, near my parents (and be there for them in their later years), or maybe the Peak District, near my sister. It was a highlight of my short, four-day visit, to travel up to see her. It had been two years since we were last together – when she visited my family and I in Wellington, New Zealand. I was so delighted to finally see her home in the Peak District and catch up with her fantastic partner – who I hadn’t seen in some six years!

My sister at home in the Peak District

We rendezvoused in Bakewell, meeting up for lunch, before driving on to her home in the Peak District. My dear Mum and Dad were with me. They’d stopped the previous night at ‘The Grove’ in Hertfordshire with me – where I’d attended the amazing wedding of an old friend from University days. I was very well looked after (and they kept me so busy that there was little time for me to be anxious about how my caring hubbie was faring back in California – looking after our three daughters). It felt amazing to be reunited with my sister, along with our parents. It was like the old days; just the four of us. I felt so light and energised to be there as a daughter and a sister, without the added responsibility of motherhood.

Wintery weather in Bakewell

We wondered the streets of Bakewell at leisure, without needing to meet the demands of three children in tow. We ate a relaxed lunch and took our time to choose a Bakewell Pie to take back to my sister’s house for pudding.

Bakewell

I have always loved England. I love the history, the landscapes, the people and above all my family. Just recently, with all the crazy floods and storms, they’ve unearthed footprints dating back over 800,000 years – the oldest evidence of humans, outside of Africa! I  love that the UK has the ‘right to roam’. The land, as far as the eye can see, is accessible to the body. Those ancient rights of way are still in place and beg to be explored, in all seasons, just like people have done for hundreds of thousands of years.

I’ve never been a begrudging British expat, wishing away my life in England. I’ve always been partly homesick for it and nostalgic. I never cared a damn about the weather when I was there (apart from January and February – the dark months – I definitely need light – not warmth – but light!). I was brought up to wrap up warm and embrace the elements. To make the most of a sunny day. I fondly remember the feeling of a walk in the cold and returning to my home, or the pub, with cold, pink cheeks, feeling tingling and alive. There is nothing like ‘real weather’ to make a person feel alive! In fact, after six months of living in Southern California – with mostly blue sky and sunshine every day – I was absolutely ecstatic to see clouds, rain, even a flurry of snow on the drive from Bakewell to my sister’s house. I hung out the window of my sister’s car with my camera, trying to capture an approaching snow cloud, loving the feel of my face being chilled by the cold air whizzing past!

Driving through real weather in the Peak District

When we arrived at my sister’s house we snuggled in for a lovely catch up, dinner and a slide show; of my sister’s recent trip to Colorado with her partner, Mike Hutton (who is an incredible outdoor photographer and it was such a delight to see his incredible photographs of Utah, USA). After hearing about their trip we plugged in my Dad’s camera and shared their recent trip to see us and their granddaughters in California. So great to catch up, properly, in person.

My sister, her beloved, and my parents, in her home, in the Peak District

It was such a fantastic evening that I couldn’t sleep that night for thinking. Thinking about how different my life would be if I hadn’t ended up living so far away from my dearest sister, Mum and Dad. I followed the man I’d met at University. I followed his career. I followed him to a beautiful country, New Zealand, that seriously captured my heart.

Looking back, now, it was the classic want of ‘youth’ – for something ‘else’.

So, I married the man I knew, followed his career path, had his children and have, seriously, loved it all. But, I have wondered, over the years,  in those moments of the overwhelming responsibility of parenting, whether it was the right choice: Especially seeing my dear sister, for the first time in two years, with the love of her life, in the home they share, in the Peak District, England.

Peak District

Isn’t this normal? Surely there’s plenty of forty year olds (or nearly forty year olds – yes, it’s THAT year for me) that ask this? I am probably just having one of those ‘mid-life’ moments. There’s too much questioning, analysis and pondering. It’s not at all healthy and, if I’m honest, everything right now in my immediate focus is just fine.

I am lucky to have a husband that’s used to my questioning, analytical nature. I have always been open and honest with him. I do believe that an open relationship, where both partners feel confident to voice everything they think and feel, makes for a lasting relationship. My husband is loving, attentive, caring and wonderful. He is an amazing husband, father and friend. We live life well and do, seriously, have much affection and love for one another. He has walked back and forth, past me, whilst I write this post, and I haven’t felt the need to close the lid on my lap-top. He knows, and trusts, that my ramblings are part of my nature. He lets me be. He loves me, all the same. God, I am a lucky woman! He lets me head out for a run when he knows I need it most. He picks up the phone when I call him. He answers. He’s there. He meets me on the beach, with our youngest. He is always there, whenever he can be, whilst supporting his family in a successful career. He is always there. Writing this post makes me see this all so clearly… and that’s why he lets me write, lets me question, lets me be – open, honest, real.

My husband. My Miss 3. My love.

On that note I shall finish up this questioning post of my own future. I share this, because I can. I have a husband I do deeply love. I am so, so fortunate that he married me knowing I was a looney! He knew I was crazy when we met. He lives with my craziness. We are, together, a unit, and have three crazy, yet wonderful, lively, energetic, inspiring children.

It’s normal to question. It’s normal to wonder, ‘What might have been’. It’s normal to want to stay in touch with people that have touched our lives in the past. We are all living this live, in some kind of ‘oneness’. Let’s be kind to one another. We are never really, ever, ‘grown-up’. We are all just trying to figure out life, the best we can, and let’s be kind to one another and spread the love the best our hearts see fit!

I have a husband who listens, who tries, with all his genuine heart and soul to understand. In the words of the trolls from the latest Disney movie ‘Frozen’, he truly is, ‘a fixer upper’ when it comes to life.

I started writing this post after too many wines, and have since edited it – but the words I’ve left out felt good to write at the time. After those wines I had a good cry and my dear husband hugged me, listened to me, answered my questions, made suggestions that sound right, and understood me. I am so grateful for him. Yes, I have followed him for eleven years. I have given up a career of my own. I have been, above all else, a mother. I have given my heart and soul to my children. I have tried, in all those years, to be supportive, caring, attentive and ‘sexy’ to my husband. I have worked to keep our love and relationship alive. I have had moments of self-doubt and wondered, ‘What if…’, but I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right man.

I love that he ‘let me go’ on a solo trip to the UK. He was amazing, as I knew in my heart he would be, with our three daughters, for the six days and four night’s I was away. It was the first time, in over ten years, I’d been away on my own.

He knew there would be a need for me to process the trip away in my own time, to decompress and put it all in perspective. I love him for his understanding.

Lots of love, Sarah xx (with special thanks to my husband for understanding me and standing by me in all my ramblings!) x

The final part of my trip I’ll write about in due course. The last day we travelled back from the Peak District to Hampshire, enjoying the scenery and finished up with a delightful evening watching ‘Giselle’, the ballet, at a cinema theatre in Camberley, screened live from the Royal Opera House in London.

Read ‘Part 1′ of my trip here: ‘LA to UK for 4 days, sans children. A once in a decade trip!

Read ‘Part 2’ here: An English wedding and a reunion of old friends

A letter to our dear sensory seeker

Our dear sensory seeking eight year old, how we love you so much.

You seek out love, hugs, contact & friendship with such openness; just like your appetite for food is varied and sometimes exotic. You are the one to take the craziest roller coaster ride, seek out thrills and push your body to the limit. You will plunge yourself into a cold pool and climb the highest tree you can find. You prefer speed and would travel around on roller blades everywhere if you could. You are always running, jumping, swinging off bars and dangling upside down. Your mind is always so busy, just like your body. You will talk to anyone you meet and love to engage new people in games.

Your laughter is intense and contagious. When you hurt yourself or feel scared or anxious you are equally intense, dramatic and just as loud as when you’re happy.

You feel everything with extreme depth. Sometimes we urge you to remove yourself from drama, but you are like a moth to the flame. No matter if something will scorch or hurt you, sometimes you cannot resist the sensory experience. Other times your instincts of fight and flight bring you crumbling to a halt. All rational thought can sometimes leave you and hinder you from trying something you’d like to do in your heart.

For a risk taker and thrill seeker you surprise us in your fears of some things that seem so mundane to others. You find structured classes or scheduled events hard to handle, as your spontaneous nature can’t hold emotions to a clock.

We find your company both exhausting and exhilarating; at times frustrating but mostly exciting. There is so much noise and movement around you. Your presence fills every room you walk into. We are constantly surprised, sometimes exasperated. We worry what will become of you, whilst at the same time trying to trust our instincts that all will be fine.

You are living and learning a path very much of your own forging. We are learning alongside of you, every step of the way – sometimes ahead of you; but quite often chasing your crazy tail!

Lots of love Miss 8. You really are an incredible, unique, special, noisy, energetic and vibrant young lady!

Celebrating your eighth Birthday by seeing the film ‘Frozen’, & celebrating with a ‘summer garden tea party’ afterwards, was perfectly befitting.

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You are definitely a girl who is full of passion, with a deep love for her family and sisters and will make a mark on the world around you. You make friends wherever you go and make people feel excited and encouraged to explore the world with heady enthusiasm.

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So, ‘Do you want to build a snowman?!’

Keep living life to the full beautiful. Keep feeling with all your emotions. I suspect you’ll leave the snowman building to your younger sister before long – whilst you take to the steep slopes and spin circles on the ice… But she’ll be catching up with you! And she is so fortunate to have your zest and energy as inspiration in her own life.

Hoping the rest of your ninth year is full of ample sensory excitement and happiness. You’ve done so well adjusting to life in California this year. We shall look forward to celebrating your ninth Birthday back at home in New Zealand.

Lots of love, Mum, Dad, younger sister Miss 3 (nearly 4!) and older sister Miss 10 & a half xxxx

He understands. He loves her. He will stand by her. She loves him.

So many people don’t understand.
They make her feel weak for depending on medication.
It’s not just the medication though – it takes much more than that.
She has a family who understands, who appreciates her, as she is.
She was born with strong sensitivities.
Life, in her youth, was always a see-saw.
Little things would throw her off balance –
a busy scene, crowds, too much noise.
She’d find herself feeling dizzy, tearful, out of control,
needing to retreat, into her shell.
Growing up wasn’t easy, but she had a family who cared.
Even if they didn’t always understand – she knew they wanted to –
That was enough.

The man she’s now married to has known her since then.
He’s loved her through all the see-saws of emotion.
They met when she was just eighteen.
She was a mess, first year at University.
She was escaping, retreating, in a pool of alcohol.
She didn’t realise then, how much she was ‘hiding’,
She was numbing herself to reality.
He was her friend, her constant.
He never took advantage of her precarious state –
but sought out the woman that was underneath.

He waited, patiently, avoiding intoxicated advances,
maintaining the friendship and courting with refrain.
He listened, with a genuine ear, and made her smile –
the best medicine of all.
She spent most of her twenties seeking to find,
the person who was hidden beneath the veneer.
A person that cared, too much at times,
about the world around her and the wrongs she saw.

A fixer, a perfectionist, a troubled soul,
seeking a better way, but confused with reality.
Avoiding conflict and troubled situations,
looking for a path of peace in a twisted world.

Then motherhood came.
She loved living in the moment, seeing the world anew.
Her children, she found, were her biggest teachers.
No time for vanity, or desperate analysis,
only time to ‘be’, in the moment, in a mist of sleep deprived fog.
Moments of clarity, moments of light.
Realisation of when things were not right.
Wishing to be the person she envisaged,
a mother who could lead by example and set the path right.

She sought out help, and help she found.
The light went back on and her senses were lit anew.
She could take the world, in all its shades.
The beauty she would embrace, with awe,
the pain she could take – without desperation and collapse.
She found a balance, without extremes.
Feel, she still could, but without distress.
Beauty and beast, together she could take.
Her path she could walk, with patience and grace.

At times she’d feel so fine she’d stop taking the ‘help’,
she’d feel fine, at first, for a week…
and then, the old horrors would return.
She’d feel overwhelmed with tears and anxiety –
when she needed to be her strongest.
She needed to lead by example, stay calm in a crisis,
her children needed her, she could never surrender.

Now here she is, still seeking answers,
but gaining more wisdom as the years pass by.
Thankful for him, loving her through it all,
understanding her, growing with her, open heart, open mind x