Finding Belonging in the Space between Worlds


It’s 4am. Jet lag has once again insisted that I wake according to a time that is not in alignment with my current location. Sleep-wise, I am between worlds – hovering somewhere above the Atlantic, belonging neither in London’s wintery grey, nor California’s sunshiney morning.

Newly an ex-pat, am I now destined to live in that land between worlds? Not quite belonging in the country and culture I was born into, nor the one I have mysteriously found myself gravitating into?

And what even is it to belong?

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“Soul Dates”: when it’s time to ditch To-do Lists and find a new devotion to Self

Soul Date on the cliffsFriday morning, I wake, put on the kettle, and feel my ever increasing To-do list banging at my temples. Recently relocated, I feel I will never get on top of all that needs to be done to have even a modicum of stability in this new life I have led my daughters and self into.

My head demands I address the list. My soul quietly asks otherwise.

The head might have won; it so often does, always the louder, older brother deafening out the gentler tones of a wisdom with nothing to prove. But I recently made a promise – to myself and a roomful of students: Find my No’s and remember that it doesn’t all need to happen now. And, so I nervously turn my back on the To-do List’s shouts, head to my car not my laptop, and drive off feeling like a kid playing hooky.

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The Deceit of Doing it Alone

Last night there was an hour when I thought I would need to take my eldest daughter into Accident and Emergency. And, beyond the panic of this temporary health emergency, now abated, I met a truth inside of me that I have long fought to deny.

I realise that my life mantra is based on self-sufficiency. I’ve single-mothered for 7 years, since my daughters were two and four. I’ve learnt to do every piece of life alone, taken pride in my resilience. I developed methods of carrying both girls, heavy with sleep, in from the car after long days out. I learned to erect Ikea furniture, mend washing machines, mow the lawn. I found ways to do long distance flights with two small children in tow. I made peace with broken nights of sleep; and found that even though nothing feels so lonely as returning to an empty bed after clearing up one’s child’s vomit in the early hours of the morning, even that I could do. And, all the while, I thought I was building up an inner strength that would mean I could do it all for my girls.

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What scares me now…

What scares me now…

Peaceful after two weeks on retreat, I sit in a familiar coffee shop, and feel a stirring of fear in my belly at the prospect of flying back to London. Returning to a place and life that so often hi-jacks my serenity with its tyranny of to-do lists and goals not yet accomplished.

Will I forever sit in this unanswered question of how to sustain my retreat-self tranquillity and do it all with joy and ease? I fear those tight layers of restriction that shackle themselves so subtly onto me when my face is turned against them. I fear that once again I will lose myself so deeply in the doing I will not wake again until my next Californian summer.

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