Many of you are at home right now, alone or with some family members. But have you begun the process of ‘coming home?’
Part 1: Arriving Home
I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write this post, mainly for logistical reasons of being on the road with no wifi. But here I am, sitting in the morning sun, writing this post, with a roof over my head, food in my belly and a stable internet connection. For those of you that don’t know, I have been travelling in Western Europe with my family in a campervan for the last 8 months. We may have had a bit of a headstart on the isolation front, after spending a rainy winter in Northern Portugal, house sitting and taking care of two ponies and a cat. It was an inspiringly remarkable time, albeit emotionally turbulent. We left our house-sit around Valentine’s day to head south, but our camper had other ideas and broke down along the motorway (see video below for the ‘momentous moment’!) What ensued was 3 weeks without our van and another somewhat isolated month in the Coimbra region.
We stayed in the stunning Portuguese countryside, with access to a car for groceries, but apart from a couple of days out, we pretty much stayed around our space, a room which became our bedroom, living room, playroom, dining room, and office!
We went for long walks in the nearby forest and had conversations in the courtyard with the gentle couple who owned the place.
After 3 weeks of back and forth to the garage with our van, which turned out to have electrical issues rather than mechanical ones, we were finally able to get back on the road. And here is the first thing we did. It is Thursday the 12th of March, on Quiaios beach, west of Coimbra.
We splashed, we played, we laughed, we ran. We stretched out our bubble-wrapped bodies (with lots of audible popping!) It felt incredible to have an expanse of open space in front of us. We all breathed multiple sighs of relief to have our little home on wheels back.
The very next morning Joel had a call from his dad in Switzerland to say the situation in relation to the virus was getting serious and that if we wanted to get back to Switzerland, we needed to move quickly. So we started packing immediately and we left last Friday evening (13th March) at 5 pm. The kids slept as we drove until around 10 pm and spent our first night in a little village called Castelo Mendo close by the Spanish border. It was too late to set up beds so we put Ben on cushions on the floor of the van and Chloe, Joel and I slept in the bed. It was cozy, to say the least! We woke up the next morning to birds singing, and a sense of quietude all around. It was stunningly beautiful and despite the fact that we felt a sense of fleeing, I also felt very blessed at that moment.
I breathed it all in, knowing that demanding times were to follow, and off we started, eating our cheese sandwiches from our seats so as not to waste much time. Apart from food, toilet, and petrol breaks, we drove until around 10.30 pm and arrived near Perigueux.
This time I slept on the floor and put the two kids with their daddy in the bed.
Our kids were amazing that day, they laughed and joked and listened to music and sat quietly looking around, reading books and telling stories. Without any screens whatsoever they found amusement in the most simple activities…..spotting yellow cars, porsches, or various farm animals. They are used to staying amused in the van, however, we never drove for so many hours crammed into one day.
The next morning I outstretched my arms to the pretty little river below us and thanked her for giving us a good night’s sleep. It was now Sunday.
It was an important day. It was to be the day we ended our van life adventures, the day we arrived at the country we had decided to settle down in, and the day that same country (Switzerland) might be closing its borders because of the virus. We were out of money, with no home, and no jobs to begin our new chapter. It felt overwhelming to juggle those narratives in my mind. So, I didn’t. Instead, I took each hour that day as it came.
We arrived at the Swiss border. Our dog Pepper has an ongoing health issue which causes him to cough sometimes, and lo and behold, he chose this moment to start hacking away as Joel spoke to the border control police! However, two minutes later and we on our way to the bosom of Joel’s family, and a warm meal was awaiting. It was the best raclette I have ever had.
The next morning we decided it was necessary to split up as 6 people and 2 large dogs in one apartment was going to be tricky, so we are presently in a relative’s chalet in the mountains, and this is where we will stay until the drama is over. Heres the view from the window, it could be worse right?!
I feel incredibly blessed right now.
Sure we have no home of our own and are currently relying on family to keep us going. Sure, there is no certainty about our future, our stability, or our security, but we are not alone. I breathe deep and acknowledge the distress and heartache that humanity is feeling right now. I quote from The Hidden Life of Trees, an extraordinary book I’ve just read and been inspirited by.
“…the most astonishing thing about trees is how social they are. The trees in a forest care for each other, sometimes even going so far as to nourish the stump of a felled tree for centuries after it was cut down by feeding it sugars and other nutrients, and so keeping it alive. Only some stumps are thus nourished. Perhaps they are the parents of the trees that make up the forest of today. A tree’s most important means of staying connected to other trees is a “wood wide web” of soil fungi that connects vegetation in an intimate network that allows the sharing of an enormous amount of information and goods. Scientific research aimed at understanding the astonishing abilities of this partnership between fungi and plants has only just begun. The reason trees share food and communicate is that they need each other. It takes a forest to create a microclimate suitable for tree growth and sustenance. So it’s not surprising that isolated trees have far shorter lives than those living connected together in forests. Perhaps the saddest plants of all are those we have enslaved in our agricultural systems. They seem to have lost the ability to communicate, and, as Wohlleben says, are thus rendered deaf and dumb. “Perhaps farmers can learn from the forests and breed a little more wildness back into their grain and potatoes,” he advocates, “so that they’ll be more talkative in the future.” Peter Wohlleben
❤ Maybe the internet has now become our ‘soil fungi’ and for anyone who is alone right now…..consider that like the trees in a forest, we are all perhaps more connected than we really know.❤
Part 2: Coming Home
Right now there is a steady stream of challenges, activities, and schedules to help people cope with staying at home for the next month. And they are wonderful…. coaches, fitness experts, artists, bloggers, musicians, and actors are all providing entertainment and amusement in the hope that they bring some lightness and togetherness to a separated world.
We have for sure had to temporarily renounce many life liberties for the sake of keeping ourselves and others protected. Simultaneously, many of us have gained so much freedom right now, freedom to be with our children all day, freedom to rekindle our interests and hobbies laid to rest many years ago because of a lack of time, freedom from social commitments, events, engagements, schedules, and deadlines. We have been given this amazing gift of TIME, which may be unfamiliar life terrain for many of us.
The gift of time offers an opportunity for us to ‘come home.’
What does it mean for us to ‘come home’? What does coming home look like? When the virus has run its course, what could change for our planet when its inhabitants have been empowered to ‘come home’. Would it be business as usual, or could we see a shift for the benefit of ourselves and mother earth?
‘Coming home’ is insight into the true nature of who we are, as unique beings full of potential. What is your true nature? Have you ever asked yourself? What or who do you rely on to give meaning to your life? What if we could feel completely fulfilled by simply being rather than doing?
“The outside world can only trigger or block your experience of your true nature. Each time something beautiful takes your breath away, that’s you experiencing yourself. Each time you fall in love with someone, that’s you experiencing yourself. Each time a child’s smile gives you unspeakable joy, that’s you experiencing yourself. Your true nature is beautiful. Life is the art of rediscovering yourself, again and again, in different forms, celebrating, rejoicing, welcoming. You are beautiful. You are life itself.” — Vironika Tugaleva
“A butterfly does not wonder how it can stop being a caterpillar. It simply feels some feeling from within that tells it: isolate yourself in this cocoon and grow within it. It trusts that feeling. When it comes out, it is radiant and beautiful. All the little bug did was follow its nature. You are no different.”— Vironika Tugaleva
Of course, there are things that need doing: most of us, even those isolating at home still have meals to cook and washing to do. But what if we could allow ourselves the freedom to just be for the next thirty days, to just allow ourselves to be carried wherever life brings us. Most people can acknowledge the concept that we are being breathed without any effort on our part, thus what if we could accept that we are in the same way being lived, and there is nothing we need to do, except allowing that notion to sink right down into the pits of our bellies. Sounds simple right! And of course, it is … and it isn’t.
There is this one thing that gets in the way of coming home – our thinking mind.
Our mind is full of narratives about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. As great as all the current online challenges and schedules are; they give us a clear message – that we need to do, do, do and not be (be, be!!). That despite the world shutting down and us having the first time in our lives to just be, that we still need to be productive somehow or we will lose the run of ourselves.
But what if in losing ourselves we might actually find ourselves! We could actually come home to our absolute true authentic selves! And that would be an incredible shift for the whole planet!
So without further ado, I offer you some tips to help you begin the process of coming home, coming home to ourselves. These are insights I have had over the last year of travelling and intensive time alone and with my family. I write these tips as an important reminder to myself, and my thinking mind, and also to help any of you going through intense struggle at this time.
The ‘Just Be’ Challenge
- Today you are going to do nothing (except for the usual cooking, cleaning basics). Well-meaning folk are telling you that this is an opportunity to get X,Y, and Z done. That it is the perfect time to be productive, to set goals, to push yourself. Resist the temptation. Sit quietly, either alone or with your kids. Allow life to move through you. And see what happens. And see what happens then. Repeat……When you let go of your tight grip on how reality needs to look for you, all sorts of magic may happen. And you will go to bed tonight reveling in the fact that you did next to nothing today, and that it was ok.
- Tomorrow your job is to do the exact same thing as today. Allow life to move through you. I know it is excruciatingly hard. But just for the next two days…See what comes up. What you are drawn to. What thoughts are very strong for you right now?Break your cycle of busyness, of doing. Ask yourself: why is it so challenging to not set schedules, to not know how you are going to fill your day and your children’s day? Are you afraid of losing control, or your mind? You are not alone. This is what our mind does! Thoughts come, thoughts go, its all part of the human experience. Your job is to just watch them, to put out the welcome mat for them, knowing that each thought is temporary and fleeting, as caustic as it seems. And remember, as a collective, we are having more of the same thoughts now than ever before! We really are all in the same boat!
The Kids are Alright
For those of us with children who are schooled this is an extra challenging time. I have been unschooling (homeschooling without curriculum) for almost 2 years and my biggest takeaways are:
- Don’t worry about your children. Your children are learning so much by living and doing. Right now the mental health of your children takes precedence to any maths division or reading exercises. It is a taxing time for your children too, so cut them some slack and relax your grip a little. As an unschooling mum, I rely on living and doing as the cornerstone of my children’s education – and I trust that that is enough, as thorny as that can feel sometimes. I ask myself what will be the most important qualities an individual will need to possess in our world in twenty years’ time, and my answer always revolves around – free-thinking, compassion, problem-solving, risk-taking and loving what they do.
- Get the kids moving every day…set up obstacle courses…be creative and get their input. If you don’t have a garden or can’t go out then get music on (or Cosmic Kids yoga on YouTube is fab) Katy Bowman offers a ton of indoor movement ideas here and a ton of outdoor ideas for all age groups here.
- Get them started on something and you will most likely be able to leave them to it. Get out some supplies …art supplies, scraps, fabric bits, glue, scissors. Spend 30 good solid minutes totally present (leave your phone on airplane mode, even better put it out of sight, so your kids know you are really present). Then once they are in their creative flow, you may be free to leave if you wish to do so – but I warn you you may not want to!
- Don’t limit yourself to those ‘Pinterest’ projects that have a clearly defined goal. The best projects are those that start only with supplies and an idea. Allow your kids to brainstorm, hash out ideas together and see the glorious creations of children who are allowed space to be authentically creative, not just following steps to hash out versions of someone else’s creation.
- There’s an abundance of online stuff (even more so now) to get ideas….we are keeping it simple …we do a couple of Science Max videos on YouTube and the author Mo Willems is doing a free half-hour doodle session every day. See what your kids want to do…follow their interests, their lead, their curiosity, get involved. But DON’T overdo it – take this time to allow their creativity to blossom, allow a little bit of boredom. In fact, boredom is required! It is where the most amazing games/ideas/projects can spring from. It is easy to feel inadequate as an unschooling mum…. I hear myself constantly saying “I should be doing more, I should be finding BETTER resources.” I am working on trusting that what I give my kids is enough and they are exactly where they need to be in terms of learning and life.
- Your kids will protest, dislike you, even the big bad ‘hate’ word might come rolling out of their little mouths. Your role as a parent isn’t to suck up to your kids so they will like you. Your role is to hold space for their emotions and offer guidance. So when they plead to you saying they are bored….say ‘how wonderful – when I was young, being bored meant that something really fun and special was about to happen!!!’ Mine used to look at me sideways when I do that, but now they rarely get bored.
- Change your mindset about what is learning for the next month. As an unschooling mum, I see learning coming from the most mundane things such as watching ants collect food or the technique of cracking eggs to make a cake. It is all about building our kid’s attention spans, something that modern-day technology fails to do most of the time. In our house, we love humanising our dog. So we all sit watching Pepper and pretend we are reading his thoughts. We vocalise them into a running commentary and it is always absurdly amusing. For me, it is an important lesson in attention and patience, watching the small details of Peppers’s nose and head movements, because we cannot direct Pepper in the movements, so he might just lie there for a few minutes before giving us anything to work with!
- Allow your house to get messy as hell (or a section of your house at least) to let your kid’s imaginations run wild!!!
- Remember, this is the one moment of your life where you might get to spend more time than ever before with your kids, so enjoy it! Get stuck into the creative process with them and great things will come! You might never want to send them back to school!
- Be very clear with yourself about how much news and social media you can consume, before you start feeling anxious. I take a look at what is going on in the news in the mornings, and once more throughout the day. I have stopped allowing myself to go on social media at night before bed, and it really interferes with a restful sleep for me.
- Be incredibly kind to yourself. If there was a time to practice self-compassion, then this is it! If you have a moment of madness, have it, then let it go. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
- As far as you can maintaining social distancing, do things in your day that make your heart sing. For me, this means meditation, movement, sitting in the garden and taking in the sun, and chatting to friends on zoom or whatsapp.
- Eat as well as you can.
- Sleep as well as you can.
I will leave you all with a quote from Doe Zantamata.
Take care, and come home to yourself XX
“It is only in our darkest hours that we may discover the true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves that can never, ever, be dimmed.” – Doe Zantamata