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Today We Grieve, Tomorrow We Rise

Like many of you, today I feel utterly defeated. Despite fighting through the impact of nine years of Tory Austerity, and trying my hardest to use my voice to speak up for those whose lives have been deeply damaged by it, it wasn’t enough. The 2019 General Election was very clearly fought with Brexit first and foremost in many people’s minds, and the rest of the issues and policies got lost amongst the lies, disinformation, and smears. And for those of us who have been desperately crying out for people to see the damage that has been done, and the damage that will undoubtedly increase under a Conservative government with such a large majority, today is a dark day indeed.

Yesterday I wrote a post on social media, asking people to consider kindness and empathy for the other side no matter which way the result went. Because let’s be clear about one thing, our nation is still very much divided. Even though the Conservatives won a 56% share of the seats, they only got 43.6% of the overall vote share. That means that there are more people who voted yesterday who are disappointed with this result than there are those who are happy with it.

Make no mistake, I’d be highlighting this issue even if it were the Labour Party who had received a disproportionate number of seats based on their vote share. This isn’t a new issue, it’s something we’ve been talking about for quite some time now. The First Past The Post system in this country is no longer fit for purpose, and it’s no wonder so many people feel so disillusioned by politics.

But even more challenging is the division and derision that has become part and parcel of politics in this country (and, in fact, several other countries too) over recent years. We’ve always disagreed on policies and priorities, but now it just seems so toxic. Both sides angrily react and buy into the rhetoric that the other side are ignorant, self-righteous, or selfish. And here’s where I have a real issue with today’s political landscape – whilst we are so busy blaming each other, we are failing to hold to account those who actually are to blame. “Divide and Rule” is an idea that has stood the test of time for one very telling reason, it works. Britain has historically been very good at utilising this tactic for its own gain, and today’s result is no exception.

There can be no doubt in anybody’s mind that Brexit has completely divided the country. (Or should I say countries, given that it’s looking increasingly likely that Scotland will push for independence and we may end up with a United Ireland, leaving England and Wales to become just one step short of truly becoming “Little England”). And whilst we have to understand that the EU Referendum was far from the start of this Divide and Rule situation, it was a pivotal point in the saga we seem to currently be playing out. Because whilst we have spent the past couple of years arguing over what Brexit means, what kind of deal is acceptable, and whether it’s still the will of the people, discussion about other issues has been easily dismissed by far too many. And for this point alone, I agree with the idea that we need to “get Brexit done”.

But I suspect that what that means to me is completely different to what it means to the vast majority of people who voted for Boris Johnson’s promise. Whilst I want to move on from the deadlock and figure out a way forward, I do not want to do so in a way that causes more damage to those who have already been so terribly let down by the government over the past nine years. Indeed, the sole reason I want to “get Brexit done” is so that we can focus attention on those who are being failed by our system. I want to give no politician the opportunity to deflect questions about policies other than Brexit. And I want us all to fight for a better future for ourselves, for our families, and for those who have nobody else to fight for them.

Because here’s the thing, the next five years are going to be deeply damaging for so many people. It’s going to hit the most vulnerable the hardest, those who are already on their knees. But it’s going to hit a lot of other people too. I am genuinely terrified of what is going to happen over the next five years, because I know what it is like to have to fight to survive when you fall on hard times and I would never wish that on anybody. I don’t want to see it happen to any of you. But the chances are, it will. At least some of you.

Believe it or not, Tim and I are actually going into these next five years in a much better position than we have been in a very long time (perhaps ever). I am due some inheritance money which is going to lift us out of poverty and provide us with financial stability, and that is the only thing keeping me from completely freaking out right now. But it does nothing to assuage my fear for others. Or my feelings of guilt that I’ll be okay when others will not. Because that is not fair. It’s not fair at all. And it breaks my heart to know that in many ways there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

With such a large majority, the Conservatives will have very little to stand in their way. And some of their policies are really scary. I do not have space in this blog post to go into them in detail, and I’m sure others will have done so in a much better way than I ever could (I shall perhaps pull together a collection of links and share in a later post, if you’d find that helpful). But what I will do in this post is leave you with a message of support and one of hope.

First, the message of support. It is perfectly okay if you need time to step away from it all for a while, to hug your loved ones tight, and to grieve for a loss that feels monumentally huge. The hope that many of us had that we could find a way forward that didn’t sway too far in either direction (left or right) has been destroyed. And the fear for what the future may now bring is massive for some of us. We cannot hope to stand up for and support those in need if we haven’t first allowed ourselves to grieve and regroup.

And finally, a message of hope. There is something we can do. Lots of things, in fact. We can donate to the Food Banks and charities supporting those who have fallen on hard times. We can volunteer to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We can reach out to those who are lonely or scared, offering a listening ear and a friendly smile so that they do not feel so alone. We can signpost people to support they may need but not necessarily know about, because they are just so busy trying to survive.

We can write to our MP and sign petitions and continue to make our voices heard. We can continue to raise awareness of the issues facing our NHS, schools, the elderly, the poor, the disabled, and the oppressed and marginalised. We can stand up against racism, sexism, and homophobia. We can make more eco-friendly choices and demand more options to do so from big businesses. We can teach our children about history and religion and politics and anything else which helps them to become actively engaged individuals, because they are our future. And we can hold out hope that someday, somehow, this will all be a part of our history and we’ll have found a way forward together. Because none of us can do this alone.

 

Prayer Candles

Embracing Uncertainty, Grief, and Vulnerability

I was unsure what to call this post, because there are so many things that are heavy on my heart right now. But I think the title I’ve chosen sums it up rather well. For such a long time I have been desperately fighting the uncertainty over my future, the grief I feel over things beyond my grasp, and the vulnerability that comes with accepting that I am sick and that I can no longer give until I first learn to receive. Resisting all of that has taken its toll, and it’s time I learned to embrace it instead.

I hasten to add that this isn’t a new concept to me – I’ve known I’ve needed to do this for years, but knowing something and actually accepting it are two very different things. Even as my health has deteriorated over the past few years, I have refused to acknowledge just how ill I have become, because doing so felt like giving up. Even up until the very beginning of this year, I was determined to make it all work somehow – I’d go freelance and work from home, I’d schedule in time each day to focus on my well-being, I’d cook healthy meals from scratch, and I’d find a way to do all of this and continue to run two blogs, be active in social media groups, and get more involved in my local community too.

How hard could it really be? I thought. After all, I wasn’t quite as sick as I had been when first signed off work last summer. Several months of trying to rest as much as possible had made a difference, but I needed to get going again to help make ends meet financially, and I didn’t want to be held back by my illness anyway. Unfortunately, with all the determination in the world, there are some things you just cannot change. For me, this is my health. I’m not talking about small changes like eating healthier and getting exercise – of course those make a difference. What I mean is that, if you are chronically ill, sometimes you just have to accept your limitations and find a way to work within them. But that it something I am terrible at!

The past 3 months have practically broken me: I’ve been working with several clients on some pretty big projects; I’ve seen my family struggle with my Nan’s final weeks on this earth; I’ve had multiple conversations with Little Man’s teachers as he has been struggling to settle into the school environment; and I have tried to keep my home running as smoothly as possible throughout all this change, all whilst suffering from multiple viruses on top of my general ill health. And yet despite all of that happening, I still continued to try and do more…

When I look at it like this, I realise how unbalanced my thinking really is. And I understand why I live with this constant knot of anxiety at the pit of my stomach, never knowing when a full-blown panic attack may occur.  Because I haven’t given myself time to breathe, time to sit in the uncertainty of my life and grieve for all that I had once wished for but which can no longer be. And I certainly haven’t allowed myself to be vulnerable, because that fills me with absolute dread – what happens if I do that and it all falls apart?

So, of course, life enabled me to experience that which I feared the most, didn’t it? This week I was faced with “saying no and letting go” to so many things, things that I not only felt I ought to do but which I really wanted to do too. I had filled my week with fun activities – a trip to the Cathedral with a friend, and singing in the choir for the Church Panto. But a stomach bug stopped me in my tracks and made me realise I simply cannot do it anymore, I cannot continue to pretend I am coping when really I’m so close to breaking.

Prayer Candles

I toddled off to the Cathedral with my friend, feeling worse for wear but determined to make it through the week, and ended up spending half of the time in the toilets! I then sat quietly in a little chapel, knowing that I had to cancel my plans but so terrified of letting people down. Thankfully my friend was a wonderful comfort that day, encouraging me to allow myself to be vulnerable for once and not worry so much about other people, and I cancelled attending Bible Study that afternoon and Panto Rehearsal/Performances for the rest of the week. I cried so much when doing it, partly because I hated to let others down, but mostly because of what this signified. In cancelling these plans I was truly beginning to acknowledge how ill I truly am right now.

Which led me to thinking about all the areas in my life that drain the energy I simply do not have to spare. Many of them are things I love and am so passionate about, and it breaks my heart completely to have to put them aside right now. But the alternative is continuing until I break, and having been there just a year ago (and again a couple of years before that) I am desperate not to return to that place any more. This time I want to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, to grieve for all the things I wish were different, and to allow myself to be vulnerable in this space. No more “putting on a brave face” and pretending all is well when it’s not. Wow, that is hard for me to write… and even harder to live!

Which brings me to the point of this blog post, really. I’ve had a good, long (and extremely hard) look at all the things that I have going on in my life and decided that I have to cut back on so much in order to give myself the time, space, and energy to truly begin this healing work. And here’s what I’ve decided:

1. I shall make time every single day to seek out the love of God which I know is helping me through all of this. This will take various forms – sometimes it may be reading a book, sometimes it may be walking in the park, and sometimes it may be sitting in silence.  Whatever form it takes, I want it to become a prominent part of my day, helping me to truly embrace the uncertainty of it all, trusting that I don’t have to have it all figured out!

2. Leading on from this, I shall use The Family Patch as my place to simply write what feels important to me, rather than trying to produce “useful” content. And right now that is likely to be a lot about faith. I know that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so please do feel free to unsubscribe or mute updates from me if you don’t want to read this kind of content. But for those of you who are interested, please do share with me your own thoughts and experiences in the comments, as I’d love to hear from you.

3. Even though it is faith-based, I am taking a break from Spirit Kid Network. I simply cannot devote the time needed right now to build up the kind of content it deserves. There is still content to be found over there from last year, plus my free chakra guide for kids, so I’m not shutting it down completely. I simply need to release the pressure of producing new content on a regular basis on both of my blogs.

4. I am also going to limit my use of social media, particularly Facebook Groups. To be fair I haven’t been using Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest that much lately anyway. But a large chunk of my time gets caught up in Facebook Groups. Most of these are relevant to the work I do at Shortman Media, so it feels a bit risky to step back from some of them, but I really do need to limit my time spent helping others – every short answer I give soon adds up over the length of a week.

The Faith Space

5. That being said, I do want to spend a bit more time in The Faith Space, which is a Facebook Group I set up for those of us who wanted to discuss faith in an open and religiously diverse way. I’m not promising anything in terms of how much I’ll actually do on there, but if you’d like to join us please do request to join the group over on Facebook.

All of this means that the limited time and energy I have outside of what I have to do (freelance work, housework, family life etc) is less likely to be eaten up by multiple different things and more likely to contribute to my overall well-being, by focusing on what is most important to me right now. I am a giver by nature – I want to be there for everyone, encouraging and supporting them, no matter what. But that takes a lot of time and effort, which I simply do not have right now.

So, that’s where I am right now – embracing uncertainty (and trusting in God’s plan for me), grief for all the things I have to let go of right now (including all those big, exciting plans I have), and vulnerability (so that others can offer love and support where I cannot). It’s an emotional place to be, and I have cried more over the past few days than I have in months, maybe even years. But that’s all part of the journey, isn’t it?