It had been a really fabulous experience of doing it well; a spectacular venue, delicious food, content to satisfy any thirst, variety (pace, people, music, weather!), emotional connection, creative expression, cognitive challenges, genuine service and heart-felt discussions.
2016 i4 Live Retreat
On the morning of day four of the , I woke, jumped out of bed and threw myself into the morning routines. Then I had 15 minutes to sit and ponder and that beautiful sad song once sung by the character Oliver Twist came floating back to me.
I thought well, love is here, it’s real and present at Hill End, where we’ve been focusing intently on understanding the brain for three days. The heart, the third brain, is one that we can all connect with but can be so troubling for us in our lives.
On 17 January, my gorgeous mother passed from this place and is now reunited with my beloved father. I learned to love because of them. I’ve learned that love is in every person, even if they aren’t behaving well all of the time. I’ve learned that to have a heart, to show you care, is more important than anything else in life.
Most recently, I’ve even learned that judging others for their lack of love is not only unhelpful to me, it is unnecessary, and I won’t be doing that again.
Over the last three days I’ve been thinking about people that I love who have suffered from brain conditions… my mother with vascular dementia, and all of her siblings - one with vascular dementia, another with Alzheimers & Lewey Bodies and the last still living with Parkinson's & dementia. My aunty now struggles with Anterior Lateral Sclerosis and feels very much on the end of a ‘no hope’ diagnosis.
My youngest son has struggled to learn, maintain his self control and present himself in confident ways that will enable him to move into meaningful work; this has been hugely challenging both as a parent and a woman who believes that we can all ‘add value in our workplaces and feel valued for our contributions’.
And, of course, I’ve been thinking about my own life journey and personal identity. Walking closely with my parents over the last six years as their health declined was my privilege and joy, my sadness and the undoing of my gut health – not their fault, I made many wrong choices.
I also lost my singing voice when my father died. He meant so much to me in this life so as my heart broke at his passing it seems my voice cracked at the same time; one of my joys in life was to stand and sing playfully with him ‘Oklahoma, when the wind runs sweeping down the plains’ or any other tune from one of the classical musicals that we shared so often as a family.
When I ask myself, ‘Where is love?’, I don’t have to look too far to know that love is where I am, with whom ever is here. Love for me, is such a gift, present in moments, without assurances of a future or continuation of intensity or reciprocity. Love is, in the end, the x factor.
We all have skills and knowledge, strengths and ‘areas for development’ which may never be developed, particularly if they don’t bring us that much joy! But we all have one heart, one opportunity to share it or withhold it, one chance to dive fully into heart-felt conversations or to shy away from asking something ‘personal’, one point in time to show our vulnerability, to be totally honest, to be me. Yesterday, I chose to take a risk and show up in a new way.
The inspiration to write a few new words to the song 'Where is Love' arrived on Saturday morning without intention… they landed quickly on the page and it felt important enough to share this at some point at the i4 Live.
Not expecting it to be ‘the last thing’, yet, having considered ‘how lovely it would be if we all held hands in that circle’, whilst I stepped up to the challenge of singing in public for the first time, and having imagined how would be encouraged to stand in the centre as I offered ‘thank you for her gifts and grace…as we gather here in this still space…to listen and to learn with great concern for our dear human race’, then hugs for everyone – well, it seemed a good idea at the time…
But alas… an amygdala hijack ensued!
I suddenly realised we were closing and I felt a little anxious in reminding Silvia there was this little thing we talked about (remember, I didn’t imagine it as ‘the last’!)…. Then the call of the chocolate cake and ‘oh my… now I really have to do this thing… and how personal my singing voice was to me and how I’d only just recovered it soon after my mother’s passing.
Then here it was; it felt like the final test of receiving this gift of love from my parents, in their life and in their passing… and I forgot to share any of the story with you because suddenly it was all eyes on me and would my voice actually also work ‘in public’?
It seems it did…
I’m very grateful for the opportunity there to share and now to have explained, in part, what this meant to me and to thank you for listening to what must have seemed quite indulgent!
I go away with a sense of love and generosity, lightness and joy, learning and stretch, hopefulness and happiness.
To have met so many wonderful people, to know that this work is essential for our lives, to be part of a conscious community who want to not only make a difference, but, to be different and be perfectly comfortable in that space – is really pretty cool, don’t you think?