Some months ago a younger friend had a dream that she was at a small gathering in my house. In dreams the house may look a bit different, but you still know whose house it is: this one was a bit grander, but it was definitely mine. There were various other people there – I can’t remember all the details now – but early on in the proceedings I disappeared upstairs and Laura was left in charge in the kitchen. She was supervising the icing of cupcakes, I believe, and various other things happened subsequently, with people coming and going and other scenes that had symbolic meaning for her. But when she told me about it, the main thing that struck me was that I didn’t return: I had quite simply ‘gone upstairs’. I had absconded, leaving all my domestic responsibilities to others. I had trusted others to do the work and – presumably – retired for the night, gone to bed, or just to be alone and quiet. It felt a bit like ‘gone fishing’ – a grand excuse for not being there anymore. It was at the time a very strange thought!
A while after that another January came round. We needed a change if we were going to make it through another year without serious mental health issues! We’d been caring for our terminally-ill son for some time and I’d had a longstanding longing to escape. My husband was seriously fed up with the daily commute to work and I wasn’t seeing him at either end of the day. We already had one young lodger in the big and otherwise empty family home and so began to seriously consider taking in a few more so that we could use their rent money to rent a flat of our own near to his work: we would live between the 2 places, have some space to ourselves in the week and a bit of a community to come back to at weekends… It just so happened that Laura, her husband and brand new baby badly needed a bigger home – in fact they seemed the obvious candidates for the 2 spare rooms we had – and I couldn’t help but remember her dream.
Long story short: the flat we stumbled across – in easy walking distance to Martin’s work – is on the first floor. As the months have gone by we have withdrawn more and more into this new space and in effect Laura’s family have taken over our old home: I have quite literally ‘gone upstairs’. In time it became obvious that there was no going back: as our initial 6 month contract neared it’s end our flat was put on the market and to save our new-found home we knew we had to buy it! In fact we had to buy the whole house, including the flat downstairs as well. We could only do this because in the previous month Martin had suddenly decided to take early retirement and then be re-employed in a part-time research post. Meanwhile all the ties and commitments of the past 14 years appeared to be painfully dissolving. I had to come to terms with the change from ‘mother’ to ‘grandmother’ – but having no grandchildren. I knew I had to let go and let the younger generation take over, but I don’t know how to stand back, refuse control and wait… And then, quite suddenly, Sam died.
This weblog is about my continuing emotional and spiritual journey as I feel my way through major transition into an unknown future. There is something to be discovered about being a 3rd generation woman, with all that experience, wisdom, authority – and freedom. You could say I am ‘living the dream’ but it feels more like learning to die as I let go of all that is past, all that gave me purpose and direction – projects, people and memories, my beautiful garden! – every seed I planted and nurtured back then. I am grieving for so much – I am a different person now – and it seems I have to trust more than ever. I need to find out who I am, how to live this part of life well with hope and faith for what God has in store for these latter years – however many, however few.
You never know where a dream, a choice, a step out of your comfort zone, will take you. We didn’t have to do this – and yet we did. I have to believe that the narrow passage of transition leads into new open spaces. I have ‘gone upstairs’ and now there is no turning back: it has to be upward and onward. Lord, help me find the way!