Sunday, 20 April 2014


Last week my hubby let our 20-month-old walk down to nan's house. Oh dear. Bye-bye buggy! She won't even get into it now, just shakes her blonde curls and shrieks, "noooooo ...!!!"

I took the kids out to the river this afternoon while dad slept between night shifts. Thea wanted to be "down!" like the other two, who had skipped ahead of me through the gate towards the sloping bridge. Thea of course stopped every 5 seconds to ooh and aah at the river, pointing at the rapids, hovering all too close to the electric fence wire just above her head.

As she walked the path for the first time I found myself mentally navigating the hazards ahead of her - parts where the track came right to the edge of the river, sections of mud with stepping stones, steep inclines, loose gravel and stinging nettles.

Some of my friends have hit road hazards just recently. I thought of two in particular as we walked the path today - one who's just said goodbye to a difficult marriage, and another who had a sudden and completely unexpected breakdown last week.

As I witness their struggles I'm seeing all over again that life is a delicate balance. We have so many roles and responsibilities to juggle! I don't know about you but sometimes I feel just one hair's breadth away from dropping all the balls and seeing them shatter into one almighty, seemingly irreparable mess.

I think that's what happened to my neighbor last week. Karen (not her real name) has a 7- and a 4-year old, a 9-month old baby, a terrific husband and a friend who's just stiffed her out of a job she had planned to return to after maternity leave. When she called me in a panic on the last day of school before mid-term break I thought someone had died. Loaded my kids into the car, rushed down, found her sitting sobbing in her driveway. She asked me to mind her kids while she ran up to my house to send an email. Huh? I didn't ask questions, just gave her the keys.

Karen's house is usually spotless. That day I knew she was not okay because there were clothes piled everywhere, plates stacked in the sink, food congealed in pots on the stove, tissues and used nappies on the kitchen counter. Baby J sat strapped in his pushchair, quietly mouthing his fingers. I sent the older kids outside to the swings and sat waiting to see what would happen next.

To make a long story short, Karen's in hospital. And I'm wondering how I missed the signs that she could no longer hold everything together. I think things had been unraveling for a while and her friend's treachery was the last straw.

It's tough to juggle kids, house, job, bills; maintaining, guarding and repairing all the 'stuff' we've gathered; and trying to figure out what happened to our dreams in the process. But if we lose sight of our dreams I think something in our soul dies; we get so busy watching for stones on the path that we forget the thrill and beauty of the river.

As Karen once said to me, "Life is a strange thing. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. There has to be more to it than this!"

Yes, there's more! But often when we've hit a few speed bumps the fight begins to leak out of us, just like the diesel in our car right now (yeah, we need to get that fixed).

As I scooped Thea into my arms to carry her up a hill, I thought about what I've been seeing on the internet lately - people being raw and honest, navigating the road hazards for others who haven't got there yet: "hey, if you're going down this particular road, watch out for X - I hit that and nearly went under. But I pulled through it like this ... "

I have another friend who's watching her daughter battle an eating disorder.  I can tell her, "Yeah, I've been in her shoes. Watch out for this, and this - but don't worry, she'll be okay."

I can't navigate as easily for Karen, although I've had bouts of depression and watched my sister walk through it too. But I can at least be there when she needs me.

When I put Thea down at the top of the hill she cried a sad little "noooooo ...!" and held out her arms. I scooped her up again and she snuggled deep into my shoulder, drawing her legs up in a tight huddle.

Sometimes we need that - someone to scoop us up when our legs get wobbly and we just can't do it anymore.

But it's okay. We'll walk again, when we've had enough time - and support from the people around us - to recover.


  1. Beautifully written and expressed Laurel.
    It is very very true that after a while of 'stone watching you loose the ability to see and enjoy the river'.
    'Hope deferred makes the heart sick'.
    It makes ALL the difference to have people in your life when you are going through hard things to love and support you. X

  2. thanks Lesley! look fwd to tomorrow xx