Saturday, March 25, 2006

Working Lives

Brew of the day: Organic Nettle Tea
It’s great to pick your own stinging nettles and dry a whole batch for drinking throughout the year. Enjoy your Saturday Morning Cuppa!

There was a time in humanity’s history when we worked just enough hours in a day to bring in the food we needed to eat. So, if we needed 2000 calories to sustain us, then we’d find that amount of food and then go off to play! Oh, how times have changed.

We no longer work just to cover our 2000 or so calories. We work to pay for the plates we eat off; the kitchen to store them in; the equipment to cook or preserve them in; a roof over our head with a blinding mortgage; the transport we need to get to work; seek out entertainment (rather than making our own) to unwind from the stress of the job; take on extracurricular activities to break the boredom of the 9-5; and then we work even harder so we can have an annual holiday in another country to make up for the 50 plus hours a week that we slave away for. The holiday is somehow supposed to give us bonding time with the family we’ve not seen all year. How ironic then, when some parents choose to holiday without their kids or spouse!

And somehow, in amongst all this madness, we lose sight of what really gives life meaning ~ friendships, family time, communal meals, day to day simplicity, time alone to reflect on the beauty of our Earth. Life is just one big adrenal rush these days. The rat race is a societal experiment in speed ~ and we’re all suffering from it one way or another. And then, when we die, people say they didn’t really know us! Not surprising when few people take the time to truly nurture friendships and intimate relationships.

I remember in my early twenties, before having kids, that we’d just pop over to each others' houses. I’m aware this may also, to some extent, be a cultural thing (I was raised in Australia where people are way more relaxed than the British ~ no doubt something to do with the sunshine quota!!!) but it is almost impossible to do this in the UK. Visiting friends is as diarised as going to the dentist ~ and can take just as long to get in! What have we done to ourselves? I’m watching a friend's children grow at a rapid pace and have a pang of guilt that I’ve seen them just a few times in the past year even though we live only about 14 miles away. My happiest times are always in the company of good friends or with my family.

I also remember much more spontaneity in general when I was younger. “Hey, I’m going to the beach. Wanna come?” And five minutes later we’re all on our way. Or we would head off camping for a long weekend, some six hours away from home. And it didn’t take months of planning. We just did it. We lived to play.

Paul is currently working six days a week (a requirement of the job). It is easy to feel like a single mother when I don’t see him. The girls and I build our day around a morning walk of about 3 - 4 miles. We’re blessed to live in a place of outstanding natural beauty. The fells (hills) beckon us. Each day our breath is taken away by something special on our walk. A flower, an insect, the mist rolling across the field, birdsong. Then we potter in the house or garden, make meals (Eliza loves to help make hommous or chop vegetable to snack on). The girls read, sew outfits, practise music (Bethany does piano and violin, Eliza is learning mandolin), and then I read aloud by the fire for an hour before they go to bed. Once they’re asleep I do work on the computer related to putting The Mother magazine together. Come Saturday, our whole rhythm goes out the window and we feel a sense of ‘rush’ and an expectation of making the most of our *family* day. It is also the time where I rely on Paul to help with things I can’t do on my own easily. For example, we get water once a week from Moondawn Farm (where The Mother magazine camps are held). It’s a mile from our house. The hill down to the Spring is very steep. I can bring the 25 litre container back up the hill, but it near kills me, so I leave it to Paul.

I’m planning, from next weekend, for us to all go ice skating each Saturday. To do so will require more juggling and management during the week to free up a few hours on the day.

I know our situation isn’t unique. Many women I talk to say what they find most difficult is that on Saturday mornings their partners and children have trouble integrating with each other, not having seen each other all week. And they find all of Saturday is spent fighting. Fortunately, this hasn’t happened for us. The pressure of the day still exists though.

What sort of culture have we created that tears the family ~ the fabric of our society ~ apart like this? This is NOT natural. A family is a community. They are designed by their very nature to be a community of love and companionship, to be together.

I’m on a mission to reduce our family’s needs and simplify our life enormously so that we’re both able to work from home or to work much less. Not sure I can get to the ways of my ancestors and just work to cover my daily calories but I’d sure like to. I don’t aspire to live in a castle ~ I’d happily opt for a comfy, cosy, one room yurt with a wood stove, or a log cabin in the wilderness…so long as I have a patch of ground for growing my food. More than anything, I’d like to live as self-sufficient a lifestyle as possible and not be dependent on outside sources for my food, heating or power.

In the meantime, I’ve determined to make the most of where we live. Our small rented cottage, will become an eco-cottage. In the garden we’re working on putting in a small orchard, compost loo, herb garden, vegetable garden, fire ring for full moon fires and a small bread/pizza oven to share with friends. I plan to make our permaculture patch as sustainable as possible for our family.

If we’re honest, there really isn’t much we truly need. Our life is just a long list of wants. For some it is:

a tropical holiday,
a new tv,
shopping spree,
to pay a credit card bill,
a new mobile phone,
so and so’s latest CD
new d├ęcor for the bedroom

It’s funny how influenced we are by the culture around us. All the things that truly don’t matter become needs. And it is here that our addictive natures bring us down. Contentment and satisfaction in simple day to day pleasures are the signs of success NOT the size or style of our house, car, job, social set.

Our true needs of food, water, shelter, fresh air and love don’t require us to be slaves. But our desires make us slaves if at any point we truly think we need them or if our life feels unbearable without them.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A different outlook!

Brew of the day: Cinnamon and Cardamom tea (

It’s funny what you get used to. As a child I spent a lot of time horse-riding ~ an inevitable consequence of growing up on a horse stud! Falling off, getting scraped, banging into things, being kicked ~ it was all part of the package. We were ‘wild’ riders, none of this hard hat in a neat little equestrian shed for us. While we did have a purpose built equestrian centre, most of our riding was done in the rough Australian bush, often without saddles, and sometimes without headgear on the horses.

One of my ‘bumps’ was when my sister was doubling me and she got off the horse first, leaving me sitting on its rump. The horse took off and I landed flat bang on my coccyx. Oh the pain!!!!! I don’t think I walked properly for weeks after that. But in those days, well, you just got on with it. I could walk, so clearly I didn’t need to get any medical care.

I couldn’t imagine as a mother, now, if that sort of thing happened to my child, not having any sort of ‘treatment’.

As it turns out my *body* didn’t forget the experience but instead learnt to deal with it, making the necessary accommodations so I could still run about like a ten year old.

Roll forward seventeen years to giving birth to Bethany, and OUCH! Not the giving birth, that was lovely, easy and peaceful, but at one point on her descent I felt something ‘go’ in my coccyx. “What was that?” I asked my midwife in surprise.

And that’s when the headaches started. Not just ‘annoying, mild headaches’ but excruciating, flat on your back headaches which lasted for about 5 days at a time. This continued for the next ten years! For most of that time I went through this without any painkillers because I was breastfeeding. The past year I gave in because, let's face it, you can't organise an expo, family camps, deal with a two day court case, etc., if you are flat on your back and nearly vomiting from the pain. Trouble was, though, even the heavy duty painkillers barely touched it.

I had a lot of craniosacral work done, which I love. It is a great healing modality. But it never ‘fixed’ the problem.

Eliza’s birth, 22 months after Bethany’s, banged on the coccyx again. This time I literally couldn’t walk for a few days after birth. Our craniosacral therapist at the time, Madhu Bhana (bless her) came to the hospital to treat Eliza (who had shoulder dystocia) and I. It made an enormous difference.

We moved from NZ to Australia, then to the UK. The headaches became worse (if that is possible). I tried different healing modalities, changes of diet, visualisation. You name it, I tried it. The closest I came to getting some answers was a medical intuitive telling me something was wrong with my nerves. Unfortunately, the remedy she suggested, which I tried for a year (adding up to £300) didn't really sort the problem.

The past three years were the most difficult, as I noticed a pattern emerging. The first day of each period, like clockwork, would see my ‘back go out’. I was at a loss. I ate well (nutritionally sound); took supplements, walked a lot. I had no other menstrual symptoms of any description. Apart from the back/headache thing, I simply wouldn’t have known that I had my period.

And then about the middle of last year I noticed, to my absolute horror, that I was experiencing signs of PMT! (unheard of for me) The week before my period I was like a bear with a sore head…growling at the kids even when I ‘consciously’ knew there was nothing worth being cross at. I really couldn’t understand what was going on. I felt like there were two different people inside me.

I knew I’d had a ridiculously busy year and that the kids had had to put up with me being somewhat distracted (and majorly stressed) even though I was still at home with them.
So I made a vow that 2006 was to be the Year of needs were coming first and that was that. No ‘Mother magazine’ family camp, no expo, no ‘projects’ of any description.

I made this decision at the back end of 2005 and decided that there was no point waiting for January to roll around.

The first thing I did was book to see a homeopath so I could have a constitutional remedy. We had two sessions but I felt that it was all a bit hit and miss and that some of the remedies were so NOT me. I also felt that (and I know that it is about treating the whole person, not the symptoms) it wasn’t quite getting at what was going on for me.

I’d not been to a chiropractor since my early 20s…mostly because they seemed to have a ‘bad rap’ from some people I knew. I decided to give it another shot. I intuitively felt that something needed ‘adjusting’ at the most basic level of my spine.

Well, in just four months my life has been transformed beyond recognition.

No longer do I get laid up when my period arrives…my spine is remembering how it should be and my nervous system is adjusting to a new way of responding. It turns out that the headaches from my period were a chemical reaction and my nerves, not responding properly, created the pain.

The other headaches (which felt the same) were related to having subluxations (where the vertebrae are out of alignment). So regardless of whether the pain was from a chemical or a physical stress, my nerves were going into overdrive. And because this was such a habit, it essentially meant each time it happened it felt even worse! Something to do with going over the same pathway all the time.

For years now, I just assumed it was my nature to be a grumpy old cow, but in these past few months a sense of peace has overtaken me and a general happiness. (Apparently regular chiropractic care releases the ‘happy hormone’) I’ve been struck by how chiropractic works in that although it is the spine being adjusted, the real work is about freeing up the nerves so they can function fully and thereby it allows us to see the world as it is rather than through a different, perhaps, smudged eyeglass.

The first time I really noticed the happy hormone was the day before Christmas Eve, 2005. The girls and I were in Carlisle, our nearest city. I ‘hate’ cities…crowds, Christmas shopping madness and all that. The thought of it stresses me. But that day, just after I’d had a chiropractic treatment, the girls and I were in the city for three hours. As I drove home it hit me! I was happy. Not once had I experienced stress, and it was the busiest time of the year at the shops too!

For years I’ve barely been able to turn my head when having to look back for reversing the car out of car parks. My neck didn’t hurt, it simply didn’t move! But again, it is funny what you live with or what you think is ‘normal’. Nowadays my head just about does a 360 degree swivel! It is incredible to me. I love having to turn my neck now when I’m reversing the car!

One of the great things about the Family Chiropractic Clinic where I go is that they do kids’ treatments for free if they go with the parent. I love knowing that my girls will grow up with this natural health care to support their growing immune systems and developing bodies.

For almost a fortnight, the girls and I have slobbed about in the lounge room. We came down with a horrid cough and had no energy. Hopefully the detox to end all detoxes. We’d recently gone wheat free so don’t know if there is any connections.

My body needs exercise or it literally seizes up. Earlier this week I slept crookedly (used a different sized pillow). Woke with a headache from hell and was rather confused. I could turn my neck without discomfort so surely it wasn’t related to my spine?

Anyway, after two days of this I went to my chiropractor (a gorgeous Canadian lady, Rozeela) and as it turned out the very top of my spine was out. One click/crunch from her and the headache was gone. As was my crankiness and lack of energy. That afternoon I walked 7 ½ miles. It felt great! The girls were cycling along beside me. After those two days of having a rather poor world view and feeling antisocial, I am back to feeling great. A feeling I now know is my true self. When I’ve been in the cycles of excruciating pain I couldn’t have cared less if I lived or died…the preference would have been the latter. I don’t know if that is something most people can appreciate if they haven’t lived through pain like this. My normal bright self disappears and just evaporates.

After that session yesterday, the girls and I had a wonderful afternoon. First we went to the Druid’s Circle ~ Long Meg. And then we went to another village so they could go to the park. Although windy and cold, the sun was out and it was so glorious. The fells (hills/Pennines) were gorgeous, capped with a light touch of snow. It’s funny but Eliza said to me she was having a great day, that she loved it when I spent time with her. Spent time with her?!

I’ve just spent the last eight years of my life with her! It really threw me for six. I felt upset at my deepest being. And then I figured what she meant. It isn’t enough me being a home-based mother and them being home educated. They want me to be mentally present in a way that is impossible for me to do if I’m making meals, doing housework, answering emails, returning phone calls, proof reading, having visitors! ….

We’ve not exercised much in the past couple of months. I’m looking forward to the warmer weather and being outside for hours together each day…walking, cycling, gardening. And then she will truly ‘have me’. And the blessing is, for the first time in her life there’ll be a Spring and Summer with a happy mother rather than a Grizzly Bear!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A decade of memories

Brew of the day: Actually, I've not got near the kettle this morning. Instead, my cup is full of our delicious breakfast smoothie ~ rice milk, banana, loads of cinnamon, and a few spoonfuls of Gillian McKeith's Living Superfood. Yummo.

Bethany, my first born, is ten years old on Monday. This past decade of my life has been full. I’ve lived a whole lifetime within Bethany’s lifetime. She was conceived within six weeks of Paul and I getting together (we just *knew* we were meant for each other and moved in together the next day). I can’t tell you how liberating it is to begin a relationship without wearing masks and acting as if you’re a perfect human being. I think this helped immensely with our rather quick jump into co-parenting.

When pregnancy was confirmed, I knew without question that I’d have a waterbirth at home. We sought out an independent midwife. It didn’t occur to me to have an unassisted birth ~ I’m not sure why, given my three youngest siblings were born at home this way.

During my pregnancy with Bethany we went to the north of New Zealand to swim with dolphins. I’d not long been back from a six month working holiday in the UK where I picked up two waterbirth books. Strangely, I’d been woken from a dream one night where a voice told me I’d write ‘The Beautiful Birth Book’. I didn’t know what that meant but it was one of those very strong, vivid dreams. That morning I went into a local new age book store and the two waterbirth books fell off the shelves. What was particularly disarming was that I actually didn’t ever want children. How quickly that was to change. These books were beautiful and I soon found myself pining for a child. The desire was so strong that it wouldn’t have surprised me if I’d opted for being a single parent had I not met Paul.

I read everything I could find on waterbirths ~ at that time there actually wasn’t that much about, so we set up the National Waterbirth Trust in New Zealand. This acted as a clearing house for information: a point of contact for parents; and after Bethany’s birth (which we had professionally filmed) we showed the video to doctors, midwives and parenting and birth preparation classes. During pregnancy, I’d asked Paul (a professional voice over) to record some affirmations I’d written. His friend Rob composed music to go with it. This evolved into the Peaceful Pregnancy CD which we now sell on The Mother magazine website.

Bethany’s arrival into our life triggered so many changes ~ not least was my 12 cup a day coffee habit. It died in an instant when Mr Right came along and I knew there’d be some baby-making a happening! I took everything I knew about nutrition (blessed as I was with an aware mother who raised us as vegetarians) and became very diligent about what I put into my body. Bethany’s body was made on Spirulina. I don’t think a day of my pregnancy went by without me making a blender full of the stuff.

Pregnancy with Bethany was blissful…prenatal yoga, aquanatal classes, long walks with Paul. I listened to lots of music. Mostly Mozart, some Pavarotti.

Her birth was everything I imagined. She arrived after an easy labour…into our bedroom. Candles were lit, soft music playing, me indulging in the warmth of the waterbirth pool. Paul massaged me, loved me, caught our beautiful love child. Moments like these are forever etched in one’s memory. For it is here, in the most precious spaces in time that we forget the past and let go of our worries. Truly living in the moment, we are embraced by the true meaning of life.

For the next 22 months I sincerely believed I was the best mother in the world. I loved life. Every day was a magical journey. I thrived. Bethany and I would spend much of our time in a friend’s coffee shop; during our mornings at home we made walnut and banana muffins; we’d go swimming or play at the park. At the time, Paul was working as a broadcaster on radio, doing the breakfast shift. He came home from work just as Bethany and I were crawling out of bed. I enjoyed the easy pace of life.

And then our precious Eliza arrived and my illusions were shattered. Two kids under two brought out exhaustion, exhaustion, exhaustion. There is no other way to describe it. And yet, despite the unimaginable sleep deprivation, I stayed true to my natural parenting ideals and fully breastfed both girls. They were never left with baby-sitters and I carried Eliza in a sling just as I had with Bethany.

What I’ve since discovered about the absolute torture of sleep deprivation is that (at least for me, but I have witnessed it among other mothering friends) it seems to set off a creative fire. It is a bit like all of one’s creative juices are in a pressure cooker...and eventually something has to give! I still love sleep as much as ever but cope on far less sleep than in my youth. I’m also far more productive with my time as a result of having two kids arrive into my life in the space of less than two years.

I had a chuckle to myself the other day when a friend with a toddler, who is in a new relationship, said her partner was complaining about being tired and not getting enough sleep because the little one was waking at 6am. I just shook my head, thinking, ‘he has NO idea!’ Women are lucky that way ~ the hormones of birth allow us to somehow (miraculously) get through those early years.

When Bethany was 2½ we moved from NZ to Australia as the radio station Paul worked at had closed down and we felt Australia would offer us more opportunity. Wrong! We’d been wrongly informed by immigration. That I was an Australian didn’t give him the right to work in Australia ~ he had to wait two years and then apply for permanent residency (at a cost of $2000) with no guarantee he’d be accepted.

We’d sold everything to move to Australia…so to arrive there with two little, teething children, next to no cash and no way to earn money (without me going to work and leaving my two young daughters) was soul destroying to say the least.

Within six months we decided that if we came to England (with Paul being English by birth) at least Paul would be able to work and I could continue staying at home with the children. Being a full time caregiver to them has always been my priority. Clearly we were meant to come to the UK, as Paul won a Christmas carol competition on the radio and the prize of $1000 to be spent at the local shopping centre meant we could buy air fares from the travel agent there.

Leaving Australia on a scorching 38 degree Celsius day (with 80% humidity) to arrive in chilly Cumbria when it was minus 12 degrees and snowing was surreal to say the least. I was thankful, however, that we’d at least landed in a rural area. And here we’ve stayed for the past 7 years.

I immersed myself in natural parenting literature and then studied to become a breastfeeding counsellor with La Leche League. Four years ago, I took my passion for natural parenting into the public arena with the launch of The Mother magazine.

And now, as my daughter begins her second decade of life, and the second decade of my life as a mother begins, I wonder, how I can balance my needs with my children’s needs. It is as if their own lives have a full time agenda which requires a chauffeur, chaperone and chief meal preparer. How on earth I can do all that and follow my own tune in life is becoming increasingly trickier.

Some days I yearn for a 48 hour day just so I don’t have to keep burning the midnight oil. I’d made a pact with myself to start going to bed by 10pm. Easier said than done when I can’t get their eyes shut before then.

They’ve always got some thing else to do: su doko with Dad; just one more page of Harry Potter; sewing; violin practice; a drawing; a letter which has to be written. All things which, for some reason, never seem to get done in the day time. I feel like I need two lives. One to be ‘just’ mother and be at the beck and call...and the other life where I can explore my passions and desires without time constraints. That’s the trouble with sleep deprivation and creative explosion… You can’t just sit on it...somewhere, sometime it has to be released.

So, although I’m not sure what the next decade will bring, I do know that it will be quite unlike the first ten years of Bethany’s life.

One of my strongest passions is to find our family’s soul-home. When, where, how ~ I don’t know. It is calling from within the deepest part of me. Daily, it haunts me. And yet I know that somewhere is a home that will mirror who we truly are. A place to nurture, comfort, inspire ~ a haven to share with our friends.

I also would very much like to take the messages of The Mother into a mainstream forum like television and expose it to the masses. This has come about since the documentary (Extraordinary Breastfeeding) was broadcast and seeing how little people know about what should be basic common knowledge. The magazine really, for the most part, preaches to the converted. That is no longer enough for me ~ the messages have to go further. A real shift in humanity’s consciousness needs to happen ~ for all sorts of reasons ~ but mostly because life as we know it, will be unrecognisable once the oil wells run dry. (If you don’t know what I mean, read The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight by Thom Hartmann. Startling, yet very empowering reading.)

Metaphysical Law states that we become what we think about all day long…watch this space!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Love actually

Brew of the day: Organic Chamomile Tea ~’tis gentle and soothing. Have been drinking it all week…highly recommended for keeping a girl calm during her cycle.

Paul and I went to the cinema last night and saw Brokeback Mountain. There is no question that it is a ‘good’ movie ~ stunning location shots, brilliant directing and highly skilled acting. I, however, felt quiet disturbed by it on many levels. For those who have avoided press descriptions, it is essentially about two cowboys who fall in love with each other and then go on to marry women, have children and NOT live happily ever after. They meet sporadically over the course of the next twenty years. (By the way, why were they called cowboys when they were herding sheep?)

It is filled with angst and the trauma that can, and often does, define human relationships. And that is where I found the whole thing so darn uncomfortable. Forgetting that it is about a same sex relationship (because I think it is about so much more than that; the theme is used to draw people in as a groundbreaking piece of cinema) I feel it is so representative of what is going on in the collective unconscious of our species.

I take no pleasure in the belief or practice that love is ‘difficult’; that true love is a journey of difficulty. Bullshit! We’re humans. We make conscious choices, or at least we can! Most people choose to go through their relationships as they go through life ~ blindly, as if somehow that excuses them for creating a great life.

I often joke that had I met my husband a year earlier I wouldn’t have looked twice at him. And I’m sure this is true. I was programmed by friends and society to believe relationships were hard, that all men were bastards (and that was, not surprisingly, my experience! ~ after all, we get what we think about all day long). I was fortunate enough to have my eyes opened...and open them I did. Thank the Goddess because, sure as the sun came up this morning, I’d have been divorced about three times by now.

My difficulty with a movie like Brokeback Mountain comes because it represents something so alien to the relationship I have. Watching the male leads interact with their on-screen wives filled me with horror, to say the least. For me, it wasn’t just a movie. It represents so many people I know ~ and so many I don’t know.

Friends all around me are going through relationship issues of every description. I feel in uncharted waters when offering comfort. One friend says her husband never says he loves her. When she says it to him, he just grunts. Maybe he doesn’t love her?

Almost all of us are dysfunctional to a greater or lesser degree, and our genetic programming and life experiences can conspire to amplify any difficulties we have about expressing our deepest feelings. If someone is so inarticulate that they can’t express their deepest feelings to their life partner then surely they can find other words or, indeed, ways to express themselves. How about, “You make my life. I love waking up with you each morning. I can’t imagine living my days without you.”? How about actions speaking louder than words? Making a cup of tea without being asked. Filling a hot water bottle for your partner. Doing the dishes when you can see they’re really tired and just need to go to bed. What is so hard about this?

Our ability to express love to another is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves. In my single life, which truly feels a lifetime ago, I never failed to make myself a delicious meal each night after work. I’d set the table ~ light a candle, have beautiful flowers and put on calming music. Why on earth live one’s life waiting for someone else to do these things for us? And yet, if we’re honest, that is what the majority of people do. “I can’t cook a meal. I can’t have fun. I can’t go to the movies. I can’t go for a walk. I can’t…I can’t….I can’t…I can't LIVE without someone else to witness my journey!” It is no one else’s responsibility to make us happy. That is an inside job. When we do it for ourselves it makes it so much easier for another person to share our life, rather than filling some void.

Another friend has left her marriage of ten years to be with another man she barely knew. It just felt right to her.

Other friends are living half lives...not sure which half they’re living. Probably not sure if they're dead or alive. They're staying with partners that are no more than flat-mates…scared to move, scared to move on. I find this as hard as anything. Life is too short for stalemate. Too short to be caring about what others might think of us and our choices.

And still other friends live their married lives in a constant state of war. The adrenalin rush of furious fighting is a perverse form of foreplay to great sex. They live for the yelling and screaming matches because they know within hours they’re going to crawl into bed and have frantic sex. Because so many relationships are like this, people think it is normal. And in British culture people equate normal with natural.

Each to his own, but to me this is nothing short of emotional rape. Why would you allow yourself to open emotionally and physically (and pyschically) in such an intimate way with someone who has just treated you like you’re their enemy? Hey, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for forgiveness! But if this is what is considered a ‘healthy’ relationship, I’d rather be alone and celibate for the rest of my life. Honestly!

Many people would think that the relationship Paul and I have is ‘boring’. We don’t fight. Ever. We communicate civilly. It doesn’t mean we agree on everything. We don’t! And we've certainly had many difficult issues come up in our life's journey that we've had to deal with. But those painfully difficult times never meant that we went to war on each other. Why would we? We're on the same team!

In many ways, we make love all day long. Our eyes meet, we smile, we touch each other’s shoulder affectionately, playfully. We laugh an awful lot. Is there a greater aphrodisiac? Not a day has gone by in our 11 year relationship where he has not told me he loves me at least twice a day. Perhaps this is the thermometre that lets me know our relationship is well. But it isn’t just his words. His everyday actions and habits are confirmation of his feelings.

We start and end each day in each other’s arms. It is a safe place. Our relationship is my liberator; my incubator for personal growth - like an ongoing meditation.

So what makes me different to most of my girlfriends? After all, I didn’t just get ‘lucky’.

I made a choice. I chose not to take second best or tenth best. I chose to let love in fully and completely and to nourish it and be nourished by it. All humans can do this. We just have to say yes to ourselves.

When we have a love that opens us to great heights emotionally, and brings deep intimacy, we have a platform upon which to live the rest of our life. We feel stronger and more sure of ourselves…when we’re not fighting a daily war with our ‘beloved’ we can go out and live more fully and ably in the world. This is true love. And we all deserve nothing less.