Relaxation and a renewed sense of self

Graham and I have just returned from our first night away on our own in almost four years! The last being a heavily pregnant visit to Harptree Court, where I waddled around the grounds and ate my breakfast eggs well-done. This time, Cowley Manor was our location of choice, booked on a last minute whim the night before. We almost didn’t do it, but decided it was our last opportunity to do so for a while and some thinking time on our own would be welcome after our late night heart to hearts of late. The relentless nature of the last few months has been catching up with us and we don’t always have a chance to process everything that is happening to our family. Our days are filled with love and laughter with the girls by our side, and by the time the evening rolls around, we’re often too exhausted to delve deep into our thoughts.

During our stay, we talked about our girls, about cancer, and mostly our thoughts on our ever changing world. Poppy’s Leukaemia has changed us. Forever. We live each day as it comes and rarely plan ahead, but when we do look to the future, it’s filled with more love and laughter, not endless working days and hard graft. The time for living is now. There’s no waiting for this to be over until we can live well and be happy, the time for doing that is right here in this very moment. There are some limitations and restrictions on our lives at present, and it’s more comfortable to be closer to home at the moment. There is a big, wide world out there but so much of it is on our doorstep too, and yet often we look further afield to experience it.

Last week, we had a wonderful time on our family holiday just 20 minutes from home. A holiday is quite simply “an extended period of leisure and recreation” according to the Oxford Dictionaries, and it’s funny how being away from home, no matter how nearby, encourages that feeling of relaxation. Being so close to home meant that packing was a breeze, as we knew we could pop home for any essentials left behind, and the lack of travelling time meant more time to enjoy ourselves. It was wonderful to leave home and be on our holidays in less than half an hour! Much of our week was spent swimming in the two pools, a simple pleasure when combined with two delighted toddlers and their respective crab and unicorn floats.

Our night away at Cowley Manor was 30 minutes away from home, the only downside being that the travelling time wasn’t quite enough for me to relax into being away and I hesitated a little on arrival, wondering if we had done the right thing in leaving the girls. Poppy has continued to stay well this week, and in her recuperation has begun to talk about the things she previously enjoyed like pre-school and sleeping over at her grandparents houses. This particular sleepover was at her request, as having stayed with my parents at the weekend, she then asked for a chance to stay at Graham’s parents too. The dose of Methotrexate Poppy received before we left lead to a few complications, namely the fact that she fell fast asleep in her bed and I didn’t like to leave her without saying goodbye! We left her napping as long as possible, before waking her for a cuddle and going on our separate ways. It wasn’t long before we received pictures of both girls enjoying themselves, and I relaxed into our stay with the help of the spa too. Being close to home helped me to relax too, knowing we were nearby if needed.

My mind is usually a constant, whirring to do list of things to be done and at home, I’m rarely still. I find it hard to switch off even when I want to. I usually turn to books when I’m looking to while away some rare free time, but I’ve found I haven’t been able to read for pleasure since Poppy’s diagnosis. The same thing happened when my beloved auntie was facing terminal cancer. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s subconsciously connected to the unknown and the lack of control on where the story is going. It’s just struck me that Poppy takes the same approach to the films we’ve occasionally watched on our return from a long hospital day, and is not a fan of anything with “cross bits”.

When I was trying to find ways to cope and relax about a month ago, the book I picked up came highly recommended and was one I’d been wanting to read for a while. It seemed a safe bet, until several pages in a cruel conversation between a mother and daughter left me recoiling in discomfort, unable to continue reading. I know my love of reading will return when my world seems steadier, but for now, I’ll stick with the many beautiful children’s books which I enjoy reading with Poppy and Daisy. I did read a few magazines by the poolside too. The content is easier to predict than a book, so doesn’t fall under the same limitations I’ve mentioned above. Having said that, I did cry in the steam room after reading a poignant article about a 12 year old who had survived cancer. Nestled amongst safer subjects of home, lifestyle and recipes, I should have passed it by, but the article resonated so heavily that I found myself lured in by the opening paragraph.

Since Poppy was diagnosed, we’ve often questioned our take on the world and indeed on how we’re coping and dealing with what we’re being presented with. There’s no right or wrong answers, but still an ongoing debate rages in my mind, topped off with a little dollop of guilt at whether I’m doing the best for our children. A common parenting theme, I think we’re all familiar with the feelings of whether we’re doing enough and teaching them the most important things about the world. To me, success isn’t measured by wealth, but by happiness. Time spent together with good manners and kind spirits is what I’m looking to raise in our family. So often, people are quick to judge others, but how do you really know what they’re facing? I touched on this subject in an earlier post, but so often I’m reminded that we don’t know the other people sharing our world as well as we think. We make assumptions and judgements based on our own family values, but these aren’t always shared by others. I sometimes get the sense that people travel along through life meeting certain expected standards, without thinking whether it’s what they really want to be doing.

Some time away with Graham, chatting about our innermost thoughts in a space away from the expectations of home, has clarified things in our minds. We’re travelling the same path, agreed about the direction we’re going and I’m writing this with a renewed sense of confidence in our destination. I wouldn’t wish our family path on anyone else, but I do wish that everyone could grasp the life they’re living with the shake-up we’re experiencing. Our core values remain the same, so perhaps when I say this has changed us, I think it’s probably clearer to say this has magnified the thoughts we were already harbouring, however sub-consciously in our minds and has made us more determined to achieve them. This wasn’t an anniversary trip, but it did remind me of the wedding vows we wrote for each other almost six years ago. We don’t know what the future will hold, but I do know, there is no-one else I’d rather walk alongside to face it. I love you Graham x

2 thoughts on “Relaxation and a renewed sense of self

  1. I wept when I read this post, Steph. Your feelings and emotions are so honest and open, and your sharing them helps each person who follows your blog understand what you are going through. The courage shown by you and your families is uplifting to see. Margaret x


    1. It’s really encouraging to hear that I’m expressing myself well enough for others to understand. It’s often such a jumble of emotions and feelings, but ultimately with everyone’s support around us, we know that we’ll get through it x


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