Whenever I walk to work and reach the highest part of town, I go past this building with its butterfly blinds. I have always loved the symbol of the butterfly as it points towards change, beauty and spiritual transformation.
This building is just one in a row which houses many different businesses, but today I was struck by how many of them are involved in some aspect of presentation or transformation: the company in this building work in branding and marketing, whilst its neighbours concentrate on dental facial aesthetics, cosmetic surgery, property development and holistic skincare.
Hmmm… I’m not convinced that this is what transformation is really about.
The kind of transformation I long for is not superficial, skin-deep, in need of careful presentation or keen to flaunt itself in the highest part of town. The kind of transformation I seek isn’t going to happen over night, make me look more attractive or indeed be recognised by many other people at all. The kind of transformation I yearn for is whole-hearted, whole-souled and whole-bodied, rooted and grounded in the earth but also light, free and unfettered: a joy-filled dancing with the divine.
Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Before I dropped him at school today, my son and I had a few minutes to spare and nipped into a little playground on the way. We had a go on the swings and then I had a good look at all the other play equipment, trying to imagine which ones I would have gone on as a child and which appealed to me now. For me, it’s a close-run thing between the swings and this little house. I love swings because on a good day you feel so free you could almost be flying through the air. In fact, I love swings so much I’ve even written a short story about a middle-aged woman rediscovering her love for them. However, I think that as a child I would probably have chosen to climb in here and make myself a little home. I would have furnished it with a nest of leaves, sat hidden in the corner and stuck my legs out to deter invaders.
For me, I think the search for home is perhaps even more fundamental than the search for freedom.
Today my son turned eleven. He requested a Minecraft birthday cake as he is currently totally obsessed with this game which is a bit like on-screen Lego.
Eleven years ago, I did not intend to be the kind of mother who had a son addicted to computer games. I was going to be the kind of mum who sat down in the evenings with her kids, encouraging them to make imaginative artworks out of dried macaroni. I was going to be the kind of mum who spent the weekends with my children water coursing and building little dams in streams out of twigs.
Three years ago I did not intend to be the mother of a child who was totally ignored and friendless at school. I did not intend to leave my child in a playground every morning with 200 other children, none of whom even noticed he was there. I didn’t intend it, but that’s what happened and it was excruciating.
Two years ago, step in Minecraft… My son loved it straight away and became very good at it. I mean really, very good at it.
Scroll on to today and he is a happy eleven year old, skyping his friends who admire and like him because he is so good at something they all enjoy and relate to. He is confident, self-assured, funny…
I still have mixed feelings. To be honest, I’d rather we were doing stuff I can understand with macaroni and twigs. But I shall always be grateful he found a way to get accepted by his peers and am more than happy to celebrate that with a bit of Minecraft cake.
Today I went on a quiet day at West Malling Abbey and took a photo of this beautiful Madonna and child. I love the way the baby is held in her womb-like lap. There is a great sense of containment, of safety, of being encircled by love.
I was reminded the other day of an activity I did over 25 years ago on a youth group leaders’ training weekend. We had to sit in pairs facing each other and then reach out and touch the face of the person opposite us. I found it a horrendous experience. Afterwards, I talked to another friend who had also hated it. We had spent a good five minutes or so talking about what a hideous experience it was before we realised that I hated it because I couldn’t bear being touched, while he hated it because he couldn’t bear touching someone else.
Still to this day, I find it easier to reach out and touch someone if they need comfort than I do to be touched or held myself.
But at least part of me would now like to change: I would like to be more aware of being held by the divine, aware of being constantly encircled by love. And I would like to be less resistant to that, more open and child-like in my response.