“And this.”

The daily life of a mother is nothing if not Sisyphean. Each day the same routine, the same chores, the same requests and the same demands. But of course within each day and each task and each routine, there are limitless differences, too. The gift lies in finding them.

Today, I was awoken at 6.30 by a tiny finger up my  nose. Teddy was awake and had decided that a peaceful, sleeping mother was just boring. Since I have not managed to persuade myself to force the issue about staying in his cot, next to the bed, it is all too easy for him to remedy that situation. And since I had not managed to get to sleep until just past midnight, and been on my usual brink of wakefulness all night because of his presence, I awoke exhausted. Which is seldom a useful way to wake up.

However, a smiling and giggling little round Ted is one of the very best ways to be awoken. And when his father offered to make me a cup of tea to drink in bed before I embarked upon breakfast for five small people, packed lunches for four and off to playgroup and school, the prospect improved considerably.

Nevertheless, as beset as I am just now by being just over the threshold into my Neptune squares (my astrologer explains a little about this here) my life is in turmoil quite apart from daily life. In fact, daily life is what keeps me going. My children and my astrologer keep me sane and grounded in a world that seems otherwise to be dissolving around my ears. I am not exaggerating.

I dragged weary limbs downstairs.

Life is a struggle.

Or… is it?

Sarah Napthali, in her book Buddhism for Mothers of Schoolchildren says this:

“One Zen practice is to meet each difficulty that arises with the gentle, non-judgemental words ‘And this.’ … Such a reaction constitutes a letting go and an end to any unnecessary suffering in our situation.”

Certainly I have struggled today.

But why have I struggled?

Because life is more difficult today than any other? No, it isn’t. It is much the same as any other, yet I manage perfectly well on other days.

Because I am more tired today than any other? Well… perhaps that’s closer to the truth of it. And yet, tiredness needn’t determine state of mind or mood either.

Because I am struggling with something other. Certainly I am. I am struggling with the loss of my entire family: mother, father, three sisters, brother, two nieces, two nephews. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg. The end of my marriage and beginning of my new life proved too much for them to take and, after close to three years, I have finally had to accept that I am powerless to affect outcomes, behaviours, attitudes or… anything that doesn’t come from within me, actually.  I have ranted and railed but to no effect. I have withdrawn and kept silent, to no effect. I have pleaded, cajoled, shouted and accused. All to no effect. In fact, the only effect any of this has had is to stunt me in my own life, to keep me tied to the past and afraid of the future.

(“And this.”)

The future.

Today.

Today is important.

Now is all I have.

And this very moment, I am sitting on the lawn with my round and happy baby. My astrologer is gardening beside me, my three older children are happy at school, their younger brother happy at playgroup. The sun is shining, dandelions have scattered their seeds and the air is full of them, the breeze is warm. In twenty minutes I shall collect my four-year old and bring him home, make some lunch and start planning the boys’ supper. Today is Friday and there is no school for two whole days. The weekend stretches before me full of promise. Bike rides are planned, trips to town to spend pocket money, a family movie-watching session scheduled.

Life is good.

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