Learning to walk again

The emotions are high: grief, happiness, tears of loss, tears of true love and the feeling of relief.

It has been two months since I completed my yoga-teacher training here in Costa Rica, and two months since I wrote most of this blog.

In these two months I’ve been getting fit again.  Motivation levels: up.  I’ve been reading and writing.  Creativity: improving.  And I’ve been traveling with my family on the weekends, hiking, making friends and learning about the different landscapes of this beautiful country.  Social interactions: doubled.

Sometimes we need a little help seeing our ‘blind spots’.

For me, surprisingly, this came in the form of three weeks of yoga, meditation, journal-writing, listening compassionately to others and to myself as we shared our inner thoughts, and singing that warmed the heart and soul.

Optimized-NEXUS TRAINING beach_group
Playa Guiones, tide pools. Yoga on the beach.

If you have read any of my blogs, you might have noticed that there was some boredom lurking in my life; a dissatisfaction of sorts.  But how did I get to this point?  Well, I think it has been situational:  a sense of lacking a community,  a loss of my identity and role as a doctor to that of a first-time mother, the sharp decline in time spent surfing, and sleep-less nights with no end in sight.

But I won’t dwell on those just now.  This is what ‘showed-up’ for me in the days after finishing yoga training as I wrote my journal.

‘The emotions are high: grief, happiness, tears of loss, tears of true love, and the feeling of relief.

And so it begins when yoga training ends.  Mary Oliver’s poem, ‘The journey’, gives me freedom and space to write again.  I tried writing a few times during the last three weeks while learning to be a teacher of the ancient practice of yoga, but my eyelids were heavy and my eyes dry from the dusty roads.

Despite my eyelids sticking to my eyeballs as I slept, at times dragging myself out of bed to rinse them with water, I started dreaming again.  And, as I dreamed each night, I gradually stopped waking up looking for Ella, hoping she had not fallen down the side of the bed; each time slowly remembering she was there in her crib…safe under her mosquito net.

With my dreams came fluid memories.  One year after my mother passed away, when I fled the family home back to Belfast, leaving Christopher, my younger brother, to live with my father, I started waking up each night frantically looking for him.  Jumping out of bed as if the house was on fire, I would run to the other bedroom, pull back the duvet to find an empty bed, then run to the window hoping he hadn’t fallen out.  This nightmarish activity continued for more than five years, when a change in anti-depressant medication brought life back to my brother’s eyes.


My time as a mother has presented many parallels with caring for my brother, the common thread being worry and pushing my limits.

As my yoga practice evolved at the teacher-training, so too did the bump around my waist, a reminder that another baby – all-being well – would be arriving soon.  A reminder, too, that I have been hiding some fear around another stint as a stay-at-home mother, off-work and possibly alone!

But I was not alone on this yogic journey. Our weekly evening gathering by candle light an opportunity to share something with our group and to listen and feel in return. Coming from Northern Ireland, where stoicism is often the norm, to risk one’s reputation by showing our true emotion is to be avoided at all costs.

It was at our final gathering that I felt I could open my heart.  And without preparing what I would say, for that often doesn’t come from the heart, I spoke through my tears, incoherently, I’m sure but freely.

So, thank you Nexus Institute for providing the time and space for self-discovery.  For supporting me as I find my feet to walk again. For giving me courage to ask for help (thank you Jason for taking over night-time baby duties), and for fuelling me with inspiration to continue our Mother & Baby adventures across Costa Rica and beyond. And thank you also to the wonderful, talented students from whom I learnt so much.

Playa Guiones at sunset after yoga-teacher-training ended. April 2018. Photo by Vince Edgar

Jean Vanier is a philosopher and founder of the L’Arche community.  His words ring true to me in respect to what my brother has taught me and how, without knowing, he has enriched my life. I miss you Christopher Graham!

A very funny wedding celebration photo shoot 30th July 2017

” People with developmental learning difficulties need love above anything else.  It is the ‘strong’ human being who is healed by the ‘weak’, but often fear prevents this discovery.”

” Those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with intellectual disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. ”

~Jean vanier founder of L’Arche

Finally, I leave you with Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, and I hope that journey finds you!


One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began, Though the voices around you Kept shouting Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do, Though the wind pried
With its stiff fingers
At the very foundations‚ Though their melancholy
Was terrible.
It was already late
Enough, and a wild night,
And the road full of fallen Branches and stones.
But little by little,
As you left their voices behind, The stars began to burn Through the sheets of clouds, 

And there was a new voice, Which you slowly
Recognized as your own,
That kept you company
As you strode deeper and deeper Into the world,
Determined to do
The only thing you could do‚ Determined to save
The only life you could save.



The quiet

This blog was written from beautiful Belfast, where we are ‘stranded’ for a few more weeks…

Walking past ‘No Alibis‘ an iconic crime book shop in Botanic avenue, Belfast, I read with interest the placard displayed outside ” beware the baroness of a busy life”,- Socrates.

Humm, well my life is certainly busy, and often one has no choice in the matter of business.  Pedalling, as a friend of mine calls it, between her full-time job and running a home with all its challenges; some pedalling harder than others.  And yet now I find myself at home alone.  Ella off with our lovely neighbour, Ann, to a nearby kids play centre and Jason in Costa Rica, working hard and yes, surfing; I can barely say the latter!

It’s quiet.  I can’t remember feeling silence like this in over a year, maybe more.  My list of things-to-do sits on my desk beside me numbered one to nine: scan 26 research files in case I need more info when back in Costa Rica, write our wedding thank you cards (so late, I know), open bank account for Ella before more cheques expire, finally apply for PPI in case I may be owed some money, in the hope I may be owed some money…

But these lists are always there, here with us making me feel like there is more to do before I can-relax? Feel there’s nothing more pending, looking over me? How dramatic! You’re alive, you fool, I giggle to myself.

Two books arrived today, short essays by Mary Oliver and David Whyte’s, ‘Every thing Is waiting for you’,  both covered in pictures of nature, trees and woodland, an escape from lists and computers.  As I stare out my window the silver birch, standing tall beside the evergreen, is glistening in the sun’s light dominating my view on this grey day. But how beautiful and if I had energy I would go for a walk in our nearby forest, Belvoir park.  Instead I opt for a hot bath with Dead Sea salts, some yoga and the prospect of reading one my new purchases, to lose my self in the wilderness of poetry and words.

This morning I listened to a piece on BBC radio four about the charity ‘Ginger Bread’ for single parents, a parent without help from the father or mother to their child and often no other family support.  It’s a full-time, on-call job being a parent without a partner to help at night when you’ve left the paracetamol syringe downstairs and your child, 11 months old, is still sleeping in bed with you and the cot still isn’t built and she is crying in pain and you’re tired and hope she will settle so as you don’t have to get up and carry her downstairs to look for what ever it is you need.

Yes, silence is peace but there’s nothing like a good old yarn and a laugh with your friend or neighbour or the lovely staff in the action cancer shop down the road.

It’s Sunday now and two days ago I finally built the cot, and as I type Ella is asleep after 40 minutes of fighting it, crying and standing up in protest, me soothing her while she marvels at the colourful nude painting on the wall, and we try again. And this time, the last time, we have silence, just the repetitive musical mobile still playing out merrily.  And I make my self a cup of tea and savour my last cream eclair courtesy of my old friend Val.

Always Remember To Look Up

Surviving The Rainy Season, Costa Rica.

Three months.  Yes, it has been three months since we left Belfast.  Mosquito nets packed, insect repellent in equal quantities to sun screen, beach pram with big wheels, mosquito net for the pram, travel cot packed, mosquito net for the cot; Mosquitoes love me so they might like Ella too. Continue reading “Always Remember To Look Up”

Morocco’s Love

Written June 2017. ” I write this blog from Morocco as baby Ella sleeps on the bed, arms in the ‘I surrender’ position, surrendering to the sleep.”

I marvel at our daughter, a mix of both her father and me. These little creations occur daily, hourly, by the minute all over the world and yet now I realise their impact and the beauty of new life.

I have been struck by my love for her, and my selflessness, like all mothers, in caring and feeding her. The tears I have are because of this love, not the dark circles under eye and the dreams of sleeping, soon.

Babies really love to smile, there’s no self-consciousness or fear that someone is not going to smile back, they just keep smiling like a reflex to an often harsh world.  Ella’s first smile was with her eyes.  As the doctor held her up and placed her snuggly on my chest, our new daughter scoured the delivery suite to find me, eyes wide and clear saying hello Mummy.

I write this blog from Morocco as baby Ella sleeps on the bed, arms in the ‘I surrender’ position, surrendering to the sleep. She was born in Northern Ireland three months ago, immunised for TB when just one day old in preparation for her African adventure.


Continue reading “Morocco’s Love”