Soulful Sunday #29: Happy Fathers Day

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Dad greeting me into the world xx

Welcome to my twenty-ninth instalment of ‘Soulful Sundays’. A weekly share where I post a roundup of soulful reflections, each including recipes, songs, quotes, blogs I have read and/or any other inspirational discoveries to sooth the soul.

For me, Sunday’s have become a day of quiet contemplation and simple pleasures. A time to reflect on the week gone by and to consider my hopes and dreams for the week ahead.

My hope is to extend some love outward and to share some simple pleasures with anyone who cares to receive them.

Soul Reflections

Wishing my Dad a Happy Fathers Day in the sky. Heaven knows how much you are missed each and every day; how grateful I am to have had you in my life, and how privileged I feel to get to call you my Dad…

Thank you for blessing me with your love and for always being my guiding light. Loving you always, forgetting your never xx

Soul Strolls

During the Queen’s birthday weekend here in Melbourne last week, we took a day trip to Daylesford to enjoyed a lakeside lunch at The Boathouse. The sun was shining, the lake was peaceful and still, and the food was yummo! The perfect get away we’d been craving. We strolled around the town perusing the antique shops and boutiques.

The simplest things makes life so rich.

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The Boathouse, Daylesford

Soul Food

Today I would like to share with you this Raw-ish Caramel Ginger-nut Slice from one of my favourite health and wellness sites. It looks incredible. I’m always looking for healthy alternatives to satisfy my sweet tooth, and this one seems divine! I hope you have as much fun trying it as I will.

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Soul Music

In memory of Dad, I am sharing Bob Dylan’s Forever Young. Dad was a huge Dylan fan, and this track, which was played at Dad’s funeral, reminds me of the way Dad lived his life. He will always be forever young in our hearts.


Soul Sisters

I am sharing a beautiful post titled To The Beautiful Women Who Is Striving To Be Skinny by My Own Private Idaho. A powerful piece that acknowledges the way women become so entangled by the numbers on the scale. Here we have a stunning reminder of our inner worth and beauty.

I wish you all a peaceful Sunday. On this day, may we remember our Fathers past and present and send them peace and love.

In love and light,

Hayley xx

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A Letter to My Younger Self

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Dear Hayley,

It’s me, Hayley. Your future you. I wanted to write to you because, well, I guess there are some things you don’t know yet that I think may help you along the way. Let’s begin at the start shall we?

See that photo? That’s you on the day you were born, all red faced and new in your Dad’s arms. In years to come, when he is gone (don’t panic – you have nineteen more years together before that happens…), you will look at this photo a lot; at the way his hands, which are almost as big as your body, are holding you tight in case he drops you. You’ll wish you could remember being held as you look longingly at the presence of you both together. Don’t worry – see how Dad is looking down on you even though your eyes are closed tight? Your eyes do open eventually… And when they do, you can see the bigger picture. Although there are many years of feeling bereft, in time, you do heal. So don’t fret little one – he’s with you now, just enjoy the warmth of his embrace.

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This is your first birthday. (Healthy right?) This is pretty much your diet growing up as a kid. In fact, you’ll eat nothing but white stodgy stuff right up until the age of about eighteen. It’s surprising you don’t resemble a loaf of bread really! (And by the way, you go through a really weird phase of eating nothing but instant noodles and meatballs.) But fear not, after much trial and error you finally discover the beauty of fresh ingredients, and by the time you are thirty one, you are eating a diet rich in wholefoods – you’re even eating organic! (I know – madness right?) But I just want you to know that you’ll be ok and that miraculously, you manage to avoid any fillings or cavities despite the copious amounts of fizzy pop you’ll consume far into your late teens. In fact, you haven’t drunk a drop of sugary beverage for the last seven years! Can you believe it? I still don’t know how you manage to survive not drinking a drop of water until you turn eighteen??? But you do. And now you can’t get enough of the stuff!

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This is your first school photo. I don’t know how it became all speckled like that, but it looks as though you have a terrible case of the measles. Behind your smile is a frightened little girl. This is the year you first witnessed Dad have an epileptic fit and it’s made you very fearful. You’re scared of the dark, of sleeping on your own, you still wet the bed and you’re even scared of your soft cuddly toys because you think they come to life at night! You hallucinate quite a bit and have scary dreams too… But I’m here to tell you that everything will be alright. I know it makes you sad when Mum won’t let you sleep in her bed; I know you lie awake all night in terror that something will eat you… But I promise that you won’t get killed by the freaky looking pot doll Mum bought you, and you don’t need to long jump into your bed in case an arm pops out from beneath it to grab your ankles and swallow you up! You are totally safe. And yes, there will be times in your teens, shortly after Dad dies, that you begin to have nightmares again. In fact, you will experience a year of terrible insomnia, but you get through it and, although you are still a light sleeper, you now have a healthy sleep routine. You’re even brave enough to walk to the toilet in the dark! (I won’t lie, your heart does beat a little fast as you do) – but the affirmations you say whilst tip-toeing down the hallway help! I am safe. I am protected. All is well…  And all is well!

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Heyyyyy twenty year old you! Don’t you look fresh? But behind that smile is a sadness so great I can almost feel it rendering me paralysed again now… In fact – here is another shot taken whilst you were off guard, and it reveals the true emptiness behind your eyes and your smile.

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You are numb. You are confused and your heart is heavy. You are also smoking a lot (thank God you’ve stopped that filthy habit) and drinking to numb the pain. Recreational drugs are taking their toll on your relationships and your job. You feel as though life is grim and grey and it is. You have recently lost your gentle giant, and Dad’s absence weighs heavily on your heart. Why pretend you are happy when you are not? It’s ok to feel grief, it’s ok to feel pain – just roll with it, everything is in divine order. I want you to know that things do improve. You have a few more years of losing yourself in drugs and alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. So if I could give you any advice right now, it would be to stop putting on a brave face. Stop worrying that your grief will effect others. This stuffing down of your emotions is causing you to turn to external ‘pleasures’ and false sensory highs. You needn’t numb the feelings. It’s ok to allow them to just be. I know you feel lost, I know you feel lonely and misunderstood, but this, in time, will pass.

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And this? This is me (you) now. (Well – actually that photo was taken last year in Paris) but still! – this is you at thirty one! Not as bad as you thought eh? How could you ever think thirty was old?

So a little of your life now…You are learning to love yourself. In fact, most days you look in the mirror and say, I love you Hayley. And guess what? You actually mean it! Some days it’s harder than others, but deep down you know that at your very core you are love. You have replaced drugs and alcohol with yoga and meditation. You love to spend time in nature (just as you did when you were little.) And you are a teacher too! You love working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. In fact, it has reminded you of the importance of embracing your own inner child and to follow your childhood dreams of becoming an author (just like Roald Dahl! Remember?) You write again and feel so much joy when you do. You have neglected your passion for drawing and sketching – but we can look for an art class here in Melbourne if you like?! (Oh yes – you now live in Australia!) And behind that lens is your best friend and man of six years, Mark.

It’s been a journey of self-discovery, of learning to love and be loved. But do you know what? You finally feel joy again. You have a deep and profound gratitude for life. You’ve discovered your true nature, your authentic self, and with that comes a knowing far greater than ever imagined – a knowledge that you are whole, connected, one – despite being imperfectly you. Dad is in your heart, you are in his, and that, my dear child, will never change.

Love always,

Hayley xx

The Red Door

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We are sitting on the living room floor at number five Acresfield Road, my sister and I. I am five years old, Sarah is seven. Our eyes are glued to the eighties television set as we watch cartoons in our faded living room. Everything appeared to be brown back then; brown carpets, brown wall paper, brown television – a sepia stained era of times passed. Mum is at work earning her small income to keep us clothed and fed. During these times, Dad would take care of us. I never questioned why Mum worked and Dad stayed home, I guess I was too young to notice or to care. All I knew was that Dad took care of us after Gran dropped us home from school.

This particular day is to be one of my earliest memories, and it is one that will become etched into my existence, like a stray strand of hair which has embedded itself into my clothing, clinging on no matter how hard I try to shake it off. At most it simply shifts – falling to rest unnoticed on another part of me.

Dad appears in the doorway to our left, which leads into the kitchen. He is pacing back and forth, in and out of the living room, his face one of concern and panic. Fear transcends into my little body. I don’t know why Dad looks so frightened, all I know is that now I am frightened too. Dad’s right wrist is shaking and he grips it with his other hand in a bid to control the tremor. I stand, panicked. Dad tells us to, “Go away – leave!” We stare in horror and I begin to cry as Sarah grabs my hand, pulling me towards the other exit at the front of the house.

Dad disappears into the kitchen as Sarah drags me through the front door. Dad must have opened the back door because the moment we step outside the force of the wind courses through our home, slamming the front door tight with a deafening BANG. My heart stops in my chest. I turn to face the giant red door glaring back at me. The brass number five screwed to the top center of the door peers down at me as though mocking my age. “Five. Hah! What can you do?” The brass letter box sneers at me –  its gold teeth grinning with delight after swallowing my Dad up inside. My heart leaps back into action and I pound my small fists against the hard surface of the glowing red monster. I lift the brass letter box and cry out to my Dad, my voice trembling with fear and frustration, echoing deep into the belly of the house.

In later years, I told Sarah of this haunting memory, assuming that she would have her own version of events surrounding that moment – her own ingrained grievances, which I assumed would differ somewhat to mine. Yet, she told of how she stood waiting for our elderly neighbours, Ernie and Gladys, to answer the door, of how she remembers clearly watching as I repeatedly thumped at the door in a panic.

I don’t remember how I came to be standing in Ernie and Gladys’ back garden – the next thing I recall is watching in despair as Dad face planted into the concrete path of our own back garden – all six foot two inches of him. I remember how he fell without putting his hands out to break his fall. And that is where the memory ends.

It is one of my earliest memories, it is also when I learned of epilepsy; my first real encounter with fear, and my first recognition that Dad wasn’t safe.

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I often hear that the opposite to fear is love – that love transcends all fear. I have also learned of the importance in letting go. For some it is a ritual, for others it is prayer – for me, it is through the process of writing. Once it is recognised, it can be turned over to the angels, to God, to Source or The Divine – however you wish to refer to Higher Guidance – for healing.

With every heart ache comes a lesson. Once we recognise the lessons, each one becomes easier to release. Those stray strands which weave their way into the fabric of our lives are freed by the winds of change and lifted towards the heavens.

As I look back on this memory, in the words of Dr. Wayne Dyer ‘I can see clearly’ the way it has shaped and contributed to habitual fears in my life – fears which I am beginning to notice have held me back on this spiritual path – fears which I am ready and willing to let go of. I notice the walls I have built between myself and that which I love; passions as well as people. The way I have refrained from loving the men in my life too much. A fear of losing them? A fear of being vulnerable? I am not sure. All I know is that I have been known to freeze up when becoming too close threatens my sense of security. It’s as though that big red door is standing between them and I – preventing me from fully accessing my loved ones, as well as accessing those passions which bring me the greatest sense of freedom and joy. It also occurs to me that red is one of my least favourite colours (and there I was convincing myself that it’s because I support Manchester City, not Manchester United!)

I have walked passed that house many a times. It is one of the many houses we lived in growing up. The door is no longer red, it has been replaced by a newer door with a stained wood finish.  Its size is no longer so large and looming, since I have grown some extra inches over the years. That big red door has been torn down, its existence is no more. I have no reason to hold on to its memory, no reason to fear it. I send that door love. I send epilepsy love. I send my Dad love. And most importantly, I send my five-year-old self love. There is nothing to fear anymore.

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Sudden & Unexpected?

Day Twelve: Dark Clouds on the (Virtual) Horizon
Today’s Prompt: Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation.
Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.

“I’m dying,” Dad said.

I was sitting in the arm chair of Dad’s boxy living room, watching as he peered at his reflection in the mirror. He wasn’t dying. At least, he didnt appear to be… Dad had experienced a brain haemorrhage at the age of twenty-six, and the operation that saved his life left him with severe epilepsy; but that was on the 23rd of December 1983, twenty years ago – a year before I was born. There were no later illnesses or diagnoses for Dad to be thinking that way. Regardless, my stomach dipped at the thought of losing our gentle giant.

He stared deeply into his dark brown eyes, a look of sorrow on his face matching my own. My heart sunk a little. Dad would often experience down days like today. He’d say seemingly strange things during those times; ‘Are you even real?’ was one question I remember him asking. It wasn’t aimed at me… or at anyone in particular for that matter – the words were just spoken out loud in the silence of the room – and then forgotten… That is, until after Dad’s death, at which point those words resurfaced many a time in the silence of my room.  Am I even real? Is any of this real?

Dad’s depression wasn’t always obvious – most of my memories of Dad are of him laughing, of him making us giggle and of his gentle, caring ways. But amidst those precious memories, I distinctly remember Dad’s darker days – day’s when Dad thought the world was conspiring against him. Once, he accused Mum of trying to poison him with a packet of ham (it was unopened at the time.) When I was about seven, Dad had to be hospitalised until he was able to recover. The doctors labelled Dad a ‘manic depressive’ – but to us he was our beautiful, strong Dad. And the most loving, gentle soul we have ever known. A man who, despite his setbacks and sufferings, was generous, selfless and giving. I still have the fluffy, yellow monkey Dad bought for me whilst he was in hospital – my sister got a cuddly penguin. When Mum told Dad she would be bringing us along on her next visit, he’d bought cuddly toys for us from the hospital staff. Even in Dad’s darkest hours he was thinking of us…

I don’t blame Dad for experiencing depression. Even the strongest of people would struggle to cope with going from a fit, strong, working male; to suddenly experiencing daily seizures, the loss of clear speech, the ability to walk long distances because of the pain, and being told that you can no longer work or drive because of the risk of an accident –  all before reaching the age of thirty. The daily medication Dad took to control his epilepsy also impacted his moods. He would try to stop taking the pills because they dampened his spirits, but then the seizures would come with even greater frequency and violence than before.

Yet despite all this, Dad always managed to bounce back – many a weekend we’d all be sitting in Mum’s living room and Dad would suddenly erupt in fits of giggles over something one of us said or at a funny memory – like the time Dad told off some boys for throwing litter into our garden and it turned out to be rose petals; or the time Mum egged Dad on the head in a toy fight, and he decided to embarrass her by announcing what she’d done over Christmas dinner to Gran and Granddad. We were in hysterics (made worse by the unamused look on Gran’s face.) Maybe our family was a bit bonkers, but Dad’s laugh was contagious and sooner or later we’d all be laughing uncontrollably with him. But not today.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a fistful of Cadbury’s Roses that I had taken from the staff room table. I knew how much Dad loved chocolates and gave him a handful. He sat in the other arm chair and we ate our chocolates in silence. rosesI looked around his living room; at the hand me down furniture Mum had given him after one of her moves; at the small electric fire hanging on the wall; at his stereo in the corner of the room where he’d play Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin; at his wooden television, which always seemed to be fuzzy no matter how much you wiggled the aerial; and my heart ached for the times when we all lived together, as a family – safely protected under one roof. Dad deserved a throne, not this isolation he found himself in. I tried to make light conversation, but I could tell Dad’s thoughts were elsewhere – and so after a while, I left.

Six months later Dad died. Of an epileptic seizure in his one bedroomed house. Alone. By that time I had returned to Spain from my four month visit home for the Christmas period. I’d left for Spain in the February, and in May I received the phone call from Mum.

The official term for what happened to Dad, and others who have lost their lives to epilepsy, is SUDEP (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy). It was sudden and unexpected – at least, it seemed that way at the time. But I often think back to that cold, December evening in Dad’s living room, of the way Dad looked at his reflection in the mirror and announced to me that he was dying. And I wonder – “Did Dad know all along?”

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Ten Years Without My Bear Hugs

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It’s been 10 years today since my bear hugs were taken away… There aren’t enough words in the dictionary to capture how greatly you are missed. But on this day I’d like to remind you of how much you are loved…

Dad, I love you because…

…because you would walk us around on your feet as little girls. Because you would shine a spotlight on us as we danced around the living room. Because you never complained about your stroke or your epilepsy, even though the seizures frightened you. Because you made us smile and laugh daily with your unpredictable humour. Because you were the most selfless human being I’ve ever met and would spend your last £5 on chocolate raisins, Beano magazines and Matchbox cars for us. Because you lived with 3 feisty females and never lashed out physically or verbally once – you’d always walk away when angry. Because you gave the best bear hugs ever. Because you cared and worried about our safety. Because you surprised us with cups of teas and Garfield inspired butties in the mornings and always made them with a smile. Because you weren’t afraid to show your emotions. Because of a million other reasons I never had the chance to say to you – but mostly – because you’re my Dad… My love for you is infinitely endless. I love and miss you so so much. Thank you for being my guide.

Loving you always – forgetting you never xx

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Forever Young

Writing 101, Day 3: Commit to a Writing Practice

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?

Today, try free writing. To begin, empty your mind onto the page. Don’t censor yourself; don’t think. Just let go. Let the emotions or memories connected to your three songs carry you.

Ok – so I cheated a little with this one – I’m still struggling with the concept of ‘free write’ when I know somebody else will be reading my work. I’m still trying to break out of my habit of attacking these assignments in the same manner that I write my Uni assignments – checking for grammar and punctuation and that it makes sense… I’ve also only written about one song! I may return and write about two more songs using the concept of free write later! But for now, here’s my first attempt.

Forever Young – Bob Dylan

Forever Young reminds me of the most courageous, selfless man I have ever been blessed enough to know – my Dad.

garfieldMany a day passed when the sound of Dad caterwauling to a cacophony of Bob Dylan tracks could be heard from our kitchen, as he cooked for us his latest concoction; sausage and egg butty (with a cheese slice); waffle and bacon butty (with a cheese slice); sausage, waffle, egg AND bacon butty (with a cheese slice). At the time, I didn’t quite appreciate Dad’s love of Dylan’s raspy tones, (or his Garfield the Cat inspired sandwiches for that matter!) But when Dad passed, I longed to hear him wailing out of tune, I craved Bob’s lyrics and for the sound of his harmonica to drift through our home once again. But most of all, I wanted nothing more than to see our gentle giant stroll through the door holding a great, big, greasy butty (with a cheese slice!)

I have Bob’s lyrics tattooed on my inner arm:

May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung;
May you stay forever young.

Forever Young reminds me of how Dad lived his life, and of how I aspire to live mine each day: May you always do for others and let others do for you.

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Bob in his heyday.

I was lucky enough to see Bob Dylan on my travels. I went alone to watch him play live at the Vector Arena, in Auckland. Despite the packed out venue, there was an empty seat beside me, which I honestly believe was occupied by the love and spirit of my Dad. I listened in admiration to Bob’s two hour set, imagining Dad watching Bob play live when he was in his heyday. Admittedly, my heart sunk a little when the curtains closed before hearing Forever Young play; but then, to my utter astonishment and gratitude, the curtains rose, and Dylan’s harmonica once again drifted throughout the stadium to the sound of the crowd cheering. The unmistakeable melody of Forever Young filled Vector Arena and filled my heart, enveloping it with Bob’s words and the love of my hero, my Dad.

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My Dad in his heyday 🙂

Presthaven Sands

Writing 101, Day 2: A Room with a View (or Just a View)

If you could zoom through space in the speed of light, what place would you go to right now?

Today’s twist: organize your post around the description of a setting.

A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.

– Joan Didion

A wave of nostalgia rises in my chest as I wistfully leave the quiet of my quaint Oxfordshire room. I am washed upon the shores of Presthaven Sands. It has been over twenty years since I have walked these grassy dunes, yet I am here now, a child again; blissfully unaware that these moments spent holidaying in Wales, would be some of the last of a time when our family remained complete.

I remember well the walk from our caravan to the beach; wooden walkways weaving upwards through the dunes, stopping just short of the crest of the hill. I try to keep up with my sister, Sarah, who races ahead in her usual bid to lose me. She is two years older than I am, but her height would have you think more, at five years of age she is all legs and feet. Some of the horizontal slats are missing from the pathway and I hesitate before hopping across to safety. The thick, grassy blades beneath are sharp, but my memory sharper, as I recall a previous trip to Wales when one of those blades borrowed itself deep into the sole of my foot. Oh! How I’d tried to fight back my tears as Mum removed it from my tender skin.

With trepid steps I continue, the wind whipping through my hair as it carries the high-pitched yelps of Alex, our fluffy white Samoyed, high up into the sky. Never did I feel so alive then in this moment of pure anticipation and bliss. The beach was a rare experience for a young girl growing up in Tameside, Manchester, and I longed to stay in that place forever.

I finally reach the summit, joining my sister at the top. We stand overlooking the beach below, eagerly glancing over our shoulders as we await the moment Mum would signal our descent. She’s talking to my Auntie and Uncle and we try to catch her attention. 50I can just make out Dad’s dark hair dancing in the distance, wild like the wind, as he trails a few feet behind the others. Dad mostly walked in solitude, preferring to take it all in. When Mum finally nods her head, off we bolt, racing down to the beach below! Our descent is as dangerous as it is thrilling; the fear of being bowled over by a big barking bundle of fluff; the stray sand dunes with their thick, pointy blades, the jagged rocks and sea shells which have been washed up along the beach edge. I stop to collect a few, holding the hem of my dress and placing them gently inside my make shift hammock. I have vivid memories of lining them up once back at the caravan, cleaning them and admiring my new-found treasures. Even now, aged thirty, I own shiny pebbles from the beaches I have visited across the globe. My Mum says I’m a hoarder. Admittedly I am, but only a hoarder of memories and sentimental things. I’m much more brutal when it comes to discarding material objects, (much to the satisfaction of the local charity shops!)

We walk our usual annual walk to the lighthouse; a walk we can only take once the tide is out. Mum tells us that we’ll have to be quick before the tide returns, which only adds to the thrill and excitement of our adventure. The further we walk, the more the sand resembles the sea, which has left behind imprints of ripples and waves. 47We stop along the way to kick a beach ball with Dad, to draw pictures in the sand with sticks, and to admire the rainbow coloured jelly fish which have been washed up along the shore. Alex yelps at them and has a good sniff. Mischievously, Sarah and I throw lumps of sand on top of them to see how their bodies wobble. As we get nearer, the white and red speck of the lighthouse on the horizon grows taller and taller until eventually, it looms large above our heads like a giant majestic sea creature! The sea waves crash against the rocks as the sound of seagulls circling above permeates the air. We climb the jagged edge to the lighthouse, our feet slippery and mucky from the soggy sand. Once sitting safely, we gaze out over the water and breathe the salty sea air deep into our lungs.

We made it! Our family; forever united in our perilous adventures across Presthaven sands. And it is here I remain, in that perfect place, which is forever imprinted in my heart.

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