On this day, 24th August, two years ago I wrote my very first blog with the opening paragraph ‘change can take a lifetime or a weekend’. I was sat on a mattress on the floor of an empty house contemplating a year of travel with our two children, family hound, and a broken husband.
I thought back in 2015 that change was the only constant in our life. It generally involved doing something differently or moving somewhere new, usually through a spontaneous jolt or a not-so-gentle nudge from external sources.
Now, having embarked on the most incredible two years of trials, travels, and tribulations, I think I finally understand the pure and painful process of real, meaningful change.
From a caterpillar to a butterfly, change requires ‘un-becoming’ or ‘becoming’ something or someone very different. An awakening. An ugly unfurling of old skin for the gentle unravelling of new wings.
The Author of the Edge of Wonder once wrote, ‘Transformation is not sweet and bright. It is a dark and murky painful pushing. An unravelling of truths you have carried in your body. A practice in facing your own created demons. A complete uprooting – before finally, becoming’.
I think we travelled the same paths.
Real change involves facing your own bullshit. Burning away the noise and fear that does not serve you. Accepting brokenness and ruin. Making peace with old wounds. Surrendering to no return. Trusting decisions. Acting despite fear. Walking with uncertainty. Bidding farewell to the past version of you. Unburdening loneliness to experience the exhilarating wonder of being the only person awake in a sleeping, slumbering city. It’s about working on yourself. By yourself. For yourself.
To the unbeknown onlooker, the past two years of our life could easily be erased. For on the surface, nothing has changed. We live in a beautiful old chapel in a quaint Cornish village just 2 miles from the cottage we left in 2015. Our children are enrolled in the same local schools and have re-established old friendships. Chris is a senior executive for a fiscal organisation. I too have returned to the familiarity of old work to support my new business. To all intents and purposes, we are a carnival mirror image of our previous lives. Full circle. We are back at the beginning.
Yet, EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED.
Our spiritual transformation is complete. We have emerged after two years, with our very own set of wings. Proverbial wings of a magnificent fusion of colour. Fascinating. Detailed. Earned.
We have a story. A colourful tale of love, loss, adversity, strength, resilience, determination and courage. A raw and tender romance of an alternative kind.
Our metamorphoses as a family has been unfathomable, aided so exquisitely by hundreds of different memories accumulated over thousands of travelled miles. We have morphed into one. A union. A song so familiar that all other melodies feel foreign.
The Cotter family who left in 2015 are a far cry from the family who returned. Yes, we look the same. Sound the same. Live nearby. Work as hard. But fundamentally, we are different people. Our outlook, values, desires, and dreams have all changed.
What we want. How we want to live. What we need. Who we need. How we go about it – has all been placed under the spotlight.
At times, we have felt like strangers in a crowded room. Unable to connect with the world as we once did. Aloof and uncommunicative, our only safe haven within the company of each other. After our return from Nicaragua, we spent too much energy seeking approval or justifying our ways. Worrying about what others would think. Trying too hard to explain. Pushing against the sway of voices.
It was not until we returned to Cornwall, where we feel most at home, that we finally found our strength and solace. We took time to reassess, consider and adjust to life back home. We retreated into our family bubble and recreated the closeness of our travels. It was here, after much soul searching, talking and writing that we discovered we had one final stage of change still to accomplish.
Acceptance of the past. Of the wrongs. Of the events that shaped us and influenced our life (and our travels). Acceptance of people. Of relationships lost. Their actions. Our actions. In-actions, reasons, and wrong-doings.
For me, this is the most difficult of life challenges. Acceptance is second only to forgiveness – an admirable attribute I see in others – but sadly something I feel is beyond my capability. To this day I carry around a bitterness that stings each time the past bites. I struggle terribly with injustice and unfairness. Two values I uphold above all others. Not being able to put right a terrible wrong from years ago, makes me powerless. A feeling I abhor.
Still, I know I have harboured anger and resentment for too long. I know it is time to let go. I must credit the worst time in our life for shaping us, and everything that has happened to us since. We are the people we are today because of it. We hold a thousand different memories thanks to it. It is time to make room for happiness and close the channels that cause painful, cutting feelings of inadequacy and misjudgement. It is time to let go.
Accepting that I need to work towards acceptance is as good as its going to get today. I appreciate that life will be much brighter once we reach that destination. During our long dog walks through deserted country lanes, talking, being together, breathing in mother nature and watching the sun set, I feel we are advancing in the right direction. The final stage of change is in our grasp.
For now, we are happy to be back in Cornwall, in the area we love. Being here, amongst the roads we know so well, confirms we made the right decision to come back. As much as we adored our travels, there is nothing quite like the warm embrace of home.
Three weeks ago, we moved into a delightful cottage well-off the beaten track. Its old stone walls and sash windows provide the perfect sanctuary for us at this quiet point in our lives. We did not realise just how much we missed stability and the familiarity of old friends until we returned. Our hearts feel settled here. For now, our wanderlust is sleeping. We are happy just nest making and creating a beautiful cosy retreat for our amazing family.
I could not put it better than this;
‘She was an adventurer at heart; but oh, how she loved drinking this tea from this mug in this chair. Oh, how she loved to be home’.
We started out on this journey two years ago, hoping to ‘reset’ as a family and reconnect with what is most important. Family and time. Little did we know then, how much more we would gain.
Our adventure started with the words ‘Some people dream about it. Some people talk about it. Some people DO IT…
Well, WE DID IT.
We did it really well.
AND BY GOD, IT WAS GOOD!
Now, our full circle has come around.
But with all circles, there is no finish line.
This, we know, is just the beginning.