Sunday 26th March 2017

20170323_101238An important day in the Bishop house as it is my parents 34th wedding anniversary but it also happens to be Mother’s day this year (if you had forgotten, there is still time).

For many, Mother’s day doesn’t bring the same joy it does for others, it might be full of grief for what we lost, had or could have had or sadness/anger for what we wish was possible if things were different.  The yearly ‘event’ I know for many people is quite important, a day to spoil Mum and thank her for everything she does.

I must confess that for my own Mum it hasn’t ever been something pinned into the calendar (and she isn’t just saying that).  Like Valentine’s Day it’s, in her opinion (which I don’t disagree with), another event designed for people to spend more money than they usually would on a card and flowers just because that’s the ‘norm’ – probably something designed by Hallmark to sell more cards.  Who needs just one day to celebrate their Mum when we should be doing this every day right mum? 🙂

However, with the potential impending doom of Mother’s day approaching (for some I know it really does feel like that) I wanted to share something with you that my Dad sent to me.  My Dad is a vicar (yes I realize the irony of him being Reverend Bishop) and religion in some form has been a part of our family life since I was born (and before for that matter) we grew up going to church albeit now I am older I admit I do not go to church very often and wouldn’t class myself as religious as such but that I do have faith.

In any case the reason for mentioning this is that he sent me the link to a blog called Saltwater and Honey.   I had never come across it before but they have grown out of a group of people coming together in the midst of childlessness through condition, miscarriage and other circumstances.  It’s a really great blog, not MRKH specific at all but we all know we are not alone in our situation and to know others share some of our pain, even in different situations is still comforting.

They posted recently about the ‘Mother’s Day Runaways’ service.  Now whilst I am not a regular church goer and realize this wouldn’t be for everyone I think that this is a really lovely idea for those who would actively avoid a Mothering Sunday service (for obvious reasons)  and certainly something I have never seen before.

I remember my brother and I as children attending the Mother’s day service at the local church where all the children would be invited to the front and would return to their mothers with a posy of spring flowers wrapped in foil (so they didn’t drip water everywhere).  It was always a really lovely service however given the focus of course for many it could be too much to handle.

‘Whatever your story, whether you’re grieving the loss of a mother, the loss of a child, or a baby through miscarriage, whether you’re struggling with infertility or childlessness, singleness or a difficult relationship, whether you never even knew your mother or any other reason why you might find Mothering Sunday painful, this quiet, reflective service has been designed with you in mind.’ (Saltwater and Honey, ‘Mother’s Day Runaways’ blog 7th March 2017)

This services appears to be a nice and contemplative way to address some of the grief associated with Mother’s day for those who find it particularly hard or just want to be reflective, in a safe environment, I only wish I lived near Liverpool!

We must of course give ourselves time to grieve; not being able to have children is not something you just ‘get over’ perhaps ever in some cases.  Some may lose their faith because of a situation they find themselves in whilst some may find solace in what faith can provide to support them through that time.  In contrast some may be indifferent to the whole concept of faith and religion and of course that is fine too but they may still find something to relate to in different situations.

As topics like infertility start to become less taboo, people are more conscious and more sensitive to it but there is still a way to go here.  I am expecting to open my Facebook, Twitter, Instagram on Sunday to a wealth of Mother’s day related posts and  I look forward to reading the heartfelt posts people put up (I am not just saying that), just spare a thought for your friend, sister, daughter, niece etc etc (and of course their partners) for whom Mother’s day can be a double edged sword as they battle through personal troubles that you may not be aware of.

To those for whom infertility, childlessness and loss is at the very forefront of your minds, sending warm thoughts and hugs, I know this day can be difficult.

Importantly, to my Mum, the most anally retentive, peculiar, unique but most squishy centred mum I could ever possibly hope for, Happy Mother’s day 🙂  – you might even get a card!



Glass half empty or glass half full?

I am not traditionally an adventurous person.

I like to experience things yes but I get scared / worried / anxious about things very easily and as such whilst it may sound lame actually getting out and doing things by myself is quite a big deal.

Sure I take on bonkers personal challenges but that is a new thing driven by my desire to raise awareness for something that I am truly passionate about but I don’t do a lot of things by myself in terms of travel or adventure always preferring to experience such things with others.

That being said there are many reasons why I am pushing my boundaries willingly to improve my own drive and determination whilst also proving to myself that I can do it and I actually might enjoy or make a difference to myself if I try.

This weekend saw me embark on a business trip to somewhere I have been a number of times; Tromso, Norway.  The best type of business trip for me when travelling solo is to go to places I have been before thus reducing (not eliminating) the anxiety levels, particularly somewhere as beautiful as Tromso.  This time however I decided to spend the weekend before my Monday meeting there and explore, solo.  Something I have never done before.

I bloody loved it.

Tromso is a place that for me has held a lot of magic and wonder ever since I first knew what the northern lights or aurora borealis was yet I had never seen them.  This time would be different I told myself I had devised a plan of all the things I wanted to see in the two days I had.  Tromso isn’t a big place and at this time of year is covered in snow so thick in places (off roads and paths) that can be up to your knees or deeper but its landscape and general beauty in the depths of the fjordland is something really quite special.

I woke up Saturday to what would be a turbulent day weatherwise, a mix of what I would call a blizzard (Norwegians it seems just call this ‘snow’), an arctic wind (literally) and even some sun.  Of course taking my opportunity post ‘blizzard’ #3 of the day to walk to the furthest point from my hotel I then got caught in ‘blizzard’ #4 on the way back.  It didn’t seem to matter if I was heading towards or away from where the wind was coming from the snow seemed permanently in my face but left me smiling like a small child. 1411

I had the best day roaming around the delights of Tromso – still training by clocking up a good 7.5miles in doing so.  I didn’t think it could get much better.  But it did.

Sunday was an altogether calmer day, a lot of places are closed and I took the opportunity to head to the Fjellheisen (cable car) to take in a view that promised a lot from the top.  I wasn’t disappointed sitting eating lunch looking over Tromso island…I then had an idea.  Given I had seen everything else I wanted to the day before I decided to walk to the bottom of Tromso island to the Folkeparken.  It seemed like a good opportunity for some decent training whilst also going to see the only beach on Tromso (and a park under about a foot and a half of snow!).  The walk was interesting and precarious at times given that priority is given to cars and not pedestrians and there were several places where a pavement reached an immediate conclusion due to a pile of snow dumped on it.

I was greeted with some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen and I walked on the beach, next to the snow and took in wonder of this pretty much unspoiled landscape (we shall glaze over the fact I then decided to stand on a rock to look at the schisted flakes in it and then had to rapidly jump back to shore as a wave came in much to the hilarity, I am sure, of the passers by walking their dogs).  It felt very special to be there and it left me quite inspired by its wonderment.  It sounds ridiculous but it felt like a life affirming moment.

As I strolled back to my hotel having clocked up  11 miles I was greeted by an email from one of my Norwegian colleagues who knew how much I wanted to see the Northern Lights and having seen the sky was due to clear about 10pm that night had offered, very generously, to take me on an aurora hunt.

Now as I mentioned I have always wanted to see the aurora it’s been on my bucket list for a long long time but it was not looking promising as we drove west out of Tromso and onto Kavloya (whale island) in search for the elusive aurora on a night dominated by a pretty much full moon and a very hazy sky yet it felt like there was something there and we just couldn’t see it.  By 11pm we were still hunting and about to give up when we thought we would try one last place.

We stopped by the side of the road and got out wandering (falling in my case) down a slope towards the edge of the water (now standing knee deep in snow) suddenly above the edge of the haze it appeared like a ribbon weaving across the sky elongating and contracting, green and wispy.  It was only visible for 5 minutes but I couldn’t take my eyes off it it was beautiful.

I genuinely can’t describe it and it makes me emotional just thinking about it.  It all seemed rather surreal at the time to be honest, for my aurora hunt chauffeur and companion, Hugo, who sees the Northern Lights as frequently as I see the stars my excitement may have been a little overbearingly tedious.

Its moments like that, over what for me felt like a really special weekend for a number of reasons that you never forget.

It made me think of an article which had been left on one of the support groups related to fulfillment and how this woman’s opinion (Sarah Larson) is that you lead an empty and unfulfilled life if you don’t have children.  Everyone is of course entitled to their own opinion despite how narrow minded it may seem to me because I think fulfillment takes on so many different meanings and it certainly doesn’t make my life empty because I don’t have children.

One of her early arguments is, and I quote, ‘there is absolutely no chance that your life will be as full or meaningful, or that you will learn as many essential truths about existence, as you would if you had kids’ I definitely disagree with and this article has itself sparked nearly 3000 comments many of which are negative.  Whilst I can personally ignore such articles, angry as they make me, for those like me who can’t have children (or can’t naturally do so) then these types of articles cause a lot of understandable upset.  Of course we could avoid reading them but of course we often still do as we are interested in what people say.  For those struggling to come to terms with MRKH (or indeed other conditions with similar implications) such articles can send you further into a despair that seems unwavering.

I want children I have never hidden that fact but articles like this make me feel more driven to do something for myself – essentially how can I take my emotionally charged response to an article and make it work for me.   I have a habit of focusing on the future too much yet I am not in a position to have children right now and I know and have to accept that it will be a difficult process when I get to that point.  I also have to keep reminding myself that I need to live in the present not the future I wish for.  No easy task and it has taken me a long time to learn that but it’s true.

The fulfillment of having children is very different to the fulfillment from other life experiences and peoples perception of what it means for them will also differ and that is natural and ok – doesn’t mean one person is right and the other wrong.   I know plenty of people who don’t have children and are perfectly fulfilled and those who have children and are equally not fulfilled in the way they would like to be.  Life isn’t black and white.

Everyone has their own opinion and in some cases that might upset us however whilst we can wallow in our pain or upset about a certain situation (and it is incredibly hard to get out of that cycle I realize) we can also try and use that for the better, fed up of a situation we can’t control and try to make even the smallest of changes which can make a big difference empowering us to do more if we want to try. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for.

I spent a weekend of total fulfillment, motivation and happiness which gave me time to reflect and more importantly spend time in the company of someone I often don’t give enough time for, myself.

You can’t put a value on that.


2 challenges, 2 feet/2 wheels, <24hours

Physical Education was the one subject at school I was allowed to get below a ‘B’ in without my Mum going mental.  It is safe to say I have never really been very good at it being exceedingly uncoordinated and clumsy.  My first memory of PE at primary school aged ~5 was running 100m and tripping over my own feet narrowly avoiding breaking my wrist as I fell over and my wrist bent backwards.

Secondary school was not much better and whilst my long gangly legs were quite useful for sprinting and long jump I never really excelled and I even managed to fall off a trampoline at 14 and damage my lower back to the point I haven’t ever been able to trampoline again…shame.

It caused much hilarity amongst my friends when I then became a House Captain in the 6th form.  A lot of what the school houses did was sport related and wins / achievements received ‘house points’ (among other things of course).  Of the 4 House Captains I was the least sporty by far yet my House won every trophy possible that year – probably because I wasn’t actually doing any sport by this stage.

This was a long time ago and I have worked hard to to try and get myself interested in sport largely for keeping fit and losing weight.  It is not easy to just get up and run and whilst I do it frequently now i still run relatively short distances, I don’t time myself (purposefully) and I just try and get out and enjoy it.

For me having a focus or challenge made such a difference last year to my approach to general fitness and also to training so I thought why not up the ante this year.  This is no mean feat though even I understand that what I am taking on is not going to be easy and I don’t want it to be, I want the challenge and if I can raise money whilst doing it then that is even better.

For me the cycling made sense as the main challenge, I have never cycled even half that distance before in one hit, I hate hills and this route takes me across some of the most beautiful (and hilly) scenery in England.  Whilst the walk is the warm up anyone who thinks walking is ‘easy’ (I admit I didn’t really know what the fuss was about before I trained for last year) try walking 100km without sleep and you will soon realise that endurance challenges of any kind are anything but easy and are a massive test on your physical and mental strength and not everyone finishes it for that reason.

If you want to donate then I would be delighted of course and I very much appreciate the support but more than anything please follow the blog and see what I am up to and why I am raising awareness.

Thank you! xx