Connecting Hearts: September Transition

Little Notes

September 17, 2019

white cushions circled around a white candle and pink flowers

My birthday, the 9th of September, is an auspicious date for the Chinese. They love the number nine because it symbolises eternity.

For me, the month of September with its whiff of slight chill in the air has always marked change. Always a year older and accompanied by another school year, abundant with its promise of new opportunities. In July this year our youngest graduated from University and this September was the first one in 20 years where my calendar has not been dictated by the school year. I am slightly bereft if not a little excited.

And yet, the theme of September this year continues to be transition. Coincidentally, both boys started their first full time jobs and what a shift that has been for all of us. Admittedly, bigger for them than for me as they stare down the barrel of a lifetime of employment ahead. I’m glad I am here them as they navigate suits, ties, laundering shirts and their collective apprehension about what it means to be “grown up”. And as these scenes unfold, I realise our relationships are in transition again. Nothing is ever fixed.

As the lightness and freedom of summer change over to more serious matters of autumnal responsibilities, I perpetually find myself scrambling to figure out a plan of how to celebrate my birthday on the actual day. While I love the date of my auspicious birthday, it falls at a particularly tricky time of year and has always been a bit of a logistical nightmare in terms of sourcing family or friend availability on the actual day.

One year the duty fell solely on my second son who was 12 at the time. His brother had gone back to boarding school and his father was away on business. We had celebrated the week before with the family so the two of us had a quiet dinner after which I went to walk the dog for the night. Throughout  the 15 minutes it takes to go around the block, I kept getting anxious phone calls from him. “When are you coming home?”,”Why aren’t you home yet?”, “Are you coming home???” As it turns out, he had sweetly taken it upon himself to surprise me with a birthday cake and mistimed the candle lighting. By the time I got home, he greeted me with a puddle of wax on the top of the cake and moist eyes.

Over the last five years, my family have been relieved of their responsibilities of celebrating with me on the actual day because of The Birthday Club. But recently the rhythm of that has changed as well. With all our children grown and no school diary to tie us down, several of us just aren’t in London in early September. My friends and I have actually combined my birthday with another birthday in October and we’ll be convening at the end of September now. Transition again.

So this year with both boys away with their new jobs, my husband in Los Angeles, his second home, and the rescheduling of Birthday Club, I resolved to take control of my birthday on my own. I wanted to meet transition head on by challenging myself to go out of my comfort zone.

I decided to host and facilitate my first Sister Story Circle. I happened upon Sister Stories via Instagram and attended my first one just under a year ago. The simplicity of women coming together in Circle to tell their stories caught my attention. Its magic grabbed me. I trained to become a facilitator six months later in March.

The training weekend was special. I was surrounded by a group of women who are generous in their desire to create and hold space for other women, giving them the freedom to be themselves. In this hectic world we live in, it’s easy to get lost in our heads, riddled with worries and anxieties. Sister Stories offers us all a place to stop and drop into a different way of being.

After that training weekend, there was nothing to stop me from hosting Circles; nothing that is except for my own fears and anxieties. An introvert to the core, I have never been comfortable speaking in front of a group, finding the whole process slightly draining.  All these nightmare memories of presenting my projects in Architecture school kept emerging. For a young woman in desperate search for her voice, presenting a vulnerable piece of myself to a group of scowling critics was not ideal. It took me years and much maturity to realise that the critics were primarily more interested in showcasing their intellectual prowess than listening to what I had to say. I look back now and realise I had stories to tell but not the confidence to tell them. I was too eager to please and too worried that my stories were not good enough and in comparison to others not the “right” stories.

Conceptually I could see that holding space in a Circle was completely different from presenting to a group of people. But I couldn’t let go of that nagging, innate doubt. Wanting to share my enjoyment of the Circle experience with others, I stayed with my ambition and built my confidence in small steps. I kept thinking that there was a secret formula to holding Circle and if I could just figure out what it was, I could hold Circle. For weeks after I trained, I attended other people’s circles yearning to find the secret to the formula. For my birthday, I even considered going to another person’s Circle. And then it came to me. Everyone’s secret formula is their own. I was only ever going to find mine by holding my own Circle. It was time. If I couldn’t use my the force of my birthday as the harbinger of change, I was never going to do it. And so I did. 09.09.2019 has triple nine auspicious powers. I know that because I held my first Circle that day.

It was everything I could have wished for. Six women came, we shared our stories and made magic. And afterwards, there might have been some birthday cake as well.

If you’re interested in joining me one day for a Sister Story Circle, please subscribe to Under Plum Blossom in the sidebar for the latest notifications. And if you are interested in exploring Circles in other parts of the UK, have a look here.

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