Things are balancing out. Working themselves through. Making sense. And in the process creating a stunning work of art. ALL BY THEMSELVES.
I've already written about the surprise contact this week from my old friend and colleague, and also my dear friend's success in securing a job? Well, there have been even more coincidences - pushes and nudges - that have convinced me that the master plan (life?) is indeed a joyous experience. And a journey to be trusted and enjoyed along the way. Yes, even despite the agonies that I've sometimes had to endure. Yes, even despite the set-backs, the unfairness, the frustrations of numerous situations through my life.
These days I find myself smiling - and laughing - when faced by challenges or mishaps. Because my automatic response these days is that, as my mum always used to say "this too shall pass away" - I can cope through the storm, I can find the help or support I need, and once the storm has passed, in it's place there is ALWAYS something worthwhile. Something that without exception enriches my life or that of those about me. Like the smile that creeps over your face at the end of a good film or book, where the plot suddenly becomes clear and you can make sense of the story. The dawning realisation, the knowing smirk, the tilt of the head, the stroking of the chin "Ah, so THAT'S what it was all about then eh?"
Well - that's where I am at the moment.
Yesterday my boiler stopped working. It was just after the delivery of more oil - that I had to pay for with the final balance left on my French credit card. Yes, things are that tight. Boiler reparation is not in my list of skills, so I called friends for help. The first person I asked was equally lacking in that department, but I struck gold with the second contact. Robert, my neighbour just across from me, it turns out, is really quite experienced in the ways of boilers. And he was more than happy to help. He and his wife came to the village many years before I did, and when I first arrived we used to spend many evenings together. Time passed, and we saw less of each other - but always stopped and chatted when we saw each other. Since I've been on my own, they have rallied round and I'm reminded of how much I enjoy their company.
In the middle of Robert's explorations, we feared we may need to call in a professional plumber. Of course, that would be an expense I cannot cover at the moment. So instead, I called my friend Kevin, who now lives in Dubai, but who used to be a plumber here in France. He also happens to know my boiler very well! It was a fascinating experience. Robert kneeling by the boiler, with Kevin talking on loudspeaker telephone giving him step by step instructions on what he needed to do. A smaller problem, of course, but I couldn't help thinking of the film Apollo 13 where Tom Hanks was stranded in space and had to fix the engine with expert guidance from the team in Huston.
By that point it was nearing the time I had to collect Dylan, and so Sylvie, Robert's wife, kindly offered to go and get him for me. She also offered me a shower as I had no hot water. In the morning, you see, before the oil was delivered, I had put a treatment on my hair, fully expecting to wash it off in my shower to reveal a head of shiny healthy locks. Instead of which I'd resorted to pulling a woolly hat over my head, and keeping the hood of my cardigan up. And I had friends due round for dinner in just over an hour and a half...!
Gratefully I accepted her offer, pulled on my boots and warm coat, and traipsed over to their house, with towel, soap and shampoo tucked under my arm.
The shower was absolutely wonderful, and I enjoyed every second of it! Afterwards, I opened the door to reach for my towel... and that was when I noticed it. Somehow I hadn't quite shut the shower door properly, and there was water all over their floor! I know that my neighbours are very particular about keeping clean and tidy, so I was horrified to see that the water had not only soaked the beautiful woven cream wool mat that was outside the shower, but that it was also now heading towards the just as beautiful blue rug that was by the sink. This one I was even more worried about, as I'm sure it's one that Sylvie has made herself.
Because of my knee injury, I tend to be more cautious with my movements these days - particularly when the ground looks treacherous. Sylvie, incidentally, had a hip replacement operation last year, and I was also terrified that she might come in and slip on a wet floor. Running my own internal Laurel and Hardy disaster movie at this stage, I carefully stepped out of the shower and over to the blue rug. I managed to get it off the floor and over the hanging rails, just in the nick of time, as the water flowed to where it had just been. A small victory, but one that boosted my confidence and changed Laurel and Hardy's mishaps to a scene of jolity and laughter. I was winning!
Unable to find a mop, I threw on my clothes and walked quickly back over to my house. Robert was still working away in my house, but now there was a reassuring thrumming sound coming from the boiler room and Robert was standing there, hands on hips and a huge grin of satisfaction across his face. "It's working! We did it!"
I didn't want to worry him about my mishap over the road, so I congratulated him warmly and said I just needed to find my mop to clean his bathroom floor. His smile slipped slightly and his eyes widened a lot (he had probably started his own internal screening of the flooding cabins in the Titanic) but I reassured him that I had everything under control. It was just that I couldn't find a mop at his house - that was all!
Mop in hand and scuffling back over the road, I quickly got on with the job in hand. It didn't take much, really - the bathroom is on the ground floor (luckily!) and the floor is pretty robust. So by the time Robert appeared at the back door there was nothing to show of my little upset. We hung the big cream rug in the barn to dry, and I asked Robert to tell me all about his success.
A few minutes after arriving back home, Dylan walked through the door and offered to help clear up before our friends arrived. I did the final preparations, went upstairs to style my hair and get ready, and my friends arrived just as I came back in to the kitchen. Perfect timing!
We had a wonderful evening together, and once again I was able to reflect back on the day and appreciate the warmth and depth of my friendships. I am, indeed, richer than even Rockerfella himself - for friendship and love is something that stays with you no matter what happens.
I may not have material wealth - for now - but over the past few months I've realised that I am wealthier than all my wildest dreams. For I have friends. And I have survived.
You may remember that a couple of years ago I made a commitment to "call back my spirit"... well, I've achieved it. It hasn't been easy, and I wouldn't wish my recent experiences on anybody. There have been times when I've felt I can't go on. Times when I thought I couldn't survive the pain. And yet now through it all I can honestly look back and see how every part of my journey has helped me to find myself. And I can finally look at myself and feel safe and secure. And now, as things are gently coming together, I feel that I can finally be me.
I've found ME - not Mel the coach, the wife, the supporter, the provider, the businesswoman - no, ME, MYSELF, I - so aptly put by Joan Armatrading. I think I've already achieved a lot in my life. So now, as I move forward, I absolutely KNOW I can achieve so much more - and this time, it will be for me. Not to prove myself, or please anyone, or to win acceptance. No, now this is for me and what's important to me. For now I know that I can thrive.
And, mark my words - I fully intend to live my life to the max. Watch out world!