Things On The Blog have been pretty quiet lately, mostly because Things In Real Life have been anything but quiet. IB and I find ourselves with three elderly parents between us who are increasingly reliant on our help with day to day living. As they become less able-bodied and begin to struggle with cognitive issues we've taken on more and more caring duties. It's been one of those situations that has rather snowballed in recent months, in that what was initially just a small amount of extra work has begun to seem all-encompassing. I work days and IB works evenings so his Mum - who now lives with us and is physically very frail - always has someone at home with her if she needs anything. My parents only live a 20 minute drive away, but they are also increasingly reliant on my help so I have had to drastically cut my work schedule so that I have enough time to assist them. Our social life has pretty much shrunk to zero, and we don't even get to spend that much time with each other.
The last few weeks have been especially stressful, with lots of medical issues and appointments for all three parents, a blizzard of paperwork and officialdom to deal with, the death of several household appliances (why do they all break at once?) and all the kind of SNAFUs usually thrown up when Mercury is in retrograde. I find myself fantasising wistfully about going on retreat - or even just running away for the afternoon to sit in blissful peace in the woods.
Yesterday as I walked to work after parking the car I was feeling incredibly stressed and overwhelmed by everything, wondering if I am actually strong enough to cope with it all. Part of the pavement was coned off due to some kind of groundworks in progress, so I stepped out into the road to go around the obstruction. As I did, I spotted something on the ground. It looked like a shell, and I wondered how on earth it had got there - and how something as fragile as a shell has survived lying in the middle of the road. I nearly stepped over it, but curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up, expecting to find it was actually just a pebble that looked like a shell. Yet as my fingers closed around it, I realised it really was a shell.
Now I should mention at this point that this isn't the first time I've found a strange object in my path. I call it pavement divination - when I find these oddities I think of them as messages from the Universe and pay attention to what they may be telling me. A while ago I was working on self-care and heart magic and I found a tiny 'Ace of Hearts' charm in my path while walking to work. I took that as a sign of encouragement that I was on the right track. And of course, there was that whole dead frog thing many years ago.
I turned the shell over in my hand, and saw that it was filled with cement. I think it had come from the hard core that had either been excavated during the groundworks, or was waiting to backfill the hole. It seems incredible to me that something as fragile as a shell - even one filled with cement - could have survived being dug up, knocked about, and thrown down onto the road in a town centre. And yet here it was, nestled in the palm of my hand. It had sustained some chips and scratches, but it had weathered it all.
I smiled, closing my fingers around this small miracle, this battered but resilient treasure. If this small shell can endure the tough times and come out intact then so can I.
And then the Universe sent another message. As I straightened up, a car horn sounded behind me, reminding me I was still standing in the road. I turned to wave an apology at the driver, only to see it was one of my closest friends driving past and waving in greeting. This is a friend who has always been there for me, someone who I know has my back and who I love dearly. Of all the cars that could have driven by at that moment... It seemed like the Universe wanted to remind me that not only am I resilient enough to get through this challenging period, but that I am lucky enough to have wonderful, loving, supportive people in my life.
My miracle shell is now on my altar, and I will keep it as a token to help me remember in the tough times that I am stronger than I think - and that I am not alone.