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Lockdown by Live-in Carer

6 Minute Read

There’s being a live-in carer when you can get out and about, visit a friend, see your kids, indulge in a spot of raving from time to time and generally remain connected to the outside world. Then there is being a carer during the lockdown. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done and I review my situation often, surprised that I ended up here. I’m also grateful when I think about where I might have found myself when the orders were issued globally to ‘stay at home’. It could have been anywhere, considering I’ve been wandering the planet, home-free for the best part of seven years. I know what’s going on in the world right now and am aware that there are millions of people suffering greatly during these ‘unprecedented’ times so any challenging aspects of the job I write about please know that I’m not complaining, only describing.

I’ve always been a fundamentally caring person, but when I retired from my last career, I imagined I’d be doing less caring, not more. For nearly 20 years, I had a successful career as a Tantric Sex Goddess – a healer, therapist, relationship coach, masseuse, group facilitator and author. Upon retirement, I changed my name – a kind of magic spell to manifest more freedom in my life and took off to the other side of the world to write the memoirs of my tantric sex years. Falling in love with New Zealand, I returned three times over the next three years. It was a relief to be far away from the responsibilities I’d carried and to finally live the dream – travelling while writing. As is often the case, the book took longer than expected and I wasn’t earning much as I flitted about. As exciting as Tantric Goddessing had been, I had no desire to return there but I did need to start thinking about producing some kind of income.

On one of my trips back to England, a friend begged me to go to Kent and look after his 99-year-old mother. It wasn’t long after my own mother had died. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for ten years and spent the final four of those in an upmarket care home. I couldn’t look after her myself for too many reasons to go into here but I visited regularly. If truth be told, it was too close, we had been too close and I could hardly bear witnessing my beloved mother’s slow and inexorable deterioration. Her relatives wanted to be in charge of her care and I was happy to step back, supporting the team with some distance between us. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel guilty that I’d not taken on the role of my mother’s primary carer. This job with Cynthia was a chance to give something back, make amends perhaps. Human emotions are complicated and I’m not inclined to spend a lot of time trying to make sense of that particular tangle of feelings.

I agreed to test the waters for three months and thought I’d just about tolerate the work. Unexpectedly, I loved it and stayed for six months. Cynthia and I bonded. Perhaps it was because I was hired directly by the family and felt a confidence I may not have felt had I started my caring career thrust into a random family through an agency. My friend and his siblings were so grateful to find someone they knew and trusted, they were behind me every step of the way. I felt free to ‘be myself’ – mostly patient, kind and funny and sometimes emotional, impatient and grumpy. I was Cynthia’s first carer and for the first month or so she was resistant to having me there. I won her over but not with charm. I realise now it was by being authentically me. We would laugh together, cry together and watch Zoe Ball on Strictly Come Dancing every single day. We felt at ease. When you do everything for someone – feed them, wash them, walk them to the toilet – for days and months on end, unless you are an automaton a symbiosis occurs, one becomes emotionally- entangled. Love happens.

My time with Cynthia came to an end (she got a new carer and is still going strong, now a 100 years old) and I flew back to New Zealand for the final furlong of my overseas adventure. My oldest son and his wife were expecting their first child and I knew when I returned to England, it would be to settle for good.

Another friend pleaded with me to look after his mum and dad. There’s a lot of need for it out there, it seems. So here I am now in my ninth month of caring for a couple who’ve been married for over 60 years. They’ve become like family. Valerie and Thomas both have dementia to varying degrees, diabetes, a fair few health issues and wear accident-proof pants. They move slowly, with walkers. Valerie, who is 84 is sweet, bright and easy. Thomas, 86, is mainly sweet, bright and easy but can also be infuriating, bullish and can drive me crazy. He went to Cambridge and has an impressive brain on him, which shines through in some of our conversations. I can only imagine what it must feel like to lose control of one’s mind and body, basically one’s life, so of course I have compassion. But I hope don’t live to the point where somebody’s telling me when I have to go to bed and how much chocolate I can eat.

We’ve been locked down together in this house for four months now. Thomas has raised his voice a number of times. I’ve managed to raise mine only twice, a fact of which I’m proud. I’ve learned to become less emotionally reactive and more stolidly patient. The only exercise they get is shuffling back and forth between the three rooms they’re confined to inside the house, with the occasional foray out to the garden. They need me to get them in and out of the door. They need me for most things.

Before COVID, I would drive them out to local restaurants where they were loved by staff, some of whom had known them for years. They had rather a lovely life. The threat of the virus has rendered them house-bound with no visitors. Lockdown was the point at which their carer also became their cleaner, hairdresser, entertainer and full-time chef. We’re all aware that they’re in a comparatively fortunate situation. I do my best to keep us all from going mad, but it’s the Groundhog Dayness of it that gets to us all. Their food preferences are limited, as is their concentration. Toilet accidents are regular occurrences and there is a lot of frustration and apologising on their part, with me saying, ‘Don’t worry, it’s not your fault’. Fortunately, all three of us have a sense of humour and laugh often.

Although the end of lockdown will be welcomed by Thomas, Valerie and I – being a carer is about taking the bad with the good, going with the flow and being responsive in the moment. Of course, I miss certain aspects of my Tantric life but although my days are pretty unsexy right now, caring for the elderly isn’t that far from what I understand to be the true meaning of Tantra. The transformation of poison into nectar. Yin and Yang – the light and the dark. Hey ho. Namaste.

Wild, Free and Location-Independent by lili free

1 Minute Read

I’ve been home-free and nomadic for over four years now. Time seems to be moving at the speed of light these days, and it doesn’t feel that long since I left the house I’d rented for ten years, packed my ‘stuff’ into storage and stepped (well, actually drove) into freedom. I had thought back then – maybe a year on the road. Maximum. The plan was to shake off the stress, hang out with some friends and then decide on a place to live, hopefully somewhere sunnier than England, retrieve my stuff, and settle down.

I saw another description of my lifestyle choice today which I liked – ‘location-independent’. It came across as powerful, confident and intentional – not quite as fluffy-hippy perhaps as ‘nomadic’. It’s a term coined by Roam – one of the new websites springing up on the internet which support a growing community of travellers who live and work wherever they find themselves on the planet.

I would think that most women, projecting forward into their fifty-three year old selves, would visualise a relatively comfortable existence – mortgage on its way to being paid off, annual holidays, grandchildren visiting. They might imagine themselves, with all that newfound spare time, joining a local choir, volunteering in the community, growing vegetables. That’s what my younger self had pictured anyway.

They say making plans is the best way to make God laugh. Four and a half years later, I’m still on the road,and in the air and on the sea. I have no fixed abode, no relationship and no retirement plan whatsoever. Against all odds, I was able to continue running my therapy practice en route. I saw clients on skype and then in person whenever I could organize a venue for the session. Over two years, I systematically shut down all the departments of my work – retreats, monthly events, online dating site – it was a slow inching towards ‘retirement’. I wanted to give myself a new life – a chance for my dream of writing and travelling to become a reality. In December 2016, I saw my last client and managed to shrink my stuff down to four cardboard boxes. There it sits, somewhere in Surrey, still in storage, waiting for me to return…

I’ve been flitting about for so long now that I hardly question it; living out of a suitcase, surfing the waves of opportunity, house-sitting here, responding to invitations there and basically going where the wind blows. But I was asked an interesting question this morning, which caused me to spend the day considering my situation from a different, more spiritual perspective.

I’m staying in a bed and breakfast I found through Air bnb (another company that has made travelling the world so much more enjoyable for people like me) in Auckland, New Zealand. A question I do find myself asking regularly is – how did I get here, (wherever I happen to find myself) from a Hertfordshire village in which I was firmly ensconced for so long? I was anchored there for 23 years because I’d committed to putting two boys through Steiner education for 19 years respectively. During that period I worked consistently hard keeping a roof over their curly heads, and lived life by a crazy schedule, quite normal I’m sure for a single mother, plugged into the system. I survived, by the skin of my teeth, but being on the hamster wheel of generating enough dosh for rent and bills, while trying to maintain some sense of a creative life (I like to write and make music), and balancing it all with the occasional dose of fun, took its toll on my health and with menopause looming, I knew it was time to make some drastic changes.

So here I am now, on the other side of the world, wafting about with no responsibilities whatsoever. And yes, it feels surreal a lot of the time – like a dream. I have to pinch myself regularly.

Another lady at the B & B, in the same age bracket that I’m in, asked me; “How do you stay sane, living without a home base? Do you have rituals?” I answered off the top of my head, “Hmm…well…I do an hour of pilates and meditation every morning…daily siestas whenever possible.” I told her that without enough sleep I can go into panic mode but I’m okay if I keep myself physically fit and emotionally positive. I’m not sure if she was envious or horrified.

I wandered off to take my probiotic powder and eat some sauerkraut, two staples of my diet, and realised that even my eating habits have become ritualised, far more than when I had a home. I’m not an 18 year old backpacker on a gap year. I’m a 53 year old menopausal woman, hyper-aware of how my digestive system affects my mental state. It takes vigilance to stay in good health. I can’t afford to get ill – and I mean that literally, financially. I’m not independently wealthy, nor is there a regular source of income anymore. I rely pretty much on the kindness of strangers and the generosity of friends.

The welcome I seem to receive wherever I go, must be reward for the many years of open-door policy I held while living in a home of my own. I hosted friends, and friends of friends for days, weeks, sometimes months. I took in waifs and strays and hosted many a wild gathering in a space where we were able to play music loud and let our hair down. I’ve always suspected that the universe ‘pays back’, although not necessarily directly. You can gift a person in need and at some other point in time be gifted back by someone entirely unrelated. One doesn’t give conditionally, with the idea of a return favour, no. It’s more like a dance with the cosmos. As you let go of the idea of ‘you and me’, ‘them and us’ and see every living being as One, you begin to experience everything as energy – meeting, merging and parting – a giant lava lamp. Living like this is a Zen practice of sorts.

I take gifts wherever I go, not in the form of material presents or money, although if I find myself with money I generally share it with whomever I happen to be with. I’ve always been that way – hence the generally consistent lack of money in my bank account. Some people see and appreciate what I have to offer, and want me to stay forever; I give a damn fine foot massage, cook, sing. I actually, weirdly, enjoy cleaning (must be something to do with not having my own house anymore). I have a vast and eclectic music collection and love to DJ and share music with people who are hungry for it. To others my gifts are not so apparent, or they get irritated by my footloose and fancy-freeness, and I make a decision to leave, graciously, filled with love and gratitude. Always love and gratitude. But if you’re travelling and even half awake, you learn very quickly never to outstay your welcome.

I have met one or two folk along the way, who have accused me of sponging. I’m then forced to look inside and see if that’s true, am I sponging? Or is it a projection from someone who’s still plugged in, to roles and duties, still in a life they don’t love. My journey, longer and further than I’d originally intended, is all about freeing myself, finding out who I am beyond mother/daughter/therapist/author/wife. It’s like the reboot after inserting a new operating system.

What has happened is that I’ve stayed in so many different places over the last four years, everywhere feels like home. I walk into a house and find my place in it. I see immediately how things work, how the space is kept – and then I blend in. I ricochet between being invisible and lovely. When I do finally find a situation in which I can plant some roots in for a good long while, I shall simply stop travelling and call that place home.

But that innocent question this morning triggered some profound thinking. It turned into a day of quiet contemplation, reflecting on all the other rituals I’ve established in order to keep mind, body and spirit in an expanded, rather than a contracted state, while being home-free for so long. This lifestyle is a deep meditation that makes sitting still on a cushion for extended periods of time look easy.

I’ve cultivated and maintained long-term friendships all over the world, and finally, I’m visiting those lovely folk. A lot of my travelling involves staying with people I’ve known for many years, but have never lived with. As a guest, I’ve become so malleable and easy-going, I hardly recognise myself. I barely have an opinion anymore, about anything, which would be surprising to whoever knew me in my previous life.

Being rarely in control of my environment, this makes me a more flexible person, but the effort to be sensitive and considerate all the time can be wearing. Every so often I take off somewhere and find a quiet place just for myself. There seems to be a lot of socialising when you’re travelling. And the truth is, guests are only welcome as long as they’re nice. Consequently, I do nice a lot. Time away alone is a chance to go inside, be silent. Hence the current ‘me trip’ to the delightful Auckland village of Devonport.

Whilst on the road I’m also writing my memoirs of the last fifteen years. It’s an eye-opener looking back over my career as a Tantric Goddess from this perspective. I adore having time to write at leisure. Nothing in my life these days is a pressure. lili free is my new name, to go with my new life. It’s actually on my passport. Don’t get me wrong – Kavida Rei rocked. I loved her as did everyone else. She certainly knew how to throw a good party! But every day I fall in love with lili free more. Every day of this journey fills me with so much gratitude I could burst. And every day I thank my friends, old and new, for all the gifts along the way.

When I finally get to lay down my hat, you’ll all be welcome to come and stay. I’ll let you know…


A Paean to Raving at 53

1 Minute Read

Seven years ago I acquired a pair of Caterpillar biker boots, not my usual form of footwear, being more your-trainers-(or in various muddy fields over the years, wellingtons)-kind-of-girl. These stylish and oh-so-comfortable, magic boots have been the caretakers of my dancing feet at every club, festival and rave I’ve attended since. I think I shall cry when they wear out.

I’m one of the world’s oldest ravers and I’m still raving. I consider it a radical act of defiance against the fear machine that promotes hard work until retirement, after which you’re expected to tip-toe quietly towards death. Dancing, especially the kind of trance-dance that sends you into an ecstatic state of Oneness, is an activity that keeps me looking, feeling and most importantly thinking young. I’m happy to reveal my age when asked. In fact, every time a spring chicken bounces over to me at a ridiculously late hour and shouts over the pounding sub; “How old ARE you?!” and I scream back, “Fifty three!”, I feel a frisson of pride.

The only difference between me and the youngsters that I find myself clubbing with – is that I’m wearing earplugs and they’re generally not. Okay, to be fair, there are a couple of other differences; in order to prepare for a night of jumping up and down in mad abandon, I make sure I’ve had a nap and eaten a solid meal. I don’t remember making sensible plans ahead of time when I was in my youth. One of the luxuries of raving in your early twenties is the permission to be in the Now, think Fuck It, pop another pill and not worry too much about recovery time. At that age most people are still relatively free of roles and responsibilities. After years of forging a career out in the ‘real’ world, becoming mortgage-laden, raising kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of designing your days around TO DO lists rather than letting life spontaneously happen. This week I’m actually retiring from my career of the last fifteen years, and am determined to get back there – to the intoxicating freedom of dancing all night with no anxiety around potentially being tired the following day and thus not able to cope with the schedule.

Fuck the schedule.

My kids have both left home. I consider it a job well done. I’ve conscientiously worked for a living since I was in my teens. I’ve filed my tax returns and been through the menopause. The only major project I have going right now is cutting myself free from the ties that bind, abandoning those ‘roles’, and setting off to find a place to be in the world where I can dance to my heart’s content.

When it comes to dancing, it appears I’ve tapped into a source of boundless energy. If you see me out there, water bottle in hand, looking like all the ecstasy-fuelled revellers swirling around me with dilated pupils, it’s more than likely I’m going all night on a chai latte. And when they start to flag, I begin to surf my second or third wave of energy and dance till dawn.

I’m not a fan of alcohol for two reasons a) it brings out the worst in people and b) it renders one incapable of dancing all night. Being a responsible adult living in a country where any drug that makes people happy, in love, or free-thinking, is made illegal, I’m not about to condone the use of class A drugs, am I? Having said that, I completely understand the desire to get out of your head. In my humble opinion, most human beings I meet could well do with some form of radical, mind-altering experience, but these days I do just as well getting high on everybody else’s high. Mainly, it’s the music and the tribal experience that sends me into an altered state of cosmic expansion.

I started raving in 1983 when I joined about 50,000 other people at Glastonbury festival. I adore the thrill of the large party, everyone in love and loving it. The invention of Ecstasy did wonders for the raising of human consciousness. It is an intelligent substance. Ecstasy opened people’s hearts and brought them together. Furthermore, it got blokes dancing! This is a radical difference between my generation and my kids’ one. They seem to be born with rhythm. Like Africans, they speak the language of complex cadence. Rhythm courses through them, the guys as cool on the dance floor as the girls.

My sons got their love of music through me. I’m eclectic in my taste and my stereo was played at full volume through both pregnancies. The oldest went to Leeds University, the youngest followed four years later. Both left in their second year to become professional deejays and I was actively proud. These days deejaying is a true art form and my sons are highly skilled. I’ve danced to many of their sets in clubs and at festivals and nothing gives me more joy than seeing my boys doing what they love: working a crowd.

There are close to a thousand music festivals in England every summer. Not bad for a country that sees more rain than most. The one festival I make sure I attend every season without fail is called Give and it’s a classy knees-up for ravers of my age group. We get together once a year, leave our smartphones in the car, unplug for a weekend, and go mental. Sadly I’m going to miss it this year as I’m heading off to Denmark on a silent retreat. I had one chance to get to a festival before leaving, and last week I was lucky enough to be welcomed as a guest of honour at Virgo in Devon, a thank you for producing two of their acts. My oldest son Liam’s band, Desert Sound Colony was playing live and Reuben, his brother was booked for a disco set in the rose garden during the afternoon. Eight hundred kids in their twenties, and I (the only ‘mature’ person apart from the owners of the house) met in the grounds of a stately home and rocked the valley through the May bank holiday weekend. The sun shone, the music was perfect and much dancing was done by all. Some of the folk in the drum ‘n’ bass room might have been a tad surprised at 4am to find a decidedly middle-aged woman, throwing herself about like a maniac in front of the mammoth speakers, but hey, in for a penny, in for a pound…

On Sunday afternoon, while the sun was setting, and I chilled on the banks of the lake with a yogic, spiritually-aware guy who resembled Jesus, I looked around and realised that a bunch of young deejays and their mates, most of them not long out of university had got this extraordinary event together themselves. They hadn’t sat around talking about how great it would be to create a boutique festival of their very own – inspired by the music they’re passionate about – they’d actually made it happen! People who know how to throw a good party are my kind of people.

I have actually pictured my own death. It’s more like an ascension really. It happens on a dance floor, my last breath exhaled at the point of a particularly good drop in the middle of a brilliant set played back to back by the boys. And as I breathe out, throwing my best shapes ever, I vanish in a puff of stage smoke, never to be seen again.

Menopausal Sex is the Best So Far

1 Minute Read

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, sex lies at the bottom level, the foundation of the pyramid, alongside food and shelter. It’s down there with the basics. Interesting then that my main and consistent focus, my life-long obsession if you like, has remained with sex. Despite having cruised some Maslow’s luxury levels like ‘personal development’.

In my teens, hungry for new experiences and curious about connecting (with myself and others) I had lots, and I mean lots of wild, irresponsible, unattached sex. In my twenties, I had some fantastic married sex. Then I had children and it all stopped for a while. Mercifully, it was a short while, but it took a love affair after the birth of my second child to light the pilot flame again. I’m forever grateful to the man-angel who swept me off my postpartum feet and got me interested once again in my sensual self.

In my late thirties, I discovered tantra. Hours and hours, months and years were spent exploring that enchanting wonderland. Tantra holds the key to awaken the senses – each sense a doorway into deeper pleasure, even spiritual expansion. I had so much tantric sex I became an expert, and even wrote a book on the subject. I can say with absolute certainty that after all that carnal (and spiritual) activity, sex in my fifties – post-menopausal I might add – is better, more exciting and engaging than ever. This is quite a claim, I know.

As I share some of the insights I’ve gained along the way, know that these are not prescriptions – this was my own path to journey on. One must always choose what is right for their body, heart and soul. The trick is to take the time to tune in and see what’s happening for you in each and every moment.

One important factor: I’ve made an effort to look after my health, primarily paying attention to how my body feels – its needs and responses. A year ago when the symptoms of menopause unexpectedly hit me hard, I eliminated the foods I suspected I was allergic to. Within two weeks the chronic aches and pains disappeared and my mood swings leveled out. Since then, I’ve religiously stuck to a wheat-free, sugar-free diet, and seem to be circumnavigating the main problems associated with the change. What’s more, I haven’t been forced to succumb to HRT like many of my girlfriends.

Over the years I’ve experimented with detoxes and colonic hydrotherapy sessions. Dancing and sex are closely related activities, and I’ve danced a lot! To counteract my tendency towards hyper-activity and over-achieving, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time floating mindlessly in sensory deprivation tanks. I’ve gone to therapy and looked inside, practiced meditation and realised we are all One. There’s very little I haven’t tried when it comes to self-development. It may all sound a tad indulgent, but my goal, primarily has been to make the most of the short time I have on this planet. My reasoning was that if I found ways to keep myself filled to overflowing with positivity if not downright joy, I wouldn’t resort to energy-vamping on other people. Thus, anyone who rubbed up against me would benefit from the significant investment in my general and sexual wellbeing. I would simply be a nicer person to be around.

A positive aspect of living life to the full, taking risks and weathering the occasional battering, is that by the time you’re in your forties or fifties, the old ego isn’t quite so fragile. Humility is a gift and one, which can allow you to become more devotional to your sexual partner/s. Devotion is a spiritual practice in itself and can be the fast track to expansion – particularly in the bedroom!

Early on in life, taking our first tentative, steps into intimate connection with other people, one can’t help but have agendas around sex, finding a suitable partner, discovering in the mirror of ‘another’, who you are as a human being, perhaps even creating another human being in the process! It all seems rather complicated when you’re in the tornado of youth. As we transition through the teenage years into young adulthood we also begin to care more about what other people think; Is this appropriate behaviour? Is my body normal? Am I a freak for wanting to try that kinky thing?

On and on the mind chatters, sabotaging our pleasure. There’s often guilt and shame related to sex, unwittingly inherited from family and society. We’re plagued with questions: ‘What is sex? If sex is an ‘act’, does it have a beginning, a middle and an end? Should I even be having sex with this person? – maybe this is a mistake!…’ Until we learn how to put the mind in its rightful place, it fucks with us, restricting our freedom of expression and stinting our spontaneity. We gather a huge pile of mental debris, which we dump on what should ideally be an organic and natural activity.

The wonderful thing about growing older is that all of those personal fears and societal concerns that seemed to matter to us then are irrelevant now. We can love more freely and unconditionally without fear of losing ourselves in all those tedious head-games we used to play when we were working out how to ‘do’ relationships. We’re not so afraid of making fools of ourselves, there’s less embarrassment over showing who we really are, in our nakedness and vulnerability.

I find older men are more patient and less goal-orientated. They’re interested in what turns their partner on, not what they can get. Men who have journeyed through some life experience are more able to be ‘present’ – and they’ve (hopefully) learned how to give and receive. These are crucial qualities in a fulfilling sexual encounter. They enjoy each moment for what it is – a very tantric approach. Young men tend to be more acquisitive in every sense, materially and sexually. If guys pay attention along the way, they might find out, for example, that although it generally takes men about three minutes from the piquing of interest to the point of being able to fuck; women take at least twenty minutes of good, all-over body foreplay to be fully aroused and ready for penetrative sex.

On the purely physical level, because most people don’t talk openly about sex they don’t realise that there’s a solution for almost every conceivable sexual problem. For example, I’m asked from time to time – ‘has your vagina stopped lubricating as effectively as it used to?’. The answer is no – firstly, because I set about learning how to ejaculate and secondly, I found a miraculous product called Secret Ceres. Ask the internet where you can buy one – trust me, it works! Also, along with my daily Pilates programme, which keeps my body fit and flexible, I practice tantric breathing and vaginal squeezing techniques, similar to Kegels, which have strengthened my vagina to an incredible degree over the years. These exercises support bigger, stronger, longer orgasms. Who wouldn’t want those? Through constant research and inquiry, I’ve found solutions to a raft of sexual issues affecting women and men.

My own sex life is as important to me as it was thirty five years ago and the attention I’ve given it over the years has paid off. Fundamentally, I’m happy. Whoever I’m having sex with is happy. I figure this is good energy to be putting out into the cosmos. So here’s a positive affirmation worth reciting – I will be having hot, horny and ridiculously eccentric sex until the day I die.

Surprise Me

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