Pondering Change And Loss in Great Malvern

It is a sunny afternoon in Great Malvern.  I am sat a stones’ throw from the Great  Malvern Priory sipping coffee in blissful isolation whilst the Husband has taken the kids swimming in the Malvern Splash pool.

Great Malvern Priory

Clouds are scudding across the blue sky, casting shadows on the slumbering occupants of the Priory’s graveyard.  I am reading the bestselling book by psychoanalyst, Dr Stephen Grosz called “The Examined Life – How We Lose And Find Ourselves“.  It is a collection of stories based on the the sessions Grosz had with patients over many years’ private practice.

His contention is that we are better equipped to change ourselves, and consequently our lives, when we understand that all change involves some form of loss.

It is only when we embrace this loss and accept it that we can move forward.

For example, when we marry, we lose our single self.  As women, when we have children we may lose our figures, our freedom, our confidence. And yet, we rarely stop to think of the losses that almost always accompany a change in direction.  We may take the road less travelled without always thinking of what we leave behind.

There is no better place to read Dr Grosz’ stories, it strikes me, than close to the bones of those who loved and lost, hoped and dreamed hundreds of years ago.

There is always something poignant and touching about graveyards.  It’s that mix of the reminder of our own mortality with the realisation that, beneath our feet are those who probably thought they, too, might be lucky enough to escape that last throw of the ‘die’.  The pathos of the sheer banality of life sometimes adds almost an unbearable weight of meaning to the daily minutiae we repeat almost without thinking.

I ponder that I am quite hopeless at being on holiday.  I am also reminded of the truth that “wherever we go, there we are”.  We can travel mile after mile but there is no escaping our essential selves.

I always like to believe that each holiday contains the kernel of an enormous life change.  That new experiences will weave a kind of psychological magic – making us better, happier, calmer, greater. Travel broadens the mind, they say but minds are pretty elastic I think.  Stretch them so far and then ping, back to normal we go.

I wish I could relax more.  Be calmer.  Less neurotic.  People rarely appreciate that, for the neurotic soul, not only is there the burden of the worry but also the weight of guilt in the suspicion that we should not allow ourselves to acknowledge these feelings.  Giving ourselves permission to wallow for a while is almost a luxury.

For mothers, the chance to think and ponder in quiet introspection is, for many of us, a luxury.  But to acknowledge our own hopes and fears safely out of the way of our children is a necessity. We all need to take the time to recoup our strength and to remember that many have trodden our path before us – and will do so long after we’re gone.

I finish my coffee and amble back to meet the family on the steps of the exhibition centre where, in the rare and brilliant sunshine a band is playing rock ‘n’ roll classics in the open air and families mill happily about.

Time goes on in the shadow of the Priory.


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