On balancing strength with flexibility...


I often ask for guidance from trees. Usually whilst hugging them. I think that hugging them allows their amazing energy to flow into you somehow. If you let it. And for me, what makes trees amazing is their incredible ability to hold both polarities of strength and flexibility. Polarities might be the wrong word because they are not necessarily opposites, but for me they kind of are. Because I find strength relatively easy to channel (much easier to find your inner warrior than expose your vulnerable inner child) and I find flexibility much harder to summon up. Flexibility requires true, inner strength. A real, unshakeable core of knowingness that allows you to deviate from it without losing anything. (Which shows me that what I see as strength is often actually just false bravado or rather a shield covering up what I don't want to face or feel.) Today I was called upon to be flexible. I got a call at 4pm from the travel clinic informing me that the anti-malarial tablets we have ordered for our three children (to last us through 11 months of travelling through high-risk malarial zones) will no longer be available. Because the wholesaler is out of stock. They told me to "go online to source them from a large pharmaceutical chain or to get a private prescription from a GP and ring round some local pharmacies to source the right amount". All by myself. Just the 95 boxes of the stuff. ON A FRIDAY NIGHT. WHEN WE ARE LEAVING IN FIVE WORKING DAYS' TIME.

I first saw these guys in April. They knew I needed the tablets in April. I have since spent nearly £6,000 with them on vaccinations for myself and my family. (Not because I want to - this is not a luxury decision - but simply because most necessary vaccinations are not available on the NHS.) And yet the answer when I questioned why I was only being told that they were unavailable now, was that they could have chosen to wait until Monday to tell me so actually they were being kind by telling me "in advance", today.

My reaction? Shock. Horror. Overwhelm. Confusion. Anger. And disbelief. I spent a good five minutes questioning the status quo (ie. crying / being angry) before I was able to think about how I could possibly move forward. Unfortunately for the children, when I got the call we were on our way to a play date - half way down a busy road, in our waterproofs, in the rain - each of us on our bicycles including little Raphael, newly on stabilisers, who had already fallen over twice. In fact everyone had fallen off their bike once by this stage. And yet they patiently stayed with me on the side of the road for at least 45 minutes whilst I tried to sort out the mess. Unquestioningly. Trustingly. Sympathetically. They were amazing. But then they always are when I really need them to be.

And fortunately for me, I live in the "provinces". A town in which your local pharmacist and GP switchboard do actually recognise your name when you call. And so I didn't do as the travel clinic had told me to do and instead I reached out for help from our local pharmacist. She too was amazing: by 6pm as she was about to close, she had already got on the case for me without having an actual prescription to hand, had found a contact within the HQ of the drugs' manufacturer who had requested a fax of our prescription when it was available, and they were going to contact all the depots across the country to source emergency stocks for us. Even those in Scotland. Note: this is the same manufacturer (GSK) that could not apparently be called by MASTA. And then the friend to whose house we were travelling for tea (and ended up an hour or so late for) then texted her best friend who happens to work for said manufacturer, for help. Incredible.

So today I feet like I have seen both the worst side of people and the best: incompetence, laziness and arrogance from those I don't know, as well as compassion and efficiency from those that I do.

And I was made to think on my feet. And to be flexible. To see beyond the current, emotional disaster and to think coherently of a plan B. Hopefully, fingers crossed, I will be able to source at least one month's worth of anti-malarials so that we won't have to change our flights or cancel our visas to Myanmar. We could then try to get some more on the road by diverting our onward journey via Bangkok. I hope that won't be necessary.

This won't be the first time I am asked to be flexible over the course of the next 11 months. Somehow I dread to admit that I know this is bound to be the first of many such dramas. So I will continue to channel the energy of (and to hug) the humble tree. So strong and firm and rooted to the earth and yet so graceful and flexible in its branches that it sways and swishes in even the tiniest of breezes...

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