I’m in the backseat of my dad’s Skoda. (“It’s actually a Volkswagen,” he tells me.) Waitrose sandwich and Licorice Allsorts on the floor to the left. Beat-up Adidas sneakers on the floor to the right. Legs crossed on the seat, somewhere in the middle. Trunk (or boot as they call it here) brimming with weekend necessities like pizzas and savoury snacks and wine, plus emergency supplies like wellies, scarves, and gloves because you just never know.

Worthing family, here we come.

I’m shutting myself away from the front row of the car. Not because I don’t love the parents but because I find their on-the-road banter particularly stressful.

“Why are you in that lane?” asks Mum.

“Who’s driving?” responds Dad.

And just like that, I’m wound up like a yo-yo so I decide to lose myself in Audible. The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way of Living Well by happiness researcher Meik Wilking.

I want to live well and so I gobble up the Danish Way, making mental notes: buy more candles, create a cosy reading nook, frequent farmers’ markets, cook winter stews, wear big sweaters, ride your bike, spend time with friends and family. That last one’s a biggy.

Friends and family. After food and safety, it’s our social lives that sustain us. I know this because Maslow said so.

I ponder the pandemic and the impact it’s had on our young.

I ponder today’s remote workforce and how we sing its praises when a little office gossip-fest would probably present a welcome reprieve to many. And I ponder my friendships.

I picture each of my magnificent female friends. I run through them in my head one by one. They are artists, teachers, travelers, bakers, and caregivers. All are devoted mothers.

Some are poorer. More are richer. Yet all are my equal. They are smart and kind and supportive. And all of them are funny. That, despite having navigated themselves and others through cancer, divorce, highly anxious children, physical disabilities, infertility, adoption … you know. Life.

Women are fucking amazing, aren’t they?

I wonder how I got so lucky and then I remind myself that I don’t believe (much) in luck. I love and invest in them. They love and invest in me. Reciprocity at its best.

And then there’s him. My new person.

My mind’s gone adrift. I’ve had my head in the clouds. So I tap rewind to complete my Hygge journey. The story ends. All is quiet. And then it’s not. Front-row banter resumes.

I open my inbox. An email from him. Embedded video with a note that reads:

Headphones highly recommended for maximum enjoyment.

Goosebumps. Just sayin’.

xxx ooo

He was right.

I listen to Marillion with the volume at its uppest. We’re winding our way along country roads south of London. My eyes are closed. Flashes of orange kiss my eyelids as sunlight pierces through the fast-moving trees. The flashes make me smile and the smile helps me breathe.

I am at peace. I am both inside the song and outside of it as my awareness shifts from marveling at the music to marveling at my own capacity to fully let it in. To both hear it and feel it. Every subtle nuance.

And then I think of him. Of how he felt while listening to this song. Of how it prompted him to write “goosebumps.” And I realize that I now know him just a tiny bit better than I did before, and all I did was listen.

Finally, the sound of tires on gravel.

A sound I’ve long (and wrongly) associated with wealth. It’s not a Landrover pulling into the parking lot of a private school but my dad’s Skoda pulling into my brother’s driveway. He has a new house. Spacious but not ‘precious,’ Mom points out.

I like that about this house. Just the right amount of chaos to say love lives here. And a puppy.

Let the weekend begin.

Viv for Today xo

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