It was the day before New Year’s Eve when Lenny came to stay. His bright, wide eyes and unfalteringly happy face never fails to make me smile. Even if it’s a smile tinged with sadness. Looking at his face and into his eyes makes me want to hug him. And he’s oh so huggable. Wrapping my arms around him and pulling him into my embrace, I feel instantly comforted. I know the hug is more for my benefit than his. But I also know he loves giving hugs and making people smile. In fact, I believe that’s why he was put on this earth.

But let me backtrack slightly and explain who Lenny is, and why he came to stay. Perhaps that’ll help you understand why he became such an important part of my life.

Ain’t going to (leave) Goa

I first met Lenny in the summer of 2020. Allan, my partner at the time, and I had spent 3 months travelling around India at the beginning of the year, but the COVID-19 pandemic hit and we got stuck in Goa for a few weeks. Admittedly, Goa doesn’t sound like the worst place to be stuck, but in the early days at least, it wasn’t much fun at all. Eventually, we got repatriated back to the UK during lockdown and had to find somewhere to live.

On the move (again)

After a month in a gorgeous AirBnB flat in central Brighton, then a few weeks in a stylish (but expensive) architect’s studio at the bottom of a garden in Queens Park, Brighton, we eventually moved to a lovely 3-bedroom house right by the sea in East Preston, West Sussex. This was to be our lockdown house, and it served us very well. I finally had a home office, and the spare room did well to accommodate guests (when possible) as well as a meditation room and Covid quarantine area when Allan got the dreaded virus in February 2021.

It was the first time I’d lived in an actual house – as opposed to a flat – that wasn’t with sharers. And it meant we could finally gather all our belongings together in one place, which had been scattered across various barns, attics, garages and lockups. This was an ongoing project (especially for Allan) and it seemed like we were constantly surrounded by a never-ending collection of old clothes, books, CDs, DVDs, workman’s tools, garden tools and kitchen stuff that needed to find a home.

A deep knowing

It was during this ongoing sort-out that Lenny came into my life. Allan had told me about Lenny before, saying he couldn’t wait to introduce him to me, and that he was sure I was going to love him. Now, I don’t know about you, but when anyone tells me I’m sure to like or love something or someone, my first reaction is to be sure that I won’t! So, I didn’t think much about it and certainly didn’t have high expectations of this first meeting with Lenny.

And then Allan brought him home. And the penny dropped. I looked into Lenny’s eyes and my heart melted. There was a deep knowing in those eyes, like he could see right through to my soul and instantly knew all the heartache, all the challenge, all the joy I’d ever experienced in my life. Of course, I wrapped my arms around Lenny and pulled him in close, squeezing him tight, and knowing that he’d always be a part of me and me a part of him.

Hannah Moss with Lenny

Unconditional love

From that day on, Lenny was a big part of our life together. He shared our bed and took it in turns to be cuddled by each of us at night. Sometimes he fell out of bed in the night, or was left out of bed on purpose (he does take up quite a lot of space), but he didn’t mind. He knew he was loved and preferred his own space sometimes, too. Of course, I did occasionally think about his previous ‘mothers’ and who had loved him before me, but we all have past lives and what mattered now was the present. I was his mother and we loved each other unconditionally.

Things went pretty well for us over the next year or so, despite the country going in and out of lockdown and Allan struggling with work and his mental health. Living so close to the sea really helped, and we both spent lots of time swimming, sunbathing, walking and running by it. We were trying for a baby at the time and, at the age of 44, it felt like my last-ditch attempt at having a family.

A hopeful outlook

I’ve wanted children all my life and always assumed I’d become a mother one day. My sister had two boys and I so wanted to give them cousins of a similar age to play with. We’ve got six younger cousins of our own who we’re pretty close with and I have such fond childhood memories of playing together. But my nephews are 14 and 16 now and live in New Zealand, so I’m afraid their only cousins are on the kiwi side.

Even though there were issues in our relationship (what relationship doesn’t have issues?), and we were dealing with various health and societal challenges, I felt hopeful for the future. Allan and I had a deep connection, were very much in love, and wanted more than anything to make it work.

Real life struggles

But Allan’s heart was being pulled in another direction at the same time. He’d always struggled to function in the ‘real world’, never feeling like he fitted in and never finding true contentment or happiness. He’d tried lots of different jobs, but none of them felt sustainable and he’d quickly get bored or feel like he wasn’t up to the task and move on. He reached a crisis point a few years previously, when he realised he needed to leave his partner of seven years, along with his then-stepdaughter, and do some serious soul searching.

And so began his ‘spiritual journey’ (such a cliché but what else to call it?). He stumbled upon a Buddhist monastery and ended up working there as a caretaker for 18 months. Although he wasn’t living a monastic life, he followed their daily routine – which included several hours of meditation each day – learnt a lot about monkhood and made friends with several of the monks there. When he left the monastery, he once again felt lost and disconnected and tried to integrate himself into the ‘real world’ again.

The monastic path

Fast forward a few years and he seemed to be doing ok, living in a house by the sea with Lenny and me. But something kept niggling inside him. He wasn’t happy, he was struggling with his mental health, especially in winter, and there was something about trying to live a ‘normal’ life that just didn’t sit right with him. So, one day in June 2021, he broke the very painful, heart-wrenching news that he wanted to go back to the monastery, but with the intention of becoming a monk this time.

A heart wrenched open

In that moment my world fell apart. My heart may have even stopped beating for a second. I’m sure I held my breath. And then the weight of those words and the meaning they carried with them came down on me like a ton of bricks. I felt winded. Stunned. Speechless.

My mind was flooded with thoughts. You’re leaving me? How could you? How could you do this to me? Where will I live? What will I do? What about all our plans and hopes for the future? What about having a family? How am I going to do that now? Who with? Do I still have time?

And my body was flooded with emotions. Anger. Hurt. Pain. Betrayal. Confusion. Loss. Grief. Frustration. Despair. Exhaustion.

Another conscious uncoupling

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately), I’ve been through enough ‘conscious uncouplings’ to know that Allan wasn’t doing this to hurt me and that I didn’t need to take it personally. I also know how hard it is not to take something like this personally. When someone breaks up with you, how can you not take it personally? But I knew this was about him, not me. I knew he still loved me and there was a part of him that wanted to stay with me and try to have a family. But I also knew – and had probably always known – that there was a bigger part of him that couldn’t stay. That didn’t know how to stay. That wouldn’t survive if he stayed.

And so began the long, painful process of uncoupling. Of carefully unpicking the mesh of coupledom we’d created together. Of dividing and sorting our physical belongings. Of working out where we were each going to go next and how. Of dealing with and managing (sometimes not very graciously) our complicated emotions. And of finally separating from each other.

Finding the resources

Luckily for me, I have two very distinct sides to my personality. There’s the watery, Cancerian, feminine, emotional, bohemian, liberal side, which I get from my mum. And there’s the logical, practical, rational, resourceful, masculine side I get from my dad. And when I’m dealing with a crisis, it’s the practical side that comes out. In fact, I’m able to go into total practical overdrive.

So, instead of wallowing in grief and self-pity, I picked myself up, dusted myself off and got stuff done. I found somewhere to live – in a new town where I don’t know anyone, which felt quite exciting. I sorted out both the tenancies and all the utilities. I had a massive clear-out, finally going through stuff I’d been carting around with me for years and sending it off to better homes. I organised the moving day, working out who was going to help us and how we were going to fit in the five different drops we needed to make across various parts of Sussex. And I planned what my new life was going to look like.

Turning things around

I’m pretty good at planning (hence one of my nicknames is Hannah the Planner!). I have a way of looking ahead and visualising how each scenario might pan out, which can be very helpful for assessing risks and feeling prepared. When it comes to planning what my new life will look like, this is akin to manifestation. And, so far, I seem to have manifested very successfully.

I’m now living in a beautiful, high-ceilinged flat right by the sea. I’ve started on a new career path as a Wellbeing Coach, feeling like I’ve finally found a vocation that lights me up and fits perfectly with who I am, my skills and values. I’ve made connections here and feel part of several different communities. I feel inspired, motivated and content. And I feel empowered as a single, childless woman.

Ebbs and flows

That is, until I don’t! As we all know, life is a series of ebbs and flows, just like waves. You can’t be up all the time just as you can’t be down all the time. There have to be peaks and troughs, otherwise we’d never know what it is to be in the other state. How can you know what joy is if you’ve never experienced sadness, and vice versa?

You can only ride the wave for so long. Eventually, at some point, you’re going to get dumped by that wave. And, even though we know it’s coming, it can still hit us hard. And hurt like hell.

The wave that dumped on me arrived in the run-up to Christmas. I had been feeling pretty chipper about the impending festivities. I’d get to see my mum who was coming over from Spain, I’d spend time with friends and family, and enjoy time off work. I had put up a tree and some decorations, been ice-skating with Allan, and didn’t even mind the Christmas music constantly blaring out of the speakers every time I went into town.

Getting dumped by the wave

But then it hit me. Like a tidal wave. Allan was finally going into the monastery in less than two weeks and I’d have no contact with him for the first three months. In the six months since we’d split up, and the four months since we physically separated, we’d still been closely connected. We’d seen quite a lot of each other, still enjoying each other’s company and still feeling like we had each other’s backs. He stayed over a few times during this period, and even brought Lenny with him once, so he could get used to being here with me. Allan and I messaged and called each other often, keeping in touch about what was going on in our lives and the highs and lows we were facing. But now, finally, all that had to come to an end.

A new level of grief

I knew we’d be able to have more contact after the first three months, when Allan would be going into white robes as an anagārika (a trainee monk) for a year, but I also knew it would never be the same again. This felt like another level of separation. Another level of grief.

If you add to that the beginnings of my grief around becoming what I now know as CNBC (Childless Not By Choice), my mixed feelings around seeing my younger cousins over Christmas (all but one of them now have families of their own), the financial worries that come with the increased expenses of living alone coupled with having an unpredictable self-employed income, and the crisis of confidence that comes from impostor syndrome around starting a new business – you can see why it hit me like a tidal wave!

When Lenny came to stay

And so, it was amidst this tidal wave of emotion that Lenny came to stay. For some reason, monks aren’t allowed to take lions into the monastery with them, so I was to be Lenny’s mother again, at least for the next three months. And he brought with him such a kaleidoscope of emotions and associations – such joy, hope, laughter, tears, comfort and companionship – that I felt compelled to write this story about him and how he came into my life.

Ride the wave

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