"You can do anything you want to do, so long as you don't hurt anyone." My grandma said that to me when I was about five years old. She didn't tell me it was the Wiccan Rede, but as a child I thought it was the best advice an adult had ever given me. I remembered her words and I held onto them as being the secret to happiness as I grew up.
I must admit I did a bit of a double-take when I eventually heard the words that many pagans hold as their moral code: "An it harm none, do what ye will." I think it was that more than anything else that made me decide paganism was the right path for me.
In my teens and 20s they were words of freedom that told me it was OK to wear clothes my parents disapproved of, to ride a motorbike, to go on protests to Ban the Bomb and Save the Whale, to chuck in my dull day job and try my hand as a freelance writer, to become a pagan and to celebrate summer by dancing naked on beaches - laughing at the embarrassed expressions of passers-by.
But then, as I got older, responsibility hit. Living with someone, buying a home together and having to pay a mortgage mean you have to weigh immediate desires against long-term goals. You have to make compromises.
I once shared a flat with someone who stuck very rigidly to the Wiccan Rede over the washing up. They didn't want to do it, so they didn't - leaving me to tackle their dirty cups and dishes because I didn't want to live in filth. They thought it was morally OK. I thought it was plain selfish.
Now, I am caring for my elderly mum. Once again, I have to make compromises. What I want is to get a full night's uninterrupted sleep, to be able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, to celebrate the full moon with some old friends at an Esbat I've been invited to this weekend. But I can't. I also want to look after my mum and make sure she is happy.
Some of my friends can't understand why I didn't leave her in a nursing home until her broken wrist had fully mended. She wouldn't have come to any harm there and I would have been free to carry on with my life as normal.
I decided to care for her myself, because she wasn't happy in the nursing home. She was bored, depressed and wanted to be in her own home with her own family.
Although being a carer isn't easy, I don't regret my decision. I have also learnt that the Wiccan Rede is far more complex than it initially seems. It is about balancing desires, about searching your heart and finding out what it is you truly want.
And as Wiccan teachings also say, it is sometimes necessary to suffer to learn.
I think I'm doing a lot of learning right now.