So, the thing is

Wednesday 3rd May 2017

So, the thing is, 1 year and 8 months ago, my husband Kevin died.
Very suddenly. Most unexpected. And a completely shocking, gut wrenching, earthquake of a time has ensued. I think we are still feeling the ricochets, blurred vision and sporadic shutdowns, desperation, shock and abandonment.

We’re getting on with it, as you have to. What else is there to do.
How does one deal with the sudden loss of the love of your life, the central point of your existence, the essence of your future. Am I dealing with it?

I don’t know.
I don’t know what else to do. Mostly I’m just trying to keep it all together. Somehow it seems to be getting harder. I’ve just returned from the children’s mental health unit where I was attending a support group for children with anxiety. …

Friday 12th May 2017

Had a second meeting with the mental health unit on Wednesday.
Just had a call from my lover.
All has been going well, my heart is slowly opening, I am putting myself out there, learning to trust. This in itself is not easy; it’s not easy to say I love you, like he does, all the time.
Do I feel betrayal to my husband, to the love we shared? Probably, and I’m not finding it easy to say, or to hear for that matter. I want to feel it to see it in every action, to know it in my deepest soul.

I am still in a very vulnerable way, trying to hold my little family together, to hold us safe, to keep us well. My youngest is suffering from extreme bouts of anxiety. She always has, she was just born that way. She’s never left my side, feeding like a voracious animal, suckling like a limpet and holding on so tight that I could hardly breathe. I am her arms, her wheels, her source of food, life and financial cash cow.

I’ve always thought she suffered from separation anxiety, more intensely now with the loss of her dad. But now I’m realizing that she has an acute sense of self-preservation, it’s all about her not about me, it’s about the threat to her life and sense of well being, not about worrying that something may happen to me.

So, back to my lover, which is mostly beautiful except for the threat that he poses to my youngest. She cannot tolerate him, dislikes him and goes out of her way to let him know at every opportunity. I cringe at her behavior around him and toward him.

Now he just wants out, wants away, simply can’t hack it. Partly I think it’s of his own making. He tried so hard at the beginning, and as a result his behavior has been inconsistent, sometimes friendly, sometimes loving, occasionally bearing gifts, he’s tried ‘everything’ so now he just ignores her. All this in a space of a few months!

So, apparently he’s tried it all but I think, I truly believe that all the prodding, goading and pleading is to allow him to reveal his true self, to work out his motives and subsequently how it all works for her.

So amongst all my battles with staying afloat, keeping my children fed, loved, socially accepted and happy, I have a confused and demanding lover to add to the mix.
Mostly I say bring it on, but also it’s all too much, exhausting, demanding, complicated.
I cry. It always comes back to that.
I cry, I miss my husband, I miss our life.

But it’s all changed. I know that, I feel that and mostly I think I understand that. I see the bravery of my little girls and it cracks me up. So different in every way but so beautiful and each in their own manner trying to make sense of this massive change of direction. The plug has been pulled on their life, their base and their future.

And the adventurous part of me is loving and open to this new adventure. I love the potential of life with my lover. Is that bad? I don’t know but it’s the way it is. He’s trying I have seen that, and I am trying too, but I also can’t let anyone criticize my children or try to come between us.

 

Monday 15th May
Tiredness takes over

We were all in bed by 8.30pm last night. Tiredness takes over quite frequently, it all gets too much and we need to switch the lights off on everything.

Both my children are off school today. This is the bit I struggle with, am I being kind by allowing this, or is this making their journey harder, further down the line. My youngest has a sore throat, sore ears, blocked nose, so fair enough I can’t argue with a cold. My oldest initially complained of a sore throat, and then burst into tears when I said I’d drop her off at school.

She’s struggling. Wearing a brave face she takes herself to the bus stop each morning. My lover said to watch out for her, she’s the one who’s really struggling… I know this, but I tend to deal with the one that’s outwardly screaming and struggling the most, and that’s her sister.

So, older sister is struggling, in big tears that won’t stop; it’s her friends, she can’t seem to find nice friends, everyone is horrible and the teachers are mean to her. Then it comes out, she doesn’t want me to drop her off as it upsets her too much to leave me. And she won’t walk the dog around the neighbourhood because she’s terrified of the kids on the streets. She’s terrified and she’s had to be so brave and hold it all together, and she wants to move away to where the air is fresh.
This doesn’t feel like home, not anymore.

It’s all wrong, she’s lost her dad and everything is just not right. Nothing feels right or has any hope of ever being alright, because her dad is not here.

I don’t know what to do.
When I’m feeling sad, I try to take time out and I try to be gentle on myself. Why should I force my children to go to school when they’re feeling sad and delicate?

They have to invent illnesses to stay off because no one will listen to the real problem. And I don’t think they can even articulate what the real problem is. I find that my oldest searches and scans for all that’s wrong in her life and this imbues hews of sadness and futility on everything.

I wanted to start a blog to support my natural skincare business. This is happening, as I speak.
The reason I am starting it up again after nearly two years is…

That I love working with plants and I love working with people – plants and people. I was working with plants before I met Kevin, before I gave birth to my girls, when I started exploring my place and my identity in the natural world. I was on a deep and meaningful journey of self healing, immersed in the world of weeds. This journey led me into skincare production, a story to which I am sure to return.
I stopped producing because I was working with people and plants, plants for healing and people needing to access plants to catalyze a process of healing themselves. I didn’t have time to do it all; raise a family, hold down a job, a second job, manage a skincare production business, an allotment, a husband, a family social life and keep it all together.

And then my husband died and now I feel like I’m not keeping anything together.

So, I begin again and as I write this, there are thirty jars of green ointment cooling, the greenest shade of deepest green, packed with the freshest of spring offerings.A healing, soothing, first aid balm for all sorts of ailments.  

I’ve done it; I’ve broken the resistance, the torpor, the inability to break through. I am open to healing, to possibilities, to opportunities – I will venture half way to meet and embrace them all.

 

Thursday 18 May 2017
Daises everywhere

Daisies, Bellis perennis, are everywhere. We can learn a lot from daises. Tenacious, small, trampled underfoot. Tiny in stature but in patches they are like rivers of joy, bathing in the wonders of spring, cheering even the heaviest heart. No matter how sad and downtrodden, you can’t help but be cheered by the joy of the daisy. I can learn a lot from the common daisy.

Bellis perennis

Picked endlessly by little humans, made into chains, trampled, urinated on, eaten, attacked by pesticides – you just can’t get them down. They bounce right back, joyous, smiling, laughing even, you can’t be unhappy when faced by a sea of daisies.

I had another session at the support group for anxious children. I left feeling a little sad and complexed. All this talk of rewards, praise. Firstly I believe the line between rewards and bribery is very fine. My child becomes fixated on the rewards and everything becomes a negotiation for better and more expensive rewards.
Surely the idea to wean your child from a dependence on parental reassurance should not be replaced with a fixation on a reward system. I don’t think this sets them up very well in life. Does this not just create something else to fixate upon, thereby ignoring the core issue of anxiety, separation anxiety and social anxiety?
I want for my child to find her way to becoming a well-rounded, independent, happy human. At this rate she won’t even get out of bed until she works out what the reward is for that day.
For her, she needs to recognize that the reward is feeling confident and happy, thriving on a sense of achievement.

My child has not been offered any help from school. The death of her father did not seem to be acknowledged and we have not been approached with any offers of support or signposting, only with reprimands for poor school attendance.

This journey with the  anxiety support group began with her being referred into the system to investigate her predisposition to OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and to find ways to support her. It lead me to the Childhood Anxiety support group where I discovered that actually the symptoms lean much more towards extreme anxiety. As the sessions have evolved, it transpires that actually it is PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) that my child is suffering from at this time. This is my personal diagnosis, of course, because PTSD does not seem to be acknowledged or dealt with. There are statistics for all the other anxieties but none for PTSD. Apparently at least 1 in 20 children are likely to have a significant anxiety problem, possibly as many as 1 in 10.

As is usual for us there isn’t a box for us to tick.
I tried to praise my daughter for going to school that morning – which was truly a massive undertaking. Attending school is a key issue that we are trying to address and  it turns out that it is a common issue amongst the other parents attending the course, ‘targeted praise’ is a key element of the behavioural response process that we are learning.

So much for targeted praise. She was fuming with me, told me I’d ruined her day, put her in a foul mood and it was all my fault. She stormed off, I looked on, shocked, completely confused and overwhelmed with a sense of wild hysteria, mostly nervous laughter that I had to stifle in fear of fueling my child’s fury.
You have to laugh; I managed a smile, hidden of course.

 

Thursday 25th May 2017
Overwhelm.

Overwhelmed. Unempowered. Limited. Stuck. Slowed down…

The sun is shining, everyone is at work, school, busy…
Myself?
I breathe, return to my list. Some of my to-do list is to give myself time to grieve, bereave, let the dust settle, find myself in amongst all of this. I don’t really know where I’m at although I am getting more and more glimpses as I try to strip it all down to basics, unpick, allow myself to unravel.

And then I feel the pressure to earn a living, to provide for my family, and I look at jobs and employment opportunities and I realize that I have none.
My beloved National Wildflower Centre is no more, and I spend at least one day a week at home with one or other of my children suffering from various forms of stress or anxiety blanketed in general unwellness. I cannot send my youngest to any form of childcare due to her anxiety; I spend half a day a week at the support group and another at appointments (for her) with a therapist. I feel like we are making progress but it all takes time for things to surface and be dealt with.
By the time I’ve fed and watered the children, delivered them to school safely, walked the dog and cleaned up, I only have a few productive hours to work.
I have secured one day of paid work a week, which I manage to take the whole week to accomplish.

After feeling bemused, confused and wanting to laugh hysterically at trying the anxiety management strategies on my daughter, which so completely seemed not to be working – I think we are seeing  improvement. There are many com plex strands running through her desperate being; the underlying anxiety, the ASD (on which she is on the pathway to diagnosis), the PTSD (which no-one wants to talk about) and the grief (which she will absolutely not concede to) and the desperation on her part to maintain some kind of control over her environment.
My heart breaks for her but I need to step back and allow her to find the tools, find trust in herself and in life that she can get herself through this. I am grateful to finally be in the system with at least the semblance of support. God knows I personally haven’t received or been offered any.

I’m going to park all that up for today, I’m not going to think about it anymore.

little green ointments

I’ll see to my green ointment, sticking little green labels on little brown jars, I’ll  gaze outside at my patch of blue expanse; revel in the warmth, the sun on my face.
Wonderful herby, healing green ointment.

 

Tuesday 30th May 2017
My hurting heart

I’ve not been sleeping well.
My heart hurts, it always hits my heart.
When I met my lover I experienced the most overwhelming feeling of open heart. It was so wide open I could feel a breeze coming in, so I went with it and it is my heart that has led me.

The grief hit my belly like a battering ram. I couldn’t eat for weeks, I couldn’t stand straight, I was winded, my sails went down and were packed away.
I couldn’t breathe, breathing became a conscious effort that I had to force on myself. My throat was constricted with an invisible metal band.  I would run through my pain, it was the only way to force air into my lungs, I ran and ran until the tears erupted,  throat tight, I was left gasping for air, doubled up. It was primal, I heard sounds coming from deep inside myself that just weren’t mine; and then I would continue to run and run until I felt collapse.
It was one of the things that got me to this point; the adrenalin and nervous energy has since subsided but I still run and walk through my painful times, which are many and frequent.

Now, my lover is bringing me a painful heart and I want it to go away, but the question is do I want him to go away. There’s a strange complication that enters and threads through our time together and that is him coming up against my anxious daughter. I find that when he is tired, especially from working with sufferers of PTSD he feels that being with me is like being at work and he reverts to this exit clause of blaming my daughter.
It puts me in a torn predicament.

I love my daughter, I am working through a lot of her anxiety with her, I see the changes, the positive changes and I see her trying desperately to hold on to her pain and her familiar, but I also see her truly trying, taking on the goals that she’s set herself, confronting her fears in manageable portions.
And I think she’s doing awe inspiringly well, with a few minor setbacks.

But my lover sees another story. He feels that she despises him, glares at him, is overwhelmed with hate for him.

I see a different picture. She is warming to him, accepting him as part of our lives, but she also sees his foibles. She sees that he claimed to give up smoking yet he goes outside to smoke cigarettes, which smell and seep into our lives and challenge her sense of what’s right in the world.
She hears him offer hope on her horizon, promising trips and things that don’t materialize. He needs to earn her respect and trust, like any other adult in her life. That’s her character, not her grief or her anxiety or her damaged self. She’s not that keen on him but she kind of likes him.

They both see the idiosyncrasies in him; the older one smiles and accepts human fallibility but a good heart. The younger glares at him and waits for him to prove himself. It’s just her way; he’s barged into her life, made things different, she honestly wouldn’t mind as long as it was for the better.
But for him, he feels he won’t be manipulated and won’t play any games.

I have a lot to say on this matter but I have to be quiet, as apparently I love my child too much to see the truth, he’s seen it all. But I see it, and I also see his pride and that kids are smart, especially 11 year olds.

Within our family our word is a promise, if we say something we have to stick to it. Within her world it is everything, she attaches to conversations and agreements, goals and visions as if written in stone, immoveable and undetractable. This is her character, her honour, and her sense of place in the world, not her anxiety or her damaged self.

Anyway, back to the plants…

 

Tuesday 6th June 2017
Burgeoning Spring, positive attitudes

It seems like we’ve all been doing okay, feeling more positive, enjoying the sunshine, burgeoning spring, positive attitudes.
Well, it seemed like that until school time dawns, Monday morning.
After a week of half term fun and jollity, explosion, tears, refusal and desperation erupts. My mind is searching frantically for my newly learnt tools – don’t encourage, question, think like a judge and jury, ask questions, where is the evidence for these fears and anxieties…

I’m quite angry, I have work to do, places to be and I feel like we’ve moved beyond all this. I spend more time telling her (youngest daughter) how it is (which is apparently what I shouldn’t do), rather than questioning and encouraging her to come to her own aid (which I should do) – it’s not easy and I have quite a lot to say on the matter!
It’s a fine line, I’ve been supporting her grief, nursing her through these sad times trying to be gentle with her pain and anger and frustration. I should have picked up, well, I did notice yesterday that she was becoming increasingly more frustrated, quick to anger, complaining that nothing was right, not being very sociable. Trying not to fuel that fire, I’ve generally been ignoring the bad behavior, cutting her short when she resorts to rudeness and raised voice, not cajoling her out of fearful attitudes and I’ve been quite surprised at how quickly she’s snapped out of it.
Happy, I breathe a sigh of relief and relax a notch, thinking finally we are making progress… but clearly not today!

I try not to be too hard on myself. My brain and self have dimmed down to bare essentials; I don’t smile much, I’m not as enthusiastic about things anymore and I get tired frequently.
I thought I had been feeling a little better, with energetic new ideas, new buds of growth appearing, a little colour seeping into my sepia thoughts, and then I do something like walk the dog and a tiredness overwhelms me, drives me to the ground overtakes my whole being; my brain my limbs my emotions, and I need to shut down, go to bed, close my eyes on the world.
These episodes are getting less but they are very much still there. To the average onlooker I may seem lazy, unmotivated, unwell… Actually to the average onlooker I mostly appear to look well, to be doing fabulously and to be well in control, little do they know…

On a positive note, on our glorious time away, camping in Anglesey, we came along the most delectable wild sea-kale cabbage, Brassica oleracea L draped along one of the beaches.

sea kale

The flowers were sweet and honeyed (also edible) and we found some young leaves and picked to our heart’s content, ensuring to leave enough for other foragers. What a meal, we ate it raw in a salad and lightly cooked in a vegetable stew. The sea energy, nature’s bounty powered that meal, it doesn’t get much fresher; I highly recommend a foray into the sea world of wild cabbage. 

 

Friday 16th June 2017
Keeping it real

I’ve just had the privilege of running an outdoor session for toddlers. It was good for me to get hands on and hands dirty, it keeps it real. I went in full of the woes of the world, burdened with my loss, world news and burned buildings and arrived to a field full of hard-at-work den makers; a fabulous menagerie of wildly covered creations (apparently today is National Den making Day).
Our little session was deep in the woods with little people dealing with the important things in life, like getting muddy, jumping off logs and searching for birdlife.
I feel better now.

On the weekend I was at the annual radical herbalism gathering. Another fine example of people keeping it real and focusing on the important things in life, like sharing valuable skills, keeping medicinal plant knowledge accessible, supporting each other and treasuring our natural world. And picking up from an earlier post I was delighted to learn a little more about my flower of the season, the humble daisy underfoot, Bellis perennis.
Diminutive though it is, it hails from a powerful family of hard-hitting herbs – milk thistle, arnica, artichoke, coltsfoot, and southernwood. Its’ yellow center is believed to represent God and the outer petals the good Christian souls. By making a daisy chain, which represents an unbroken protective circle and by placing it on your child’s head, they were protected in spring and Beltane, another time when the veil between the spirit world and us is thin.

daisies following the sun

The herbal qualities of daisy appear to be strengthening and protective just like its folklore. In an ointment, combined with plantain it is supposedly better than arnica for bruising and can even be applied to broken skin, which Arnica can’t. It is helpful for bruises and falls and even for knotted muscles. It helps to heal inflammation in arm and leg joints, can be used as a chest rub to shift stubborn mucus coughs, it can settle the stomach and cool a hot liver. It can even help insomnia – being a day loving flower, its petals only open for the sun and close down for the night.

I love plants. This humble little flower punches above its weight and when we are looking down, feeling down, there it is to cheer up our day.

My green ointment awaits. I have orders to pack up and post away. Hopefully it will heal and help and bring some plant power to the people.

 

Sunday 18th June 2017
And breathe…

31 degrees, midsummer, Africa Oye festival, a 2 day celebration. It’s 9pm, beautiful clear skies, still hot, balmy, kids are happy.

  1. I am tired, emotional, tight chested, not sure what – I just want to cry.
    I attach to all sorts of emotions but really it’s just all too intense. I have tried  to avoid this festival since Kevin died. It was his favourite time of year, his playground, his element, with all the music he loved,  his favourite bands from all over the world and a weekend of catching up with all his friends that he hadn’t seen for a year – not to mention constant networking. He always came out of it with a flood of new job opportunities and exciting prospects.

My children love Africa Oye, they associate it with fun, friends, frivolity, carefree joy, actually it’s all about their dad but I don’t think they realise that, and it’s father’s day – it’s always Father’s day at Africa Oye. It’s only the second Festival without Kevin. Last year I played tennis nearby, to be close to it, reachable but not in it. I just couldn’t face it; the loss, the lack, it is like rubbing salt in my wounds.

This year for Africa Oye I was working. I started the day off with a 2-mile swimming race in the Liverpool docks, then a kiddie’s birthday party at an allotment and then  I  left my girls to it. They wanted to go to the festival on their own, and were really excited about the adventure. 
Actually they didn’t have such a good time without their mummy as a home base.

I worked again today, as part of the Great Get Together in honour of Jo Cox. It was lovely, beautiful, peaceful – a community breakfast in the Everton Nature Garden, everything the day was supposed to be about, celebrating neighbours, community, our local environment. I felt blessed, and I was paid to be there. Bonus.

I took my youngest to another birthday party, then took my oldest to the festival. Even as we walked in she said she was already having a better time than yesterday. I stayed with her, home base until she was settled, then I went walkabout, quite brave for me, considering. I was aware of my aloneness but embraced it and got to chat with a whole bunch of lovely friends.

But later, still at the Festival, back at my mates ’home base’, being around all the happy families, I did feel bereft and lacking. And it’s always worse when I see someone that I haven’t seen since Kevin died. Either there’s an awkwardness on their part, not knowing how or if to approach, or if they do approach they need to pour out their sorrow, pity and pain on me to absolve their guilt at not having been at the funeral or making any contact.

My lover never wants to live together. He is obsessed with his little red backpack, his symbol of freedom.  He already has a family, a granddad 4 times over.
I haven’t thought that far ahead, to know what I want, to even imagine that I can ever be happy again but I did love the little spaces that living together as a family allows, the informality, the spontaneity, the trust and the confidence in your life mate. If pushed to contemplate it, I would like to live as a family again, with another, but it’s so incredibly hard to imagine.

 I realise that at this time, being around other loving couples and functioning families is difficult, and I’ve had a weekend full of it.

 Another light has blown and I don’t know how to fix it. The jobs are mounting up and I don’t know how to sort them all.
I want to cry, overwhelmed. My girls have had a fun weekend.
I’ve swum a race, walked the dog, cooked, cleaned, ferried the children, worked, and been festive, worked some more.
Now? I feel lacking, I feel my loss, I miss the comfort of a fellow caring responsible adult. But my girls are happy so for now, job done.

A beautiful dusk is dawning. I am tearful but I don’t think I’m sad, well, perhaps a little;  I’m trying to embrace it.

I’ve got through another weekend.

(and did I mention that my lover’s ‘little red backpack’, his symbol of freedom that hasn’t left his side for four years, was stolen from his car, outside my house?) Interesting…

 

Wednesday 21st June 2017
Summer solstice, wedding anniversary

It’s summer solstice today. Another balmy day. 31°C. It’s baking outside.

It’s our wedding anniversary, tomorrow actually but I can feel the sadness welling up. I’ve never been one for dates or sentimentality but I am overwhelmed with sadness – I think its sadness, mostly its just endless tears welling up, spilling over, saltiness running down my face.
I’m aware of the date, but mostly what brings the memories is the feeling in the air, the smell, the light, the plants, the allotment, the hay fever. I’d usually forget this special date; it was always Kevin who would say ‘do you know what day it is?’,  I’d reply ‘yeah, summer solstice. ‘

Kevin in an old Chestnut tree

‘But really, do you know what day it is?’, and eventually it would guiltily dawn on me.
Adrift, now its only me that remembers, clinging on dearly to what was, desperately afraid that I may forget, that my memories will sink and disappear into fathomless dark depths and be swallowed up forever.

Today, in the park, after leaving all the lovely dog walkers and their crazy happy hot dogs, I picked some daisies. I am amazed that they are still blossoming, it’s been three months of flowering – what other plants flower for so long – I’m so loving this little flower. I will make a daisy tea and drink thereof on this long summer’s day, and appreciate.
I will be thankful for the time that I had with my beautiful and talented husband, for my amazing daughters, my wonderful animal friends, my loving  and adoring lover, for my community and for our health, and for breath.

Tonight we collect flowers on this the longest day and shortest night and lay them under our pillows, with wishes for the year ahead, for love and joy and special things.

For the sun, for water and for life.

 

Monday 26th June
I’m so very tired

Really tired. I went for a run with our dog on the weekend, because that’s what I do. I needed it, didn’t feel like it but I did it anyway because I know it helps. I don’t even bother asking the children anymore even though that’s one of the main reasons we got him – to get them active outdoors when the play park suddenly lost it appeal. Now they prefer to lie about and watch television and I’ve allowed them –  another issue I shall have to deal with as it creeps up my priorities list. As I gather more energy I have to expend it on reinstating family rules that I’ve allowed to slip away in my grief and exhaustion.

It really was very sudden, for years it was all about play parks, every mountain hike every river walk, every cycle had to have a play park featured in it somewhere. But suddenly play parks became boring, intimidating, self-conscious, mind you, the dog loves play parks if only he was allowed in.

So I ran, in the rain and it was very wet, but we were going out and it is the best way to exercise the dog and to keep me calm.

But something has changed; where until recently I ran and ran, almost sprinted because I had to,  I couldn’t walk, I had to burn off my adrenal stress and my pain, because I had to get back to my family; now I run, but if I don’t focus on running I find myself walking, stopping to breathe, to take in the sky, the smell of wet earth, the elder trees with their blossoms turning to berries.
I slow it down, appreciate the me time, the me and my joyful adoring, fun loving dog time.

I got soaked, it finished me off, which makes me realize that the nervous energy is easing off. Up until recently I was waking in the night, soaked, the sensation of rivers trickling down my arms, down the side of my body, the sensation of drowning, would wake me up and I’d be absolutely drenched. Cleansed? No, adrenal meltdown.

A tough weekend, my youngest, (11 years old) seems to be getting angrier and my oldest (12 yeasr old, nearly 13) was very sad, quiet,  introverted – and stubbornly so. She was holding fiercely on to her silence and sadness  like it was her only strength, a life buoy afloat on the ocean (we went to the River Festival, hence the analogy).

I tried, I loved, I gently coaxed, I let her be. I know it will come out when she’s ready although it doesn’t make it any less worrying. I know she is aware of this time of year, our wedding anniversary, our sadness.

She and her sister were in a sailing race over the weekend, such a proud achievement and her daddy wasn’t there to be a part of it all. It was a twelve-hour race and the children raced in teams of two for an hour each, my youngest was petrified, she doesn’t enter into new experiences without a lot of preparation, and for this one she was literally thrown into it.

sailing in Southport

The incoming pair are hoiked out as soon as the boat moors up and the next two are picked up by their buoyancy aids and thrown into the boat, and they’re off. Both the girls were put with a more experienced sailor, in this case, two lads of similar ages to my girls. They were quickly introduced, awkward silence, us parents stifling smiles from the sideline. My youngest took it very seriously and didn’t chat to her partner, they were both very shy, but my oldest chatted away with her sail mate. It was very sweet. They came twenty-first (out of twenty-one), apparently a three place improvement on the previous year when they came twenty-fourth (out of twenty-four).

I’m trying hard to give them new experiences, to embrace new places but everywhere we go there is the echo of their daddy’s footsteps.

I think it’s time to move on, to leave our house. Today my eldest told me how she suffers from anxiety. Mostly her anxiety sets in when someone is hurt and she feels that she is (a) responsible, (b) needs to help them and (c) doesn’t know how to. She wants to study something medically related, is obsessed with doing a first aid course, wants to make the world a better, safer place to live in.

The sudden and unexpected passing of their most loved and most adored daddy was here, in our house. It was my girls who discovered him when they rushed upstairs to show them their shiny new acquisitions from their trip to town. It was me who had to perform CPR on him, tried to scream him back into life, into being.

I remember him telling them just months before that we were going to have the best summer ever.

 

Wednesday 28th June 2017
Lime Blossom tea

Lime blossom tea. The lime blossoms are on their way out, I just caught them in time. Tillia europea is considered to be a sacred tree by many. It is used in love spells and is said to keep negative energies and evil spirits at bay, good luck charms are often carved out of its’ branches. It has a lovely flavour, scented, warming, earthy, slightly lemony.
I feel a little better, calmer. I kind of knew this, but on reading up on it, it has a naturally calming effect on the nervous and circulatory system, it is also a diuretic of which I too am feeling the effects.

I feel complexed and uneasy today, couldn’t sleep at all even after the chamomile tea. I’ve got back into drinking it of a night and it’s truly been knocking me out. It must be the perfect remedy for me at this time. Perhaps this unease is due to meeting with the The National Wildflower Centre campaigners yesterday. The conflict of opinions, anger, the lack of clarity and transparency of motive  left me feeling awful, anxious, distant and withdrawn.

[I worked at the National Wildflower Centre for six dedicated years, it was a deep and inherent part of our family life and development. In January 2017 it closed its doors and I was made redundant]

What, why? I have realized that I am working hard to make my life flow, to identify the stress points. I am doing alright with this, unraveling the writhing thoughts, the morass of guilt, the overwhelming duty of care and responsibility to my children, working hard to clarify the flow of my life, dividing it into clear patterns, time allocation, energy allocation, priorities.

Clearly there is one blindingly obvious source of my stress, but in embracing and acknowledging my loss, there are certain situations that send me reeling. The Save The National Wildflower Centre campaign is pulling me under.
I am fine, and then suddenly I am not. It’s that quick. I’ve been getting back from school pickup and collapsing on the sofa, which is not like me at all. It’s been overwhelming; if I don’t crawl into a ball and close my eyes, I’ll fall asleep standing.
I’ll put that to the side for now.

It has been a tough week of stealing moments, moments to work, moments to walk the dog (people say he’s looking chunky, oh dear), a dash to the allotment, a quick catch up with friends, avoid some friends, a visit to the mental health unit, squeeze in a tennis match, not find time to clean the house. There’s a lot of not quite finding time for housework. It’s midsummer and we’re all knackered.

I had a tennis match on Friday night. I’m the team captain so the good thing is that I’m always on the team but the downside is that I have to arrange everything every week. I have to source players, of which I usually have too many, mix them up according to ability, agility and personality. Oh, and for home matches I have to sort our dinner as well. This week after various stresses of injuries, replacements, rearrangements, I was all ready to go. Actually I wasn’t; I had sunk into a bout of exhaustion,  collapsed on my bed only to be woken up by the opposition’s captain cancelling the match. Mildly annoyed at the waste of a good dinner, I had to  phone round and cancel my carefully chosen teammates.  I immersed myself in a piping hot bath. I never have baths – no time – I was shivering, freezing cold but hot to the touch, it’s the second time this has happened this week. I didn’t feel well at all.

So, my stolen moments… to collapse, to be forced to relax, to enjoy a quiet unexpected evening at home, I even tried to read my book but sometimes life is too full to take on another narrative, sleep engulfed me like a tsunami.

And I almost had another quiet evening tonight. My eldest is at a sleepover and my youngest has set herself a task of a sleepover as part of her goals set with her therapist. She arranged it with her friend, I left her to it, didn’t want to interfere so she could be extra proud of herself. Somehow, with no interaction with said friend’s parent, I now have ended up with them both here for a sleepover. And said friend’s parent is now going out and probably won’t be back before 4am! Exactly how did this happen? No stolen moments for me  tonight. I’d toyed with the idea of a night out with my lover; imagine that, although I recoiled from this idea on reflection of my delicate state of being.

This week has reflected back to me that I am not in a great space. It feels like narcolepsy, the tiredness is so overwhelming that I could lie down on the pavement and sink into slumber, no problem.
I’ve been missing Kevin, mostly in the mornings, the quiet spaces of non-verbal communication, the sharing of chores and burdens, the trust in another, the division of labour.

I think I’ll take the dog for a walk.

 

Thursday 6th July 2017
Gasping and rasping

It caught me from the side, it winded me, constricted my throat. I felt the gasping, rasping breath, the wailing emanating from deep within.

Just when I thought I’d been through every major event and anniversary on the calendar year since Kevin’s death, this happens. I hadn’t foreseen it or prepared for the potential of pain, it just hit me, from the side, a ton of bricks into my solar plexus. It was my youngest’s induction day at her new High School, she’d been so very brave, holding herself tall with her anxiety tucked in tightly; she so badly wanted to bottle it and not get out of the car. But she did it, faced forward, wouldn’t smile or relax or chat with the other new girls in the queue despite all us parents’ efforts to get them to make friends with each other.
And on my way out; the warmth of summer blowing gently on my face – its always the smell and texture of the air that brings the strongest memories – it hit me and I remembered my eldest’s induction day, when she had a daddy to return home to.

It doesn’t feel that long ago, yet an age and a lifetime have passed since that day not even two years ago. And it brought it all back to me, it is a massive time anyway, transition from Primary to High School, and his death happened 2 weeks before she was to begin this new phase in her life, a few days before the Year 7 summer school.
The day it happened was the only free day we could manage to fit in all our runnings, to go to town and buy her new school shoes, her gum guard (!?), sports trainers. It was a carefully planned adventure for her to catch the bus on her own, in preparation for her newly blossoming independence. Armed with her new mobile phone, the plan was that she got on the first bus, no 82, and her sister and I would jump the next bus and would follow her in.

As it happened, as she got on the bus I realised that I’d left my phone at home. I had to leg it home to fetch my phone, not wanting to lose sight of my precious child disappearing into the distance. I barged in, shouted up to my husband who was still in bed, nursing a flu, ‘It’s only me!’ and ran back to the bus stop to jump on the next bus, not wanting my daughter to get too far ahead of us.

And all that I can think, over and over in my head, stuck in a loop, day after day, week in and week out, for months and months, was if only I had rushed upstairs to give him a quick cuddle and check that he was okay…

Another friend has fallen out with me over my daughter, what is that about? I haven’t heard back from my good friend no 1 since we went to hers for our dinner. She had asked us over for a Shabat meal and had promised my youngest some quorn nuggets on the menu. Early in the evening my youngest  started pestering me to go home, it’s complicated, but it culminated in us having to leave earlier than we might have, but discussions were had, explanations made, our troubles shared and apologies passed. Nevertheless the next day I received a text saying that my youngest had really hurt their feelings and they were all offended by her behavior.
Seriously? This from a friend who has put herself forward as being understanding and supportive, who knows our troubles and our journey through the mental health support system, the hospital visits, the anxiety issues. This from a friend who promised quorn nuggets to a child who loves food, yet served up the hottest quorn green curry to a hungry child. Really? And she wonders why the child becomes anxious and eventually takes herself to the car because said friend tries to shoo her away in order to get some adult time with me? Not to hear about how I am getting on, but  mostly so she can sound out her relationship tribulations with me, which I don’t mind, I mostly like the distraction (She’s married, trying for divorce, seeking a lover). Nevertheless, bemused and indignant as I felt, I never replied until a week later to enquire of her health and happiness. I have not had a reply. Interesting.

And then today, another good friend has had a go at me about my youngest. Apparently my daughter gave her phone number to all her friends except her daughter and ‘that’s mean and spiteful and hurtful’.
First I’ve heard of it.
I do understand though, my youngest has been coming home in tears and refusing to go to school as a result of this best friend’s behavior. She says she is bullied by her; it causes her great distress, daily. I have been to see her teachers on numerous occasions and measures have been taken, they have been separated and the teachers are on it and can see it happening. It’s an insidious manipulative kind of bullying that can grow out of intense relationships. My daughter is this child’s only friend and has been since the first day of school but when other children come up to me and tell me she was really mean to my youngest again today, it’s a bit of a give away.

Time has passed and people aren’t being as supportive as they were when Kevin first died. This is something I shall have to add to my pot of troubles.

I’m feeling a little low today; I have had a ‘trauma healing’ and was told to expect big shifts and changes. I can feel changes; I feel a sense of contentment, of forgiveness and resignation washing over me. Even of letting go, maybe, hopefully.
Forgiveness is a big one and apparently I need to forgive myself; I thought I had.
And fear. Apparently I’m stuck in a loop, it’s a PTSD symptom. You can’t move forward because you fear something bad might happen. You’ve witnessed the worst thing that can happen and you’re trapped in a state of constant fear as it could happen again, or something worse. You lose faith in life.

Sometimes it helps, to break patterns and cycles and these mental loops, to do things differently. Shake up your day. Break up your routine. Do something you haven’t done before; the brain can get stuck. Walk out your room backwards, brush your teeth with the opposite hand, walk a different route to school. Go somewhere you’ve never been before.

Well we’ve booked a trip to Cephalonia!

 

Friday 14th July 2017
Things are different

Things do feel different. I am looking at the world from a different window, the angle’s changed, I’m on a different route… well that’s what it feels like.

I went to Wimbledon. I won tickets in our local tennis club ballot and almost let them go but my lover insisted and generously paid for them. For the first time in as long as my memory allows, I felt excited, which is not a feeling that I am familiar with.
I realise that I haven’t felt happy or excited about anything for as long as I can remember, and if it has crept up as an option, I am quick to stifle it; there just isn’t anything to be happy about and nothing good will come of it.

There was a part of me that didn’t believe it could happen. Me? Go away for a day and a night! Leave my children, my cats, my dog, my chaotic house my lack of gainful employment, my overwhelming responsibilities.
I was definitely excited.

My children sorted with friends – that alone is a logistical feat of blind trust and analytical precision – arranging school pickups, afterschool activities, changeovers, anxiety management; the dog at his sleepover, the cats mostly covered, the house sort of tidied. We did it, we got to the train on time and left Liverpool.

And breathe…
until the train ground to a halt before Crewe and we waited. We waited for quite a long time at Crewe, one and a half hours, Wimbledon was about to start and we were stuck in Crewe, 148 miles away. It turns out that there was a body on the line and all trains since 8am had been backed up at Milton Keynes. We waited an awfully long time, but I was okay, happy almost, my family was safe, I was safe in the company of my lover, grateful for life. When you’ve been through the horror and trauma that we have, everything else is trivial. I felt sad for the ‘body on the line’ and all that will ensue surrounding that life and family. But I was thankful that we were safe. Sure, we were late for Wimbledon and yes it did start to rain and play was cancelled and we happened to have the best tickets we could possibly have hoped for, even if it was just for two hours of play. And yes, we got soaked, huddled under a pink floral umbrella, rain dripping down our backs and soaked to my knickers. We watched an amazing game with Joanna Konta fighting her way to victory with all the other intrepid rained out picnickers, a feast of colourful tightly packed umbrellas and it was amazing, and we loved it.

So now I’m back in my messy house, with mountains of washing, hungry cats and a dog who insists on emptying the bin. It could be worse, he usually does it just after I’ve mopped and vacuumed, thankfully I haven’t done any of that.

I’m back and it all does feel different. All it needs is a little change of view, a half-degree angle adjustment and the loop is shifted, the stuckness dissolves and these eyes are looking at things differently. I feel okay and most importantly I’m allowing myself to feel okay. My youngest was supposed to go back to her final appointment with the Clinical Psychologist. She vehemently didn’t want to, I know it’s because in the previous session she was pushed a little harder than she felt comfortable with, probed about her daddy, about missing him, about him not being here. Her little bottom lip trembles and she sucks it in – this is when I know she is fighting for her life. She still refuses to talk about it, hasn’t grieved or openly acknowledged her sadness and confusion. So when she talked me out of going to her appointment, convinced me that she had to be at school for a singing recording, I went with it and realized that I to, am exhausted with having to deal with it all on a daily level.

The first thing she said after Kevin was taken away on a stretcher by those men in top hats and suits and tails -it was surreal, I waited the whole night for him to return, a misplaced joke, a poor-taste-prank –  was ‘Mommy what are we going to do with all Daddy’s drums?”

And this is it, until we work out what we are going to do with all his drums, we are tied to face it all on a daily basis. We cannot move on until we let go.
And we do need to let go, to seek out ways, of allowance and acceptance.

 

Sunday 16th July 2017
Overload

Overload. Again. It’s best not to over think it, I feel bad as its a beautiful still summer’s evening, wispy clouds strewn across the sky, shading to  pink and I should be outside.
But I’m not. I’m tired and I have to shut my eyes.

I made the mistake of checking my Facebook and it was all too much. I’m just about handling my life; although I do feel overloaded at this time, I’m just about keeping afloat, maintaining an even keel and other nautical terms that seem to seep in.

I love hearing that friends are enjoying summer, that festivals are being celebrated all over the country, that people are having fun, but it’s too much, I need to climb back into my bubble. I can’t hear about any more needy causes and worldly atrocities. I just do not have capacity.
I’m crawling back inside, closing my eyes, shutting down. Sleep is a wonderful thing.

Some people tell me gently that perhaps I have too many photographs of my husband featured around our house. This may be so; I’ll have a think about it. I spot him out of the corner of my eye as I move from room to room. Sometimes it’s supportive but when I’m tired it makes me want to give up.
Like now.

 I have an interview for a job tomorrow. It’s making me anxious, as I cannot see a way through or around or into fitting this into our life. How can I find the space. do I have capacity, will I manage?
Am I ready, will I ever be ready?

Monday 17th July 2017

The thing is, the beautiful thing is, that when I’m with my lover I lose track of time. I am lost in a heady lack of responsibility, in a world of no history, only us creating a magic between us. It’s not even about creating a future (I’ve stopped trying to see a horizon); it’s about an alternative reality. He doesn’t fit into my life but we create a space for each other that is beautiful, appreciative and only about us.
We don’t understand it, well I make no attempt to but he is constantly trying to make sense of us. (Good luck with that, mate)

Sunday 23rd July
Another day, another milestone. 

They’re coming at me thick and fast, it must be the time of year; we’re approaching the 2nd anniversary of Kevin’s death.

I seem to be facing it all again, or more accurately, I’m feeling it very intensely. Perhaps this is ‘coming to terms with my grief’. I am feeling it; this is definitely grief that I’m feeling. I am constantly on the verge of tears, nursing a throbbing pain in my heart, excruciating loss. I am trying to be mindful of it, embracing it, exploring the feeling to its raw and open extremes. It really hurts.

It’s been a busy week. We’ve had a Spanish exchange student to stay, to improve her English, unfortunately we didn’t manage to improve her manners, she was horrible. I felt like a servant, no thanks, and no appreciation just a latent disdain emanating – perhaps it was a language thing. Now she has gone, we are down to two: my youngest and me. Our numbers have depleted gradually throughout the week. On one night there were six to stay, then my lover left, exited the building. My oldest has returned to Spain with the Spanish girl for her week of cultural exchange, God help her.

So now we are down to us two for the next week, my daughter and me. I will treasure what I have, my beautiful misunderstood youngest, my caring cats, my incessant dog:  back to our basics. 

And somewhere in and amongst it all, amongst the endless roles and responsibilities, work and pressures…
back to me.

 

Tuesday 26th July 2017
My lover has left the building

So, my lover has left the building. Not once, but twice. The door slammed, and then it slammed again. Why, how, I’m not quite sure, but he’s gone. I think for good, but again, unclear. It may have been something I said…. but what of all the things he said. ‘I love you.’,  ‘When I’m away from you I miss you so much.’,  ‘You’re brilliant.’, ‘I can’t imagine a future without you.’ 

Where do I put this: a blow to the chest, a pain to the heart, a let down.
I am in pain. I feel excruciating pain, my grief has entered the building, I have finally got to me, and it hurts. 

And all those words, what do they mean? I never really understood when they were thrown at me with such intensity, it wasn’t about me, it was about him. I don’t think it was ever about me, it was always about how I allowed him to feel, about himself. I cared for him, I loved him, and I was nice to him, all of which was new to him.

So, here I am, adrift. Back to my little unit, currently of three, me, my youngest, my dog. My oldest is away in Mallorca, with mardy girl (I worry so). And I am away on adventure to dark sky country, awash with stars; Galloway Forest Park.

I am trying to make sense of it all, to stay afloat. Last week I had a significant other, who couldn’t t manage a day without me. And now he is no longer in my life. Is this the way it works? I’ve definitely experienced worse, but something has also changed. I seem to have reached me, my core, my cradle of pain.
And I’m embracing it, facing it, breathing it. Pain is my reality.

I’m working on being in the now. I could have been angry with my lover. I was mostly shocked, incredulous; I could have lambasted him with angry communication, for being so incessant in demanding my attention, for steamrollering into my life. But I didn’t, it’s not there to call on, I’ve let it go.
It still clatters around my head, mostly fun and fond memories of our time together, but for whatever reason, I’m still unclear, he has gone. 

And we’re okay, our little loving, beloved family unit is alright. We’re in a rainstorm, it’s early. My youngest is ensconced in her duvet, the dog is snoring, I am watching the trees bending and swaying in the winds, I think we’re okay.

 

Thursday 3rd August 2017
Cephalonia

Cephalonia, 38°C. My youngest is melting.

Today we are doing what she chooses and right now we are lounging by the pool. It’s a beautiful thing, to be on holiday with my wonderful girls, I am watching them blossom and grow in confidence. They have taken the most massive blow and within all that they have lost; confidence and a sense of place are huge. I hadn’t properly considered this, only in watching their cheekiness return am I considering how much it has knocked their sense of self.

We’ve travelled far away, to a distant isle where the air carries new aromas and the water is warm. Yet still I feel Kevin, the empty place at the table, the comments he would have made, our shared sense of humour. I am trying so hard to give the girls a fresh view on the world, to walk a new path that isn’t crowded with memories… yet still he is with us. And this, perhaps, is the idea that I need to befriend, to acquaint myself with. He is with us, in our hearts, embedded in our DNA and in our essence.

By living life we are not leaving him behind.

This is not an easy concept to allow, but it’s seeping in like tiny shards of searing sunlight on these far away shores. I need to learn to embrace this and allow a tiny degree shift, effecting a key change in our progression.

 

Sunday 6th August 2017

The problem with me is that I never stop. We’re on holiday and I’m, still busy, unceasing, always organizing, seeing to the needs of others, mostly my children – ensuring that they are having the best possible experience that I can offer them. So, I never stop – I don’t know how to and I don’t believe that I am able. What will happen if I do? Will I fall.. keep falling. What will stop me, who will catch me.

My heart hurts, fit to burst, I want to cry. I am so tired.

I want to sleep, I need to allow myself to sink…

But always, my youngest stops me. She seems to have a sense that if I stop I will sink and this isn’t good for her. She stops me by her constant needs, her heightened sense of self, her selfishness masked by her anxiety and blanketed in her Autism Spectrum Disorder.

When I am in the water I can sink, into silence and be held by the ebb and flow of the ocean swell. And always I am returned to the surface to breathe again. When I am in the water, below the surface, I am completely in the moment: my breathing stops, I am held in delicate space, time stands still, I have reached homeostasis. I am at one, floating, acutely aware of the sound of each grain of sand, in tune, moving with the fish and the seaweed and me, myself, I.
I can fall and trust and be held and always be effortlessly returned for breath and for life.
It is a beautiful thing.

 

Sunday 13th August.

Tense. Apprehensive. Ill-at-ease. Today is the second anniversary of Kevin’s sudden death. It doesn’t feel any less, I still feel stunned, helpless. It’s happened too quickly, I need to prepare myself, prepare my children, do something special to note the occasion.

Instead I agreed to attend a two day First Aid Course, over the weekend, on the anniversary of my husband’s death. I could have refused, surely I should have refused it, but there is that part of me that still doesn’t know how to say No. Perhaps in some obscure way it will help me to move on, to deny it, not have to deal with it, not have to be responsible for organizing another fun activity for my children to associate happiness and joy and a positive existence to a life still lived.

This first aid course has been a hurdle in my path, an unassailable obstacle, a brick wall, a river that I cannot bring myself to cross. I’ve already avoided one course earlier in the year but it’s come to the point where I cannot continue to work until I have an up to date certificate. Without realising, I agreed to it on this of all weekends – I was even instrumental in choosing the date, such is my inability to grasp life beyond this day, this moment.

Yesterday was indescribably hard; I was on the brink of a breakdown all day. Unlike most students in that class, I had a living and dying experience of every step of the first aid process. The discovery of the person collapsed, unconscious, the initial assessment, the checking for vital signs, the panic, adrenalin, 999, the chest compressions, the screaming desperate calls to BREATHE, WAKE UP, please just wake up. The pleading to the paramedics to do something, just make him breathe. The way they looked down, just couldn’t do anything, wouldn’t do anything, shook their heads.
My shock, horror, disbelief.
And my children witness to all of it.

But I think for me, one of the hardest parts of the day was the discussion around looking for initial vital signs of unwellness. Skin colour, breathing, lips, skin temperature – how did I miss all this? How did my vital, larger than life, strong, kind, fit and well husband just die, leave his body so suddenly and so unexpectedly.

And how has it come to pass, that I’m going through all this on the anniversary of his passing. I’m not one to run away, I do face things head on. I know in life that avoidance can make things worse, allowing a backlog until situations seem insurmountable, but seriously? Did I really need to rub my nose in this now, of all weekends of the year?

Last year I anticipated this a little better; well at least I thought I did. As much as I didn’t feel like it, I arranged a day trip to a local National Trust Castle. Myself, my girls and my mum and our dog trooped off, picnic in hand to have a fun and enjoyable day together, to appreciate life, nurtured by nature. There was a lot of complaining due to steepness of hills, heat – there’s always something to have a little moan about. We had a nice day, arrived home tired but relieved that this day had passed by, only to find out that it wasn’t Friday the 13th August at all, but Friday the 12th. It had been a leap year and we still had to go through this big day all over again the following day. Oh well, one does one’s best, doesn’t one. It worked out well in the end as we just wanted a quiet contemplative, stay-at-home, see no-one kind of day, anyway.

And today I need to do it all again as I’ve only gone and booked onto a 2 day course. Its outdoors today so hopefully it won’t be as intense.

 

Tuesday 15th August 2017
Is it always going to be like this?

Is it always going to be like this? I have a feeling of living a half-life, I feel no joy of summer, constant melancholy, I am trapped.

Triggered by the weather, the smell, the play of light, the summer – will I always be bombarded with constant reminders of when it happened. I am being drip fed memories of the days leading up to Kevin’s death, then the constant waves of shell shock of the aftermath.

Primark, Subway, the Bluecoat Gallery, Schuh, Waterstones, being on the number 82 bus. It’s all tainted with pain and shadows of memories. I want to run away from it all, to lift this incredibly overbearing weight blocking my being, but I don’t know where to run.

The morning arrives too quickly (at least I have slept). I keep my eyes tightly shut, holding on to the night, I’m not ready for the day. I am stuck inside this life, looking out through a glass window but unable to get outside and embrace the day, life, opportunities.

Everywhere we go there are echoes of the past. Where once we found security in this, I can only now find pain, a series of loops repeating and interlinking, locking and clamping down, I have trouble breathing.

And I am feeling anger and frustration- this is new to me. I want to thrash about, throw things, run away… keep running.

My mother is over from South Africa, staying for a month. Whilst it is a joy, a support and an absolute relief to have another caring adult in our clan, it is also draining to have responsibility for another being. I want to be on holiday where our only concern is having enough sun protection, and which beautiful beach to visit, whether to read my book or watch fish underwater.

My mother is very diligently and selflessly helping us to clean and sort, which is my biggest obstacle to moving on and my stubborn nemesis that I cling on to. It is this activity of clearing that makes me want to run away, that drives me to constant distraction. But until we have cleared, sorted and let go we are unable to move on.

 

Friday 18th August 2017

In keeping with the First Aid course debacle, I facilitated my first work session today, getting back into Horticultural Therapy. It just so happened that it was for a group of newly bereaved participants, in a hospice – you just couldn’t make it up! Me being me, I agree and try to embrace it but honestly I was dreading it, I just wanted this week to end. Actually it was alright, very sad, I was in tears as were most of the participants but there is beauty in nature, being outside and being in company – we all found a little joy that day.

My oldest came downstairs the other night, blood pouring from her hand. “I don’t know what happened but I seem to be bleeding”
I still don’t know what it was, but the bleeding would not stop, water, plasters, holding arm above head, bandages, the blood just kept on seeping – I was very concerned. All the alarm bells were ringing, my lover was there to keep a humour and grounding to the situation, luckily, but all that was going through my head was ‘Self Harming’ – it’s started. She was shaky and tearful and a little confused, there was a story about mending a jumper with a needle and cotton (my daughter doesn’t darn!), or maybe it was the nail clippers, she thinks she may have tried to cut her nails – the hole was deep, round and the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

It finally did stop after I packed it with Green Ointment and a plaster – reliable handy Green Ointment and she finally, delicately, lay down to sleep, a little shocked as were we all. I still haven’t got to the bottom of what implement was used. We’ve had a chat about self harming and emotional pain, not sure what else to do but the alarm bells have been rung, she’s made a cry for help and she’s hurting.

 

 

Friday 24th August 2017
I need a man

I need a man. Here I find myself, adrift in a sea of broken vacuum cleaners. Perhaps if I cling to one it may take me to safety, to a far and distant shore, with sunshine and rolling waves, where everything is fixed, and polished, and tidy and in perfect order.

But alas, there is only me to find the bridge between a rapidly dust accumulating living room floor and three broken vacuum cleaners. So I set to it, zone in, focus, become one with my household implements. Three hours later, non-stop sneezing, my eyes are itching, my skin is crawling, I’m covered in dust (allergic) but my house is clean. I am obsessed with checking the cylinder of the vacuum cleaner each time I vacuum – where does all the dirt come from? There is just so much.

Fixing, mending, making right was always Kevin’s job – he even emptied the dust cylinder to save me from my allergies. Unending patience and a talent for working things out, he always managed to fix the unfixable, mend the unmendable and see the good in even the sorriest bit of old tat.

I do have a man, my lover, but he doesn’t fix things, he can’t even change a plug (his words) – but he offers a fabulous hug. Something has shifted between us, he was holding me tight (I need a lot of hugs) and my heart started hearting intensely, I felt a cry coming on, my eyes welling up. I don’t know why I was crying, there were no thoughts or emotions attached, just intensity of something. He picked up on it but I couldn’t describe it – not happiness, not sadness just something very raw and human and pure.

And last night for the first time in many months, I had dreams of Kevin. He floated into my dreams, tangible and big and alive and real, and beautiful. I’ve felt him with me all day and it’s a wonderful bittersweet thing. I’m on the verge of tears, occupying a narrow space on the edge of a flood zone.

But the point, I think, of this ramble of words and undefined emotions is that the hug from my lover triggered something. It was loving and gentle and I haven’t been held like that since my Kevin was alive. A hug communicating home and safety and only wanting the best and the most for your mate and fellow human being.

It is a massive undertaking to take on the grief of another. My lover is no friend, apparently. A contentious statement constantly challenged and endlessly discussed and bandied between us – and many of my friends for that matter. ‘The status of lover is way above that of a friend.’ he claims, I argue otherwise – my friends have outlasted my lovers by decades. I love my friends truly and deeply, across continents and marital divides. Kevin was definitely my friend and husband and held many roles and relationships within and beyond – plumber, builder, scientist, human calculator, most excellent listener…

My lover, to me, is also my friend and I believe this is a valuable post to hold and to honour.

(Watch this space)

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