Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Emotional Leakage

While away at Scargill House last week we had a film night and watched Johnny English Reborn.

He is a spy of the highest calibre (not!) and trained in all manner of secret agent techniques including not cracking under pressure or giving away crucial information.

However just the mention of Mozambique causes him to remember an incident he would rather forget, his face contorts in a way that only Rowan Atkinson could manage!

These movements are recorded by MI7's very pretty behavioural psychologist as she taps into his subconscious to discover what really happened on that fateful night the president was assassinated on Johnny’s watch.

She calls his reactions “emotional leakage” - physically displaying thoughts and feelings you are trying to keep hidden.

I think I’ve been having my own “emotional leakage”, two people independently have told me I sound depressed from reading my blog or words to that effect. I’ve lost my sparkle.

My attempts at bravado and making light of things is clearly not working as well as I hoped. I have tried hard to be positive even when I had a go at being a pessimist.

Maybe I need a break from writing or maybe I should stop this blogging altogether it’s no longer helping like it once did.

To be honest I don’t know what will help any more, I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel whatsoever. While other people’s lives move forward I feel completely stuck.

It’s almost like I have travelled in time to a future date when I am widowed and I am waiting for the rest of the world to catch up with me. When I am in my seventies being a widow won’t seem so strange. 

It’s as if 25 years of my life have disappeared and yet I still have to live through them in slow motion while I wait for the boys to grow up and become independent. And I have to be both mother and father to them too.

Today on the advice of a friend I started taking the anti-depressants again. I was taking St John’s Wort as an alternative but forgot to take them away on holiday with me and now I feel all out of kilter. 

But I don’t want to be the girl who has to take a pill every morning forever more but maybe in this topsy-turvey time travelling existence that is what will see me through. 

I may not write for a while (or I could be back tomorrow – who can tell?). I need to somehow find my sparkle again without it I am truly lost.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Scargill Scrapbook

Here are some more thoughts, memories and photos from last week.

Standing on the top of Connie Pie, might have spelt that wrong but the view was fantastic, weather glorious and company delightful!

Then there was the food, afternoon tea everyday at 4 with plenty of cake. Pineapple upside down cake and custard for pudding on almost the hottest day of the year. And a fish pie with a crumble topping, only the crumble topping was sweet not savoury - so glad I don't like fish and had chicken instead!

The road to Kettlewell
For part of the week we shared Scargill with some lads from Housing Justice, on their last night they had a camp fire and we talked about tattoos and drugs - not the conversation I expected to be having on my time away but they were great fun and added a very special dimension to the week.

A sheep I spotted while on my walk
One evening we had a film night, was quite relieved when it was Johnny English and not something heavy and spiritual. Lots of laughter in the lounge that night.

On another evening we had a sort of quiz and we sort of won! But we graciously donated our prize to a young girl who was there with her family all the way from Australia.

We were quite a multi-cultural group with a couple from Germany too.

Here's some of the work produced during the week.

One lady took a photo of everyone and pasted them on the cross.


At our celebration service there were poems, pictures, drama sketches, monologues, songs specially written and even a rap about the parts of the bodyI was so glad to be involved "innit"!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holy Mess

My week away last week at Scargill House was called “Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holy Mess”. It appealed because most of the time I feel as though my life is a mess, it certainly isn’t neat and tidy. Often it's not very holy either!

The week was led by Adrian and Bridget Plass who are part of the community at Scargill. Over 20 people live there full time with lots of volunteers helping out to keep things running smoothly.

I don’t know what I really expected but everything was far too overwhelming when I arrived. I had been on the verge of tears all day to be truthful and when there was a slight hiccup with the room allocation I took it as my cue to pick up my bags and walk as fast as I was able through the labyrinth of corridors. 

I sat on a bench outside with Lily a young woman from the community, all I could do was cry and eventually I told her why.

This is what worried me most, having to explain my marital status over and over again. Why can’t I just be me? Why do I feel I have to be categorised as a WIDOW all the time? It's a part of me I still can't fully accept.

With nowhere else to run I stayed and repeated my sorry tale over and over. It does get easier the second, third and fourth time. I was faced with a crowd of strangers that I was going to be spending time with so I couldn't just pretend my life is ordinary.

There were other widows there but they were older and they seemed far more normal than I felt. I am still far too young to be a widow. Although one day I'm sure I'll look in the mirror and discover I'm not!

Throughout the week we looked at the book of Acts and the early Christians. The teaching part was divided into three, on the first day we looked at the body of the church, how we are all different and yet all important. The second day we wrestled with the freedom Jesus gives us, he fulfilled the Old Testament laws and our only commandments are to love him and love one another.

The third day was the hardest topic, the cross and suffering.  I really couldn’t tell you what Adrian and Bridget had to say because I sobbed my way through that session. The tears bubbled over uncontrollably. When it had finished Adrian laid a large hand on my shoulder and the empathy was palpable.

But don’t think I spent the entire week in tears, I soon latched onto the rebels of the group; we were loud and laughed lots!

After each morning teaching session and before free time in the afternoon there was time to be creative. We all worked on writing, drama, music and artwork for a communion service on the Thursday evening taking the themes we'd been studying.

Now this may not be everybody’s cup of tea, we all like our tea different strengths and colours anyway. There were even people there who suddenly wondered if this was what they had signed up for and what they had to offer!

However to me it was amazing to have the freedom to be inspired and just run with an idea. I actually did very little writing but enjoyed joining in with the drama group for part of the week. I love being centre stage, it’s where I thrive.

But the first thing I created was a piece of art.

Now “ART” is pretty scary, we have so many talented Artists in our church and I am not using the word lightly. We have regular exhibitions in our very own Artspace and finally last year I took the plunge and created a picture to display, but it took a couple of years to believe I was capable.

What I accomplished last week was big, bold and installed right at the front for all to see. It was important for me to do something on my own and to realise the confidence that I have grown.

It was interesting to hear most people preface their performances throughout the week with an apology, uncertain that their efforts were worthwhile. We all long for a voice, a chance to be heard and this was a good place to express ourselves.

My idea came from something Adrian had said on the first evening about living outside of the box. Then Bridget told us there were some colourful saris and some large boxes we could use as we liked.

So I put all these elements together and came up with this...

Usually we only show the tidy bits of our lives, airbrushing the mess that we are ashamed of, but what if our lives, our boxes, exploded? What if everything was on show? The ugly truths alongside the beauty? Brokenness next to the loveliness? The tangled and torn mixed with sensuous silks?

As the week unfolded I added a smashed mug and fresh flowers that would wither and die, it was organic, other people added poems too.

On the last night I read my own poem, I didn’t totally escape the writing muse but these 3 verses were all I wrote.

A riot of colour
A tangle of threads
A mess of emotions
An explosion of tears

A scattering of worry
A knot of disaster
A muddle of lies
A jumble of fears

A forest of darkness
A mountain of grief
A hope of a future
A gift of these years

Now all I have to do is enjoy the gift I've been given, but those thoughts I will explore another day...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A Rude Awakening

I haven’t written anything for over a week and I feel like I’ve lost the knack of stringing a cohesive sentence together but here goes...

As you may know I’ve been away on a “holiday”, a strange word, one that rarely appears in my vocabulary but something other people seem to master with ease.

I will write about it but I have something more pressing to express today, a ringing in my ears that just won’t stop until I get this down.

I came home on Friday and was looking forward to the joy of sleeping in my own bed but my pleasure was cut short when the house alarm went off at 2am.

I keyed in the number and the noise stopped – only to start again a few seconds later. This pattern continued. My dad came downstairs and punched in the number while I looked for…

…what did I need?

The instruction book? Eventually I found it but all it could tell me was the problem was a BF, you can fill in your own expletives as you wish but actually it stands for battery fault.

Who could I call? Last time this happened who sorted the problem? Andrew. It took lots of fuss and bother, many more rude words but it was 9pm not 2am and he at least had some ideas to try and I was at a loss.

Dad said ring the police, I did, not 999 this didn’t constitute a proper emergency. Their advice was ring an electrician.

Have you ever tried to find an electrician in the yellow pages at 2am when your vision is blurry? None of them advertise they are happy to be woken up.

So I rang a friend instead who’s used to disturbed nights on call, he suggested a local alarm company.

I rang them and got no answer at all.

By this time youngest son was shouting, “Hit it with a hammer!”

Mum was installed by the keypad to tap in the number again and again while dad and I went to look at the battery with a view to disconnecting.

Which wire do you cut? Not just red or blue to consider like in the films but orange and yellow and green all tangled in a box at the back of oldest son’s wardrobe.

Finally we found the bell box at the top of the stairs that was making the racket and dad just touched it and it fell off the wall. The wires detached and the noise subsided to a more manageable whine.

“It should stop in 20 minutes.”

After settling the boys down and shutting doors to minimise the sound we had a cup of tea.

Twenty minutes passed and then thirty. The whine continued. We wedged a cushion up against the key pad where the irritating noise was coming from, held in place with the step ladder – how resourceful you can be in the early hours!

I lay in bed, youngest son beside me, always a comfort for us both when things get tough, listening intently to see if the noise had stopped, it hadn’t. It took a while for me to tune it out again.

I thought I’d never sleep and remembered that first night after Andrew died when I tossed and turned finding no peace whatsoever.

Finally the birds started singing, it was almost 4am. They drowned out the artificial sound, but then I’d have to stop and listen for it just to make sure.

Eventually I fell asleep.

In the morning I punched the number in again, it stopped for good this time. I got someone to come out who changed the battery and now the system should be as good as new.

That constant ringing in my ears is just like grief, always there but sometimes you can tune it out and carry on. You think you are doing fine, the noise has finally abated but then you catch the sound once more and it stays with you a while longer.

It’s like the pain I get in my back. Apparently there’s nothing wrong but every now and then I ache and the only way it goes is by being so involved in something else I forget about it altogether – until the next time I remember and there’s that twinge again.

People think I’m strong and brave but actually I’m so fragile. I try so hard to live normally and enjoy the things I have but there is so much I want to change that’s immoveable, so much I am enduring not enjoying.

Lack of sleep doesn’t help; Andrew always knew when I was too tired to function properly and would advise me to get some rest.

It’s strange, I’ve just come back from a holiday but I now feel as if I need one more than ever.  I need a break, a chance to get away and stop the constant ringing in my ears.

Although as I will write, probably tomorrow, even that is fraught with tears, this path is never easy...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Five Sentence Fiction – Foggy

Today's story is inspired by Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction

What it’s all about: Five Sentence Fiction is about packing a powerful punch in a tiny fist. Each week I will post a one word inspiration, then anyone wishing to participate will write a five sentence story based on the prompt word. The word does not have to appear in your five sentences, just use it for direction.

This week: FOGGY

She must be lost, he convinced himself, no doubt somewhere between the lake turn off and the McPherson place.

That narrow road twisted with several places a stranger could take a wrong turn even on the brightest day but it was far trickier to navigate the woods in this weather, the fog had closed in snugly like a smothering embrace.

In contrast to his jittery heart the pasta sat drained and congealing by the stove.

Offhandedly he stirred the Bolognese sauce one more time; it was the only dish he knew how to cook.

He reached for his car keys and with a deep sigh blew out the candle he’d placed on table; a wax fountain sprayed on the freshly laundered cloth.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Beginner's Goodbye

Over the last couple of weeks the Book at Bedtime on Radio 4 has been Anne Tyler’s new novel The Beginners Goodbye.

I came upon it by chance on iPlayer when looking for something to listen to while doing the ironing. I quite like listening to a radio play or sketch, it takes your mind off the task at hand. (I iron while watching TV too but it’s a slower process when you keep lifting your head to see the screen.)

It’s not often I catch the start of a week’s worth of programmes but maybe there was something in the timing of this one because it was about a subject which touched my heart.

The Beginner's Goodbye is the story of Aaron Woolcott who is coming to terms with the loss of his wife Dorothy; she was killed in a freak accident when a tree fell on their house.

They had just argued when the incident occurred and as the story unfolded you could see how their marriage wasn’t perfect or easy, but then how many marriages are?

I don’t want to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read it; it’s a well written and beautifully told story. In a lot of ways the plot is a very simple and very little actually happens. 

Sometimes it is the telling of these uncomplicated everyday tales that makes them even more poignant and real.

The main focus of the story is that Dorothy comes back.

It is left to the reader/listener to speculate if this apparition is real or in Aaron’s head. That’s the beauty of fiction, it’s just a story and not necessarily true.

Through these meetings Aaron and Dorothy finally come to some sort of understanding of each other. They manage to set aside past aggravations leaving Aaron some peace after the tragedy of his wife's sudden death. By the end of the novel he is ready to move on.

Now Andrew has never come back to me in any kind of physical form real or imagined. I don’t spend my time talking to him either although I’ve heard of people who do that sort of thing and it brings them comfort. I have never felt the need.

Andrew worked away so I got used to him not being physically here, although he would ring me daily. If I missed a call from him I would get quite agitated, probably because it made me feel I had let him down not being there.

I have had a couple of dreams with Andrew in, one not long after he died and the other a few months ago.

In the second dream we were in our old house and there he was sat on the sofa. I thought or even said, “what are you doing here?” 

Perhaps I have fully accepted he is not here and never will be. I’ve packed away boxes labelled grief, arguments, regrets. The confetti of what ifs and I wish we hads can’t lay scattered on the floor forever.

I have to believe that underneath our ordinary everyday struggles we had something good and worth holding onto. Nothing is ever perfect.

Ultimately you pick up the pieces and rearrange them in a new order to suit yourself.

In Anne Tyler’s novel Aaron has to reassemble the pieces of his life in the same manner he has to rebuild his crushed home.

When you are satisfied the pieces fit sufficiently well enough together you are ready to move on.

If you get the chance to read the book then do, especially if you are coming to terms with bereavement. It is a gentle read which touches so many emotions and you find yourself nodding, yes I feel like that too.