Monday, 30 June 2014

Who do you see when you look at me?

At the weekend I went to a school reunion – it’s been 30 years since we did our O levels (as they were in those days) and went our separate ways.

Of course some people never wandered far and most of us have one or two close friends we have tried to keep in contact with over the years.

The advent of Facebook has been a great way to keep in touch with a larger contingent and it was through Facebook that most of this reunion got organised.

Some of us last met at our 20 year reunion and so much seems to have happened since then, especially on a personal level for me…

…and yet we are all still very much the same people as we were all those years ago at school.

Each of us finds comfort in the groups we hung around with at school. Old cliques reform very quickly as we giggle and reminisce. There is nothing better than catching up with old friends who you shared an important part of your life with.

There are some people I don’t ever remember talking to at school so I struggle to think of what to say, I can’t recollect their names or faces, I smile politely instead. 

Talking to boys is especially a problem both then and now, I get tongue tied, tripping over my words. I don’t suppose I’ll ever really change.

And then I blurt out that my husband died and quickly wish I hadn’t but I kind of need people to know, it’s the biggest thing that has happened to me in the last ten years, it’s not pleasant to talk about and it kills the conversation. The conventional “I’m sorry” seems such a trivial thing to people say in return.

Then I over compensate, get a little louder and finally end up retreating to the dance floor lost in the 80s music – no I haven’t changed a bit since school.

However I’m told more than once I look happy and the truth is I really am.

The reunion isn’t totally as I expect it to be but nothing ever is.

I’ve worked out that as a would be writer and teller of stories I make so much up, whole conversations go on in my head that will never take place in real life because no one else knows the script except me!

Suddenly the music stops, the lights come back on and the night is over far too quickly. We agree we should meet more often, some will, some won’t. I wish I lived nearer sometimes and could join in the fun.

At the end I wonder what people think of me? What they thought of me all those years ago and if they think I’ve changed at all?

The next day photos appear on Facebook – happy smiling faces and there are one or two of me.

I like what I see very much and as my friends “like” my picture too I feel loved and know that’s all that matters in the end.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Do you know where you’re going to…?

When I went to the tip a few weeks ago with Andrew’s records suddenly I heard this song on the radio

I cried my eyes out saddened by the thought I was letting something go that was so precious to us both but also aware I have to let go to move forward.

But I don’t know where I am going anymore. At the moment I feel as if I am making such a mess of everything on my own and today once more for no apparent reason I am in floods of tears.

I miss Andrew so much and wish he would just walk through the front door with his cheery “honey I’m home” said in jest, a take-off of American sitcoms.

I wish he would look at the accumulated mess and resolve to sort it out together. Because together we could do this

Cue another Diana Ross song 

On my own I fill my days up with nonsense but every now and again a bitterly cold wind blows away the fairydust and I can see what’s underneath, just me, lost, alone and in a muddle.

I push on each and every door I come across hoping one will open, but when one gives I fall flat on my face and it hurts!

I reach for bits of glitter but however far I stretch it soon becomes clear they are merely pinpricks of light in the night sky beyond my grasp.

I used to be able to write myself happy, somehow turn the sad thoughts around, today I think I’ve lost the knack.

But every day some small things do make me laugh out loud and I am using them as stepping stones to cross this river of tears.

I have no idea where they will lead me, or if they will have me spinning in circles, but smiles and laughter are always good.

And one thing always leads to another like a "chain reaction"...

... now that's a song that will always make me laugh and cry... but that's another story!

Friday, 20 June 2014

An Angel's Tears (a story)

((A story because so often I make mistakes and say things I shouldn’t say … and sometimes there’s no way to take them back and edit them to make them sound better, or explain what I really meant.

And because this picture from Facebook made a good writing prompt!))

My guardian angel hangs her head in shame. She despairs of me and weeps silent precious tears. 

Meanwhile I look down at the ground shuffling dead leaves at my feet. 

It is always autumn when I am brought here, with a chill in the air, a foreboding sense of imminent winter bringing death and decay.

I shudder, aware that once again I have mucked up.

In my own mind on a grand scale and merely saying “I’m sorry!” doesn’t begin to cover it.

I strongly believe in the power and magic of words yet I misinterpret the wisdom of others and in return speak the cruellest words to the kindest of people seemingly without a second thought.

“Do I get another go? “ I ask tentatively, longing to make amends.

I’ve lost track of the number of chances I’ve used up but while my angel still weeps over me I know all is not lost.

As she lifts her head I look deeply into her eyes filled with compassion and love.

She nods smiling weakly. Leaning forward I catch a few perfect teardrops as they fall.

My chance of redemption captured in their sorrow.

I can try again, somewhere new, a different place and perhaps this time no one will get hurt. I will keep my sharp words hidden and sprinkle all my comments with love.

Perhaps next time I won’t get hurt – although that might be one wish too much to ask for.

Swallowing my tears I start again.

(250 words )

Monday, 16 June 2014

There will always be hurdles

The thing with grief is there will always be hurdles to jump and big fences to negotiate. Do I go round or attempt to leap over, all the while hoping I don’t spectacularly trip and fall flat on my face!

Yesterday was Fathers’ Day, a day which creeps up and I am only slightly aware of, out of the corner of my eye, just there in my peripheral vision.

You can’t avoid the displays in the supermarkets but I walk past quickly. Although I still have a dad to buy for my boys don’t and I feel at odds with that fact.

The bottom line is it’s just not fair.

((I’m reminded at this point of an old blog post I wrote about a year after Andrew died for my unravelling-edges blog - “When There are no Words”))

My dad and I, without even a word will quietly acknowledge these kinds of days, neither of us wanting to upset the boys unduly.

However the truth is this year I really thought Fathers’ Day was next Sunday.

So when I texted my brother on Saturday to give him an idea of what to buy as a gift for dad for the following Sunday he send a message back…

“Fathers’ day is tomorrow!”

“Oh shit!” I texted back!
(sorry for the language but that was my honest reply and I can't lie!)

You see the thing is I had spoken to dad just that morning, only briefly because I really needed to wish mum a belated happy birthday for the day before – I am failing as a daughter on all counts here!!!

I had just about managed to get a card to her on the right date and I am so grateful to Amazon who delivered a parcel to her door on the actual day too!

The order for my dad I had sent to me with the intention of wrapping and posting it next week along with the card that sat in the drawer.

So the thought was always there and to be honest dad didn’t mind in the slightest. He told me with a chuckle when we did speak yesterday, “I thought it was next week too!”

I sometimes think they make far too many allowances for me, their little girl who lost her husband. 

Life is cruel and in an ideal world these things should never happen this way round.

I will always remember that hug my dad gave me after we had seen Andrew laid out in the coffin. All I needed was my dad to kiss it better and make the overwhelming pain go away. 

From having my own boys I know just how helpless you feel as a parent when there is absolutely nothing you can do and circumstances are way beyond your control.

 All he could do that day was hold me tight.

Ever since Andrew died my dad and I have grown a lot closer, not that we were ever distant but there has been a subtle shift in our relationship which moved again earlier this year when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Thankfully it was operable and after major surgery he has been given the all clear.

Both of us took the pragmatic viewpoint that everything was always going to be OK from the start – we leave the worrying in the family to be done by my mum and brother!

But our phone conversations are noticeably longer these days, we talk more and say “I love you” far more frequently than ever before.

My dad is my hero but we will never be soppy about it, this is the Fathers’ Day card I sent him today.

As I said he had bowel cancer and “farting” after having half your bowel removed is a big deal! I was actually there visiting him in the hospital when he let the first one out and even the nurses cheered!

There will always be hurdles to face on this journey but hopefully my dad will be around for a long time yet to hold my hand as I negotiate them. And maybe on occasion I can hold his too.

In the grand scheme of things forgetting to send him a card on the correct day is immaterial because he truly understands better than anyone that he is special to me today,  any day, every day and always.  xx

Friday, 13 June 2014

The truth behind the waterfall

I wanted to write some more about the waterfall poem I posted the other day.

It seems like such a romantic poem standing under the cascading torrent together, embraced by the water, but the truth is quite different.

I have never stood under a waterfall with anyone.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

While some of the memory is real I was actually standing there alone while my friends and my boys watched and laughed. But it was a hot day, the water looked so inviting and I wanted to cool off.

I wished Andrew was there but to be honest he’d have probably been a little way off laughing at me too!

We were on holiday visiting friends near Chicago but “we” was just me and the boys.

Andrew suffered from badly from depression and hated travelling, especially airports.

I hated never going anywhere, never doing things together, things had reached crisis point. Our friends had asked us to visit and Andrew agreed if that’s what I wanted to do I should take the boys on my own.

It was never what I really wanted.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

The thing is he was meant to be working away the week we left but his ankles had swollen and the doctors were investigating the cause. We only found out afterward that he’d been quite seriously ill. He never did anything by halves!

However I, seemingly with very little concern, got on a plane and left. 

No not really! He was well enough to take us to the airport for our adventure and as ever I hated saying goodbye.

Inside I was torn in two, why couldn’t he just jump on the plane and come with us? Why couldn’t he “do” holidays like a normal person? Why couldn’t we be a “normal” family?

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

Yet another part of me was desperate to leave, maybe we shouldn’t be together at all. Neither of us expressed it in words but looking back I can see that this holiday was almost a trial separation. We needed the time apart. 

It’s so hard being with someone who is depressed, walking on egg shells around them and carrying on as best you can for the kids, trying to find some stability. 

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

So there I was a few days later under the waterfall, laughing, enjoying myself, feeling happier than I had felt for a long time.

The water was refreshing, I was doing exactly what I wanted, no responsibilities,  no one to stop me or hold me back or say I was just being silly. Andrew would perhaps have been that voice of “reason” in my head. Or just maybe he would have joined me and we could have shared a carefree romantic moment…

I missed him terribly, I was going to write I ached but I know it was nothing near how I miss him now.

One day in a giftshop I found a stone with the word “soulmate” on it so I bought it for him as a gift to prove he was. It is still stuck by blutack to the side the draws by his side of the bed, the first thing he saw in the morning when he woke up! 

The time apart reinforced the knowledge that we were meant to be together – forever.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

We still had lots to work on, the road ahead got rockier for a time but we clung on together and things were coming good right up to the point he died.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

So in my head I wrote another plan…

With our separation now enforced maybe there was a chance to embark on something new.

I plotted and planned – I’d sell the house.

I’m still here.

I plotted and planned – I’d find someone new.

I’m still on my own.

I plotted and planned – I’d write a book.

I’m still writing, it’s hard work and I am nowhere near finished.

Sometimes I could just cry.

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

At the beginning of this year when everything around me was crumbling I made a new plan to NOT plan anything ever again! 

For someone who likes to know exactly what’s happening and when it’s been hard to let go. I’ve not always managed it but every once in while things happen that I haven’t planned. Good things, surprising things and suddenly I am not quite the same person as I was at the beginning of the year.

The seemingly big things haven’t changed a bit but I think I have changed a lot inside. I might write more about that another day…

It was quite by chance and serendipitous Twitter conversation that I discovered the waterfall again and remembered those feelings, a mixture of happy and sad thoughts, love and loss, brokenness and joy intermingled.

Once again I feel like I am standing underneath letting the water surround me, wash over me just going with the flow. Enjoying all the good things that sparkle brightly in the sunshine. Laughing loudly.

Meanwhile the memories tumble and I am letting the good ones fall now. For so long I desperately tried to change things because I would only allow myself to remember the pain and the hurt. It is far easier to remember the difficulties of being married to Andrew then I could convince myself that I am better without him and plan how to change my life for the better.

But life is not better just different and just as I was reminded once before so I remember now.

Andrew really was my soulmate – will I ever find another?  I don’t honestly know if anyone gets two chances.

Will I move house? One day I hope so but I have so much clutter to clear before that can happen.

Will I write a book? Well only with a lot of hard work and I need to give it much more of a priority that is has had of late. ((sorry Twitter TL but I may need to leave you for a while!))

Can I plan any of it?

Life doesn’t always work out the way you plan.

Then I found this quote on Twitter ((OK so I won't wander far from the TL - I love my new found Twitter friends too much! x))

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. - E. M. Forester

So I’m sticking with the idea of making no more plans and let’s just see where the water falls. So far it seems to be working out fine!