5 years and two days.

One of the hardest things I find about meeting new people is waiting for them to ask me the inevitable question of. How many children do you have? Even now. 5 years and 1 day later, I dread it. Not for the reasons you may think. I’m entirely happy and comfortable to talk about my daughter Tes. Alive and also not. My dread is for them. The question they think only can have happy connotations is met with.. well.. death. And that’s tough for them.

I have started a new job 3 weeks ago and of course my new colleagues unfortunately have had to hear this sad story and I feel so sorry for them as they try to find the words. They’ve managed beautifully I have to say.

As I left on Friday I carried the gorgeous orchids that my new colleagues had bought me as a gift in recognition of the anniversary date we lost Tes. The 21st of April. Someone passed me on the stairs on my way out and cheerfully asked me … What have you done to deserve them? I always think about lying at times like this. To protect them. But I don’t lie. So I have to tell him the truth.

I dont know how you deal with that. He said.

I found myself replying and saying something that I hadn’t before. Not in the last 5 years and 1 day.

I dont know how to answer that, I said.

And what I meant was. Neither do I. I also don’t know how I deal with losing Tes. I have no idea how. I do know that many many people deal with loss and also get up and also put their mascara on and also get pleasure from wearing their newly bought shirt. That others turn the music up loud and sing along and that others go out for dinner and drink a glass of their favourite wine. I know others too still love the beach and their mountain walks. Still giggle with friends. Still find a lot to live in this life.

But I don’t know how.

I do know it’s wrapped up in immense guilt. I do know I do all those things and I also have a weight that feels like it’s as heavy as a house right there in my heart of pure and utter grief and pain… that sits just by the side of where my immense love for Tes still is. Always will be. I know now that massive heavy stone of loss will never go.

But I know too that despite it, I will get up tomorrow. I will get up on the day that’ll make it 5 years and 2 days. I will walk my dogs. I will choose a lipstick. I will drive to work. I will text friends and arrange to meet. I will look forward. I will. I’ll go the cinema and to that gig and to see that comedienne. I’ll meet those friends for afternoon tea and go on that holiday near the sea. I’ll celebrate birthdays and I’ll meet friends for the weekend.

I will look forward. I don’t know how. But I will.

And she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

We miss you Tes. Every bit of every second of the last 5 years and 1 day. My 14 year old and 350 days old beautiful gorgeous fun busy clever crazy knowledgeable sensible organised human being that I was and am still immensely proud to call my daughter. I miss you more than I could ever write, even if I had a million words.

Xx

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Killing or kindness?

When I went to school and complained upon my return that someone had been mean to me the answer then was to be mean back. If someone hit you. You hit them back. If someone called you names you gave it back. But harder.

By the time I had my own children I was already well on my way to fundamentally being a pacifist. With that I mean that I have experienced a lot in my life and the bits with violence, aggression, name calling, fights, door slamming, tears and fear are not in my top ten life moments. To me a pacifist is someone who tries wherever possible to sort things out without the want for violence, intimidation or fear.

So when my kids went to school my line was if someone hits you, you don’t hit them back. You try to sort it out or you tell someone. The same for me goes for parents hitting their kids. I don’t slap adults so why would I slap a defenceless child. I often read how physical punishment did people no harm years ago. Wrong. We are a nation where predominantly people think violence solves all problems. That comes from somewhere.

You bomb. We bomb. When it suits. You punch, I punch. You shout, I shout.

People like me with pacifist views are viewed quite often as out of touch. People like me just yesterday are told to ‘get a grip’ because we think bombing a country is wrong.

As if you can solve the world’s problems without war, people will say. Kids need to learn, people say. They need to be taught a lesson back. People say.

The thing that I don’t understand is… and it’s so so simplistic…..why is a peaceful way of life so hard to believe in but one of violence, death and war accepted as normal?

In reality… again I know this sounds far fetched….which is the saddest part – if we were all respectful of each other. If we resorted to talking and listening. If we loved each other and accepted our differences. If we respected cultures and embraced our surroundings. If we put away our guns. If we smiled at strangers. If we were happier with what we have instead of always wanting more. If if if.

I dont understand why that concept is one met with a smirk. Why wanting to live without guns or nuclear weapons is viewed as bohemian nonsense.

It’d be a huge job to change this world from one of anger, entitlement, greed and of course power.

But we have to start somewhere. I think it starts with us.

Peaceful Sunday to you all xx

Paradise

I was walking my two small dogs this week on a cold but promising sunny morning. The church clock just struck 6.30am as I turned down the street which accommodates the oldest houses in this town. Getting up at 6am can sometimes feel too early but the quiet streets, the lights just turning on at the occasional house and the cats waiting to get back home at their front door. They’re worth the effort. The canal walk without a soul. The rabbits freely running and the ducks sleeping. Early morning walks are worth it.

On Thursday morning as I walked my dogs back home I spotted him. A man on the stone bridge. It was only me and him. He hasn’t seen me. The first thing that caught my attention was his silver transistor radio. He had placed it on the archway of the bridge. Then he held some beads and lifted them towards the sky. He made a shape with his hands looking towards the clouds. As I walked closer I could see he was smoking and then he lay a worn rug on the floor on which he then sat cross legged.

We made eye contact.

He seemed nervous. Like he was used to a bit of hassle from strangers.

Lovely day, I said.

He seemed a little bit surprised. However, after a short moment of consideration, he replied enthusiastically. Isn’t it… what a glorious day. Then he said something that I couldn’t make sense of. Pardon. I said. Stopping.

Isn’t it beautiful, the Garden of Eden.

Look after it.

He looked at me intently as he said it.

What? I said. With this, he threw his arms out.

A little confused I replied that I was trying.

Try harder was his reply.

Try harder.

He repeated this to me as I kept walking. His voice increased in volume as I walked towards home.

Along with being a tiny bit perturbed I thought about The Garden of Eden that the man with the radio referred to. From previous blogs it’s clear I’m not religious but the main word associated with the Garden of Eden is paradise.

As I walked back home along the river bank and antique shops with the sun just rising over the hills I remind myself of my paradise. The lambs graze, the historical castle ruins look down over us, this safe space. I remind myself how lucky I am to live in this amazing small part of the paradise that is Wales. With that I spot a heart shaped red leaf fallen to the floor at my feet. Paradise indeed.

I tell someone my story about the man with the beads and the radio. Well. That’s exactly why I don’t speak to strangers. He said.

I thought about this. Not talking to strangers. A concept I’m unfamiliar with.

If we didn’t speak to people we didn’t know. How would we ever meet anyone?

Happy Sunday. Hope you have your own piece of paradise somewhere; right now.

Xx

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The answer is…

It’s Easter. Religious or not it feels like a time for thanks and love and new beginnings.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just read an article and I’m smitten. I love the magazine Psychologies. It’s a little pricey but every time I read it I carry something new forward .

This time there was an article that really could’ve been written by me. It was by a woman who had moved three times in the last twelve months. Same as me. But i’d moved four times.

Like me, she was drowning in stuff. Every time I moved I’m packing away stuff in cupboards that I don’t use. But I can’t get rid of. It’s embarrassing. Not sentimental stuff. I’m talking pans and dishes that I never use. Three bags of plastic bags. Paint and brushes. Old kettles. A pink bin. A broken  but much loved wrought iron lamp. A redundant bike rack. Photos I don’t know what to do with. Shoes I’ve never worn.

I honestly have felt ashamed at the ‘stuff’. Not just ashamed but angry. How many hours have I worked for this stuff that I don’t want. Or need!

So I took the pledge. That I don’t buy anything new for myself for a month. I can buy food and petrol and essential house stuff. I can buy birthday gifts for others but nothing for me. Nothing new.

Surprisingly a week in it’s ok. But it’s a huge learning curve. The other day I cleared out the box room in my new house . It was floor to ceiling full of boxes of ‘stuff’. I emptied it. Then. I got in the car to go to the local store to buy more ‘stuff’ for it. When I was there I found myself asking. Do I ‘need’ a new door handle? Do I ‘need’ new curtains? Do I ‘need’ a new pillow and duvet? I stood there and realised that most of these things were already at home. I went home empty handed.

I found the heart shaped pink cushion and the duvet that just needed a new cover. I found frames that I could fill with photos I already had. I put in a new fuse for the lamp that had been due to be binned.  I unearthed some throws hidden in the blanket box. The folded chair under the stairs went perfectly with the upcycled bureau. An oval cream mirror from the charity shop and a tea light cream holder that I hadn’t found a home for finished it off. A new room. All from things I already had.

So. Here I am seven days into the month of not buying anything new for myself and my hope is it’ll go on because to be frank I can hardly close my wardrobe and I have more than enough earrings and necklaces. Someone has made us think we need THINGS. So we work so hard and so many long hours and make ourselves tired and stressed….. but really….we all need to think. What do we all really need??

The answer is obvious.

Experiences, feelings, love, instinct, touch, song, words, family, seeing, breathing, here, now, outside, the clouds.

Lots of love this Sunday xx

Religion

A word that often conjures up controversy.

Up to about eleven years old, religion to me meant going to Sunday school, colouring in some pictures of Jesus, being quiet, having to dress ‘posh’, singing songs I didn’t know but MOST important we used to get some Opal Fruits.   Green ones were my favourite.  They still are.  To anyone under 30, that’s a Starburst to you.

Very quickly despite being made to feel guilty about anything that appeared to be outside of the rules of the Bible (in particular drinking at whiskey at 15, rolling up your a-line Marks & Spencers navy school skirt and/or smoking through a polo) – I made my own mind up that I’d never seen this God person or Jesus and that the stories of fish and bread and walking on water all seemed rather unrealistic, plus religion had done me no favours at all so I decided to leave religion right there.  To be honest I don’t think I ever believed.  I just believed for Green Opal fruits.

At my friends dads funeral last week, I finally got some understanding of what religion means to people.  In this chapel of beautiful glass stained windows and wooden carvings, the congregation of those paying their respects were in fine voice singing to the hymns.  I find some religious funerals difficult, if you’ve been touched by sadness and cruelty in life it is hard to believe that someone out there is supposed to protect you.  I don’t believe in God.  I never will. However fundamentally in this funeral where people came together, where people smiled at each other and held compassion for each other.  Where a large group of people for that small amount of time chatted to each other, supported each other, hugged and empathised.  Where colour, gender, sexuality – where any differences seem to disappear and in place a large huddle of people gathered to just be there for each other.  I thought to myself.  That is religion.  Religion is a collection of rules and morals that fundamentally should mean we are a huddle.  A huddle of acceptance.  A huddle of live and let live.

Unfortunately as we see from the raging wars, from the homophobia, from the racism and hate, many humans have chosen to interpret religion on the whole as a weapon to be used against each other.  One where people can feel superior, one where people often think they can set rules that you should live by.  One then that can only fail.  

As happens so often when I’ve thought to myself, I think I’ll write about ‘this’ this week something else will come along and cement the reason why I have to write ‘this’.  As I walked my dogs on Tuesday afternoon on the cold but sunny banks of the canal, two hilarious poodles, tanned and white, ran up to my dogs and one stole the ball from mine.  No matter what the owner of tanned poodle did, tanned poodle was not for giving up the ball.  Don’t worry I said, I’ve got a spare.  We got chatting.  For whatever reason over the next ten minutes we ended up chatting about loss (her husband, my daughter), difficulties, strength, new beginnings and religion!  We both agreed that we were not religious but interestingly she said, do you know what …….this is religion, this is spirituality, this is what religion is.  A meeting of two people who are strangers yet who care, who give time and who leave each other that little bit more fulfilled with life.

Poodle owner gave me a hug as she got into her car.  Take care cariad, she said.

Religion – believer or non, the one sentence that I do try to live by is to treat others are you would like to be treated, can’t go far wrong with that one!!

Happy Sunday x

 

atheist

The life sandwich

Goodbyes. A happy thing, a sad thing, a difficult thing. A permanent thing but sometimes the beginning of a new thing.

I finish work this week after being with my colleagues for 6 years and 2 months! Over the days this week and next I have and will say goodbye to them all. There have been some tears of sadness, reminiscing, glasses (or bottles?) of wine, cards and gifts to exchange and promises to keep in touch. A difficult goodbye but with effort not a total goodbye and a goodbye for me that brings wih it a new beginning.

On Saturday we said goodbye to my oldest friends dad, a goodbye that is most definitely a sad occasion. A final goodbye. I read also of a friend who I met on a course some time ago…that she sadly lost her dad but also became a grandmother in the same week, as she said, a week of two halves indeed.

I’ve had discussions with friends who face their children leaving ‘their nest’ who cannot imagine life without their kids in the house but also have immense joy filling their heart at their childs new start in life. I have spoken to friends who have lost young friends this week seemingly way to soon and a woman who knows soon she will have to say goodbye to her mum. A friend is leaving her home for a new city. New starts and new goodbyes.

These endings and new beginnings have made me reflect on things, as I do!

What’s most important I think as I get older is this ‘one life thing’, this ‘life is not a rehearsal’ thing. Because it’s so very true and yet for some reason we forget, over and over and over. We worry about weight and money and who said what. We worry about our kids, the weather, our clothes, health, what we eat and drink. We bother about what people think of us and whether we’re good enough, where we are and where we want to be. When you drill down your worries, I bet most of them are made of imaginary scenarios and things that may or may not happen.

Endings make me feel grateful for the people I have around me and make me feel more enthusiastic and passionate about making the most of those people around me. Beginnings make me feel excited and nervous at the same time about what I’ll face tomorrow, next week, next year.

Life. It’s a beginning and an end. All we have to do is to fill that middle bit. Create our own filling for the ‘life sandwich’. One we can feel proud of, one that has few regrets, one of love and laughs, one of being there, one of support, one of friendship, and definitely one where we remember we’re human and we make mistakes so we definitely have to fill that middle bit in with forgiveness too. It might sound cliché but it is only us that can sort that creates the life sandwich filling , it’s only us that can put the music on and dance in the kitchen or laugh at your own jokes until your belly hurts.

I had a pre-mothers day wobble last week as I looked through a photo album made for me after I lost Tes. My heart felt broke again for a while as I looked at her. When I calmed after speaking to a good friend I was able to look at her life in those pictures and feel so happy for… how she filled her part of the life sandwich. Her passion, honesty, diligence and humour all meant she packed in so much to that ‘middle bit’. For that I feel inspired by her. I found an email from Tes to a magazine in London. She was 14. Can I please come to London and work at your magazine in the Summer to get some work experience, she wrote. This grabbing at life has left a legacy within me to do the same. I love that she has done that.

So that sandwich filling, that middle bit between the beginning and end, fill it to the brim with your favourite ingredients and add a big dollop of mayonnaise too!

Lots of love this Sunday x

Doing. Nothing.

My car was being serviced on Thursday so I took advantage of this enforced time off to walking in the cold crisp sunshine to the nearby shopping centre and treating myself to a coffee and cake. John Lewis style.

Two women sat quite far away but one spoke in that somewhat loud annoying voice that meant you could not avoid but hear her side of the conversation. She was worried about her son. His education. What he was going to do? The concern went on for quite a few loud minutes. The other woman was older, maybe her mum. She didn’t interrupt. Softly but with confidence when a gap appeared she responded. Just leave him to it. Let him find his own way.

The noisier woman felt just like me. Worried. Probably, like most parents, I’ve spent at least 80% of my waking life worrying about my kids.

This week I’ve reached the most difficult stage of parenting.

It’s the they’re almost an adult stage..it’s when you finally realise you have to let go.. it’s the do nothing stage.

Of course the innate and instinctive parenting side is still there. The I love you no matter what. The I’ll be here whenever you want me.

But now. I have to do nothing.

It’s more scary than the day you were born and I had no clue how to dress you. More frightening than the first time i cut your fingernails. More difficult than your first day at school. Worse than going back to work. Harder than your last day at primary. Even harder than the first time you went out to play by yourself. More worrying and difficult than letting you go to your first grown up party.

I’m a fixer. I find solutions. I. Don’t. Do. Nothing.

Now though …despite my exhausting efforts of advice and help and attempts to persuade and provide options and influence and guide. I’ve realised that now this is what I have to do.

I have to parent and of course I am here. In fact I’m waiting here for when I’m needed next.

I have to watch and wait and hope. I have to let mistakes happen and decisions made that I might not agree with. I have to stop myself giving unwanted advice about what I think is best. I have to step back and stop subtly persuading. I have to stop taking all responsibility and I have to trust.

I never knew that this would be the hardest part of parenting.

With it I’ve learnt that perhaps this theory should be applied to other areas of life too. We can’t fix everyone. Despite spending a lifetime thinking we can.

Kids and adults eventually have to work out things for themselves and though we instinctively want to make it ok for everyone. We can’t.

Parenting.

The hardest and most loveliest job in the world.

The bravest thing maybe is to let go and to trust and to believe in someone. That they can do it, without you.

Today it’s mother’s day. I only realised this after writing my blog about parenting. To those who are or who have had or want to be or don’t. And to the rest of you. Happy Sunday xx