Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Feeling 14 again!

It's official. I have pre party nerves!

All the cleaning, organising and scrubbing are doing nothing to allay the feelings that are reminiscent of being a school girl waiting for her first date to arrive. Excited, nervous.

I know it'll be great. I have wonderful, generous friends who'll relax and have a ball, and so will I once the doorbell starts ringing. In the meantime, I'll run around making things right, changing beds, wondering if I've done enough shopping and full of nervous energy.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

On being Selfish

Whether we are great celebrators of New Year, makers of resolutions, or not: it is that strange time when one year tips into the next and is a marker on our journey. I've been looking back and forward a little. Reflection being no bad thing.

I sometimes wonder how people respond to the title of my blog. It's called what it is for a very specific reason. I needed to learn to look after me, not just those around me. The demands of caring for sick parents and other stresses had exhausted me and I fell to pieces. I needed to take some time for myself. After all, I'm useless to others if I'm not ok.

I guess to today I'm wondering if it's still as relevant as it was. I think it is, but in a different way. defines 'Selfish' thus;

'devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.'

I agree still that this is what I needed to do - although it has never been regardless of others - but I did, and still do, need to push my needs up the hierarchy. Those needs have changed now. I've learned to say 'no', and not push my feelings to one side. The eldest sister in me will always struggle with this a bit.

More importantly, I think I'm beginning to believe that I deserve to be loved and supported too. Not just by looking after myself, but also in accepting these things from others. For so many years I have been so very scared of being vulnerable that I've succeeded in pushing people away, coping on my own and not letting them love me. I don't trust easily but I am learning. I am learning that other people may want to be part of my journey, not out of pity but from companionship, love and friendship. Finally I feel like I deserve it. They deserve not to be pushed away.

The walls are crumbling, and it's time that I understand that I too can to be cared for, and accept the love and support on offer. Being vulnerable still scares me, but now I am also a little excited by learning to receive and letting people see me.

The 'selfish' in my title will stay a while.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Shopping - A lesson I never learn

Shopping drives me nuts. Shopping drives me even more nuts when everyone is buying as much as they need plus 50% in case their guests are extraordinarily hungry, car parks resemble badly kept ice rinks, and we've all run out of patience......

I love Hogmanay. I am looking forward to having my friends and siblings here, and having fun. If I do it all again next year, please remind me that I can have some nice man with a van deliver all the food and drink courtesy of the internet and that I hate mobbed supermarkets, cash and carries, and the volume of people they contain!

I completely understand toddler tantrums in public places on days like today. Arghhhhh!

Grant me sanity for the the rest of the week, and remind me that it will all be worth it when the pipes have played, the whisky's been drunk and my house guests have at last departed and I'm looking back, smiling and grateful for the wonderful people in my life.

Sunday, 27 December 2009


Last night I went to bed exhausted. Ready for sleep. I couldn't find it.

My busy brain unable to focus on the radio's soothing tones from the world service. The last time I remember looking at the clock it was 5.20am. Not so good. Too many thoughts running round my head and competing for attention. I don't know how to set them free.

I'd seen two of my oldest friends, their partners and children. They've been in our home town for Christmas. I love them all, and miss them. Seeing them makes me sad too.

At what point did our lives go in such different directions? We shared so many rites of passage, but somehow along the way our paths diverged. I am happy for them, but envy what they have. They've found love and families, they're creating new memories and traditions. I am treading water.

I live my life as best I can, making the most of my independence and freedom, embracing new challenges and opportunities. It all feels rather like a charade. Meetings like yesterday's are happy occasions. I love seeing their kids and I love that I am god mother to one of them. Returning home to my empty flat feels exactly that, empty. I don't know how to fix it.

Sadness, loss and unmet desires kept my brain whirring and sleep at bay. Today I must do something that makes me happy.

Friday, 25 December 2009

A Christmas Card

I still write a Christmas card for Dad. I know as I write it that he cannot read it. I keep writing anyway.

We'll visit tomorrow and do our best to bring him a little cheer. He won't remember, but perhaps he will be left with a sense of some happiness. It is Christmas, and it isn't the same without him. I can only hope there will be a glimpse of my Dad - the man, my father - there.

We will try to put the sadness of it all to one side and celebrate what we have.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

A daily ritual

Most mornings I stand eating my breakfast and look out the kitchen window. I love watching the birds. I wish I knew more about them.

I would love one of those clear plastic feeders that stick to windows, but I haven't been able to find one. I'd love to be able to see the small birds up close. Feed and water them, watch them. They fascinate me. Even the smallest, plainest little brown creatures are beautiful in their weightlessness and grace.

I would love to be able to fly.

When I die, if my soul carries on, let it be a bird.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Children - To be or not to be?

I've talked occasionally about whether I want kids or not. My last post, on a cheerier note, mentioned it too. Writing it and time with my nephew has made me think a little about whether I'm be completely honest on this subject – with you and with myself.

I've been vague with 'if it happens, it happens. If not, that's ok' type comments.

I'm not sure that's true. It's what I tell myself.

In about a month and a half, i'll be 35. I'd always imagined I'd have settled down, married, be having a family now. It hasn't happened.

I don't let myself dream about being a wife and a mother because it seems so far away from reality right now. It's something that, courtesy of time and biology, seems to be slipping from my grasp. It means I have no choice but to consider what an alternative life might look like, and live the one I have as best I can.

The truth is, even if it scares me, I would love all of it.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Festive feet!

I some times wonder if I want children, but nights like last night make me think it wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.

Long story, but I received a marvellous festive pedicure from my 3 1/2 year old nephew. We had wonderful fun and just glancing at my feet today makes me giggle. Here's why.....

Saturday, 19 December 2009

I wonder....

I had an odd flashback yesterday. I was driving through the countryside on my way to work on a beautiful sunny, snowy day.

I suddenly remembered that last similar day. About a year ago, perhaps less, my journey was ending with a date. I had completely forgotten about him.

A doctor, guitar player, reader, conversationalist, Gaelic speaker and lover of various causes. Attractive and charismatic. We dated for a short while.

I hadn't been too keen when he first asked me out, but I thought 'why not'? There was no one else on the horizon, and he was an interesting character. He surprised me in wit and broad views, and with a book as a gift on our second date that I devoured and have re-read since. I enjoyed his company. We laughed, talked, had some good debate and interesting times.

He pursued me and then one day, he stopped calling.

I don't know why.

I emailed him once, after a couple of weeks of not hearing a thing, just to say hello and never received a response. I deleted his number at some point along the way and forgot about him.

It was a strange thing because it felt like a situation that was full of opportunity. It obviously wasn't right for him, which is fine, but today I wonder how he is.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Who needs drugs or meditation?

Nights like tonight remind me how important one part of my life is. A great informal gig with some of our finest indie/folk musicians, in a small club. It was an impromptu set as the support act was taken to A&E by another of the musicians. Both made back in time for the second half, one with crutches. Then an unexpected performance from one of our best known folk singers who'd popped into the hospital to check on her friend.

Three years ago I moved cities, became a carer and started living on my own. I did something else too. Not having flatmates meant I could play music again. The kind I wanted, not what had been expected of me as I grew up.

So, after a 14 year absence I started playing again. I went from a strict classical viola upbringing to rustily playing the fiddle, embracing our folk tradition, new and old, inspired by evenings like this one. I go to classes, play weekly in a local pub session with friends and strangers, go to gigs and distract myself at home.

I'm still not playing at the level I once could, but I don't care. Music is the only thing I do where minutes turn seamlessly into hours. It absorbs me.

I've made friends, had some weird and wonderful experiences and rediscovered a passion. My thoughts are elsewhere. Lost and happy, watching, playing, listening.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

And so, the journey begins again

I woke up this morning and cried.

Yesterday's counselling session had left me feeling stupid, and sad, and unable to see for myself how I can stop getting it all wrong. I guess if I knew the answer I wouldn't be there. I'd be somewhere else being happier.

I know I need to unpick things before I can put them back together. I know this stuff takes hard work and patience, but I do get so very tired of trying to be strong and positive. I feel like a kid lost in a physics class that logically flows but by the time I get home it all looks like Greek.

Will I ever be able to learn how to let people see me, love me, just be me? Do I even know who 'me' is? I given so much of myself away over my lifetime that I'm not sure what's left. I am lonely and a bit scared.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

"The times when things go wrong often make the best memories"

This little truth of another blogger's family wisdom struck a chord with me (although in browsing I lost track of where I read it so apologies for the lack of reference),but it's not an uncommon sentiment. These things do make the best stories in the pub, and generate moments of laughter and connection that would not have existed otherwise.

My recent holiday (captive in Marrakesh) was a classic example of this, and we reminded ourselves along the way that one day it would all make a great tale of adventure and the absurd, even though it felt very far from it. My companion enjoys spinning a good yarn and I look forward to hearing how the tale evolves!

It also reminds me that sometimes it serves me well to be grateful for the things I have/had, rather than the things I haven't (like making it to the mountains, seeing the flamingos or the ferry from Africa to Europe....). Trite and sentimental perhaps but, hey, we all need to find a little joy where can, so here are some of the things I'm grateful for in the adventure gone wrong;

1.Four people, from three different countries, laughing uncontrollably over breakfast in shared moment of seeing the ridiculousness of the on going van part/can we stay another night saga...

2.Laughing so hard I that I cried about names that sound insulting but are actually a Yorkshire man's compliments – apparently!

3.Not rushing anywhere, we couldn't

4.Being covered in mud whilst my companion wore paper pants (I use the term very loosely – and for Americans, not sure what you call men's underwear, but I don't mean trousers!)

5.Being shown kindness without words

6.Eating fish and chips, Moroccan style, on the square amongst the locals and watching bits of sheep being carved up from parts that I didn't even recognise

7.Remembering that people are people the world over, and that teenagers don't change much either as we listened to them play guitar, singing and laughing under the stand in municipal gardens

8.Content and easy silences

9.Chatting like school kids in bunk beds after lights out in the loveliest camp site I've seen

10.Regretting teaching him how to play gin rummy........

Not bad at all.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Children aren't scared of dementia

Today my dad laughed.

He smiled.

He also cried.

It was the ward Christmas party. There were musicians with a guitar, fiddle and bodhran and singing. His kind of music.

He wore his Christmas tie and was happy to see us. He knew we were there, and – I think – who we were. Music is so emotive, and I suspect his tears were of recognition. Were they also of loss?

Seeing him cry made me cry while I sang along with the music, to him, holding his hand and tapping in time. Seeing him laugh is so precious as it happens very rarely. Today he was with us.

There was a raffle – raising money to help pay for more of these small breaks from an unending routine - and food, and laughter. Families were there trying to make the best of what they have left together and sharing in a mutual effort and understanding of the sadness latent in it all.

It was worth the tears to see Dad laugh. A charming 3 year old girl in a Santa hat sang for him, and waved and chatted, and he laughed and smiled. She didn't know what's wrong with him, and nor did she care, to her he was just a man smiling and laughing along with her and us. (My nephew is the same, insisting that my brother buy the shortbread that is his favourite, in a tin shaped like a bus - for Grandpa.) He is my dad, still, sometimes.

I love him and miss him so much. Typing this has made me cry again, but that's ok because he laughed. Let this be my memory of him. Dad laughing.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Urban landscapes

I'm sitting at the table in the bay window looking out at a very cold scene. My flat is unusual because noone over looks it, despite being in the middle of a large, industrial city. I can see trees, not people or traffic.

In the winter when the leaves are gone, I see far more of what lies beyond. Not today.

It has been foggy since early morning, and through the day the mist thinned a very little, reflecting what December light there is.

It's beginning to get dark, it's 3pm. The fog is thickening again.

Somehow it is calming and empty. The fog leaves everything soft and cold and still.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Bring on the lifeboats

Yesterday I did something brave and wise.

I emailed my counsellor.

I am all out at sea at the moment, and beginning to sink. It seems my life is becoming about other people again and not about me, and it weighs heavily. I lose track of what I want and need, defering instead to pleasing others, keeping the peace and surviving what needs to be done. I get lost in it all.

I need to regain perspective and myself, putting me before others so I can live well and healthily.

I've been shutting people out and behaving in ways that don't sit well out of fear, old lessons taught badly, and not knowing what else to do. I need to take a step back, regain, rebuild.

I saw him today. In this environment there's no room for bullshit or excuses, I have to face myself head on and it's not easy. It's easier than going back to where I was a year ago.

I've stopped the crumbling in its tracks. I've decided to act and take control before I sink. It's a strong and difficult decision take to make. At least I know I have the choice and can recognise the signs when the clouds come.

It's about people this time. Not specifically things they have done, but things I haven't done it seems. And integrity - his word. I sort of knew this, but it takes someone else saying to make it real and unavoidable. I could have ignored my guts and kept hiding. I've chosen to escape instead. I have to put myself back in that room and brave what comes.

I will learn one day to live with an active connection between the emotional and intellectual rather than burying how I feel. Bring on the roller coaster.

It scares me, but I am proud of swallowing my pride and asking for help.

I also feel a little like a failure.

Monday, 7 December 2009


My mother thinks her cancer might be back. I know she's serious because it's taken her over month to tell me, and she hasn't told anyone else. Smaller problems are shouted to anyone within ear shot.

It's six years since that first phone call to me which she didn't tell anyone else about either. She was diagnosed within the week. It's been a bloody hard slog for all of us. We always knew that it would reappear, and I guess I must face this very real possibility head on. Bugger.

I'll worry when we have facts, and in the meantime there's nothing to do. Well, I say that. I will worry, in a background noise sort of a way, but will try not actively think about it. At least today she has called her nurse.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Once upon a time...

I spend much of my time trying to be positive, but there are weights that will not lift from my shoulders, and some days they seem to be heavier than others. There are days where I'd like to share the joy I find in small things.

I would like someone to bear witness to the ups and downs, and participate in a life that is about more than me.

I'm not looking for a grand romance, a knight in shining armour or someone to rescue me. I don't need these things, but I do want to trust and be trusted, have a companion and a lover. Children, perhaps. I want a relationship that's strength is patient and celebrates an ordinary life. I want to feel safe and content. I want to give these things too.

I'm reading Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and these words seem to have stuck in my head;

'her trust makes me faithful, her belief makes me good....'

I'd like to be 'her', some day.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Award and some blog thinking....

This blogging thing is a funny old game. There are a number of reasons why;

1.I never knew where I'd go with this, or what I wanted from it. I still don't. I do know that it is a place I now value for words I may have nowhere else to put

2.I feel like part of a community. Albeit a virtual one. People share their thoughts and hopes and fears, and support mine through constructive criticism, humour and kinds words. I know I'm not alone on whatever road I'm travelling. I don't even know some of your names, but value your participation nonetheless. I guess you don't know mine either....

3.This space has enabled me to communicate and share some of myself with a select few people who know me in the real world. Hopefully they see a more whole me or a me that would never initiate a conversation about some of the things I scribble about because they just don't come up in every day, catch up conversation.

4.I like it. It didn't know I would. I am surprised.

For all of these reasons, and many more I'm delighted that you keep reading. I'm even more pleased that recently a couple of you have chosen to show your support with blogging awards. McCaffery33, I've already said thanks, but thanks again for this;

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass the award on to five most deserving blogger.

-Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author and the name of the blog from whom s/he has received the award.

-Each Superior Scribbler must display the award on his/her blog, and link to The Scholastic Scribe, which explains the award.

-Each blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr Linky List. That way, they'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives this prestigious honour.

I also understand I am to:
Notify winners of award with comment on their blog.
I'm still catching up with myself afte a lovely break so will pass on in due course....and some thinking....
In the meantime check out Ponderings and Other Stuff at for some real honesty and insight

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I hate Alzheimer's

I saw my parents for the first time in two weeks this evening.

I usually see them two or three times a week, taking mum to visit dad in the hospital where he now lives. I am used to his shrinking stature and abilities. Every time I go away and take a break, I come back and am shocked. I forget how much he has disappeared and how little he knows me. It kicks me in the guts, every time. I lose him all over again.

Tonight was particularly bad. Mum got very upset over a Christmas decoration, a long story....and ended up shouting at the ward manager when she was actually upset that Dad had had a good day yesterday and today he was so very absent from us again. These glimpses of the man – the husband and father – that he was once are so painful because they remind us of what we've lost and the ghost we now see.

It's tough going. I was always closer to Dad. He was getting very agitated at Mum being upset, I was trying to keep him calm and couldn't sort both of them out at once. Logically, I am terribly sad for Mum, but she has cried wolf at times, and the dramas of her own illness are so often that I now feel very little when she gets upset. It's just part of life with her. Unfair, I know.

Now I'm home and feeling guilty that I was not more focussed on her needs. I've lost him too, and sometimes it's so very hard to stay calm and strong for both of them.

She lives with chronic pain, and usually her crazy behaviour is courtesy of vast quantities of grief and morphine, the drugs do the talking. It's not her fault.

Sometimes, I just don't know what to say any more. I try to listen, try not to blame, try to not be angry with her. Often I fail.

I miss them.