Sunday, 31 January 2010

I'm ashamed and sorry when I can't take a step back

Friday and yesterday were wonderful days. Amazing music, oysters and art in Edinburgh, lots of chat and fun. I ruined it all. Well, I say 'I', I mean the me that is haunted by a black cloud which showers thunder and lightening all over everything at the worst moments.

'You like sausages.'

'No, I don't.'

Yes, you do.'

Sems like a ridiculous exchange? Change some of the words and it's all too common. What we like or don't is up to us, and no matter how much convincing someone else may try to do otherwise, they can't make us like something we don't. Same goes with our feelings.

I snapped at someone last night because I was being told my feelings were wrong. I was already on edge because I was aware that I had irritated him a couple of times during the day. I was being defensive.

This was the beginning of a horrible episode. I behaved excessively because I felt judged. We were playing out old ways of fighting from our time as a couple. I ended up in his arms, weeping and crying over all that consumes me when clouds come, the old 'no one will ever love me' self pitying ridiculous routine.

Horrible, embarrassing, believed at the time.

He is kind and patient.

He tells me I don't tell him how things are, that I brush him off. I do this because he avoids the serious, or deep and meaningful, so I never really know what he feels about anything until we're in the middle of an argument or difficult conversation. It's not a good place to be. It makes me so sad because there is so much we share, but being able to communicate about the hard stuff is not one of those things. Perhaps one day we will learn. I hope so.

Today I just want to hide, but I force myself up and out. I do my best to smile and chat. I tell a friend I am not ok. At least I'm learning to ask for help.

I am an idiot

Sometimes I just can't get a grip on the self destructive part of me. The part of me that feels hideous, worthless, useless, ugly and stupid. I know these things are not true but it all feels very real when it happens.

The negative bit of me overwhelms the rest, and even though I know it is the evil depressed anxious feelings that are getting in the way, I struggle to take a side step. I hate it. It leaves me angry at myself and everyone else and exhausted. Will I ever just be ok?

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Fewer worms

I usually write about the challenges, the navel gazing things with unedited honesty and share less of the things I am grateful for. So, a little celebration instead.

Today I sat with my councillor and we went right back to beginning of my time with him. Eight months first time around, and another couple months which began again recently. I went back in December because I felt myself slipping. The warning signs were heeded, and I was too scared of what I knew could happen if I didn't do something.

I want to mark this as I'm feeling really pleased and proud of myself. Hideous, challenging, satisfying, cathartic hard work lifted me from being  depressed (which I didn't realise at the time, and just thought was normal. How could I think it was normal to cry every day?) to now. Today there are a few live and wriggling worms lurking still in that rusty old can, but the lid is well and truly lifted. (The list of worms from the early days that we wrote up today filled a whiteboard....).Now I know I will deal with the remainder one at a time, with a space in my week and commitment. They have names now, and are part of me.

Simply asking for help helped.

Life is not perfect and nor am I, who is? But somewhere along the lines I'm beginning to find out who I am and not what others want me to be. My anger, anxiety, lost-ness have largely dissipated. Don't get me wrong, there are bad days – some horrible, some sad – but they are far fewer.

I am better for it all and I am certain now that what I want me and my life to be are, perhaps for the first time, within my reach.

I believe that I will find better ways of coping and expressing my needs, emotionally as well as intellectually. Intellectually I can do, always have been able to, but emotionally? Phew! Although I still find these things easier to write than say out loud.

I believe that my life should be my own, and that I deserve to go easier on myself.

I believe that one day soon I will let someone love me without assuming my relationships are temporary and dooming them before they ever get off the ground.

I believe that I will learn to forgive and put up with my mother as she is.

I believe I deserve to be happy. I actually believe it, not just agree with other people saying it. And so on.....

Tomorrow my belief my waiver but tonight, and although I know the journey is not at an end, I will simply allow myself to be happy at what I've accomplished.

Friday, 22 January 2010

What consoles you?

The writer of a weekly sector specific e-bulletin I have mentioned before always starts with some personal reflection* before moving on to the business of the week. He writes thoughtfully about the world around him, ageing, politics, philosophy and so on. This week these words strike a chord with me. He was asked by a friend what consoles him and his reflections are thus;

'I consider some of the things which console me. Fish and chips – ice cream – skylarks and beaches – certainly music and books. But if David asked me that question now my answers would be – friendship. Ultimately, I believe, we’re consoled by love.'

I wonder about this for myself. I wonder this about you.

I wonder more about this for my father. We all need consolation from time to time, the reassurance and comfort that alleviates our distress, sorrow or troubles. What comfort, what consolation can I bring to a man who is shrinking before my eyes?

I have a photo of me and Dad on my graduation day, just over a decade ago. I am standing with him, his arm round me, my head on his shoulder. He is smiling and proud, despite the troubles going on at home, the real world was put to one side for a day. That photo makes make sad and happy in equal measure.

I visited him last night. In that photo he is taller than me, today he is like a sparrow. He is unsteady on his feet, and can barely speak. He is surprisingly strong for a man who is now little more than skin and bone. He grips my hand as if he will never let go, despite his eyes being somewhere in the distance, distracted by light and sound from the television in the corner of the room. Dementia robs him of focus and connection.

I tell him I love him. I don't know if he hears me, I don't know if he knows what that means or who I am. I tell him anyway. These days touch, music, food, and a little companionship are all I can bring. I know not if this consoles or comforts him. It is all I can give.

I can only hope that somewhere inside of him, he is aware of these small gifts. They are attempts at comfort that are also selfish in their giving. They console me, knowing that I am there and that I have tried. Not knowing if they are received or not, I will continue to love him and console him as best I can.

I console myself also with music, thick woollen cardigans, food and good wine, watching the weather and birds outside my window, hills and open spaces, sleeping in tents, and friendship.

*I won't name the author here as I want my blog stay anonymous – well, mostly – in a world of Google and working in a small sector I need it to be that way. If you would like to know more please use the email button below.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


I'm so pleased that a few days of hard work, music and seeing and speaking with people I haven't seen for a while have helped bring things back to centre.

I know I need to make myself do things that are fun, or worthwhile, or challenging or interesting to get myself back even if I don't much feel like it. By the time I've gone through the motions, I forget that I wasn't ok in the first place.

How I am rises and falls, and like everyone else, it will always be like this. Some times the troughs are deeper, and crests higher than others but they will continue to come and go no matter what. I am glad of this. Glad of both.

A horrid couple of days have been left in the past by allowing myself, making myself, embrace some things that I was ready not to do. I'm looking back at a weekend of both hilarity and beauty, and some real movement at work. I am grateful for the people in my life who bring these moments, and who care enough to ask how I am even if they know the answer might not be 'Fine', and to laugh with me if it is.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Regrouping - music, words and people

Ok, it's time to build.

I've typed and typed today, and my counsellor will be on the receiving end of hundreds of angry, sad and frustrated words, but at least it's all out there. I've set the thoughts free. Some of them here, some of them to him. At least they remind that I'm not nuts, but some days are hard and need to be dealt with.

Tonight I will potter and tidy and make my flat feel like home as best I can.

I will drink wine and eat well and sleep early. I will call my best friend in Dubai (I love Skype).

Tomorrow I will go to the gym and then I'll spend the afternoon volunteering at a stand for the music organisation whose board I sit on, encouraging other adults to learn for the first time or return to music after years of absence.

I will play the fiddle and enjoy the time spent with people who like to share their music and skills. This month sees my city's annual folk and roots festival bringing people from all over the world. It is a great way to spend a dark January. The thing I love most about traditional/folk music is that it is fundamentally about people coming together, sharing their traditions and cultures, their ways and communities, and creating new ones.

My weekend is kind of backwards with volunteering tomorrow, I will need to work on Sunday (today has been a write off), and seeing one of my favourite musicians on Sunday night with visiting friends who've known me since Uni days, and another gig with newer friends on Monday. So the weekend will be quiet. At least my 'portfolio career' allows me to flex my days to fit and Monday to Friday doesn't mater so much any more.

I'll get myself back on my feet, going through the motions until it all fits again.

The days are getting longer again, and 3.30pm is no longer sunset. The light coming back, even in a small way, leads out of these dark cold months and towards better days.

Today will pass, I hope it hurries up

Today I am unravelled and upset, and I don't really know why. I know where it's come from, but I'm not sure what it is exactly. Partly it is not feeling respected.

I have no idea what to do with it.

My morning has been a write off. I am tearful and pissed off and frustrated and wondering if I will ever be able to make this better, or if I should give up trying and accept that it is what is and I that I'm not going to move forward from here.

I am tired of being angry. I am tired of fighting to keep my head above water. Most days are not like this, but this one is. Pressure builds and must, from time to time, be released. 

I do not want to be told how I should feel or think.

I just want to be loved and cared for. I want a hug. There is no one to give me a hug, and no one to ask me how my day is, how I am, and let me cry, make me safe until I've let it all go and I'm ok. I have to do this for myself. And I will try.

I will just have to pick myself up, dust myself off and carry on. I need to focus. I know I shouldn't, I know I should go with this and allow myself just to feel and 'be' whatever comes along, but that's not going to get my work done and pay the bills. I can't take a sick day because I earn my money by the day. My time is billable. Clients and deadlines.

I won't give up, I will keep fighting, keep trying because I have to. I can't go back to where I was, but right now the slope feels very slippery indeed.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Post counselling unedited, angry rant

I think I just feel stupid again.

Stupid that I don't know how to do this stuff. I don't know how to connect with it.

I'm not going to allow myself to feel stupid for choosing to care care for my parents and for being here. I felt like I was being pushed to reject all of that, reject my family and my part in that, and I won't. I did what I felt was right and that made circumstances better. Yes, I'm suffering for it now. I do not regret it.

I don't want to have another conversation about the idea of not speaking to my mother, because it's not something I will consider. She is part of my life and my family, and if I want to spend what little time I have left with Dad with him, then she's part of that equation. Going down a line of suggesting that option just makes me angry. Other people can choose to do whatever they like, I don't care. I am doing this. I don't want to feel stupid for that.

It is, however, likely that I will leave here when Dad dies.

I need to find solutions in the here and now. I need to work with the resources I have available, going out and creating new ones will be an ongoing project, and I can't rely on what may or may not come good in the future. I have to do the best I can today.

My friends may not be ideal, but they're all I've got and I won't allow myself to feel stupid for having those people in my life either. Defensive? Yes, I'm sure I am.

The majority of the people that I see face to face on a regular basis or can share with beyond hearing about new teeth or the horrors of breast feeding, are people like me. Maybe we are all flawed and bad at this stuff as we're the ones who've ended up as solitary creatures. We've failed to make that step into partnership, or have destroyed or lost the ones we had.

The married, pregnant, kids, wedding planning friends take less of an interest because their priorities change – rightly so. Their friends are no longer the most important people in their lives, and they forget that, for people like me, friends become your family. They no longer understand my life.

We cling together like those on a sinking ship. Not necessarily what I would have chosen, but it's what my life is and what I have available.

So, if flawed and dysfunctional is what's on offer it's better than solitude and all I have to work with. I don't want to have to defend the choice of people in my life. Half of the people I see regularly here have known me for twenty years. They've stood by me and vice versa, and I'm not giving up on them.

Yes, I have people elsewhere that I am closer to, but life and geography get in the way. I don't have someone to come home to and tell about my day, not am I going to unburden myself on someone else who's come home to a cold empty house and is probably feeling much the way I do. Instead, I work hard to make to make the best of what I have and create new, and I keep my relatively insignificant whinges to myself.

So, if I'm going to sort through the stuff I need to, then it has to be with what's available, otherwise it's all fantasy. Today I was defensive, and upset because comments and questions made me feel stupid.

I can acknowledge that anger is not an inherently bad thing. At work I know what to do with it. It drives me forward to fix things and make the world a better place. Anger personally is another thing entirely because I don't know how to drive it to do anything, mostly because the problem is me. I have no idea how to make it constructive.

Telling someone every time I'm pissed off? No-one's listening. Reality, MY reality, today, now and for the foreseeable future.

I will continue to seek out new people and things and create opportunities, but I need to deal with now, or I will never get to the tomorrow I want.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Mum - An unsually good day

Mum usually drives me nuts. Often my frustration with her, is not so much because of her, but because of my parents' situation and consequent dependence on me and my sister.

However, today is different. I'm very pleased with her. Not only did she get a flat tyre when away from home, but succeeded in calling the RAC and buying a new tyre without even so much as a panicked text message or demand that I drop everything and rescue her. Although, she had forgotten her phone.....however, past times would have seen her call a cab to go home and get before calling us to sort it all out. Maybe she's making inroads to being independent.

She's in an odd situation, we all are. My my father's Alzheimer's means that she is in every practical sense a widow even though her husband still lives. But he is not here. He can't give a hug or listen to her day or tell her he loves her or any of those things husbands do. Instead she has the cruel punishment of having him physically present whilst being a ghost of her husband. She still has him, in a small way, at least.

I am also relieved. Good test results mean she/we are not facing more operations or chemo and the rest, for now.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Cabin Fever

The low winter sun and snow are driving my urge for fresh clean air, to stretch my legs and find some space. I feel rather like a polar bear in the zoo this week. Sadly, the dodgy roads mean going anywhere far is out of the question, and no one else seems to be game for embracing the cold. Taking myself off on my own is not a safe option, particularly as I tend to be a fair weather walker and driving is bad.

When everything is so tantalisingly beautiful I just want to be out there somewhere.

It strengthens my conviction that this city won't be my home forever. I make the most of being here, enjoying the music, food, people, life that is on offer but it all feels very temporary. I dream instead of a different existence. I would like to be in a more rural setting and have easier access to the outdoors. Although I'm a city girl, born and bred, I have spent periods of time living and working in very rural areas. I don't have in my head some idyllic view of life in the country, I know it's not all strawberry jam and lovely neighbours. But, given the choice between the benefits and pitfalls of city vs rural/small town, I would love the opportunity to be elsewhere. In the meantime, I will do my best to escape when I can and enjoy what is offer under my feet.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

What is a blog?

I seems that it can be many things. An advert, a website alternative, a recipe book, a forum, sports pages, a travel journal, a community, a diary, a world apart from reality.

I have two. One for work: cheaper and easier to maintian and navigate than a website. Something obligatory for the self employed person that I am. Focussed and practical. A necessary chore. A yellow pages entry alternative for today's Google generation.

The other? It is other. It is a diary, or the closet to it I have ever succeeded in keeping. It my voice. It is this. A voice with no regard for a 'target audience'. There isn't one. It is just me. And those who choose to share with me.

It is disjointed and personal. I appreciate those who do read, I learn from you all. It makes me focus my voice, to try and make a point, encourages me to keep recording my journey. It enables me to process the things in my head and my life I'm struggling with. It allows me to remember my father while Alzheimer's destroys him and record the moments of joy, in order that, on dark days, I can remind myself there is more.

It has brought me to a world where others share. I have learned more than many books could teach me of people and experineces. It is sometimes voyeuristic. It is very often a priveleged glimpse into the lives of people I will never meet but come to know in a different way.

I wish I could write long hand in beautiful notebooks. I've tried and failed. I scribble if I need to vent when I am laptop-less in any old notebook that comes to hand. But this? It works for me.

Thank you to all those who read and share your tales, factual or fictitious, with us here. A virtual dashboard bringing us together in one place and making sense of the maze. What does your blog mean for you? Has it become what you expected or something else altogether?

Comfort and microwaves

The cold weather and snow of the past few weeks has had me thinking about food.

I love it. From salty olives and strong blue cheese to a simple slice of toast, it plays a huge role in my life. It's not simply a functional thing for me. Cooking centres me, the process of making and doing and laying a table gives me great contentment.

I love to have friends here to eat. A simple supper on New Year's Day of baked ham and mashed potatoes was wonderful, shared with friends laughing and reminiscing. The two or three hours of tidying and pottering, listening to BBC Radio 4, just stumbled by without me noticing. I like feeding other people. I like making them happy and bringing them together. Sharing.

One of the best gifts someone can share with me is to set the table, light a candle, and let me drink a glass of wine while they cook. It is a thoughtful act of caring. It is so elementary and still feels so special. When someone cooks for me I feel privileged and loved. I appreciate this gift not just for the food, but for the chatter and moments of quiet creativity (or burnt hilarity) of a Sunday evening when the real world is being held at bay.

Whether I'm cooking for myself, for a crowd, a lover or dining out in celebration with family it will always be a vehicle for conversation, satisfaction, pleasure and comfort.

I wish we could ban the microwave meal.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Peace, quiet and mulled wine

I am shattered after four days of guests, parties, food – too much food – and wine. It's been so good to see the people I care about most but I was pleased to come home, shut the door, and listen to the quiet.

I haven't made any new year's resolutions. Unless they're supremely small, I tend to fail. I also won't make any predictions about the coming decade.

Looking back over this one, I could never have predicted where it would take me. My life is so different from what I had thought it would become. Neither in a good or bad way, just different. So, I will continue to look forwards and seek out opportunities and adventures, friendships and relationships but I won't begin to imagine where the next decade will take me, Instead, I will try to plough on and enjoy or endure whatever comes my way with gratitude and curiosity.

Tonight, I will mull the end of the bottle of red wine that sits open on my kitchen amongst all the dishes and a enjoy a final taste of winter's festivities and some peace.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Buttons and explosions

I hate that I sometimes react wholly inappropriately to small things. Sometimes a button is pressed and off I go.

Yesterday a friend made a perfectly reasonable observation about something, and off I went. Instead of taking the comment as it was intended I ran off in a completely different direction with it. At least inthis occasion I was tearful rather than anything else.

I can be overwhelmed by the strength of my feelings sometimes, my reactions shock me. Sometimes I am just numb.  At least now I have the ability to take a step back, understand that I am reacting not to what has just happened but to a lifetime of experiences. And I can hold my hands up and say sorry, explain a bit.

I'm better at sharing what I'm feeling rather than defending myself from a imagined enemy, or withdrawing.

I hate it. When I'm on a low ebb I'll fight back when actually what I need is a hug and a listening ear. I just don't know how to ask for that. Sometimes I just need a bit of reassurance, to know that I'm cared for and that it is only a passing storm.

It's getting better, and will continue to do so, but I'm not there yet.