My Christmas present

Facebook was a game back then. I’d long ago disabled my real account, bored of the drama and conversely the day to day posts of the contents of someone’s sandwich.

The name was mine but in a different form. I was trying to be a new me. Upon advice, I was using Facebook rather than it use me – talking to strangers from far off places. Trying out socialising skills which were rusty and dusty and under-used. Not that I wasn’t selective – some people I just avoided no doubt like some avoided me.

I will never forget…

Then, one day, there was your request in my inbox. I opened it up to see your face and ‘wow’ left my lips before I smiled. You were single, so no harm. I could…practise my flirting. I could…learn more about a culture I was already intrigued by. I could talk to an attractive man, even for a short time.

I accepted. You messaged. I replied.

In those early days, I was shy and you were persistent. I was hesitant and you were patient.

It was just for fun though.

Until soon it wasn’t. My feelings grew. I was conflicted and torn, suspicious but hopeful. You made me laugh like I no one had ever done. You were consistent and dependable.

And then, less than two months later, it was Christmas. My first Christmas alone.

In the previous year, when Dad had died, I was still numb. I dazzled like a Christmas light, not allowing the grief to surface, determined after six months of loss that I would make Christmas special. I’d filled my house with people and love.

But that year, I was alone. My sisters were with their extended families. My children were with their Dad. And I felt it keenly. I was alone, not with my Dad.

You told me you wouldn’t leave me alone. On a day that means little to you, you made it mean everything to me. You called me, more than before, just to keep me company from thousands of miles away. You made me feel loved and wanted and special. You gave me more than I ever expected.

I love you loyalty and your patience, your integrity and your faith. I love your humour and your teasing, your dependability and your mind. I love your face and your body and your spirit and your soul.

That was the moment I fell in love with you. The time I felt the most alone, the most vulnerable, the most insignificant. That’s when I really knew that I loved you.

I love you.

Advertisement

Rain

Why don’t we do the things we want to do?

I ponder this question frequently. Or rather, I want to ponder it, but my Fort Knox brain shutters come down as it knows this is something triggering. I try to ponder it.

There are many things I want to do and I don’t do them.

If we have an idea of what would make us happy though, why don’t we do it?

I’ve dabbled in enough self help and personal development mini sessions to know a lot of this is to do with fear, failure and our brains protecting us. It also has a lot to do with confidence, self esteem and self preservation.

I know I’m not happy. I’ve not been truly happy for a long time. I also know that knowing I am unhappy makes me more unhappy with myself.

From everything I’ve learnt this past few years, I know that taking action has a big part to play in the journey to getting out of this.

And I have been. (Cue self celebration). I have been taking small actions recently. I’ve not given up or given in. This is real progress when you consider how I coped 18 months ago, and four years ago. My road to recovery this time has been shorter. I’m still on it of course, but I’ve started on the road quicker.

Take today, for instance. Yesterday I was moody and unsettled. This morning I’ve been in my head, so much so that I have a headache. But I’ve done two things today. One, I completed a Mind Valley Life Book questionnaire (which links to a course I can’t afford, but the report is very helpful) and I am currently sat in my garden, in the rain, periodically throwing a ball to my dog.

And why is this progress, I hear you ask? Because by completing the questionnaire, I’m trying. I’m fighting. I’m taking action. I’m refusing to dwell in the bog of my unhappiness. I’m trying to uncover all behind my brain’s Fort Knox so I can get the hell out of there.

And, by taking my dog out in the rain, I feel better. Yes, I’m wet and cold. But….I felt bad about not taking him out and now I have. And I proved that a little discomfort actually isn’t so bad when it is for the greater good. My dog is perfectly happy:

My issue, of course, is that I’m not sure where I’m heading. I’m still lost. Floundering, floating, directionless. I’ve an idea where I want to go. But I’m not sure. Scared. Terrified.

I have a lot to be happy and grateful about. I am blessed in many, many ways. This also makes me unhappy because I feel bad for feeling unhappy when I shouldn’t be.

I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know if it is a midlife crisis. My Dad dying. Unhappiness in my marriage that I stuck at for far, far too long. Covid. A Long Distance Relationship that exhilarates and frustrates me. Inherent mental health issues. Burn out. Potential neurodivergence. The collapse of the UK’s education systems and society. War. All of the above. Just me. I don’t know.

I guess it doesn’t matter but its in my nature to search for answers and source to the problem so I can solve the problem.

I love my life and hate my life.

I want someone to help me find answers but I also want to find them myself.

I want structure and I want flexibility.

I want to be a good mother and I want time to be me.

I want to lead but I want to be a team.

I want time alone but don’t want to be on my own.

I want to fill my time doing what I love but I want to learn new things.

I want to fill my time doing what I love but still be productive and efficient.

I want to fill my time doing things I love but don’t actually do any of them.

Why don’t I do the things I love, if I love them so much..?

After

I’m in a book hangover. I love it.

For those of you who have never been fortunate – yes, fortunate – to have experienced one yet, let me explain.

A book hangover overwhelms you. It’s when, after – and arguably during – reading a particular book, you get so engrossed in what you’re reading that the essence of the book surrounds you. It’s like being in that book’s bubble or fleece throw or…like that books lens. It’s a warm glow. You think about the book …its words, it’s essence….its ideas. How it made you think and feel.

I’ve read many, many books in my life. Only a small handful have made me feel this way.

I started, and finished, the book within 12 hours including some sleep. I started it last night, read 3/4 before forcing myself to switch off the light at 2am and then finished it this morning.

The book, ‘After you’ by Jo Jo Moyes, just gripped me. It’s a sequel to ‘Me, before you’. That also gave me a book hangover. I’ve had ‘After you’ for 18 months. I started it but wasn’t ready – its themes too painful. 

‘After you’ is a fictional book about living life, starting life again after bereavement. It’s a love story,  a life story. It’s not a self help book or a work of literary heritage. But it moved me to the core. It may not for you – and that, that is the beauty of reading.

I’ve read a lot recently – since finishing my job. That’s one of the biggest ironies of life- as a full time English teacher, I never have the time to read normally. Sad, isn’t it?

I’ve read lots of trashy novels of late – Shades of Grey and others. Sometimes that’s what I want to escape into – stories of passion, strong men and strong but feminine women. It’s not the sex, although there’s nothing wrong with a sexy scene, but I actually like these books. I like reading about how in even romantic fiction, relationships are messed up by people’s pasts, insecurities and jealousy.

And so, here I am. Back in my multicoloured garden, shrouded by my book hangover… which has deliciously merged with other thoughts and events in my head to find those amazing coincidences in life which make you sit up and listen to what the world is trying to tell you.

Life is meant to go wrong.

It really is. Read that again, let it sink in. Life going wrong, is actually right. It’s what is meant to happen. Every wrong turn, bump in the road, false start, stall, breakdown, cruise control,  speed chase….all of it is part and parcel of a normal life.

Often, events on the road of your life happen without you. You don’t cause them or instigate them, but they happen anyway. Sometimes, a seemingly wrong decision- or indecision- causes them. I don’t know what’s worse in that case. But it’s what we do after that matters. What we learn, how we pick ourselves up…it doesn’t matter how long that takes.  It doesn’t matter if we limp or crawl, jog or sprint. It’s just the moving again that matters. Because not moving, is not living. And we have to live to feel alive.

So, after a false start at my new school, today is my last official day there. I’ve spent it so far, finishing a wonderful book and then sitting in my garden with a coffee.

It doesn’t matter that I’ve left my job again. It doesn’t matter that I’ve spent 18 months feeling lost. What matters, now, is what I do after. How I move forward. How I keep going.

The path, road, I’ve been on doesn’t disappear as I move forward. If I turn around and look – something I’ve been doing far too much of – its still there. Every obstacle and every clear road is there for me to see. They’ve shaped me, in a way. But it’s more than that. I’ve shaped myself. I’ve had to adapt to each and every deviation.  I’ve had to overcome it all, one way or another. And I have. I have.

I’ve moved very, very slowly for some time now. But that’s the thing, when you’re moving. You can look out the car window and not have any idea what speed you’re actually going at. The world passes you by at seemingly the same speed regardless of how fast you’re actually going.

And that’s how life is, isn’t it? Time passes regardless. Every moment is a before and a now and an after. The trick is to hold on all at the same time and keep moving. Looking only backwards slows you. Staying in the now stalls you. Looking only forward scares you or makes you race without seeing what’s going on around you. Hold on to all three and just keep moving…moving towards your happily ever after.

Resilience is relative

Just so you know, I hate that word. With an absolute soul shuddering passion. 
It's a word some people use to dismiss other's feelings and make them feel weak and unworthy. It tells them that they should be stronger, not show their emotions. It hints that you're being perceived as lesser, broken.
I really don't know if this is just British culture - stiff upper lip, you know what I am talking about - this idea that we should all be built with some innate iron strength to cope when life really is the pits.
Resilience is relative though, isn't it?
Someone losing their job with a bank full of savings and a spouse on a decent income is different to a single parent losing their job up to their eyes in debt. And yet, both will feel the strain in their own way, relative to their situation. Therefore, telling someone to be 'resilient' really annoys me. You, on your high horse...you have no idea how that person feels it's not your life, your context, its theirs. Just because you can cope in those set of circumstances but in your context, doesn't mean they can. 
Show them love. Show them care and empathy. Give them a little strength to find their own path to survival. Don't tell them to be resilient.

I saw my cousin last night (his wife is who I’d taken the pot rose to a few days ago).  He told me I was brave for what I had done in leaving my career. “Or stupid,” I replied.

“No.” He said. “You’d have been stupid to carry on, feeling like that.”

*****

It’s another beautiful autumnal day. Golden leaves are falling now. I’m sat outside in a short sleeved t shirt and whilst I’m not warm, I’m liking the slight chill to the breeze that’s rustling the leaves.

My mind was full of Amy last night. I didn’t know her well – knew her little son more who played with my son and niece and nephew – but knew her enough to say hello and stop and chat. I looked at her Facebook page and saw pictures of her happy little family and the gratitude she had for them.

Thinking about that little family’s loss now, things get put in perspective.

So what if I actually shampooed my carpet, only for it to go smelly, leading me to cover it in bicarb (Internet hack) which won’t vacuum up so I now have a cow patterned carpet?

So what if I left a job that left me soul broken? So what if I don’t have spare cash anymore? I have my life and my kids and my family and my Wildcard.

There’s so many clichés to say here….life is short, you only live once, you could die tomorrow.

Clichés are almost as bad as the word ‘resilience’. They are poignant and important but deemed irrelevant by over or improper use.

I’ve had a very lucky life, compared to some.   I’ve had a difficult life compared to others.

What I do know is I’ve spent a large part of it unhappy when I didn’t need to. Either because my head was stuck in the negative or I failed to change my life when I should have. No more.

Life is short but…

Life is beautiful. Life is Love.

If you let it be.

Love

Love is the most important thing in the world, without question. I believe that, heart and body and soul. It's loving your family and friends. It's loving your significant other. It's about loving the world around you: your home, your town, your environment. This world. It's about loving the job you do so you give your all and your best - making the world a better place. It's about loving the world you inhabit, filling your life with the things that you love to do...Reading, travel, painting, coffee, sport... whatever makes you happy. That's what a good life is: surrounding yourself and the world you inhabit with love. 

My sisters live on the same little road. It’s a row of terraced houses. Over the years, they’ve built a little sense of community – parties and celebrations. By default, I’ve been included too. The children play out on the front grass…running up and down, playing on bikes, going into each other’s homes.

There’s one little boy. He’s a little sweetheart . He’s blond haired abd blue eyed. He’s about 5 or 6. His baby sister is not even one yet. He’s got young parents- early 20s. They’re a lovely little family.

I was in the heat of an argument with my sister. I was upset because she keeps saying she’s coming round then doesn’t. She clumsily told me that with my ‘extra’ time at the moment, I’m expecting to see them more and they can’t. She tried to take it back, said she hadn’t meant it that way. I was upset, saying that I understood that I was being too demanding of their time because I was low. I just want to be with my sisters: catching up for coffee etc like they do, living so close. She said I was being too negative and had taken her words wrong. She went upstairs to the bathroom.

I checked my phone to find out youngest sister had finally responded. Except… except she’d responded by telling us news. Amy had died this morning. The neighbour…the young mother with a beautiful blond haired boy and a baby girl not yet one and a partner who adores her.

The cruelty of this world hit me, once again. That little boy – so sweet and innocent – has lost his mother. That little baby girl will never know her mother. That man, barely a man, is now left with two young children and his grief.

Love them. Show them love every single day. Even when they make you angry. Even when they've hurt you. Love them, because one day, they may not be there to feel that Love anymore through choice or fate or death. 

Just love. That’s all and everything we can do.

For you

This is for you. You know who you are. You’re scrolling mindlessly, just tying to numb yourself. Secretly, you’re hoping you will find something…an answer, a tip, a hack…help. This is for you. You’re not alone.

Well, I got there. I hit the bottom.

My eyes are swollen and I’m exhausted. I cried, inconsolable, last night. A series of probably minor things threw me to the bottom of that dark pit.

In that moment,  you lose all sense of self. All you can see is the darkness and the pain and the misery. You feel like you’ve lost everything, and the weird thing is I’m not sure what comes first – the feeling of losing all, leading to despair… or despair leading to feeling like you’ve lost everything. Maybe they are one and the same.

Depression, crisis, is full of contrasts. You want to be alone but fear it. You want to tackle one of the million things to do but can’t start. You want to feel loved but feel like no one really loves you- and how can they, when you’re like this?

I got my letter from work accepting my resignation. I should be happy. I’m relieved, but not happy. I’m scared.

Wildcard still seems just that step away. He’s not saying I love you like he did. I mentioned it. He told me he wasn’t in the mood for another fight….Later, he called as usual but the call ended earlier than normal. This happens sometimes, I know. But last night I needed him to stay with me. I was too scared to show that. I’m trying, and probably failing, not to chase him away.

Whilst this was happening, I saw on Facebook that my ‘best’ friend, the one who has slowly but surely disappeared out my life, has gone away for the weekend with my replacement and their other halves. They’ve gone to a place where I used to be invited. Not anymore.

My sister messaged to apologise for not turning up as promised – for the second time this week.

I’ve not heard from my other friend for three days. I don’t want to bother her again with my issues but I wish she had messaged.

So, I sat in my darkness. No job, no friend, no love, no acceptance. My house a constant reminder of my failure. I had failed my son. Hating every part of myself and so blinded that I couldn’t see any worth in my life.

I contemplated it. I measured my worth in life to my worth in death. And, I realised that without a will, my death was pretty worthless too. Yep, you read right.

That little voice was my saviour. It gave me a reason. Death was not an option. The little voice told me to call someone, a helpline. I did.

I wasn’t going to commit suicide but I was scared enough that I had thought about it. Weighed it up. I acknowledged that I had hit that bottom but I didn’t want to go any further. I didn’t want to be buried.

This is for you.

I’m sharing my darkest moments for you. You’re not alone in feeling this. And though it may feel like you’re blinded, overwhelmed, alone…you’re not. Somewhere, out there, someone will listen. They will hear you. They understand. And as they listen, little rays of sunlight start to pierce the darkness, so small you can barely see them but you can feel them. You’re still in your pit, right at the bottom. It’s cold and dark and oppressive. But those tiny rays of light are there, trying to burst through…if you will let them. Showing you the way out.

After my hour long talk with the Samaritans, I was calm. I’d sobbed, unable to speak for the first 5 minutes. Then I’d spoken about my career, my son, and my fear I was losing my relationship.

The samaritan reminded me of what my daughter had said…I’m not worthless or useless. I was fighting. I had walked away from a school that was dragging me under. That takes strength. I had supported my son repeatedly this week, calling CAMHS, speaking to school and attending appointments with him. She asked me what I would say to myself, if I was my own best friend, in regards to my relationship.

“I’d tell myself that you’re doing the best you can. That you love him and want him to be happy. And that if your unhappiness is making him unhappy, then you can’t blame him for walking away. You love him so much that you want him to be happy. But that’s his choice. You can’t make him stay and you shouldn’t push him away either. Concentrate on getting yourself better. Let him make his own decisions.”

I spent the remainder of my evening scrolling. Looking for answers, help, anything. I came across two things. The first was a Facebook Group of a company that deals in personal coaching. They had a number of podcasts which I watched, mainly around negative energy and biased thinking. The idea that, we live in our own world – our own hologram. We see life through this hologram of our own making, fuelled by our past and our thoughts and our biases.

The second was from Mind Valley. I watched a video and took part in a deep meditation. I then started to watch an interview with Sadhguru about Karma. And again, the same idea came forward – our past life, experiences and thoughts are the lens which we see the world. Like a pair of beer googles or coloured sunglasses, they tint the world in front of us.

I changed the lens…just for a moment. I saw myself, reaching out for help. I saw the self help books in front of me. I saw my return to journal writing, my walks in the garden. I saw my actions to resolve situations that were hurting me. Actions no one else had done – I had done that myself. I saw that Wildcard had called me, as much as always. I saw that he had been upset when I hadn’t kissed him. I saw that, when faced with my sadness, he didn’t know what to do. My black lens was telling me he was walking away. I don’t know if that it true because it is my lens. But what I do know, is that my lens is potentially tinting his.

So my new lens is my brave face. Yes, my life is pretty crap at the moment. Yes, I’m feeling depressed and anxious again. But I am fighting. No one is going to save me. They have their own world and their own lens to deal with. No one can make those actions, I have to do it myself. But they can help. They can walk alongside you. They can help change your lens.

Don’t give up. Ask for help, and it will be there. Change your lens, even just for five minutes each day. Build it up. Look at what you have achieved every day. Getting out of bed. Taking a shower. Calling someone. Reading something. Fighting. Every single action is you fighting. Every action is you NOT giving up.

Keep fighting. Because the only true failure in life, is giving up. And giving up is very, very different to walking away and demanding better for ourselves.

Reach out. You’re not alone in your darkness.

Events

Today has been today: neither good nor bad but elements of both.

It started with my morning call from Wildcard. Despite yesterday’s tension*, he was fine this morning.

I hadn’t slept well though. My mind had been racing. I lay there and my whole body needed him. Not in a sexual way, just wishing he was near.

I mentioned to him that I hadn’t slept well and that I had both missed him and dreamed of him. He asked if I had dreamed we had been fighting.

It was a flippant remark. Humour, perhaps. But wow, it cut deep. *We have never really had a full blown argument: where both parties are angry and accusatory which is why I say ‘tension’. Most times, he or I are upset at something the other has done. It rarely last more than a couple of a hours. There have been 2 occasions where it has lasted longer- when I really hurt him, but unintentionally. But no, we have never actually argued (fighting in his language).

It cut deep enough to wound. Yes, there have been a number of fights/tensions between us recently. Two over the last two nights in fact. I mentioned my feelings about this yesterday and about how I can’t blame him if this, me, I become to much drama.

I cleaned my house and just thought about this. I couldn’t help myself. But I put music on, singing at the tip of my voice. Yes, sometimes there were tears (thank you, James Morrison) but I cleaned and was productive.

Early afternoon I went to help my sister prepare for her date. She was entertaining at home and her house needed a good clean. I worked on her kitchen and again, weirdly, found some sense of calm whilst doing so. (I am never going to win housewife of the year). But, another win.

I’ve received notification that the school have accepted my resignation. I felt relief and panic all at once. I don’t have to go back, I don’t have to fight. But, with the early resignation, I’m really going to have to work hard to settle things financially. I’ve just given up a large salary. One that was to help me sort my life out. But, I know I couldn’t go back. I never would have been happy there.

This evening has put life into a bit of perspective though.

Just before I was due to go to bed, my daughter and I got talking. She was asking about my family. It made me feel quite old really – it’s the first time she’s asked me to talk about my past and extended family.

However, in talking about my family, I’ve realised a few things. One, I’ve had a good life and a good family. And yes, I am getting old. Two, I don’t see enough of my family. Three, many of the people I look up to in my family have had real periods of uncertainty and change. And whilst life is never easy – events can throw your life off kilter – these family members had turned their life around. Worked for it. Found happiness again.

Maybe I’m not as big a failure as I think I am. Maybe this lesson has been that I can’t go back, I’ve got to look forward. I’ve got to change my life like so many of my family have done before me.

Apples

Here’s a question for you… do you know where your happy places are?

Now, before you answer that – as I am sure certain things jumped straight into your mind – think carefully. Really think. Don’t answer with what you are supposed to say. What everyone says. Just let yourself think.

Yesterday, as my post spelled out, I was not in a great place. I haven’t been for weeks.

If we rewind six months, I was contemplating my future. Unsure of what to do, I spent weeks…months not deciding anything, and feeling the pressure of the decision.

In the end I chose to go back to my career. I was swayed by the job I was offered and the money it would give me. I made a plan. How I would use the money wisely this time to build the future I want. How I would take the job offered to me to ease myself back in, rebuild confidence and learn. Find myself.

There and then, as 1st September loomed closer, I felt positive. Excited. Nervous, yes, but up for the challenge.

From day one, it has been awful.

Everything I had been told was a lie. Whilst I had been told the road was tough, I accepted the role on fabrications of ‘solid teams’, ‘high staff morale’ and ‘recent improvements’. I was swayed by ‘major investment’, ‘forward thinking management’ and ‘good behaviour’.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope and Hell No.

From day one, I saw the divided senior team of which I was supposed to be part. I wasn’t part of either side. I wasn’t invited to meetings. I was ignored.

The rooms hadn’t been renovated. Instead, nothing worked. No whiteboard, electrical or otherwise. No ability to print.

No key, no pass, no induction.

Timetables and rooms were wrong. Resources were given two days in advance of teaching and yet I was expected to be leading a department who had not been led for years.

Behaviour…. well. They ignore you. They bully, fight, swear. They’re obnoxious and intimidating. But it’s ok, ‘once they get to know you they’re good lads.’

What has been made apparent from my five weeks there, is actually, there is no team. There is no care. There is no leadership. People will tell you they feel sorry for your situation and then load you up with an unobtainable and excessive workload.

Within two weeks, I’d burst in to tears. I wanted to walk out. I was told about how ‘mental health’s an important part of the school’ and maybe I was ‘expecting too much of myself as a perfectionist’. I later found out that this leader had huffed and puffed when she’d found out I was upset and had to speak to me. More lies.

The new academy is hopefully taking over soon (I was told they already had.) But, one teary outburst and lots of happiness since, I know that my card is already marked no matter what they say.

The last few Sundays, working all day, I’ve been miserable. Snapping at my children. Fighting with Wildcard. Crying. Feeling sick.

Tuesday, I woke up ill. The flu-like symptoms that had threatened descended. I planned one day off then back in. At 6am, my whole body screamed differently.

And so it continued.

Whilst I was unwell, I realised that probably half of it was stress. I didn’t want to get out of bed. Work dominated my dreams and waking moments.

After a few heartfilled conversations with friends, family and ex-colleagues, I made my decision and called the doctors. I have two weeks off and a resignation letter ready to send.

I’ve probably thrown away my career. Not sure I care anymore. I’ve cried more about letting family down and worrying about money. It has passed for now.

So, step one complete, I’ve forced myself out of bed.

Yesterday, I made myself pick the apples on my dad’s tree. I waded through 6ft nettles and weeds. I got stung and scratched. But I felt a sense of achievement.

I sat in my happy place – a place I have avoided- and I wrote in my dad’s journal for the first time in 3 years.

And, gazing at the basket of apples, journal on my knee: I felt at peace.

Learning

I got the job! I felt a lot of things, relief being the main one. No more stressing about my future, money or job applications. I have a job.

I would not exchange this past year though. It’s been really hard but it’s been a real learning journey. I watched a Facebook video that summed it up perfectly:

When you’re surrounded by darkness, don’t assume you’ve been buried. Think that instead, you’ve been planted.

I’ve been in the dark. I’ve felt the weight of the soil. I’ve fought drought and floods, heat and cold. Now I’ve pushed through. The journey is just beginning though: I’m just a little seedling. But I’m strong, I know that.

This weekend is a big one. My daughter’s 18th, her party, and I am going to see Wildcard for two weeks.

I’m feeling many, many feelings and emotions about both events. But I’m not letting them overwhelm me. It’s a battle sometimes, but I’m winning the war overall.

Although I should be doing a number of things on my prep list, I’m sat relaxing with an ice pack on my shin. Sunday’s gardening for the party resulted in a horsefly bite which is now infected. It’s trebled in size since Sunday and is red, hot and firm to the touch. I have been given antibiotics but I’m terrified – my mum suffers from lymphadaema and cellulitis and has never seemed to be completely clear of it for some years. I’ve long been scared that I will get this. My leg is elevated and I’m taking my medicine so I just hope that I start seeing some improvement overnight or I will have to be seen again.

It’s hard not to attribute this to my weight, although horseflies aren’t prejudiced. Mum is severely overweight. She wasn’t always though. And then of course was my Aunty’s comment that I had been ‘really skinny’ the first time I’d visited Wildcard – a stone and half lighter to be fair – which hasn’t helped.

But, to ensure the self-hatred knife gets truly embedded in my newly reformed confidence, I ran in to an old friend this afternoon as I was shopping.

Not to speak to of course. I saw her before she saw me and then something I’d bought triggered the door alarm and I returned to the till. So she definitely saw me.

We haven’t spoken for about six months. Before that, probably another six months. This was the friend that I used to go out with a couple of times a week – shopping walking, coffee. Our friendship deteriorated rapidly when I started my relationship with Wildcard. She was prejudiced, jealous and disagreed wholeheartedly with my relationship. Some of her words still haunt me – she was someone whose advice and support I once highly valued.

We drifted apart. She re-befriended her long time best friend that she had fought with when she became closer to me. She didn’t contact me when she contracted Covid and became seriously ill – instead, allowing her best friend to contact a work colleague she didn’t actually trust. But then, I didn’t contact her either.

We met briefly last year. She was due to return to work after long covid and I was about to sign my termination agreement.

Last week I actually messaged her – I’d been thinking about her and had discovered one of her favourite artists was visiting our local city. Her reply was dismissive. She didn’t take the olive branch and our two message conversation ended there.

When I spotted her, I was struck by three things. 1 – I didn’t want to speak to her. I was embarrassed and knew there was nothing to say that meant anything anymore. 2 – I was happy to see she was with her daughter and two grandchildren (small babies) and that the 5 year feud was over. 3 – she had lost a lot of weight. As in, barely recognisable.

I’m slightly shamed to say, that’s what I am now obsessing about. She had lost a lot of weight when we first became good friends and then plateaued. She then put a little back on. At that point, I lost my 3.5 stone. I’ve now put some back on and she’s lost even more.

I’m really, really pleased for her. Her life appears to be back in order now. I wish she hadn’t seen me still in the struggles of mine but that is entirely pride.

We meet people for a reason. At a particular time. We support them, they support us. And when that need is no longer there, we drift apart. We fight for those we can’t live without. We fight the grief of when we lose them because they can’t or won’t be with us anymore.

I’m hoping when I next see her, my pride will diminish and I will have the confidence to say hello. I had a feeling that this would have been unwelcome though- by the time I left the shop she was walking away. She could have waited if she wanted to speak to me – clearly she didn’t either.

As the days pass by, I know I can’t live without Wildcard. But I also know that something has shifted there, too. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s there. A few weeks ago I was really anxious about it. I also started putting the pressure on for this trip – setting a benchmark of expectations that will only cause stress and arguments when I get there .

But…there will come a time soon when I may need to make decisions. That is – if he doesn’t make any.

I’m finding it hard to picture our future now . I don’t know how this will all work out. It scares me. I want to fight for him. But maybe, like my once-was friend , he won’t want that.

My plan? Enjoy and see. Let my little life-seedling bask in the warmth and see what happens.

Time to say goodbye

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Any florists or gardeners out there will not be as impressed of course. This little posy is made from the very few flowers currently growing in my garden.

It’s a symbolic little posy: I like symbolism.

The three red-pink roses are from a rambler that my Dad loved, growing on a fence that he and my uncle build 15 years ago. We placed some of these roses in my Dad’s coffin when he died 4 years and 2 days ago. The purple aquilegia – bright, cheerful and independent – sprout everywhere in my garden, self-seeded by the wind. I hated them at one point for their pesky weed-like determination to flower wherever they wanted. Dad loved them for the same reason. I do now, too.

The yellow iris is actually a water iris that has taken over 3/4 of my pond. My sister threatened to dig them out 5 years ago to my Dad’s protest. She never did and they’ve continued to take over ever since.

The little pink candy-puff flowers, as I call them, were planted by my dad. I think the plant originally came from my uncle, but I’m not sure. Either way, its fluffy cuteness made a welcome addition. Plus, there wasn’t much else I could put in.

The posy was wrapped in a wet piece of kitchen paper, then in foil and then a piece of chiffon ribbon. It went in my handbag.

Throughout the service, I kept checking it was ok..not too squashed as I delved in and out for my tissues. At one point, my son alerted to me to a small aphid crawling on my black cardigan, no doubt from this little bouquet.

At the end, as “Time to say Goodbye” by Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli played, tears ran down my face and sobs threatened to erupt into hyperventilation. It was one of my Dad’s favourite songs too and the words were scarily poignant for more than the obvious. I watched the sheer curtains close and the lights dim. As the people in front of me – family – moved out of the crematorium, I pulled out my little posy and stared at it as I blindly walked towards the coffin. Looking up, I asked the funeral director to place it on my uncle’s coffin and I left the building.

He was the last one, the last of my father’s generation.

He was probably my Dad’s best friend and definitely his closest sibling. My Dad respected and trusted him and looked up to him. My uncle visited my Dad on his dying bed, a fact I had forgotten until sat in that crematorium.

My uncle was the hardest working man I knew. He was generous, intelligent and strong. For reasons unexplainable here, I barely saw him in the last few years and I regret that. I have many, many memories of him from my childhood. Memories I will always treasure, like the rose bush he apparently treasured, which I had bought him 10 years ago for his 80th birthday.

Today, I felt like I said goodbye to him and my Dad. I don’t really remember much of my Dad’s funeral and I am the one who organised it. More than that, I feel like I have said goodbye to a whole swathe of life – of my life. There are no holds now, no anchors, nothing left.

I’m too sad today to even know how I feel about that.