Manual

I’m in the bath again. This time I’m soaking in perfect lavender…the water is pastel and little lavender flowers dance on the top.

I’m trying to relax. I’ve just had a huge row with my daughter.

It’s been coming for a while. We are both frustrated with each other.

I’ve long thought – well, for the past few years since my daughter hit 15 or so – that the issue with teens isn’t just the hormones. It’s the transition- the metamorphosis from child to adult. They don’t know who they are so we don’t know how to interact or respond.

And, as I’ve just explained to my daughter, there’s no manual for us parents. There’s no chapter specifying that now is the time to back off and let them be their own person. There’s no chapter which says now is the moment to let them make their own mistakes, even though it hurts you to watch, knowing you may have helped some way.

I don’t know when to be a mother and when to back off.

I’ve been told, in no uncertain terms, when I’m interfering. In temper, yes, I’ve been told that my opinion is not wanted and that I need to keep out of it. And it’s hurt, a lot. She’s made decisions of which I’ve had no part – not even in the discussion and consideration stage. I’ve not been wanted and have been repelled.

I’ve just explained to her that I don’t know what she wants from me, one moment to the next. One moment she’s an adult living her own life. The next she acts like a child and I’m failing by not treating her like I do her younger (and admittedly needier) siblings.

There are times I’ve felt like a failure for not being more involved, more insistent. There are times I’ve failed because I’ve been too demanding and domineering.

It’s not unusual for a teenage daughter to class with her mother.

So, why is there no manual?

My daughter said to me, that we don’t have a normal relationship. I told her to define normal…. every relationship is as different as every personality and ecery circumstances around it. A manual is pointless for that reason – it will not help everyone.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Communication, I guess. We haven’t communicated well because we’ve been hurt and scared to hurt ourselves and each other more.

Another thing to add to my thinking list. 🤔

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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..?

What is it…?

I’m 42.

Is this a mid life crisis? Is this what it feels like? I’ve had a successful life in Western terms: University education, promising career of promotions, married, children, mortgage, own car. Admittedly, no savings. No drugs, crime or deviance in my life.

So why, please tell me, do I feel like I’m at that godforsaken crossroads AGAIN? The one where I have absolutely no idea which path to take.

And…what’s worse…I have no one to ask.

Yes, yes…I know…it’s my decision to make. My life, my decision.

But a rather alarming thought hit me before, as I was stewing in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding me. I genuinely have no one to ask. No father. My mother is, sadly, no longer the person I would go to for advice though I love her dearly. My younger sisters are struggling in their own lives. I have no grandparents. And…well…

Wildcard. Maybe my sister was right all those months ago when we argued. Maybe he and I don’t talk about anything deep and meaningful. I don’t tell him everything. I try. I give him the headlines, hoping he will understand. I’m not sure he does. And he rarely comments. Sometimes I ask him for an opinion and he won’t give me one. He says he doesn’t really understand or he doesn’t know. Not in all situations, granted. But in enough for it now to worry me.

But, what is it?? These are my problems and I have to deal with them? Or he’s my partner so we’re in this together? Hypothetically, of course.

Does he care when I’m upset or stressed? 100%. Does he try to cheer me up? Absolutely. Does he give me answers or suggestions? Occasionally. Am I trying to talk this situation positive? Yep.

My career is a stalled car. Quite a fancy one. I’m currently trying to decide whether to strip it for parts, fix it, dump it or upcycle it. I. Just. Don’t. Know.

What is it at the moment? Please reach out and let me know what you think of this….everyone around me seems to be struggling. My ex is off sick with stress. My youngest sister is at rock bottom. My other sister is struggling financially and feels something is missing in her life. My mum and partner are about to be made homeless. My eldest son was suicidal and has just been excluded from school. My daughter is as lost as me…barely finished studying, failed to get into Uni whilst also claiming she didn’t want to, walked out of an apprenticeship over poor conditions and pay, has no direction and is currently constantly ill and unemployed.

Is this a midlife crisis? Or is this just a really unfortunate set of circumstances? Is this Covid? The UK recession? The cost of living?

If this had happened 4 years ago, would I have had the strength and confidence to help them, like I used to? Should I be thinking about this…or again, are these their problems to solve? Do I carry their weight on my shoulders unhelpfully for all involved?

What is it? I’ve no one else to ask.

Anniversaries and celebrations

Afternoon!

I’m once again sat in my little wilderness, having a moment to think and journal.

I’ve worked this morning. Slowly but surely, my tutoring is picking up. After some issues with references (bitter referees rather than my wrong doing), I accepted more tutoring hours for now. When I get a full week I should be able to tick over financially whilst I consider my longer term goals.

It’s a beautiful day. And a good mood day for once.

Life continues its ups and downs. I’m still convinced I’ve done the right thing, but the right thing has led to a rather rocky path. I will get there though…just not sure where there is….can you relate?

This last week I celebrated three years with Wildcard. It was bittersweet really: I’m so happy to be with him but sad I’m not with him. So are the joys of a long distance relationship. It hit home a little more at the weekend when my mum came to visit. She’s funny with him – laughing and joking – and I love it. But I wondered, morose, if they will ever meet. Will he ever get here? Will he ever propose?

Mum and I were discussing her step daughter’s wedding cake which I will be making in a fortnight. We all talked the wedding and dresses and flowers…and again, I wondered if it will ever be my turn.

Yes…I know I’ve been married. But this is different. I feel different. It’s sad to say that, to admit that…but I want everyone to see and share in my absolute happiness and love for this man. That’s a very different to last time. And again, I don’t think it will happen. Not how I want.

It left me feeling very anxious and vulnerable all weekend. To be fair to him, he called me multiple times when my mum was there – so much that my family joked about it whilst my heart swelled. I want him there, so much. So much.

I have seven weeks to go before I am with him. Yesterday someone read a post from my fourth trip with him and, as always, I read it to remind myself of what happened.

Oh goodness…! I relived him coming into my room at 5am, neither of us able to sleep as it was my first night there. I felt the hugs and the warmth and the intimacy and my heart ached to be near him again.

His mother passed her driving test this week and I’m praying this will give him the confidence to finally make the decision to commit – I know how much worry for his parents is a factor in his hesitancy. It’s so easy for me then to daydream that he will propose on my next visit. But.. I’ve been there before, and expectation leads to disappointment. It will happen when – if – it’s right. I know he loves me, I really do. I just need to be patient.

In other news, following a little trip of her own, my sister has been reinspired by our business ideas. She’s considering moving in with me for a year or so to help me financially and to prepare for the business and also to help her save to hopefully buy her own place. Watch this space.

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.

2.40am

I can’t remember the last time I slept on a couch: One Christmas a few years ago when Dad had died and I spent Christmas Eve with my sister and her now ex husband?

I not going to entirely blame their 6 year omd son now, who is asleep in my bed alongside his 7 year old niece. I could blame my 9 year old son who championed a ‘sleepover’ but didn’t actually want anyone sleeping in his room (not even his bed!l…perhaps he knew something I didn’t.

Since 11pm, after giggles and snuggles and photos sent to mummies (them happy, me in mock despair) I’ve been kicked repeatedly, shouted at in sleep, shouted at awake, covers repeatedly pulled from me.

What’s not helped is I’m actually unwell too (I did warn my sisters) and suspect that I may well have a temperature too. I know that I have barely slept, and if I have, it’s that sleep where you think you’re awake but very still and can’t move.

So, I’ve moved to the couch.

Today, well yesterday really, I finally went to my the school and retrieved my things from my office. It’s taken me all week to build myself up to do that, a few days of procrastination, and my sister coming with me. Maybe that’s part of the reason I agreed to a sleepover.

I also received my last paycheck today. There’s some comfort in that until I realise that from Monday I’m not actually earning anything. Eeek. Some trawling through job sites found some more tutoring agencies looking for Tutors and with better pay than last year…so, there’s hope I guess.

The more people I speak to about my business plan, the more they tell me to go for it. There is no business like mine in the area, and adding the niche I would eventually like to adapt to, I have these feelings that this could work. It also could fail terribly which is what is stopping me. From a risk perspective, my biggest issue if it failed initially would be the cost of the course which gives me adherence to the body who will approve insurance. And, actually, whilst I certainly don’t have that money to throw away, it is an investment which ever way you look at it.

WordPress, I’m going to do it.

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.

Glamorous

I’ve unfortunately hit the brakes today. It’s midday and I just don’t feel like doing anything.

I haven’t been entirely slovenly though. I woke up early today, using Mel Robbins’ ‘wake up challenge’ as inspiration. Nighttime is often a trigger for me: I know when I turn off that light my mind will race. I’d taken to scrolling just to block thoughts until I’m too exhausted to do anything but sleep. Unfortunately, that way I can hit 1am or later before actually dropping off. Recently I’ve switched back to reading and whilst I’m still passing midnight awake, it’s got to be better than scrolling. Naturally, I’m sleeping in later which is unhelpful.

Well, today the alarm was set for 6.45 and up I got. I took my boys to school, only to discover that on his first day back, my eldest had forgotten to take his ADHD medication.

I returned home, showered and beautified a little and then braved visiting the school with his meds.

As I’ve mentioned previously, this is the school I worked at for over 10 years and the subject of the end of my leadership career 18 months ago. I’ve not stepped foot in it since then, even though my son goes there. Today, I had no choice. Today, I had to do this for him.

Those were my thoughts as I pulled up to the school. I took a deep breath or three, firmly planted my brave face on, and walked in.

I was met with the receptionist, someone I knew from my time there. She looked happy to see me and commented on how well I looked, saying I looked glamorous! I was wearing a slightly bobbly pink jumper and black jeans, so hardly glamorous, but I took the compliment. She whispered about how bad the school was and how unhappy she was there…seems to be a running theme in schools at the moment. I said hello to a couple of other colleagues, gave my son his meds and walked out with my head held high. Whilst I’m not going to happily walk in there again unless necessary, I achieved something today.

I came home, picked up the carpet cleaner and returned it to the store, picking up a few groceries on the way. Since coming home and eating, I don’t feel like doing anything. Not in a depressive way – I actually feel good – but in a lazy way.

It’s now the evening. My writing was interrupted by a message from my cousin’s wife – she’s been a bit low so I went out to meet her and bought her a cute little pot rose. We chatted briefly and I told her about my dream business – despite all the struggles she is having, she encouraged me to do it. I’m tempted just to book the training and go for it. I returned home to clean and completed all the new agency paperwork I was avoiding.

I’m getting there. I’m doing it. I didn’t go back to bed, I didn’t just sit there.

I can do this.

Today

Today, I felt love.

Today, I felt peace.

Today, I felt anger.

Today, I felt fear.

Today, I felt proud.

Today, I felt disappointment.

Today, I felt inspired.

*******

Where to start…?

Today started out with anxiety. My son was returning to school after a week for a meeting about the support they would hopefully put in place for him. My ex took him for the meeting. I used to work there and so couldn’t face it, but I’d done the preparations by emailing requests and speaking to the staff member yesterday.

My ex and son came after the meeting and said it had gone really well. The teacher had brought a copy of my email and had agreed to everything on it. My ex hadn’t had to intervene (I’d prepped him on what to say) and my son was calm and prepared for hai return tomorrow.

I felt what only could be described as relief and momentary peace. 🥰

When they left, I got stuck into cleaning my house. I’d hired a carpet cleaner to remove some unfortunate stains caused by pets and kids. It’s hard work but I quite enjoy it. I had done the living room yesterday and did upstairs today. I cleaned both boys’ rooms and listened to a Mel Robbins’ podcast which motivated me further. I was proud of myself. Mel’s podcasts are BRILLIANT and she inspired me to keep going and be positive.

Unfortunately, my sister did not arrive as planned. That annoyed me as it’s not the first time.

By dinner time I was exhausted.

A colleague from school called me and I listened as she moaned about the state of it all. I did not feel one ounce of regret for leaving: she confirmed all my reasons for going.

I then spoke to Wildcard. Today, he showed me love repeatedly. At one point, he’d look at me sneakily and I’d blow him a kiss. He’d look away and then do the whole thing again. This went on much longer than I expected. It was lovely. I felt loved.

Disappointment soon crept in though. At the end of the call, I went downstairs to discover an alarming smell…. turns out, my house isn’t warm enough to dry carpets and the downstairs is starting to smell like damp washing. All that time, effort and money…

So, tomorrow, before I return to vacuum, I will go over the carpet again and see if I can pick up some calor gas for my fire. It’s an expensive way of drying a carpet, but I don’t have much choice. Whilst today I finally braved calling round for a chimney sweep, I can’t risk a fire until its been done and that’s a few weeks off.

Us humans are emotional beings. I like that I’ve felt all this today: it’s better that just feeling depressed.

I’m doing it…I’m clawing my way back up.