Stressed to self-satisfaction

It snowed last night. Not excessively, but enough to cover the ground and add an extra chill to the house.

Problem is, I have ran out of wood.

My house is heated by a multi-fuel stove which is attached to the central heating system. Dad always maintained the heating. You’d hear the familiar sound of him making a fire every morning and the sound of him cutting wood in the afternoon. It was a source of pride for him to do that until he became too ill to.

From that moment until now, I have bought wood. It is not cheap and a bone of contention as there is wood stored in my Dad’s shed but most is too big for the fire. The log splitter broke recently, as did the mitre saw.

I have replaced the mitre saw. But it is still in its box since I discovered there would be some assembly needed and I have no idea what I am doing and am scared of cutting my hand off.

This last week or so, I’ve been going out and breaking up wood with a rather blunt axe. Obviously, this has limitations. Up until yesterday, there was enough narrow wood for me to use.

Today, I woke up to the beauty of the snow and the sinking feeling that I have no wood.

Why have I not bought wood, I hear you ask?

I tried to. I ordered some over a week ago. It still hasn’t arrived and I have no idea why. The man is now ignoring my texts. It is Bank Holiday Monday and I refuse to pay £6 for a small bag of logs at the garage that won’t last half a day when I have a shed full of wood outside.

So, I glumly stayed in bed this morning, stressed and wondering what I was to do. I felt sorry for myself. I felt alone. I missed my Dad and the knowledge that he was always there to help me and I have no one to ask for help.

Eventually, I got up, put on my warm coat, walking boots and bobble hat and made myself go outside. Maybe, maybe, I would find some if I looked hard enough.

The brightness of the day, the crunch of the snow underfoot and probably the pride in myself for getting up and trying, put a little bounce in my step.

I searched, I put some effort in and managed to fill a large bag with wood. I also managed to find a bag of coal which I also thought I had ran out of.

I could have stayed in bed sulking and feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I made myself get up and get motivated and this time it paid off.

I’m stronger than I think.

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My heart

Needless to say if you read last nights post, I was feeling low this morning and fearful of how Wildcard may have reacted to my very late night text (which I didn’t think he would see or respond to until the morning) and our subsequent tear filled phone call.

As always though, he called, he was fine and I remonstrated with myself for doubting him. I’m not sure what he needs to do to stop me thinking like that -and that is the answer. It’s me that needs to change.

Somewhat happier but still overcast with the gloom of cancelled flights and the unknown future, I went into my Dad’s shed to cut some wood for the fire. Apart from the addition of more wood, it is exactly how he left it when he died. I go in there only when I have to and that tends to be when I have ran out of bought wood so need to cut some. Dad wouldn’t be happy with either of those facts. In this large shed, I have memories of packing potatoes, Halloween parties, Dad’s flatbed truck and in later years, Dad’s beautiful wood carvings.

So, in I go. I balance a long, thin strip of wood so that I can hit it and split it with the axe. (Don’t try this at home). I managed to split a few before one stubborn piece leaves me panting and frustrated. I smack it a few times whilst it is on the ground, spraying soil and wood shavings around. And then, something springs up from the ground, uncovered by my frustration and ineffectual use of the axe.

I recognise its shape immediately. It’s a large wooden heart.

Dad made heart shaped necklaces (which I wear whenever I need him near me). He made me a beautiful wooden heart plaque made from 3 hearts from different stained wood.

This is bigger though. It’s covered in mud and I don’t know what state it is in underneath. It is now sat on my woodburner, drying out, before I can brush off the mud and see what is underneath.

Regardless, the sight of that heart appearing from the dark soil…hidden for so long, made me smile. Dad is watching me and he is telling me that love can survive the dark times – it is still there, even when it seems hidden or far away.

Thank you Daddy xxx

The beech tree

I am living in the same house that I was brought up in although it is somewhat altered. I’ve lived here for 38 of my 40 years.

I bought the house from my parents 14 years ago and extended it. The garden is huge but not as big as it was when I was a child as it was then a small holding.

Before the extension was built, there was a line of beech hedging that ran along the side of the house and drive, separating the farm. The hedge was tall and my dad cut a walk way through it so we could access the caravan-come-play den. Even when the caravan was gone, the archway was an entrance to a magical world or a great escape route for hide and seek. In spring I loved to touch the slightly furry unopened leaves.

When the extension was built, the hedge came down – all except one lone bush. That bush became a tree.

Over the years I’ve had a few rows with my dad about this tree and others. Whilst I love trees, I’m not sure they should be that big and so close to the house. I also believe in some strategic pruning to help them retain a good shape. My dad disagreed. He loved trees and didn’t believe in pruning.

Dad died, but the tree still stands. In spring and summer, I love sitting back in my chair and gazing up at the patterned leaves against the blue sky.

This summer, I moved my seating area to under this tree and fought with dead leaves and bugs to wrap fairy lights around it.

And now, in autumn, I love gazing at the changing colours and tactfully ignore the thousands of leaves I should be brushing up.

Life changes. We change, we shift. We can be quick to dismiss something, lodged in a mindset that ends up being the wrong one. We should pause, reflect , and see things for what they truly are – not what we suppose them to be.

A lonely place.

Grief is a very lonely place.

The fact is, no one fully understands your grief. Before I lost my Dad, I was sympathetic to my friend who had lost hers, but I didn’t understand.

And even now that we have both lost our fathers, our grief is unique to us just like we are unique as individuals, our dad’s were unique and therefore our relationship with them was also unique.

The same can be said of me and my sisters. Whilst we understand each other’s grief for our dad better than anyone else, our grief still differs because our relationship, our memories and experiences and our personalities differ.

Grief is a lonely place.

I need you to understand, those of you who are lucky enough not to have lost someone close to you yet, that grief never goes away. That pain, that loss… The emptiness and the overwhelming emotions that come with it… They never go away. They don’t get easier.

What happened for me is that I learned to deal with it. I found a way to lock it up inside so that I could carry on with my life. But that comes with a promise – a promise that at the right time, I open it up and allow myself to feel.

The only issue with this is that sometimes you are forced to feel when you don’t want to. Grief has its own strength and power and can never be entirely tamed.

Sunday is the second anniversary of my dad’s death. The grief has been building for days, unknown, in the background. Others have noticed but I haven’t… Until I did. Until it was too much and its threatening to take over. And I have still got three days left until that day.

Be patient with those that grieve because they are trying to fight a war they will never win.

Song – 3rd April 2020 (daily prompt)

Don’t you love how music is a memory? How a song can evoke thoughts and feelings and sensations?

I love how, when playing a song, a line or a verse can alight a fire in you as if somehow the writer has written exactly what you are thinking and feeling.

There are songs that remind me of my dad. Songs that he loved – many that we played as he was dying and at his funeral. There were songs that we sang to him when he was unconscious because they summed up how we were feeling. And afterwards, these songs give us comfort. Like the time when I was cleaning my son’s bedroom and had music playing out of my phone. I was thinking of my dad and hoped and prayed and willed him for a sign that he was OK. The next three songs, I kid you not, did exactly that. Weird.

I have a YouTube play list of songs for Wild Card. Songs he has sang or played for me. Songs I have sang for him. Songs I played when I lay in his bed each morning, waiting for that knock on the door and the warmth and love of his body as he came to me.

But it’s not just songs that can have this effect. Listening to particular sounds are important too. Like the wind through the trees, birdsong, waves. Just closing your eyes and listening… Nature has its own songs too.

Taking the time to pause and listen is really important.

My worst enemy is…

Definitely myself. Or my errant, spontaneous and often negative, thoughts.

I had an hour long chat yesterday morning with Wild Card before I went shopping. I actually enjoyed shopping for once… Mainly because I discovered I have now dropped three dress sizes. Yes three. So shopping became pleasurable, particularly as I was buying clothes for my trip to see Wild Card which is now less than two weeks away…

I spent the afternoon with my friend, of course dissecting the situation with him. She’s supportive, honest, and not overly negative. She asked more about my thoughts for the future and I just told her that I am enjoying this one step at a time. And I’ve been telling my head that ever since. Can I cope with years of this? What if he doesn’t like me when I get there? Nerves, anticipation, paranoia… Just focus on one step at a time.

Back to being my own worst enemy…

I got home late afternoon and as I hadn’t heard from him all day, sent a message. An hour and a half later there had been no response. I don’t have to say any more do I? My head was jumping to its own conclusions as usual. But, thinking about my recent training, I tried thinking logically and sensibly… He always calls back. He never misses. He has his own life – maybe he was just busy. I’ve missed his texts before! And he’s told me to call when I want… So, I did.

And of course, everything was fine. He was out in the city with his family. His brother was getting his hair cut, so Wild Card took me on a little walk so I could see the surroundings. He kept asking me what I thought. As he got back to the car, he told me he would call me later.

Fifteen minutes later he was calling again, this time showing me a shopping precinct. It was amazing to see it and made me even more excited for my visit. In some ways it clarified my expectations too.

So, my stupid head thought the worst and in return he was as attentive and thoughtful as ever, showing me his world and wanting my opinion on it. He didn’t need to do any of that.

That should be enough, shouldn’t it? How many times does he need to prove those negative thoughts wrong? But oh no, my over active imagination decided to start again today…

I had my usual ‘good morning’ text. So far so good. I got home and the clock steadily worked its way to six and so the anticipation started to build, as usual. My kids are home, so of course their needs come first, so I work to get everything done before he calls. At half six, I sit down and I hadn’t heard anything… And then I heard the familiar ping of my phone.

Butterflies dancing in my stomach, I opened messenger to see that he has sent me a video. I waited, rather impatiently, for it to download.

It was an Ed Sheeran video of ‘Perfect’, with the lyrics in both his first language and English. I think it might be one of the most romantic things he’s done and my heart just swelled. (Read the lyrics and you’ll know what I mean.)

But was he being romantic or was he just sending me a song he liked? If I assume he was being romantic and he wasn’t, it will be really awkward. How to answer… I send a kiss face and said ‘I love that song’. Neutral, I thought.

Ten minutes later… No response. How the hell can he send that and then not respond or even read my message?

Oh. He had sent 45 minutes before it had finally downloaded. Grrrr.

Nothing for it but to call him…. And he’s on the phone.

To who? Obviously another woman. He’s probably sent it to all of us and she responded first. I actually stopped myself at this point. What on earth was I doing? He’s just sent something really romantic and I’m being negative. Again. So I reasoned with myself. He’s told you that he would not sit at home on the phone with another woman when his parents know about me. It’s probably his brother or his friend or something. He will call back.

Which he did. But when I answered, he wasn’t at home. He was out for a walk. Which meant he could have been on the phone to another woman. What the hell is wrong with me?! We spoke very briefly but it was hard to hear so he said he would call me when he got home.

So when he called back he knew instantly, instantly, there was something wrong. Even though I’d given myself a stern telling off for jumping to conclusions. But he knew. It didn’t matter how much I smiled and said I was fine, he kept asking. He said he knew me and I wasn’t acting the same. Did I not like the music he sent me? At this point I had even asked him if he sent it to be romantic. He replied that he loved me and thought about me all the time and he liked the song and found it in our languages… Did I not want him to be romantic? He asked if it was work, my family, had he done something to upset me… He even mentioned the fact he had been on the phone but I did such a good job of saying ‘what?!’ that he changed the subject and kept questioning me. Yeah, because you realised you were not at home… He even pulled the… ‘if you love me and want me, you need to tell me what’s wrong’ tactic.

Sure, I’m going to tell you that I became insanely jealous and paranoid when you’ve done nothing more than be on the phone when I called.

Luckily, for me, at this point my youngest came in to the room and dominated the conversation for a while. And yes, Wild Card is brilliant with him. Swoon.

The conversation ended not long after that as my son needed to go to bed and Wild Card had overheard his Dad in the next room saying something about a bereavement. He blew kisses at me and told me to not be sad. I told him I wasn’t, but clearly I hadn’t convinced him.

What is wrong with me? Really, I mean what is wrong? The facts speak for themselves. I’ve got to stop jumping to conclusions and stick with the facts. I keep hoping that a week with him, confirming that we both feel the same and I will stop worrying so much.

But. My own worst enemy isn’t so sure I can manage a worry free existence.

Heartbroken

I’ve never had a Christmas without my Dad until last year.

I coped when I split up from my husband and we planned to share the children because my Dad was there. One year, he was supposed to go to my evil step sisters but stayed at home when he knew that I would be alone.

Since moving back to/buying my childhood home, I have cooked Christmas Dinner. There would always be a combination of people and my sisters and their families would often be there too. Even one year when I told my Dad it was not my turn and that we should await and invitation from one of them, he somehow persuaded me to invite everyone.

Last year, my children were due to spend Christmas Day with my ex. Knowing that this first year without our Dad would be difficult, and wanting to fill this grieving home with people and laughter, I invited everyone here, just as Dad would have liked. This included my ex’s parents and family and my in-laws’ families. Not everyone who was invited came but my house was full: for me, my children and my sisters, it meant our childhood home was full of love and laughter as well as the grief.

This year then, it was definitely my ex’s turn to have the children. It was also the year where my sisters would go to their in-laws.

I’ve told everyone that I’m more than happy to be on my own. I’ve painted a picture of a hot bath and clean pj’s, chocolate, wine and a Christmas food. ‘I’ll relax,’ I say.

Truth is, I don’t want anyone to feel obliged to invite me. I have never wanted to be a burden to my sisters: they have their own families. I have to live my own life.

Sure they’ve commented that I ‘can’t spend Christmas alone’. But that is very different to, ‘I want you to spend Christmas with us’ or ‘we want to spend Christmas with you’. If I can’t have a Christmas with my kids, my Dad, my sisters or a man who loves me then I would rather be on my own.

Tonight, I have found out that my youngest sister in not going to her in laws. She’s actually going to our evil step sisters.

I am heart broken.

This is the step sister who refused for my mother to be mentioned at my Dad’s funeral. It’s the woman who, one week after my Dad’s death, sent me a text message saying that my Dad hated living with me and that he felt like a prisoner. None of which was true, but she is so evil and jealous that Dad lived with me she would do anything to hurt me.

My three sisters and I have barely spoken to her and my step brothers since Dad’s funeral. Last year, my youngest sister tried to build a bridge by visiting her on Christmas Eve but was met with anger and bitterness.

Clearly I’m wrong. Clearly my two sisters have been in contact with her.

All the years that I have cooked and prepared family Christmases for everyone. Just because I wanted us to all be together. My ex used to be mad with me, saying it shouldn’t all be me and that I always ended up exhausted. I don’t care because my family was together.

I feel like my sisters don’t want to spend Christmas with me. That was OK when I thought it was because it was right that they spent it with their husbands’families this year. It’s not alright now. And no, I didn’t get an invite to my other sisters who is having all of her in laws at her house for the first time. And that was OK too.

Now I’m heartbroken. I’ve never felt so alone or unwanted or taken for granted in my life.

If my dad was here, I wouldn’t feel this way.

Holiday blues

Being the first day of Half Term, and considering I am exhausted and lucky enough to have the house to myself, you’d think I would be pretty content today.

As my title suggests, I’m not.

I’ve been having a Dad day. I think about my Dad everyday in one way or another, but often they are fleeting glimpses of a memory or a recollection of his loss. I acknowledge the hurt but I tell myself to move on: I have too many people relying on me to dwell.

But today I can slow down: no school for a week. So the flood of emotion I have held at bay breaks its dam and consumes me.

I sat in my living room, oh so still, the only movement the rise and fall of my chest and the trickle of tears. I let it take over me. I pictured him in my mind… In hospital and at home. The funny things he’d say and do. And I swear, as I cried, I could almost feel him hugging me – the memory was so strong.

That was this morning. My eyes are still stinging and puffy from the tears. I feel even more tired than before. And the anxiety-ache has taken residency in my chest again.

You cannot escape grief. You can’t ignore it or out run it. Because just as the strength of your love for your loved one with never wane, neither will the grief. You just learn to build a dam around it.

In our grief we are not alone.

Silent but present

I know I’ve not written for a while. Truth is, I’ve nothing to say.

I’m back at work. I’m liking my new role but, as is always, my life revolves around my working hours. There’s a lot going on and most of it I can’t control. I’ve had some feelings of anxiety about everything but, well, I keep telling myself there is nothing I can do so I may as well just carry on carrying on.

Since going back to work, I’ve been seeing my sisters less. I think their other halves had finally got to the point where patience had ran out. Subsequently, the last few weeks we have had weekly-ish visits instead of the daily visits.

They all seem happier in consequence but it was difficult for me at first. For the first time since April, I’ve had to learn to occupy myself again. It can be lonely but I’m managing OK, I think.

One of things I have done, was set up some theme nights. We’ve put lots of categories in a jar and each month we will pull out a category and plan a night. This was for two reasons: one, to provide some structure so that my brothers-in-law don’t feel overwhelmed and two, I want us all to move away from the alcohol and take-away fuelled evenings which had become so common place since Dad died.

Our first night was Friday and we had selected Indian. My youngest sister made homemade onion bhajis, raita and salad. My other sister and I made two curries – a madras and a tikka masala.

The night was a success! The food was delicious, cheaper than a takeaway and we had fun cooking together. The evening was civilised and entertaining. We’ve now decided to do one bi-monthly and where possible, to add other things – a linked film, fancy dress (for book or film themes) etc.

So, for now that’s it.

Sneaky grief

The first anniversary of Dad’s death and Father’s Day being a week apart was unfortunate.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to describe how the grief has worked over this time, particularly now – a week later – when my mind has resumed its previous state.

The closet thing I can think of, is the grief being like a balloon. A self inflating balloon. The balloon is always inflated, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

When Dad first died, the balloon inflated quicker than I could imagine. It inflated to capacity, threatening to burst. It obliterated and hid everything else in my life. Its pressure made me ache and cry.

Slowly, very slowly, the balloon has deflated. Little by little. Sometimes, it has reinflated again. Then it has gone down again. But it is always there.

In the lead up to that horrible weak, that balloon has inflated pretty steadily but much more than I realised. I knew it was going to be tough but just not how bad. And even worse, it’s deflation has been slower, more stubborn. The balloon feels stretched by its recent reinflation.

It’s only now that I realise that as well as the obvious grief and anxiety I felt in the lead up to this time, my body and mind were coping with the grief in a way I didn’t realise, until the time ended.

Today I feel exhausted but I feel positive too. I’m ready to focus on my life again and to lead a life that I know my Dad was proud of.

I’m not saying that balloon is gone. I’m not saying it won’t inflate again. But for today, I can cope. And that’s OK.