Trip 6, Day 10: home

Five days late in posting. My apologies!

I’m at the Gate, waiting to board my last flight home.

The flight to Spain took just over an hour. On reflection, travel wise it has added nothing as today’s flight is still 3 hours – wait, no, it’s actually saved me the three hours train journey. I will land at my local airport and will be home within half an hour.

Just like that.

Just like that, I’m back to normal. And with that sentiment, a heavy heavy weight descends on my chest.

The Hostal was simple but sufficient. I’d spoken to him briefly in the airport but I was a little lost at that time, unable to find a cash point or taxi rank (note to self, ATMs in the airport are extortionate and most taxis offer card payments 🧐). When I arrived 20 minutes later, I called him. He was tired but checked I was OK. I searched his face for…something. If he felt anything at this time, it was hidden.

I spent the rest of the evening messaging my married friend and she consoled me, kindly. But, she also said this trip needed some analysis. I needed to get control of my own future. When the time was right, we would discuss everything. She would consult her husband surreptitiously, and gain insight from a man of Wildcard’s age and culture.

As we parted I commented: if all was good, I wouldn’t need their advice, would I?

*******

I slept relatively well. I woke in the night too hot as I had blasted the slow heating to full as the room was freezing when I had arrived. By 3am, I was roasting.

This morning, I finally woke at 8.30am – around the time Wildcard would come to me, and I felt an ache like no other. I considered that he was probably still sleeping and took the time to reflect in the calm, quiet of a morning alone in a Spanish Hotel.

Within half an hour, I was ready to message. He called within minutes.

I was still searching, of course. Still searching for signs that he felt like I do. He looked tired, yes. Asking never works, but of course, I tried. We were on the phone for some time and I asked again to ‘tell me something good’. He joked, with the melodramatic voice he gives me in these situations, that he hadn’t slept thinking about me. That he was hurting because I was not there, that he couldn’t breathe. I don’t know if any of what he said was true. I only know that was how I felt. We said goodbye and I made myself get up, wipe my tears and go out. I walked the quiet streets and eventually stopped at a popular cafe for freshly squeezed orange juice and amazing coffee. Unfortunately, there were no gluten free options but I enjoyed sipping and watching the many sparrows darting so close to me for scraps.

I walked a little more and visited a supermarket to buy Spanish sweets for my children. Eventually, I made my way back and repacked and showered. I thought some more.

As I finish this post, I have completed another one too. It contains my reflections and real heartfelt soul searching – not just about Wildcard, but more importantly about myself.

Advertisement

Allies

I’ve had a tumultuous time since I last posted.

I spent some more time in my new school and loved it. I also braved a day on supply in a primary school. I don’t know why I was so nervous about it – and avoided it – but I loved my day there. It’s given my confidence that if the work in the special school is not for me, I would be happy working in a primary. It’s also confirmed, again, that I want to start my business. The work situation has settled for now and I am finished for Christmas. In the end, I’ve earned reasonable money the last two months so the pressure is off a little.

I’ve become increasingly aware of how much the end if my leadership career still affects me and my confidence. I thought I was over it but it’s clear I’m not.

The situation with my son continues. We’ve had dramas, periods of calm and full blown anxiety at times. Most of the time, our anxieties have proved to be only that of which I am very grateful. Unfortunately, some immature actions have alerted agencies and us as his parents to his vulnerability to be influenced by others. His SEN makes him both naive and impulsive and his weaker social skills are also not helping. Support is in place now and I’m, finally, beginning to feel we’ve bolted the horse in the stable (rather than when it’s already left, if you know that saying). I can’t pretend I’m not worried but there is some comfort.

My son’s key worker has been a real support and is actually an ex-teacher herself. He has become a real ally. We’ve had some frank conversations about what has happened to both of us and the state of the education system here. She’s given me faith but also insight that I’m not over what happened. I’ve been put forward for more counselling and I’ve accepted. I think it will be good for me and help to release the poison of the past.

Things will Wildcard have been good lately and it’s only 8 days until I fly out to him for my sixth visit. Similarly, there’s been a few events and realisations of late which are helping me to understand him and our situation a little clearer.

My Facebook friend – the one married to a man from Wildcard’s country – continues to be a real friend and source of comfort and understanding. We talk a few times a week and her situation and place within the online community has helped me understand to a greater level, how challenging a marriage of different cultures is – regardless of how much love you have. I think anyone in an LDR of this kind acknowledges the differences but is blinded by their love and wish for a union to really see how hard it can be. My friend, five years into closing the distance, is still learning and experiencing the challenges of different cultures.

Conversely, the World Cup had also highlighted a few things which have led to meaningful conversations with Wildcard. His relationship with his parents and his loyalty and dedication to them, is not just that of a son but also an integral part of his culture and religion. Being the last son there, the eldest son, he feels this responsibility keenly. And, being the eldest and in thar position of responsibility myself once, how can I not understand that?

We’ve had one moment of tension recently, when he mentioned how his brother and his then girlfriend (now wife) had travelled and resided together. This is forbidden in his religion and is something that Wildcard would never do. Unfortunately, my face portrayed my….well, jealousy of this time they’d had alone together. I love Wildcard’s parents, I really do but of course I would like to experience time with Wildcard alone where he is not on edge. Ironically, of course, even if he agreed to it, he would be more anxious than when his parents are there. Wildcard saw my jealous contemplations, questioned me as usual and became frustrated at what I said.

I’ve no doubt that at this current time, he’s doing the best he can. I love him for exactly who he is – I love that he has integrity and is a good man. I’d never want to change him, just for some alone time. I explained that to him and he later told me I had done nothing wrong. The moment passed and has been forgotten. But again, it’s highlighted the type of man he is and why things are as they are.

So, all in all, as the year comes to an end, I’m feeling some peace going into Christmas. I’ve a very busy week ahead of me before I travel but I’m looking forward to happy festivities with my family and then spending a week with the man I love.

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.

It’s a beautiful day.

This morning’s wins…I’ve practised facial care. I’ve made waffles. I’ve spoken to my mother.

I’m sat outside. Not in bed.

There’s no filter on that photo. Beautiful, isn’t it? Even though my hedge is overgrown and there are nettles in the ‘flower bed’. You can see the roses my dad loved – the ones that have grown into the hawthorn hedge and grow above it to reach the sunlight. It’s October and they are still flowering.

Too high up for a clear picture, but you get the point.

Then there’s the stag horn. Two in fact. These are not the original one. It died years ago. We left these two off shoots – two of many – and they are growing, crooked, in completely the wrong place. Their leaves are just beginning to turn colour. Beautiful.

Neither of these plants should be where they are. They’ve not been cared for or looked after. They’re not planted in the optimum place. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve tried to get rid of them -long, long ago when I actually cared for this garden. And yet, there they are on this glorious autumn day. They’ve kept fighting and growing against all odds. And they’re thriving, against all odds.

WordPress, I need your help.

Don’t worry, I’m not asking for money!

For the past 18 months I’ve had a business idea and it’s an idea that won’t go away. It’s something I really want to do but my lack of confidence is stopping me.

What I want from you is your honest opinion. In a way, you are the perfect audience because I’m not trying to sell you my idea because you all live too far away. All I want is your opinion. You have no reason to lie or sugar coat the truth because you don’t actually know me.

If you’re willing to help a stranger from a different land, please get in touch. Ideally, you will have children or nieces or nephews as my business is for children.

Many thanks in anticipation.

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.

Dare to dream

I wake early, just as the morning light is starting to glow outside the window. I stretch and feel the warm strength of the body next to me. I turn carefully to see the night black hair and beard and caramel skin. I inflate with love as I breath him in.

Cautious not to wake him, I gently remove him hand from my waist and he turns over in the movement so I can see his toned back. I smile. I’m so happy.

I get up and dressed then quietly leave the house, dog bounding in front of me. The morning is warm but there is a cool bite to the breeze.

I return 30 minutes later, relishing in the fresh air and the warmth to my muscles. I feed and water the dog and jump in the shower.

I’m still amazed that I’ve managed to keep the weight off. I’m definitely not perfect, but I’m fitter and slimmer fitter than I’ve ever been. I dry off and wrap the towel around me and go back tonight room.

He’s still asleep. As I towel dry and brush my hair, I watch him knowing that I must wake him soon. I moisturise my body and just as I reach down for my underwear, I hear his voice deep and sleepy, calling my back to bed.

I crawl in next to him and I feel so happy, excited and content as his arms circle me, our legs entwine and I feel his soft, soft kisses. Before long, we are making love.

Too soon, we are getting up. Whilst he showers, I go down and make breakfast and put something in the slow cooker for later.

He comes down and I inhale when I see his black hair, wet and brushed back. He teases me and we laugh. I hurriedly drink tea whilst he eats before I leave the house for work.

I arrive home before him. I check our dinner, before changing and doing some chores. He arrives home and kisses me sweetly before changing and lying on the couch.

Just before dinner is ready, he gets up and sets the table and we sit and eat together, talking about our day. After clearing up together, we both sit on the couch, his legs in my lap. I catch-up on a few emails whilst he plays on his phone but after half an hour, he calls his parents. I speak to them briefly, missing them, and telling them that we will be over to visit soon. I leave him to talk to them and go upstairs to put away some washing and freshen up.

Before long, he has followed me upstairs and he grabs me, kissing me and slapping my bottom in jest. He changes and we lock the house before getting in the car.

He loves his car. It’s one of the first things he saved up for and it is his pride and joy. We drive for around half an hour, music playing with words I think I will never understand, and arrive at the seaside town.

After checking and double checking he’s locked the car, we start to walk hand in hand. We stroll towards the beach and walk along the promenade in the fading light. I know people look at him – I love to look at him! – but the squeeze of his hand and his jokes and laughter make me know I am the only one for him.

We make our way to a bar and sit outside drinking soft drinks and talking and laughing. Soon we are heading home.

As I put a load of washing om, he takes the dog out. When he returns, we lock up and head to our bedroom. He turns on the TV as he lies on bed and I sit and take my makeup off. I then get in alongside him, and read a little, my head resting on his chest. My eyes begin to droop and so I put my book down and kiss him softly. He turns off the TV and we kiss a little before I turn and go to sleep: he puts his headphone in and plays on his phone whilst I sleep.

I wake in the morning to his body holding me tight and his hands caressing my skin. We make love again, slowly and luxuriously, and then I reluctantly get up to shower.

I make coffee and take the dog in the garden whilst I drink it. Before long, he joins me outside and drinks his tea whilst we plan the day ahead.

He takes the dog out for a run whilst I prepare breakfast and call my children to check when they will arrive.

Once again, we eat together and then he goes to clean his car whilst I prepare a picnic. My son arrives during that time and I sit and listen to him whilst I finish preparing.

We have a wonderful day out. I love watching him with my son and the relationship they are building. They are friends and I am so happy to see how relaxed they are – that is until their competitive side comes out!

We arrive home late in the afternoon and the pair of them go on to the xbox whilst I start preparing dinner. During this time, my other children arrive with their other half. The house is filled with laughter and talking.

He helps me prepare the rest of the food and we cook together, listening and laughing at the sibling taunting. Finally, we go outside and eat around the table, nightlights glowing in the garden and the smell of honeysuckle in the air.

As the night turns to chill, we return to the house. My daughter and her partner leave but the rest of us play games for a while before we all return to our rooms.

When I wake in the morning I am alone but see the coffee waiting for me on the bedside table. I can hear him talking to his brother on the phone downstairs amongst the shouts of my son reacting to the game he’s playing. I lazily walk downstairs and am greeted with breakfast and a kiss. We eat and then I get ready for the day.

My family soon arrive and its all hands on deck as we prepare a huge dinner for us all.

As I prepare, I watch as he teases my niece and nephew or talks to my sisters. I feel so much love for everyone here right now. And happy – I’m so, so happy. Life isn’t easy and we have our ups and downs but I knew this moment was worth waiting for.

Misery

I don’t want to eat

I don’t want to cook

I’ve done both but have had no joy

From sticky sweetness cloying in my mouth

Sticking in my throat.

I don’t sleep but

I don’t want to be awake.

I don’t want to read

Don’t want to watch TV:

They can’t numb my mind any more.

I don’t want people

Though, I don’t want

To be alone.

Indoors I’m angry

Outdoors I’m bitter.

I don’t want sunshine or

Sounds of birds.

I don’t want my bed, or sofa

Or a refreshing shower.

What I want,

Is to not feel like

This.

Finding happiness

I’ve been in bed for a day and a half.

My yearly – is it hay-fever, is it a cold and now, is it covid – started a few days after I returned. Admittedly, antihistamines did seem to take the edge off but I know if I had started them in February, it probably wouldn’t have hit me so bad. As it is, I have ended up with a mild chest infection and coldsores all over my nose. I was out of condition before I left- no wonder now that I am run down.

So when my children finally went to their Dad’s on Sunday, I succumbed to it and basically stayed in bed until about an hour ago.

Am I unwell? Yes. Could I have have got up and motivated myself? Theoretically, yes. But I was heart-weary and head-weary and body-weary so I didn’t.

I’ve read, and read and read. This is what I used to do, long ago before the responsibilities of being a single mother kicked in. I guess now, it’s only like binge-watching Netflix. So I don’t feel guilty at all. Every cough and snuffle has given me permission. In those books, everything else disappears. And for someone whose head constantly feels like it’s at war with fighting thoughts and emotions and ideas, it feels like bliss to just read.

I still can’t find my happiness.

I’m not stupid, WordPress. One of my biggest fears is being seen as foolish. I’ve heard myself enough times to know that. My hard won intelligence is all I have. I’m not beautiful. I’m not sexy. I’m not socially skilled and surrounded by countless friends. No. I’m average. I’m overweight. I’m alone.

I had a very honest conversation with my mum last week. I’d been writing a post for here, sorting through my thoughts about the future – before I’d allowed realisation to fully take over. I’d considered what my mum had done all those years ago: her new life now, and how we were all bitter about it.

I’m not bitter anymore. Who are we to dictate the life she wants? We have our own lives. Her relationship with her partner is what matters. We will always be here, waiting for her, if she needs us. But finally, I understood, and I wanted her to know.

We talked about the house too and how it feels like a noose around my neck. I’ve never, truly, been able to enjoy this house. For years, my half-family’s jealousy has tainted it, as they have then tainted any relationship I now have with my Dad’s family. I am well and truly the black sheep. And then are all the memories of my Dad. They’re everywhere. And for so long, I couldn’t even stand being out in the garden because of them.

What I’ve realised, lying in my bed in between devouring pages of my book, is why I’ve felt lost for (at least) the past 4 years. Why I still feel lost now.

I made a decision as a child which carried me for 30 years. I decided that I was going to work hard and I was going to care for my parents. I promised myself that I would look after them as they got old and that they wouldn’t have to worry any more. I’d seen their struggles after my Dad’s heart attack. I’d seen their struggles as arthritis crippled my mum. No more.

And you know what? I did it. I worked hard throughout school and college and university. I chose a career that financially made sense, not because it was where my passions lay. A career which would pay off all my student loans and that would give me a lump sum of money after a few years. At every stage of my teaching career, I have said that this would not be my job for the rest of my life. Regardless, I proved myself time and time again. I advanced in my career. I relished in the praise and pride of my family, for the only thing I could do to be noticed positively – advance in my career. Because its the only thing that I was ever noticed for. 

And so, I bought my parents’ house and saved them from debt. I cared for my father until the second he died. I relished in the pride of my family at ‘how well I had done’ and pushed and pushed myself to prove how good I was. I wasn’t accepted by my dad’s family, so I would fight for their respect in a different way.

I did what I thought I should. I got married. I pushed for that marriage too, for acceptance, even though I knew he wasn’t right for me. For a small moment, I had it all. I felt success. I’d bought my parent’s home and was supporting them financially. I had a husband and a career. I had my babies. But that feeling of success was fleeting. I wasn’t happy in my marriage. I wasn’t happy in my work. And whilst I pushed and strived in an attempt to find that happiness, to work for it, I never truly got there as such.

When I had my breakdown, my burnout, seven months before my Dad died, I think I knew. Everything I had worked for was coming to an end. My Dad was dying and no amount of hard work would save him. I’d reached the pinnacle of my career, as far as I wanted to go. And as much as I was succeeding, I was failing too. Because it didn’t matter any more. I had felt my dad’s pride, I’d achieved it. But it couldn’t save him or me.

I’d achieved everything I had set out to do. And when my dad died, I was lost. Nothing has mattered since. Not the house, not my job. I know my evil half-family expected me to pull out this treasure trove of money that I had hidden and renovate the house to unknown splendour when Dad died. There was no money. My money was spent on my family. And once Dad died, this house became just that. A house. A house of memories.

When Dad died, my purpose died. My fight died. I’d had his pride. I’d cared for him. I’d proved myself to him, time and time again. I was a good daughter. I won. Finally, after years of being hated, after years of being the outsider, after years of watching my dad choose my warped and tragic half sister, every time, I’d proved my love to my dad. I was there, every step of the way. I wasn’t a bad person. I didn’t deserve to be so hated and despised. Hated for being born. Hated for being another wedge between his first family and him: the first born. In those final years of his life, I was there for him. I cared for him. I kept my promise.

When he died, nothing mattered any more. My job, the money, my house. For a while, supporting my sisters and my children was my focus. I’ve done that. And they’ve supported me. I no longer feel the need to support them as I once did – we’ve become more equal now as their lives have fallen into place and as mine has come crashing down.

Wildcard said to me, only a month ago, that he couldn’t understand why I tried to be so perfect all the time. I just needed to be myself.

It’s hard to be yourself when you feel like no-one likes you.

It’s hard to be yourself when you’ve strived for so long to be something else, just to gain the love and respect you crave.

It’s hard to be yourself when you don’t know who that is any more.

I’m following the same pattern. I’m fighting for his love and his respect and him. I’m trying to be the best I can be, all the time, so that I don’t have to live with rejection from yet another source.

I want someone to see the good in me. Not because I’ve fought for it. Not because of what it will do for them. But because they can see the person I truly am.

I’m fighting for his love. I’m pushing for his acceptance and commitment because I don’t want to be alone. He is my life.

But I want someone to fight for me. Not too late, like so many have done before. But now.

I can’t plan my life going forward, because I don’t know if he is going to be in it.

Maybe he has his own promises to keep, that’s is why he won’t talk of the future.

All I know, is that I clung to that ring, my ring, in the hope that he was fighting for me. He’s since told me that it ‘was a game’, not serious. That he would propose to me, not with my own ring, but that he will do it properly with the one that he buys. And whilst I love that sentiment, can wish for nothing better, I don’t hold the hope that it will ever happen.

I don’t know when I’m going back. I don’t know if he will ever propose or if he will continue to make excuses. I know that he is still hiding me, his little secret. I know that I am the one pushing the engagement, again. Pushing for acceptance. Pushing to belong. When I’m there, I feel like I belong but the fear that I’m fooling myself overrides any real enjoyment I have.

Problem this time, is I don’t know what else I can do. I can’t make myself younger or more beautiful. I’ve lost weight and gained weight and neither have made a difference because I know I can’t have the body he probably wants me to have. I have no idea what to fight for or strive for to make him want me because I think deep down, I know I can never be that.

And that is why I can’t find my happiness.