Friday, 27 March 2015

The Wonder of You

She sits on the stairs sometimes and cries at her losses, wondering if regret is the right way to feel. Then the tears dry up and a future looms on the horizon. She stands and looks around, soaking in an atmosphere of silence, ticking clocks and the distant hum of traffic. It's the silence she remembers. That's what fills her head. That's what gives her the ability to think, reflect, perhaps regret. We all regret something, though it's pointless of course, because we can't change the past. The losses have been huge, not just a mere misplacement in a gentle wave. They affect her deeply because she's a sensitive soul beneath the hard exterior, and takes things to heart.

She looks through the window at the passers by and wonders if they have an unbearable silence droning through their heads, if they have a past that has eaten away at them and left them feeling empty, desolate. She sees their smiles and the way some of them swing their hips when they walk, and then she wonders if she is alone after all. She's confused. Being alone is what she likes, what she finds most comfortable. Yet being alone can stretch the loneliness to the point of disconcerting silence.

She looks at the photographs in frames, smiling faces with arms outstretched, covering each other in adoration. She wants to be in one of the photographs. She has always been the one taking them, standing behind the camera, suggesting her subjects smile and look happy. She wonders what they have lost during their life; what the younger subjects have yet to lose. Then she dries her tears and starts to wonder what she has yet to gain.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Road to Recovery

I think I could write a book on the changes that have occurred in my life over the past twelve months. It could even be a best-seller. There's a thought. I go for a decade pottering through life with the hardest decision of the day being 'apple or banana for breakfast?' and then all of a sudden my head is filled with cross roads and T junctions and roundabouts that seem to lead nowhere. Where are all the signs? Does my Sat Nav work? Can I even use a Sat Nav? There's another thought. I can get from A to B in the car with very few issues, but getting from A to B in my head...well, I seem to go the long way round, stopping off at C, D and E en-route. When I realise that Z is on the horizon, I apply the brakes and ponder for a while. Now I have another decision to make and this time it will change the course of my life. Oh, hang on, I did that last year. This is a new year. Shouldn't it have been a new me, too? Perhaps. Though we can't just write off the last decade and forget it ever happened, can we? What happens in our future often reflects on what has happened in our past. Are there any signs on this bloody roundabout? I seem to have been on it for far too long.

This week I've been visited by two girlfriends, on separate occasions, who have stood by me through the upheaval. We've talked and laughed and almost cried. We've compared our difficulties and newly single status and realised that the big wide world isn't quite so scary once we get the hang of it. I'd like to get the hang of it one day, even if it means going on a world trip to "discover myself". That's what people do these days, isn't it? Discover themselves. All part of life's interesting journey. Then they come home and realise that they're the same person as before they went away. I'm going to settle for the roundabout. The time differences would mess with my body clock, and I do need my beauty sleep. Maybe I will write that book after all. It could even be therapeutic. It could help me to find a way out of the maize. Of course, if someone would cut the hedges down and teach me how to use a Sat Nav, I'd be well on my way to discovery. Sorry, recovery.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A Brighter Tomorrow

I've had a bad back for a while. If you've ever looked at medical advice online, like I did recently, you'll understand when I say I might not be here next week. I think it should be a given rule that non-medical people don't seek information or advice from online sites such as the good old NHS, and all the others on there that have a rather dramatic outlook on the human being. It's probably my posture and the fact I don't get enough exercise. The fact that I'm stressed to the eyeballs may or may not have anything to do with it, but who knows? Certainly not the Internet, that's for sure. Anyway, I plucked up the courage earlier on in the week and went to see my GP - a lovely, sympathetic female who seemed to really understand the words, "I've got a few things wrong with me." I felt a bit pathetic when I sat down and said that but there's no point going to see your GP once every blue moon like me, with only one issue when I have "a few things wrong with me."

Unfortunately, we never got round to the back pain. I sat down and cried. Pathetic, eh? She shoved a box of Kleenex in front of me and asked me a series of questions before telling me it's not surprising I feel like I do after everything I've been through. The word 'depression' was mentioned but it's something I'm not prepared to accept. I'm anxious; I have panic attacks; I have days where I could murder the post man for bringing me a brown envelope with the words HMRC or DWP on the back. But depressed? I can't accept that.

I wanted to talk about my bad back and the excruciating pain I have. But I didn't think it sounded important enough after all the leaflets she sent me away with, mainly about therapy. I've shared this on Facebook because I have a lot of very empathetic and sympathetic friends on there who have given me sound advice. I made myself sound disrespectful when I said therapy isn't for me: talking to a complete stranger with a few letters after their name pretending they understand the last 18 years of my life in a matter of a few one-hour sessions. It just doesn't seem possible. Depression isn't a condition that you can just snap out of. It's real and it's debilitating. But I can hear myself constantly saying do this, do that, and for the love of God, snap out of it.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Moon River

I sometimes lie awake at night because I have so many thoughts racing through my mind and it makes my brain overwhelmingly active. I blame it partly on my age; that stupid transition that we women go through, the one that changes just about everything we've known for the past few decades. Perhaps I'm not quite middle aged at 45, but some days I feel dreadfully old. I have good days and bad, some of them really good and some of them really bad. There never seems to be a happy medium anymore.

So many of the thoughts I have, focus around what's happening to me right now, and then they develop into what may happen in my future. Some people live for today; others plan. Since I discovered my independence and the fact that I can look after myself, I, too, wish to live for today because, as I keep reminding myself, life is too short. Perhaps I am middle aged. Is 45 middle aged? I never have worked it out. I guess it depends what age you live until, but none of us know that, do we? So if I live until I'm 90, then I guess I am middle aged.

I close my eyes in the darkness of my room and ponder today, tomorrow, next week, next year. I have no idea what kind of mood I'll be in from one day to the next. I can get up and be raring to go, ready to face the world with a smile and a made up face. Or I can get up and feel a need to wrap myself in protective clothing, afraid to let the world enter my thoughts. Most nights I lie awake and think about the people I know, how they help me to turn day into night and night into day, how different my life would be if they weren't a part of it. Some of these thoughts leave me thinking about the future: will the people I ponder be a part of it, or will they become a memory?

Live for today or plan for the future. I haven't yet worked it out. Perhaps when I'm 90 I will.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Win or Lose

It's almost an everyday occurrence to fall out with my teenager since she morphed into this rebel that often leaves me wondering where I've gone wrong. I'm sure I'm not the only parent to say they have a rebellious teenager and that the company I keep online and in my personal life will relate totally with my frustration. But sometimes I feel like the worst parent in the world. I want Amy to grow up gracefully, to use her manners and have friends she can rely on because they are true friends. Then she tells me something that happened, usually about another kid at school falling out with her because of something she said (she is rather opinionated...not sure where she gets that from), and she wonders why that kid retaliated. I try to be as tactful as I can and explain the logic of 'treat your friends how you'd like to be treated yourself' but it doesn't seem to sink in. She is a drama queen, there's no doubt about that, and I'm still learning daily that I will never win. If I tell her what is right, she assumes I'm being patronising: if I tell her what is wrong, she accuses me of not being on her side. So you see, I can't win.

We have a very close relationship, always have. I will never forget what my dad said to me when Amy was just a year old: "One day, you two will be best friends." I'd like to think we're friends now, but Amy can't relate to family as being 'friends'. If I tell her I just want to be her friend, she makes that teenage face at me, grunts, drops her shoulders, then says, "You're my mum, not my friend." I hope one day she will think otherwise, but, as her mum, I simply have to accept her way of thinking. For now.

She's doing exceptionally well in her education and I'm so very proud of her. I praise her whenever it's due and remind her that she's on the right track to getting a good job, having a bright future and being independent when she's older. She will have a bright future; I'll make sure of that. As for being independent, I'm really not so sure. Right now, she's very teenage and prefers to slob around watching TV or playing with one of her gadgets. I've had to have words with her this week about helping more around the house, not leaving wet towels on the floor, remembering to bring down dirty pots from her bedroom and occasionally washing them up. And her answer to these requests was...

"I do help."

"In what way do you help?" I asked.

"I open my bedroom curtains," she replied.

I think I still have a long way to go.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sunny Days

We walked briskly today for a good hour, along a pathway strewn with dead leaves and discarded drinks cans. The fresh air hit the right spots and left us feeling regenerated upon our return. My teenager did well: she moaned about her hair blowing in the breeze (forgot to put a bobble in) and was reluctant to use the tissue I'd got nestled in my coat pocket. But on the whole, she enjoyed spending some quality time out in the late winter sunshine walking side by side next to her mum. I'm usually the person who embarrasses her, the one who makes her look ridiculous with invisible cotton wool wrapped around her body. But today she was happy to stroll through the village with me, pointing out the nicer houses with street-cred that stood out in her world of 'this is what I want when I'm a grown up'. I smiled a lot at passer's by and we stroked a few dogs as their tails wagged in anticipation of our petting. Workmen stood back to allow us a clear path through their debris-cluttered jobs, and one even acknowledged us with a gentle nod and a friendly 'hello'.

"I really enjoyed that walk," I said to my teenager when we got back to the house. "We should do that more often."

"Yeah, whatever," she replied.

But her smile told me that the 'whatever' was teenage language and it was the 'yeah' I needed to take note of. I don't think we should let sunny days pass us by when we have the opportunity to walk around the block and get to know the area in which we now reside. It's a nice little place; lots of iggledy-piggledy houses, village halls and a small school. It was a mining village many years ago and contains a row of miner's cottages. I suspect some of them are still occupied by retired miners, or those who lost their jobs in the controversial years when the mines were being closed down. People around here have never forgotten those times and there is still an atmosphere of bitterness whenever you mention the 1980's miner's strikes. I was a teenager in the 1980s and I didn't take much notice of the way our country's coal industry was almost destroyed. I was like my teenager back then: wanting to spend quality time with my mum but afraid to do so in case it ruined my reputation. I remember looking at nice houses and thinking, "this is what I want when I'm a grown up." Then I look at my teenager and remember I am a grown up. She reminds me that what we once craved in our youth, may not be the same as we desire in our adult life.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Strength of Friends

I want to tell you about a friend I once had. She's someone I was close to. So close in fact, that I confided in her and told her everything about the mess my life had become. She sat with me and listened, day after day after day. She was my confidante. Then one day I told her I was leaving my husband and she looked at me with pity in her eyes. I pretended she'd looked at me with empathy at the time, and convinced myself that it was safe to tell her every last detail that had sunk to the recesses of my mind. What I didn't realise was that the pity wasn't meant for me, but for my husband. She couldn't understand why I would want to pack away my life and find a new one that would perhaps give me fulfilment and allow me to embrace a world beyond fields. I wasn't asking for sympathy, nor was I asking for understanding; but I was hoping for support. That seemed a step too far, and I soon came to realise that the pity in her eyes was only meant for the man I didn't want. Was it so bad of me to want more out of life? Of course it wasn't. I wondered if she were jealous of the fact I'd decided to move on; whether she was hoping to move on one day, too. But she wouldn't have done, even if she wanted to. Something else I realised eventually.

My friend knew everything about me: all the bad points and the good. But all she saw were the bad points, and that disappointed me. My bad points outweighed the good in her eyes. I imagine she only has good points and that is why she can't connect with someone who is bad. Am I bad for leaving someone I didn't love? Was it wrong of me to set us both free and allow us both to move on?

There was one thing I didn't tell her but she did find out by other means. This upset me greatly because I wanted to tell her, but I didn't think I should. I assume she then saw me as a person she no longer knew. Perhaps she thought I had betrayed her. I chose to tell her what I did and I chose to keep from her what I did. That was my prerogative. Not hers. Yet she no longer features in my life and it makes me sad to think we were once so close and are now so far apart. She stayed in contact with my ex-husband. I know she feels sorry for him; I think I can imagine the pity in her eyes whenever she sees him. He's moved on, too. He doesn't need anyone's pity, least of all hers. I never needed her pity. I made a decision and stuck by it. I can't help wondering who the stronger person is here.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Little Buds

I haven't seen any snowdrops this year, except on pictures that people have published on social media. With their little heads bowed and their elegant stems straining to remain upright, they allude respect. Have I achieved such high profile in my life that I deserve someone bowing their head to me? Am I royalty, have I died? They make me think about the things I have done over the years and I wonder if someone is reminding me that yes, I have achieved something in my life.

The garden at the farm was littered with aconites: chaotic and yellow with a mass of green foliage. They would open up during the day and close again at night, like curtains. Once those tiny flowers caressed the earth with their vibrant streaks of daylight and transparency, another door had opened, to a room no one dared enter for fear of straightening up the chaos and tidying up the mystery that lay behind the fabric.

These miniature flowers scattered the grass for decades. I'm not sure how many, it could have been centuries for all I know. But each year they would peep through the window glass and discreetly turn our heads until we noticed a new life rising from the ashes, nudging through the dust, reincarnating from a bud into a patchwork quilt of petals.

There was a hill on the farmland that each year would turn into a blanket of purple. Delicate bluebells gave way to many a photograph taken: a wilderness stretching across an ocean of pasture. I loved the bluebells, too. Each flower, wild and free, wiping the slate clean, starting again, pushing its way to a new existence as it bows and dances and respects in the breeze, waiting for the lens to capture its beauty as new life dawns once more.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Different Pace

The doorbell rings (ding-dong) and it still feels strange. I didn't have a doorbell at the farm. Just a huge knocker on the back door (knock-knock), and the dogs would break into a chorus of tremendous applause. The excitement those knocks generated for four collies was of pretty intense proportions, and if it was someone they didn't know, it would take them quite a while to settle down. I felt safe, they protected me from the strange people. Here, I see a lot of strange people. But I don't have any dogs to protect me anymore. I don't think I'll ever get used to the sound of a doorbell.

I'm not getting another dog, before you suggest it. It isn't on my agenda. Not for a long time, at least. I may get one in time, a little Yorkshire Terrier that will cuddle on my knee and lick my face whilst I scrunch up my nose and think 'revolting'. Life is very different here. Charity bags are pushed through my letter box; a wealth of charities vying me to empty my house. I fill the bags and they don't always get collected, and then I get cross because I've been kind to someone and it hasn't been acknowledged. Not very Christian, I know. We shouldn't need thanks or gratitude. But it's always nice to feel that someone appreciates what we do, even if it is putting a few items in a flimsy plastic bag and leaving it outside to be collected by a strange man in a white van whom my dogs would applaud ferociously.

And then there's the bin men; their heavy boots clod-hopping up and down the cul-de-sac (stomp-stomp-stomp), moving bins, loading them onto the big dirty wagon (clunk) before they push them haphazardly back onto the drive next to the charity bags. People walk past with dogs (I like to watch the dogs; I'm a dog-watcher), swinging their miniature tie-bags filled with shit. There are dog-shit bins everywhere. I didn't know what they were until I walked past one on a sunny day and saw a picture of a dog. Our dogs used to shit in the fields. And it would blend into the earth.

Cars whiz past on the main road (zoom-zoom), going much too fast, no consideration for the loner who sits behind wooden slat blinds all day, drinking coffee, thinking about silence and dogs and doorbells and charity bags.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Tapas and Suitcases

I booked a holiday last week to Alcudia in Majorca. I went to Majorca with my friend and her mum and dad when we were about 12 years old, so I imagine it's changed considerably since then, due to the fact it was an awfully long time ago. Then again, it could be like Northumberland and not have changed at all. I suspect like Northumberland, however, that commercialism will have grown and hotels, apartments and holiday accommodation will have shot up over the years. In the 13 years I've lived on the North East coast of England, I've seen a massive rise in tourism. A good thing for the economy of course, but it doesn't stop us locals (I consider myself to be one after 13 years) moaning about the volume of traffic during the school holidays. Then again, I've spent most of that time living on a farm and the amount of tourists I would listen to moaning about tractors on the road would drive me to distraction. We're all just trying to get from A to B. Usually with difficulty throughout the months of July and August. But still, c'est la vie, as they say in Peckham.

So there we go, I've got seven months to wait until I jet off to sunnier climes. I won't be going on my own of rebellious teen will accompany me. I was rather hoping a nice chap might join us but it'll just be the two of us, which I guess is what I'm used to. Being single isn't any different in that respect.

I've started writing again, too. Decided it's time to revisit my passion for fiction, and am currently in the middle of a new project. I'll tell you more in due course about that, but it's something I've always wanted to do. My day-job takes priority of course, because that's the one that pays the bills, but the writing is well on the way and I'm taking advantage of every bit of spare time I have. But right now, I have a teenager who needs feeding. I'm thinking of sending her on a cookery course. It would be so nice to have someone cook for me for a change.