Kindred Spirit

That’s one hardy leaf. Some would say ‘mad’. Coming out now, just before the Yorkshire winter commences. When all it’s buddies will give it another 5 months or so….

Or is that Mr Lazy Leaf. “Sorry chaps, I think I overslept, oh pants did I miss summer. Big pants, missed Autumn as well……. Anyone got a hot water bottle and a warm blanket.”

Must admit I kinda feel like that most days. Kinda feeling out of synch with life. Not been in synch for years. I’ve heard this from quite a few people who have gone through LOSS. Your time slows down (even feels like it stops) while the world keeps spinning without missing a single heartbeat. Initially I found that hard to deal with. If my world has stopped why hasn’t the world stopped, actually does it even know what’s happened.

Over time I realised that life has to keep going. Why should the world stop for one person. But even now that feeling of being out of synch still won’t go away. Maybe the more I live, the more baggage I shed then maybe, just maybe, I will start to find that synch again with the big bad world.

So yes I feel like that little green leaf is a kindred spirit.

Thinking

A Sunday in a very quiet part of Yorkshire. A good place to think.

It’s now over 5 years since I became a widow. Where did those 5 years go. Some days it feels like a lifetime, then there are times when it only seems like yesterday. Whatever it feels like, a lot has changed over those years. I’m a changed person with a changed outlook on life (and death). There were times when I thought that was it, life was over. It was just a matter of survival. But I made it through those times and I’m ready to start experiencing what this world has to offer again. I am dreaming again. Different dreams and whisper it, bigger dreams. Maybe that’s a surprising thought. Grief has taught me how to better LIVE. Looking back, to the run up to my partner dying, my priorities were far too often skewed. Maybe I was just surviving. Taking life for granted. Going through the motions. Not looking for adventures. Already personally hemmed in, struggling. Then everything changed within two weeks. Suddenly life’s safety net was removed. I was a single parent with the established script ripped up. I didn’t realise it but I suddenly had to face up to life. Over those 5 years I had to make changes, reappraise everything. Finally decide what was truly important to me.

So as I stood looking across that peaceful graveyard I could see something which I had missed. Grief was about coming to terms with loss, coming to terms with regrets, trying to be the best parent I could be to a young child who needed me AND a process of coming back to life again.

Anniversaries

Another year and another anniversary. Time passes. It never stops. It never stops.

These words will go live almost 5 years to the minute when I received that call from the Hospice. That conversation has faded into the mists of time now. I remember just a few words “I am so sorry”.

The first two anniversaries were so tough. I was in a bleak place. I couldn’t understand why my time had stopped but the world kept turning. It never missed a beat. How could that be possible. One thought dominated. Why her, why not me. The wrong person went. Over an over, the same thought. I was kinda rooted to the spot. No dreams left intact. Living purely through the eyes of our son.

Now it’s 5 years. What does an anniversary feel like now.

More like any other day. Does that sound bad….Even for me time doesn’t stop. Yes some moments spent remembering. Maybe not enough moments. But I know now. Those times have gone. The good and bad times. Just memories now. Time has moved on. I have moved on. New Dreams. Time moves on.

I won’t lie to you. Yes I still sometimes think -‘maybe it should have been me’. But……There is a phrase that can grind on me but in this case it’s true.

It is what it is.

Yes it is. That’s how it’s worked out. I can’t change it.

Memories are in the past, locked in time. I need to deal with today. Yes it’s an anniversary but it’s also another parenting day. Time doesn’t stop, even on an anniversary. Yes hopefully time for memories but also time to dream.

So how does this anniversary feel. Important YES but i realise it’s just about the past. Important but not as important living. So what does it feel like. It feels like today. It feels like the gateway to the future.

Memories will come but forgive me I need to dream first.

Change

Another cool and breezy Yorkshire summer’s day. The kinda day that always works better with black and white.

It’s five years to the day that I found out from the Consultant that my partner had weeks to live and was likely never to regain full consciousness again. From that day life changed. Not a gradual, planned change. This was a sudden, seismic explosion. Almost everything seemed to cave in. Nothing would ever be the same again. Those doorways onto my then current life slammed shut and locked forever.

The one single thing that kept me going back in 2016 was Hawklad. I had one job now. Give him the best possible childhood I could possibly manage, on my own. At that stage I was living purely though my sons eyes. Change had to somehow work for him .

Life was now different. Unplanned. Very much unscripted. It felt like that the life that had gone before was a more protected. More manageable. This new world seemed very real, very scary with no protection. But I guess that’s change for you. Often it’s too easy to have a change of heart. Avoid the consequences of change. Stick with the your current hand. But in that bleak 2016 moment, sticking with what I had was not an option. Change was happening and there was nothing I could do to stop it. That’s such an unnerving feeling.

Life has changed for me. There was nothing I could do to stop that. Some of that change was awful. Soul destroying. In the immediate aftermath most things felt that way. But now five years later the change that was forced upon me has largely worked out. And whisper it, much of the change has been positive or was in practice badly needed anyway. And yes in some really important areas things are actually better now than they have ever been.

Change can work with patience.

Endings

My mum had a range of old movies that she would watch over and over again. Every week she would go through the TV listings and carefully circle those movies she just had to watch again. She would the likes of Casablanca and Singing in the Rain at least once a year. As she made 90 that’s a lot of views. But some strange movies would also get onto the ‘watch again and again’ list. Dirty Harry….. Die Hard …….. anything with Chuck Norris in.

But then there were other movies. Movies she would watch for the first time and only ever once. For these B-list movies she had an interesting strategy. If she didn’t like how the plot was progressing she would stop the movie. Stop the movie and make up her own ending. That changed the very essence of certain classics. Maximus doesn’t die in Gladiator. Tom Cruise was the rogue agent who killed his spy team in Mission Impossible. All the Gangsters get captured at the end of The Godfather. Bruce Willis was a ghost in Sixth Sense right from the start and there was no need to watch the rest of the boring movie as he was going to be resurrected at the end. The little fishing boat was completely unsinkable in Perfect Storm.

The strategy worked for mum. She was never disappointed in a movie ending. I must admit I am tempted to give it a go. I could watch the first 10 seconds of a Newcastle United game and then assume we played total football like the great Brazilian side of the 70s, winning the game by at least 6 goals. I could read the first line of my annual tax form and then assume the authorities owe me money. I could start baking a cake then assume it’s a gourmet masterpiece. I could cut one strip of lawn and assume the rest would cut itself.

But here’s the thing. What happens if the bit of the story you miss out actually is the best bit. What happens if you skip the bit where your dreams come true. This will sound bad but I gave occasionally felt like skipping parts of my life. Life can wear you down sometimes. Single parenting sometimes feels like it never stops – it has done the last day or so. Constantly pushing up a never ending slope. I could also miss out the grieving and bereavement section. But if I did skip parts of my story WHAT COULD I BE MISSING OUT ON. The fact that yesterday and today have been tough doesn’t necessarily mean that tomorrow will be. You just never know. You never know when dreams can start to materialise. That’s a reassuring thought.

Don’t forget but

If I wander around a graveyard I notice the old headstones. The stones that have been weathered for centuries. The etched names now gone forever. .

My mum told me once “Just put me in a cardboard box and bury me. Then get on with your life. “

Bereavement and loss is an individual thing. Each grief journey is different. It took me a few years to figure mine out. I probably spent too much time living in the past and not enough time getting on with my life.

But now the balance feels better. Much more time focused on today. But each day I don’t let those names fade. Those that I have lost and yes I include pets. I find a quiet place, maybe the garden at night. Then I spend 5 or 10 minutes and recall great memories. I say those names out loud.

This way I don’t forget to live but I also don’t forget.

Dreams

Looking over the Vale of York I was pondering life. Pondering the wonderful things that I already have and what extra wonders might still come my way. I can definitely still dream big.

If you had asked me back in 2016 and 2017 I would have scoffed at the thought. Grief cruelly robbed me of many things including dreams. My dreams require a vision of future. Back then I could see no future, just a black void. I could only live through my son. It was his future and nothing else. Give him the happiest childhood possible. One day he would leave home and for me, that was it.

But with time dreams did come back and when they did it was like a dam bursting. I could hope again. I could see positive futures. Yes the old dreams are gone but new and very different dreams have replaced them.

Hope and dreams might be hidden but they are usually there somewhere. Maybe it just needs a bit of time and a period of pain. Maybe they need a chance meeting or a seemingly random event. But when dreams are rediscovered they might just be better than ever.

Talk

There’s a chap in the village who is an artist. A really really good artist. Has exhibitions. He has a talent for creating beauty. Even in his garden. He lets his garden go native. Will occasionally tidy it up but mainly just let’s nature sort the rest out.

Well this is what happens he does this…

This artist lost his partner a three years back. It really hit him hard. His world fell apart. Yet over time he has got going again. He has returned to making new art. He’s carrying on. He would give me a progress report every time I walked past his garden with Captain Chaos. Whisper it – the Cap likes contributing to this nature show in his own very unique way…. We talked about sitting down and having a longer chat.

Hopefully over the next couple of months I can pop over and he can show me his studio. We can have that coffee that has been on hold since the pandemic swept the world. We talked about doing this 15 months ago.

It’s good to talk.

Safe list

The 6 week summer school break is only a month away now. Not long. 30 days. Lots to do in that time. Even more after today.

Hawklad has decided that he wants a stress free as possible summer. Summer is difficult as he can remember the summer of 2016. First day of the summer holidays his granny died and then as the school returned he lost his mum. So summer can be tough even without his current anxieties levels.

Stress free means reducing exposure to those triggers that can escalate his worries. And what is one of the most common triggers. Movies and TV shows. I’ve frequently talked about how often story lines involve death, illness, broken families……

So I have a task. Compile a list of movies and shows that Hawklad can watch which are SAFE. No sadness, no illness, no bereavements. 6 weeks is a long time, so it’s going to have to be some list.

Here’s my list so far

Pokemon

Scooby Doo

Smurfs

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Paddington

Yonderland

Madagascar

Ice Age

Banana Splits

Wallace & Gromit

Kicking and Screaming

Herbie

Willie Wonker

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Shrek

Space Jam

Frozen

The Incredibles

Home Alone

Night at the Museum

The Lego Movie

Fantastic Mr Fox

Big Mommas House

Cool Running

Red Dwarf

The Office (US) but avoiding a couple of episodes

Inspector Gadget

Pink Panther

Three Amigos

Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Remember no triggers. For example The Guardians of the Galaxy – top movie but just NO to the start…. For example Mary Poppins Returns – great movie but mum dies…. For example the Disney movie I’ve forgotten the name of at the weekend , really good apart from the one line about a serious illness.

No Go

You might not believe it but this is an official Yorkshire road.

Impressive…..

The Road to …….

I live in a small bungalow with our son. Small so there is not much room to spread out. Well there is but remember it’s a boy house. Dad, Son, Mad Boy Dog, Massive Tom Cat and two Gerbils. The Gerbils are the sensible ones, but it’s all relative, they are boys as well.

So sometimes space feels at a premium. Especially when there are NO GO AREAS. Areas where LOSS still rules.

Some draws.

One half of the bed.

A wardrobe

Boxes in the loft

A pile of cds – truly awful musical choices which have 0% chance of being played

A pile of videos – we haven’t had a video recorder in 4 years

A box case.

After the funeral in 2016 I had a crazed and largely mixed up clear out. Things like clothes and shoes went to a charity shop. But some things didn’t go. No idea why. They stayed in place and remain there today almost 5 years later. Yes they get dusted but I don’t even feel comfortable doing that. So I kinda just work round those areas.

The time is coming to finally complete the clear out process. Life moves on. It’s about living today not living in the past. Free up the some space for the boys. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy. The temptation will be to move out some of my stuff instead. But it has to be done. One more step down the road.

A unique road in Yorkshire.