Difficult days, some thoughts

I wrote this for myself two days ago after a difficult day. Since then there has been an increase in conversations with friends about mental health, about the ways that we manage, about what makes a difference. So, it felt appropriate to share:

“Some days are just more difficult. They usually arrive unannounced seemingly unrelated to either circumstance or weather. Sometimes it takes me a while to realise what is happening, that the joy has left my day like fog obscuring sunshine. I won’t know when it might lift or how. All I can do is keep faith that it will at some point leave.

Like most people, I don’t have the option of going back to bed or hiding on the sofa in front of the TV. There are jobs to be done. Granted some plates can be left unspun – no one really needs home made cake and if the washing isn’t done today, I can always catch up tomorrow. I am lucky, I can choose what I drop but I still need to keep moving. Slowly. Because when you move in fog you can’t know where the edge is, but I can feel that it is close. So I follow the rules, move slowly, rest often, shout for help, eat, drink, trust.

And at some point, the fog will lift. Today I left the dishes in the sink and worked slowly enjoying the autumn sunshine in the garden. I found easy jobs like tidying the herbs instead of large jobs like sorting the compost. Small steps led me to breathe easier and notice the rose. Right at the top, amongst the autumn rose hips the last flowers reach for the sunshine. Like the rose, I reach for the light”.

New Normal

(This story comes from my heart to your heart and is a part of a series of stories I have been working on about death and bereavement, partly from my own experience over the last few years and partly from elsewhere. Thank you for reading).

I can’t remember when I stopped crying every day. One minute it was a thing that happened and my face would get sore, and I was using so much extra cream to soothe my eyes, and then suddenly I realised I wasn’t crying every day. It felt a bit odd.

A bit like, you know, one extreme to another, crying and then normal. I don’t know what normal is any more. My friend Sylvie went from crying to depression. I took her to see the Doctor in the end, I was that worried, that’s how I know about all the stuff she went through when her Brian died. I ring her every day and she says the counselling really helped. I don’t think she likes doing it on Zoom though and she misses face to face meeting. I think we all do.

I’m not travelling on the bus anymore. The Government thinks I’m in an ‘at risk’ group. So, I’ve only been out for walks on my own. It’s a bit lonely, I miss the bus. Some of my best chats were waiting for the bus to come, people say all sorts when they think they won’t ever meet you again. I hate coming back to the house after my walk. It’s empty and in my mind I can see the ambulance taking him away. I can hear the oxygen hissing and his face worried and sweaty. I couldn’t go with him, just had to stay in isolation for 2 weeks in case I had it too. Frozen in time. Waiting for the phone to ring with news. And then nothing, no hope, just – he’s gone and I’m here all alone, isolating and sorting out a funeral and 30 years of marriage.

Grief is meant to be shared. People are meant to be together. We even had the funeral remotely, just me and the coffin. It did help knowing others were joining in at a distance, but it was lonely and my face was sore from crying. I want everything to be normal, I want him back the way it used to be and the world how it was. But we can’t go back and I don’t know how to go forwards. My grief is tangled up with how it used to be. We liked lockdown to start with and I know we were lucky to be sat in our little garden suddenly quiet without the traffic noise. I felt relieved at having everything cancelled – no bowls club or helping out with toddlers or getting to work. Just us together in our little house and I’m so glad for that time now.

Sometimes I panic. My grandaughter has been telling me about climate change and we’ve been chatting about things we can do differently. But then the grief and fear about the future roll together and I panic. I think, what would he say now? “Put the kettle on love, let’s have a cuppa. Then maybe you could help me choose which seeds to plant next”. So, that’s what I’m doing. He’s not see this summer, but I’ve planted his seeds and found the Dhalia tubers. The garden is watered with my tears. It’s full of flowers and bees. The traffic noise is back and I notice it when I take flowers to my neighbours. But I don’t hear it in my garden, just the insect hum and the scent of flowers.

“Put the kettle on love, and plant some seeds”.

copyright September 2020

Changing habits in our house

This week I’m thinking about the plastics that we put in our bin and I’m trying to change the way I look at things.  I’ve been thinking about this for some time now.  I cook mainly from scratch (tho’ Friday nite is freezer fish and chip nite), but even so, every day the bin fills with plastic wrappers from food, yoghurt pots, the odd crisp packet, empty porridge, nut packets etc..  The pile builds up!  The BBC 1 programme ‘War on Plastic’  with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Anita Rani has spurred me to action.  A chance purchase of ‘Turning the tide on Plastic’ by Lucy Siegle has given me some tools to work with.

I’ve started to keep a diary of what we actually put in the bin to help me make different choices about what I say yes and no to.  For example, for some time now I’ve been thinking about organising kitchen ingredients differently and I’ve found some containers in Morrisons that are just the right size.  Yes they’re plastic, but they’re not single use.  Yes glass jars would be better but the extra weight would break the kitchen drawer so it’s not an option.  I’ve visited the local organic shop and zero waste shop and filled my containers with rice, seeds, nuts and even bran flakes (I must confess my joy at finding the bran flakes was a little sad).  So, small steps in our household, but the problem is huge and it’s not going away.  We all need to make different choices, reuse the plastic we have differently and share ideas.

I was thinking this morning about how much our lives have changed in such a short time.  I remember my Gran queing with the other women in the street outside the grocery van that came once a month.  Everybody had their baskets and bags and carefully saved paper bags ready for re-filling.  When I shopped with my Mum we would go every few days to buy bread, veg, meat or fish from the shops in the village.  Looking back I realise I was lucky to have had that experience.   Times have changed, many of us have bigger fridges, we drive to the supermarket or have food delivered.

We seem to have less time despite the added convenience.  Work takes us further away from home.  My checklist before venturing out includes refillable water bottle, coffee cup, reuseable cutlery, snacks and maybe lunch.  I don’t remember Millie Mollie Mandy’s Father needing these things before he went out to work.  He and Uncle came home for lunch with the family every day.

Now I know that’s not possible for most of us.  I know we can’t turn the clock back and I wouldn’t want to.  But we can make different choices about what we buy and the way we live.  These small actions could have a massive effect if we act collectively.

Continue reading “Changing habits in our house”

I moved my chair

Some days don’t go according to plan.

If I believed in Astrology – today would be the sort of day when Russell Grant was warning everyone to beware – ‘Mercury is in retrograde’.  However, it’s actually been a really positive day – both my daughter and myself have (largely) kept our sense of humour as each task or decision we’ve made has had to be re-visited and revised.

I’ve ruined two shirts as the washing machine needed cleaning – bonus – this has now been done J.  We actually got to the building society to pay in Birthday and Christmas cheques but one of them hadn’t been signed and one was addressed to my husband (not me) so couldn’t be paid in.  Again – job half done.  The day has continued thus, shopping lists being forgotten, queues in the super market being held up etc.

The regular pattern of our lives has been moving at a different pace and direction since Advent.  Now that we are in the New Year I find myself starting to slot back into the ‘usual’ rhythm and wondering what changes I need to make to our routines and to myself.

Something that has helped me to stay focussed today is the following poem (mentioned by Dawn French in interviews at the end of last year);

“I moved my chair into sun, I sat in the sun.  The way hunger is moved when called fasting.”  Jane Hirshfield20170805_073140

So today, at the start of the year – that is what I managed to do – I moved my chair into the sun and was able to stay relaxed as the day I’d planned continued to unfold in different directions to those I’d hoped for.  Plans for this year are still taking shape; we’re allowing the memories from last year to inspire us – looking forward to the summer, to camping, to lots of music and spending time with friends and family.  But right now despite the rain and wind, I will move my chair into the sun.