I haven’t written here for a long time. Life has been changing for me in a very good way and I haven’t felt the need to purge my feelings onto “paper”.
My friend recently watched a film called Vaxxed and made a Facebook Post about it. It’s a film that was directed by Andrew Wakefield who continues to make money from his discredited & fraudulent research paper about MMR & Autism.
I thought long & hard about commenting on her post (I didn’t) because I know she is very knowledgeable and passionate. I strongly disagree with her stance on vaccines (but that in no way impacts on our friendship or my respect for her choices). I have been thinking about it for days and just wanted to express some thoughts of my own.
In the past, kids like my son would have been diagnosed as retarded. Some are now diagnosed as autistic (there are stats that show that where one diagnosis is declining the other is increasing), and generally speaking they receive help and care more suited to their needs. In my opinion the media hoo-ha, brouhaha & hullabaloo, about vaccines just perpetuates the myth that we (bad mothers) “did something” to our children either by allowing them to be vaccinated or by the hideous belief in Refrigerator Mother Theory.
I recently had need to seek out all of the original educational psychologist, consultant so & so and school behaviour reports collated before he was diagnosed. It was distressing to say the least. I have considered burning them, it details all the horrible things we went through trying to get people (including me) to simply understand him and the way he thinks and learns. I still have to passionately fight his corner to try & get others to understand that even a subtle shift in the way they communicate with him can make a world of difference. Is this really any different to how we (neurotypicals) learn how to shift our patterns of behaviour towards one another to make better relationships?
I was very aware that my son had autism, long before the official diagnosis and whilst it has been a challenge in our life, it’s definitely not a curse. It’s a neurological difference that makes him unique and I am privileged to be his mother. Even if I could have somehow prevented it, I wouldn’t have, because I genuinely love him exactly the way he is. He trumps most teenagers with his passion & drive, astounds me with his ideas, amazes me that he is so adventurous and confident and I could not be more proud of him if I tried.
Did you notice the dates in the quote above? They are such wise words for one so very young.
Do you ever wonder how your memories would replay in a movie of your life? I do. As I age (gracefully?) and particularly at this time of year my mind goes into overdrive, my life is divided into two sections – before my father’s death and after his death. It is this massive marker of when my life changed. There are times when I think everything in my life was good before that date and everything since has been awful.
But the evidence doesn’t hold up that statement, I had a serious road accident when I was 15 which was pretty bad and definitely happened in the pre 2004 section. I met & later fell in love with a wonderful man in 2006 and that is clearly in the post 2004 section. I just think that at times we are very selective with our memories.
For instance, I really struggle to recall good times in my marriage, yet I know they are there somewhere they have just been buried under all the rubbish and hurt of the last 10 years.
One of the most therapeutic things I have done over the last few years was to compile a book for my daughter’s 18th birthday. Collaborating on the book with our family and her friends, mentors and teachers made me see that despite many challenges I had made quite a good job of bringing her up. My attitude to myself as a parent changed a little from then on and I have more confidence in myself now (as a mother) and I think as a family unit we all benefit from that now.
This whole blog has been about my thoughts, memories and keepsakes, hoping not to inspire others but to inspire myself to hope, build from the past and in turn, bridge to the future.
18th October 2004 (father’s death), 18th October 2006 (met my previous partner), 18th October 2015 (mind your own business) all have special significance to me and for very different reasons; do you think it strange that one particular date can have such significance? Who knows!
So here’s a bit of news for you…
I have met someone who I hope I am going to move forward with and build bridges to the future. The future could be as short as tomorrow or as long as forever but nobody can possibly tell. I know for sure that making memories is so incredibly important and that with every moment that passes we have far less time in front of us than behind us. So with that in mind we (yes WE) made a conscious effort, put our heads together and have drawn up a plan for memory building.
Would you like to see it?
To build memories we should…*
…Climb a tall hill
…Sleep under the stars
…Skinny dip in the sea
…Bake a cake
…Ride a tandem
…Fly a kite
…Choose each other’s clothes for an evening out
…Plant a tree
…Build a snowman
…Have a picnic in a field &/or in a wood
…Make a sandcastle
…Paint each other
…Row a boat on the Thames
…Visit one castle/stately home every month for a year
#1 Corfe Castle 12th December 2015
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ~ Charles Dickens
Autumn again…its approach signals a great deal of personal reflection for me and it seems this year is no different. My birthday is in this season, I am Libran, the only inanimate sign in the zodiac. As Librans we are supposed to be able to stand back and look at matters impartially! Yeah right! Did you know that some astrologers regard Librans as the most desirable of types?Well, we are *special* because Libra represents the zenith of the year, the high point of the seasons, a harvest of all the hard work put in earlier in the year. I don’t suppose it’s any co-incidence that the Autumn Equinox also represents balance between day & night.
It’s pretty clear to me that I have always strived for balance in my life and that my most challenging times have been when balance is absent. I definitely do not have balance in my life at the moment and yet uncharacteristically I seem to be coping quite well. Other people’s problems and worries seem far greater than mine, putting my troubles and woes into perspective.
So why do I not have balance?
Consider these two views:
Last weekend I was staying in a beautiful hotel, eating delicious food, blessed with warm, unseasonal weather, in the stunning Wiltshire countryside (should I mention the company I was keeping?). This weekend a trip to the local amenity tip (sorry, recycling centre) with piles of garden waste from the previous day! That is quite a disparity!
For the moment these two parts of my life are distinctly separate but what needs to happen is integration and I don’t have a bloody clue how to go about this!
Anyone who knows me knows that I looked forward to visiting Bali with such excitement that I could hardly contain it. If someone mentioned the word Bali or holiday to me, I broke into this Cheshire cat grin and couldn’t string a complete sentence together. I am not well traveled and my income lies somewhere between minimum wage and living wage so the fact that I had the opportunity to visit somewhere so exotic was the stuff that dreams are made of.
Did Bali live up to my expectations? In short, no it didn’t. Generally speaking if people have asked me if I had a good holiday, I have given a polite society response of “Yes, it was brilliant thanks” for most people, this is satisfying enough. The same applies if someone asks “How are you?” and you respond “Fine thanks”. The conversation then ends and everyone goes on with their business.
If my trip to New York in 2014 made me feel bold & brave then Bali has unsettled me to such a point that at times I feel like I have taken at least five steps back in the progress that I have made over the last eighteen months. The thoughts in my head ricochet like a game of pinball stopping me from concentrating on any one task for longer than a few fleeting moments. Although I know that writing down & organising my thoughts would help; I have done everything I can do avoid doing so, including ironing & washing my car!
The last thing that I should have encountered on this holiday was conflict and yet we did; not between our unit of three I hasten to add. It serves no purpose to share details with you here in much the same way that I haven’t shared details about my ex-husband. Some of you know the story and some of you do not, it’s best that way.
Out of the drama that unfolded I have learned that my daughter has picked up my ability to go into ‘emergency mode’ and by that I mean put emotions aside, find and execute practical solutions very quickly. Can someone please remind me of this when she wants to go travelling next year! Tell me that she is a strong & capable young woman who can handle herself well, with integrity and confidence no matter how scared and hurt she is feeling inside.
For while I saw my son retreat into his own autistic world again, non-communicative and withdrawn, having worked so hard on his social skills and his belief in himself, to see this destroyed by one person’s lack of awareness was heartbreaking. The single mother’s guilt and loneliness I felt for taking them almost to the other side of the world, just to face distress on what should have been an idyllic holiday, reappeared and made me vulnerable. I didn’t like feeling that way at all.
I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger; the relative of a friend who stepped in to help us. I felt gratitude for my family & friends for the offer of money to assist us, it came immediately and without question and in total trust (although I was too proud to accept). I also felt less alone in a foreign country with the daily messages from those in the know back home who wanted nothing else but to just keep me grounded.
I will have to come to terms with what happened and this is going to take far longer than the week that has passed since we returned. It’s not the worst thing that has happened to me, not by far, but it has left wounds and they need to heal. The process has started by being back home, feeling love from family and friends, being reassured, being hugged, and being told ‘not to be a dick’ when appropriate! Sleeping (or in my case, not sleeping) in your own bed also helps.
So what else happened in Bali?
I should probably start (BD – Before Drama) with Tirta Empul. Tirta Empul (to quote Wikipedia) is a Hindu Balinese water temple located near the town of Tampaksiring, famous for its holy spring water with curative powers.
Of all the temples that we saw or visited, the experience here will say with me forever. We traveled to Tirta Empul as part of a private tour with an English speaking Balinese driver called Ketut (Balinese names explained), we didn’t expect to stay very long but events overtook us. I don’t really know how but Putu, one of the Temple custodians sought us out. Was he skilled at ‘working’ the tourists or was there something else far more spiritual and unexplainable at work? I think the latter.
Blimey could Putu talk! He guided Emma through the ablution & blessing process. He then sat and talked to me, he shared part of his life story at first I was extremely skeptical but he quickly (intuitively?) up on my past, mentioning specific things that he could never have known, it disturbed me and I was very guarded but emotion took hold and tears flowed; how can a stranger have such an effect on me?
He escorted us through the Temple explaining this & that (it’s a bit of a blur to me) but every so often he would turn his attention back to me. He was not going to give up on his mission! I am not a religious person, but I do have respect for faith, Putu explained the Hindu belief of Karma & Dharma to me. We think of Karma as someone getting what’s coming to them, but it’s nothing like that! Karma is the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds; and dharma, which has no single word western translation but simply put is the eternal law of the cosmos, inherent in the very nature of things – that we are all connected. At times during our visit Putu took my hand; towards the end of our visit he insisted that he could help me and he took my head in his hands, he spoke softly to me (a deeply personal message), and he applied very specific pressure to the back of my neck. I wish I could tell you what I felt; but I can’t even begin to understand it.
I completed two of the items on my bucket list! Whitewater rafting & having a cream tea! I have decided that a cream tea in Bali (lovely though it was) doesn’t count and I haven’t crossed it off yet- I’m looking for the fully English experience with that one, either in a pretty tea room or a house with a history.
Emma & Matt went Canyoning (with Adventure & Spirit)! I did not. They have balls of steel. I do not. I have seen the Go-Pro footage & that was enough adrenaline for me. This was the highlight of the trip for them and the company deserve their Trip Advisor rating.
Is there more? Hell yes!
I have had a massage on the beach overlooking the Indian Ocean! I have worn a bikini in the first time in…well about forever! I have seen Volcanoes, bathed in hot springs, cooled down in waterfalls. Stared in awe at rice field upon rice field, pondered the human endeavour in building the terraces, contemplated the success of the irrigation and water management vs the UK’s hopeless flood/drought methods and wondered why we cannot learn from a system that has worked for over a thousand years.
I have been disturbed by the gluttony, extravagance and overindulgence of some of the resorts vs the poverty experienced by many of the island inhabitants. I have felt guilty for enjoying some beautiful meals when others have nothing.
I have always been fascinated by creative people and Bali has more than its fair share of talented painters, woodcarvers, silversmiths, stone carvers, every imaginable style of textile work there could possibly be. Every single village that you pass through bears testament to this.
Bali has many sides and many, many colours. It has a unique landscape and feel to it; grey volcanic ash, lush tropical forests, green paddy fields, golden beaches, blue skies, turquoise sea, vibrant ceremonial clothing, a black undertone of corruption, flowers, flags & kites everywhere. Oh and scooters…nothing can prepare you for the scooters and the ‘no rules’ traffic management! Bali also has a serious waste crisis. The Balinese traditionally used only organic materials, leaving no waste behind. With the introduction of plastics the island is covered in non-degradable waste from head to toe. The blame doesn’t lie entirely with the tourists either.
What about the coffee?
I don’t like coffee, thankfully! Just Google Kopi Luwak & you will see what I mean!
I am still in awe of the lovely Balinese people that we met on our visits, tours, outings, meals & excursions, many who guided us through our adventures, or who served us beautiful meals or spent time bartering with us when we bought our souvenirs. They are the happiest and kindest people that I have ever met.
Someone told me yesterday that a blog post was well overdue. He’s a good friend, a wonderful friend and I have shared many secrets with him (and him me), late night conversations, tears and laughter. Our pasts have included ex-partners with similar traits and we understand each other…
Eat, Pray, Love – one of my daughter’s favourite books and a go to film for restoring a good mood. It’s also responsible for her fascination with Bali. This feisty, young, feminist woman was seduced by a book about the pleasures of eating good food, about meeting people, about looking at yourself and learning, about using travel to heal and about finding love…I digress, but bear with me.
My friend lives in Bali (see the connection now?) and despite moving there in 2012 he makes more effort than people on my doorstep to keep our friendship alive. He’s asked me to go and visit him many times. The invitation has always been on the table. One day in October 2014 he told me that it was likely that he was returning to the UK and if I wanted to visit it had to be soon(ish). Oh shit! I hate being put under pressure to make expensive decisions AND I was in the middle of having work done on the house.
This is how the decision process went…
Oh shit, how can I not go?
Oh shit, the daughter will hate me if I go to Bali without her.
Oh shit, the son won’t want to go!
Oh, bugger I can’t take one without the other and still enjoy myself.
How can I afford it? I could afford to take myself (just) but not three of us.
Bollocks- I can’t go.
Fuck it, I have to go! We’re all going. Decision made…
EAT – He constantly share photos of food with me. I wake up in the mornings to photos of what they had for dinner the previous night. The food looks incredible.
PRAY – I am praying that Mount Raung behaves itself. The ash cloud from the erupting volcano is playing havoc with flights in and out of Bali.
LOVE – I will be with people who I love.
HOPE – We all long for genuine human connections and without it our lives can feel very empty. I have a beautiful family and I have lovely friends and I am grateful. Every.Single.Day. I know the trials and tribulations that my friend in Bali has been through and I know he has found the happiness that he deserves. I have shared my internet dating horrors with him, I have spared him some of the details, but this morning he said “There’s a normal one out there somewhere for you”. I hope he is right.
“People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.”
Sometimes I think my life is so boring and other times I crave something more normal, with less drama and some tranquility. I have been quiet for a few weeks because the drama took hold of us. I’m not sure you would believe me if I told you the events of the past few weeks. My friend called it “situation overload”.
When someone asked me “how are you?” or “how’s things?” I could barely string a sentence together. I couldn’t even respond with the standard stiff upper lip of “fine thanks”. At one point I literally went and hid when someone asked me.
My son had Situation Overload.
My daughter had Situation Overload
Me? I had Situation Overload AND Situation Overload by Default.
My advice to my children- you have to go through shit in your lives. You have to learn that it’s okay to feel negative emotions of anger, fear, sadness, frustration, doubt and guilt to name but a few. You have to learn that these feelings do generally pass IF you allow yourself time to feel these emotions and know that with strength and tenacity you will get through it.
I’m not telling them to pull themselves together; I’m definitely not telling them to Man Up (a phrase that I actually abhor). I have told them that they are awesome, they have conducted themselves with dignity, they have cried and smiled, and their relationship has developed another layer of closeness.
In amongst all of the drama here are some of the simple things that reduced Situation Overload to a mere Situation:
Watching Pitch Perfect 2 with the daughter- whilst eating vanilla popcorn.
Ice Cream- it’s always a feature.
Friends who touched base, but knew that I needed time- I am so grateful.
The Bali Squad and the huge hug I received- what a lovely evening we had making plans together and eating Chinese food.
Watching Untouchable for the third time- this is my all time favourite film.
Laughing so hard when I just overheard my 14yr old ordering pizza with his friend “do you want a stripper combo?”
And finally… getting the opportunity to write some thoughts down. Breathe.
If we were having coffee (or if I was having fruit tea), I would tell you that I have been really out of sorts this week.
If we were having coffee, I would want to talk about what had been happening in your week. I would want to avoid so much of what has been happening in my world.
It’s not major stuff (well actually some of it is), but I would hope that instead of dwelling on it we could sit and chat and put the world to rights. So much dialogue goes on in my head that it would be good to sit and just talk!
I cancelled our coffee date last week because things were getting on top of me, I took a rain check and rescheduled to this week to see if it would help my mood. It didn’t.
I’m feeling angry and tense, it’s been hard work getting my life back together and in one fell swoop someone called me “needy” and I lashed out. If I was needy do you think I would have spent all these years alone? Do you think I would have done something about the loneliness before now? If I were “needy” maybe I would have looked for a man to supplement my less than living wage income? Or maybe just had casual sex, if my needs were not being met by a man? If I were needy do you think I would have coped so fucking well with bringing up my children?
But then I got to thinking…What if being needy wasn’t an insult?
Surely it’s part of the human condition to want to be with someone else? We can tell ourselves that we don’t, but there is so much research out there that proves otherwise. Wait a minute…I used the words ‘want to be’ NOT ‘need to be’. Therein lies the difference.
So what else has been going on? Would you like another coffee? How much time do you have left?
If we were having another coffee I would tell you that I resigned from my voluntary position. I didn’t want to; I wanted to make a difference. I think I did for a while, but to make a difference even on a small scale you need other people to help you. Yes NEED.
I would also tell you that linked to that decision was the fact that my son is anxious again and that means that I don’t get much sleep. A fourteen year old will pace the house into the very early hours if he is troubled and anxious. He will lash out at you because you are the one who is always there, He NEEDS you.
He’s anxious because his safe place, with people he trusts, and activities that he enjoys, and is very good at, is under threat. Why is that? He’s anxious because the social situations are challenging him. He sees only black and white, he’s extremely literal. He can’t easily identify that he’s being bullied by someone because they might see him as a threat; they might resent his single minded drive to achieve. They most definitely do not understand any aspect of autism.
If we were still drinking coffee, I would tell you that I fought back. Publicly, on Facebook. I NEED to protect my young. I NEED them to know that I have their back. They NEED to know that I have their corner.
So this happened- I took over my son’s Facebook account.
But then the messages of support for him started pouring in…
Matt’s a cool guy and if anyone is doing such ridiculous things we’re always here even though we don’t speak a lot!
Here for u Matt…you’re a nice guy and them who bring u down don’t let em cuz u will achieve something and will gain things mate
People only need to bully if they are lacking I’m their own lives, it is no true reflection of Matt, as the entire Evans family is frankly nothing but kind and genuine.
Luv ya Matt
Always here for you Matt u was was one of my first friends at school
You know how proud I am of you (from his sister)
I’m here for u m8
Unite and be awesome my friends (my personal favourite comment)
Do not listen to them they are just being dicks ur a good person and a good mate
stay strong ma friend
…And so it went on and on without a negative comment amongst them. He NEEDED that. I NEEDED to see that happen.
So the way I see it is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing other people. And thank you, I really needed that fruit tea and chat.
It has been over two months now since I re-embarked on my internet dating adventure and I thought that some of you might appreciate an update.
At first it was hell.
Then it got better.
Then it got worse.
Then it improved and so on…
I have definitely come to realise that I am in a good place to start a new relationship, unlike some of the people who I have either communicated with or met. I’m not really surprised though, I spent a great deal of time preparing myself and working out my motives and being sure. I loved, that is true. I can love again, that is also true.
I have been very honest about my past. It’s not something that I can change, nor do I want to. I am very aware of the fact that it is pretty unusual. In every case, if meeting up with a prospective date was a probability, I have shared my blog with them. In the first instance, it wasn’t intended that I would do that, but the questions posed to me naturally led me to take that step. As it turns out, I think it has served me well.
Some have said “will you write about me” and I thought (out loud sometimes), “don’t flatter yourself” and yet here I am. To be fair in the interest of your boredom some identities have been merged…
Mr Axe Murderer– had a great profile, lovely photographs, wrote charming emails at first, and apparently had strong family values. BE WARNED, not everything is as it seems. As communication progressed there were tiny little alarm bells going off in my head and all to do with the unusual grammar being used. Anyway, I shared my blog- after all it’s out there anyway- but I used a unique bitly link. I’m glad I did. He had already told me that he was in the forces and posted abroad, fair enough I thought. But when the link I sent was accessed it wasn’t from the same country where he had said he was. Not even close. The moral of this story is ALWAYS trust your intuition!
Mr Pervert– enough said. I’m not a prude, but I have had my education expanded.
Mr Rude– If I am not ready to answer a question then I will say just that. Patience as well as honesty is key as far as I am concerned. Don’t tell me I am stupid though.
Mr Unfaithful– Yep, not all people looking for a date are single.
On the plus side I have been out more in the last couple of months than I probably have in the last three years. I have been treated nicely, I have enjoyed male company, and I have felt feminine again. But not with any of the Mr Men mentioned above!
What is the difference between “courage” and “bravery“? Are “bravery” and “daring” the same thing? Then of course, there is also boldness.
On Tuesday last week, my daughter (ENFJ) really unsettled me with her courage, bravery, daring and boldness. This is not a new thing where she is concerned but this time it was very different. I watched her perform a piece of work for a fellow student’s dissertation choreography; in dance and dialogue she recounted the memories of the day, no, not the day, but the moment that my ex-husband told my children that he was leaving.
The intricate detail that she recalled shocked me. She could remember precisely where she was sat, how she was sitting, what she was wearing, where I was in the room, where he was stood, and the exact placement of inanimate items in the room. She told this to a theatre full of people. I wasn’t the only one crying. Daring? Brave? Bold? Courageous? I think all of these and I am incredibly proud.
I think that both of my children have faced their changed world bravely, showing their courage in some very difficult situations. They have both dared to be different in their own way and boldly faced things head on.
“What’s the most daring thing you have ever done?”
This was a question posed to me by a potential date at the end of last week. Had I been looking at one of those Bear Grylls, Action Man, no-time-for-a-real-woman-in-my-life-I’m-too-busy-sliding-down-mountains type profiles I might have read the question slightly differently than I did. Of all of the questions that I have been asked during this strange experience of internet dating, this is the one that I found the hardest to answer and also the one that, being INFJ, I have thought about most.
For the curious* person reading, this was my reply, or more accurately, they way that I dodged the question:
Tough question because this very much depends on your definition of daring! I think there are many things that I have done that are brave and I think this is a good conversation piece to really get to know someone. Occasionally, I need a metaphorical shove to be brave. That said, jumping out of aircraft or off high things on a piece of elastic? Ain’t never going to happen!!
So on reflection, no, I don’t think I am daring at all- but I am trying to find out if there’s a part of me that is and maybe it’s been hidden away. Courageous? No, I don’t think so. I am possibly bold at times. But brave, yes, I do think I have been brave and I have battle scars (real and metaphorical) to prove it.
But most of all, I’d like to know how you define these words, whether you think they apply to you and how would YOU answer the dreaded question…
“What’s the most daring/bravest/bold/courageous thing you have done?”
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am having another attempt at internet dating. It worked for me once before so I assume in my more optimistic moods that it can work again.
Initially a new profile on a dating site (particularly the one that I first tried) is bombarded with what I can only liken to a ‘new meat’ type feeding frenzy. To start with, before I changed sites, I was weeding out the daily onslaught of suitable matches using the following criteria:
too young- I mean REALLY young, I was certainly old enough to be their mother, apparently that’s a thing!
too old- I have challenge with my upper age limit because my stepfather is not that much older than me, so I don’t really fancy a date or a partner older than him.
Cross dresser- nope, not for me.
Kinky- as in ‘can you send me a photo of your *insert word here*?’
Potential axe murderers.
and yes, even “married but available”- these ones I would like to string up by their you know whats!
No communication skills whatsoever- I mean zero. How am I supposed to respond to a message that just says ‘Hiya’?
Blatant lies on profile.
Too many dog photos- dogs are fine by the way; I just don’t want to date one!