Making Memories

Keep all special thoughts and memories for lifetimes to come. Share these keepsakes with others to inspire hope and build from the past, which can bridge to the future.

~ Mattie Stepanek (b.July 17, 1990 – d.June 22, 2004)

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.

Making memoriesThis 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

#2 Hurst Castle 17th January 2016

#3 Bishop’s Waltham Palace 14th February 2016

#4 Old Sarum 6th March 2016

#5 Kingston Lacy & Badbury Rings 30th April 2016

#6 Maiden Castle & The Nine Stones 29th May 2016

#7 Wolvesey Castle 25th June 2016

#8 Porchester Castle 3rd July 2016

#9 Stourhead 23rd August 2016

#10 Southsea Castle 24th September 2016

#11 Old Wardour Castle 22nd October 2016

#12 Mottisfont Abbey 26th November 2016

…Make a bucket list

…Kiss in a haystack

…Collect Sea Glass whenever we can

…Share a shower

…Plan & go on a holiday

…Go for a ride in a horse and carriage

…Visit Scotland

…See the Northern Lights

…Kiss passionately on a beach at sunrise &/or sunset

…Visit Lake Como

…Volunteer

Share a hot tub 9th July 2016

Share an ice cream 7th November 2015

Visit Stonehenge 23rd January 2016

Go to a Rugby match 29th April 2017

Have a go at stone balancing – I tried & succeeded on 23rd January, the challenge is ON! 12th August 2017 record so far is 18!

…Complete a jigsaw together (1000+ pieces)

…Design a dream home

Create a playlist that we both love 20th July 2017, our wedding playlist.

Kiss under mistletoe 24th, 25th & 26th December 2015

…Create a memory book/blog/photo album

…Write a love letter to each other

…Go star gazing

…Go to the ballet

…Have a snowball fight

Take a selfie 31st October 2015, this has developed into Selfie on a Bridge (wherever in the world we are).

…Have afternoon tea

…Visit a European city that neither of us have visited before

Grow vegetables to eat August 2017, an amazing tomato plant with bigger plans for the future

…Spend the whole day in bed

…Do a fire walk

…Learn a circus trick

…Play Twister

Go for a bike ride 24th January 2016

Play a board game 28th November 2015

…Watch each other’s favourite film

…See a musical

…Kiss in the pouring rain

…Pick Strawberries

…Visit a temple

…Redesign the garden

Revisit the bench in the garden at Mottisfont 31st October 2015

…Make Elderflower Cordial (this looks like a good recipe)

Write our Wedding vows 20th July 2017

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A bridge to the future ~ Sept 2015

*All this has been compiled and shared with the kind permission of Mr Bojangles and some of it you will recognise from my own Bucket List.

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Situation Overload

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.

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The Only Thing That Matters…

IMG_20141218_181910…are the people in your life.

Unlike some people, I prefer to reflect in Autumn and I find New Year celebrations a challenge. What changes can possibly happen over just one night? Well nine years ago tonight my then husband told our children that he was leaving. I choose not to write too much about him because no good would ever come of it and this is my place for healing.

I am introverted. I have again chosen to be at home on 31st December; I am happy with that choice. According to famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung- an introvert is most obvious and vulnerable when he or she is in an overstimulating environment. As an introvert, parties are hell for me. I don’t like drunk people- I had a hideous experience with a drunk at a work Christmas party. I am not shy, I am just happiest with a close circle of people around me. I like to socialise, but with beloved friends and family and above all I like to laugh and love, passionately and unconditionally.

I hit rock bottom in March of this year, there was no major trigger point, I just fell apart and sobbed and sobbed whilst in the middle of a pile of ironing (maybe that WAS the trigger). My grief and loneliness had overwhelmed me, I was bogged down by work, the house, bills and the thought that life would never get any better, I no longer had any joy in life and it had to change. My daughter found me and the look on her face when she said ‘Mumma, please get help’ was enough to galvanize me into action. She tells me that I often go into automatic pilot and find solutions when challenges are thrown at me and this was no different.

I had to challenge the introvert in me, expose my thoughts and feelings, reach out. Guess what? I succeeded!

New York made me feel brave.

I have met (and not met) some wonderful people and a special friend that I hope I will have for life.

I realised that I have experienced great love and although I miss him, nothing can erase memories.

I have been educated in Doric, the dialogue of North East Scotland. It’s not lost on me that my partner was Scottish and I have somehow been drawn into a part of the world that he wanted to share with me.WP_000367

I struggle to thrive in any kind of chaos and I had some work done on the house, this proved to be great therapy in so many ways!

I have enjoyed watching my children grow and develop into practicing adults. It has been a real pleasure for me to see their closeness grow now that they don’t have to live together! I can see that I have been a good role model and mother (oh yeah, middle finger to the ex mother-in-law who said I would fail and lose my kids).

If I had to give a name to 2014 it would be The Year the Laughter Returned.

Not A Dear John Letter

A box of memories
A box of memories

Dear Jon

Where do I even start? This is the letter that has been trapped inside of me for months. The thoughts rattle around in my head and bounce back & forth on a daily basis.

I want you to know that I love you, I love you with all of my heart and that will never change. I no longer know where you are or what you are doing or if I will ever hear from you again. I have tried my best with the resources available to me to find out what has happened to you but each time I have met with a brick wall. You either do not want to be found or something dreadful has happened (we are unable to confirm or deny blah blah blah). I now have to accept this.

If you are safe and well, I wish you love, security and happiness. I want you to find your place in the world and to find a peaceful retreat. I want you to sleep gently and soundly like you once did in my bed, in my arms enveloped in love. I used to love watching you sleep.

I want you to know how grateful I am for the time we had together. I do not know who said these words, but I wish it had been me –

“And even if we never talk again please remember that I am forever changed by who you are and what you meant to me”.

I mostly need to thank you for the way your loved changed me. You made me feel beautiful and adored, cherished and wanted.

I have some specific memories and a small box of cherished items. I’ve opened it today, the box that’s been close to me all the years that I have known and loved you.

~A gold gift card from your first Christmas gift to me. It just says “love Jon xxxxx” we’d only know each other a couple of months, a few weeks really, but five kisses showed a lot of promise!

~A card from La Fenice, the local Italian Restaurant where we first went out as a four, you, me and my two children. It wasn’t easy, but it was a milestone.

~A tiny orange post-it note with my name on. Remember the silly game you thought up for Christmas with my family? It descended into total chaos, but we loved it. They also all loved you.

~A piece of lavender from Spa Fields in Islington. We dropped Emma at dance school and walked for miles looking for a peaceful space, not an easy task in London on a scorching hot day! To this day, the smell of lavender reminds me of the conversation, the very public kiss (the place where the bandidos live) and the feeling of total absorption in one another.

~A tiny photo of the corner table in The Chesil Rectory in Winchester, the oldest building in the city. You embarrassed the waitress remember?

Waitress: Have you decided?

You: Yes I have. I have decided that I love her.

It wasn’t the first time you had told me, but it is the one that sticks in my mind.

WP_000062 (2)~My ring, given to me for “love and commitment” it is beautiful, I’d like to put it back on but I dare not. It would undo these last few months that have got me to this point.

~Two small shells from Barton on Sea. I wanted shells; you sifted through heaps of stones to find me two shells with no cracks or chips. WP_000060You wanted to be near the sea that day, but somewhere quiet. A big ask in August bank holiday weekend on the south coast of England. I took you to where my Dad used to live, I hadn’t been back since his death and I thought it would be hard for me. It wasn’t, it was like introducing the two most important men in my life to each other. It gave me peace and tranquility although I doubt I could go back again. This was the last day that we spent together.

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~Lastly, a shiny 1p coin. The first thing you gave me, or rather lent to me. I hate owing money and you lent it to me the first time you had to go away. It was to reassure me that you were coming back. Every time you returned you asked if I still had it. I still have it now and I guess it’s mine by default; you can collect it any time.

These are just small things and big memories and wherever my life leads from this point on I will take a part of you with me.

All my love,

Jane xxxxx

The Scent of A Man

Morning Noon & Night

“All male pheromones are not equally attractive”

All men are not equally attractive, I’m sure the same can be said of women too. It fascinates me how we are attracted to some people and not others.

Take my ex husband (go on, be my guest) at some point I was attracted to him but these days I cannot see how that was even possible. So apart from the lying and cheating what changed? I am pretty sure that we are genetically programmed to value those people who are just plain nice to us. So when they stop being nice, they stop being attractive. It would be fair to say that I stopped being nice to him when he couldn’t support me in my grief. A man who couldn’t care at that level just stopped being attractive to me. So he went and found someone who would be nice to him (he was a type 4 spouse). Simple.

My friends are nice to me. Some of them I love, some I adore, some I like to spend time with. I don’t want to sleep with them though. What makes that difference?

When I became single after being married for 21 years, dating was terrifying. I had two young children had been through a bit of an ordeal (my father’s death, husband’s infidelity and other stuff not for sharing here), but I absolutely knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone.

Internet dating? It seemed like a reasonable solution but I have to say, what a struggle that was! You look at pictures, rather like a clothing catalogue and decide if you like them, then order them, then try them on for size (metaphorically, of course). I was lonely NOT desperate! How on earth do people think that because you ‘dated’ them that you want sex with them!

I took a different tactic and focused far more on trying to read between the lines of their profiles, decipher what people were trying to say and what they were trying not to say. I found a description that I liked. I didn’t like his photograph though. I decided that I would only date someone who was prepared to invest the time in getting to know me online. Someone with patience. Someone who I could ask lots and lots of questions of, in a way that you couldn’t with a face to face meeting that early on in a relationship/friendship. By the time we decided to meet, some six weeks later, I already knew that I liked him.

When I met him, he smelled good, really, really good. That was probably enough for me. I love this man, I loved him more deeply than any other man I have ever known. He was kind, he was gentle, caring, compassionate & considerate. He was nice to me. All of the time. NO exceptions.

So there are two factors here. He was nice to me and he smelled good.

Fast forward a few years and I find myself in the same situation again. Single, I think. I think? Yes, because I don’t really know for sure. But I do know, sure as hell, I am not going through internet dating again.

So rather than looking for just a man, I am looking for a person who can be present in my life, who is nice to me and who smells good!

You’d think it would be simple. Apparently not!

Autumn

& Everything it Means to Me.

I do not know why, but my mood changes in the Autumn, more so than any other season. I notice the onset of the season and stop and think about many things.

I am sure that part of my thought process relates to the fact that my birthday is in October and it’s a time to reflect on the years that have passed and those ahead. I know most people would tend to do this over New Year but I try & ignore that celebration altogether.

The last time ever spoke to my Dad will be 10 years ago this Autumn and it was my birthday, I have mentioned this before. When things like this happen on normally happy occasions, you can never let the day go by without thinking and reflecting. I adored my Dad and I only wish that my own children could have experienced that with their own father. I felt safe with him, I felt protected and loved even into my adulthood. He always had my back no matter what.

I also met my (missing) partner in October, actually on the anniversary of my Dad’s death. I have pondered this coincidence many, many times! Since starting this blog I have tried many times to openly express how I felt (still feel) about the gift of his love but I do not have the words yet. I hope that one day I do.

If you have been following my journey you will know that I started writing for therapy for myself, to become more open and (re) learn how to let people into my own personal space. It has worked too.

I have learned that although the leaves fall, the new growth will appear. In the last few months I have made more new friends, received so much support and found some like minded people who interact and seem to enjoy what I have to say. I am beginning to find my happiness again I must say I like it when I catch myself smiling.

with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph
with kind thanks to @pixodentist for permission to use this beautiful photograph

Finding My Happiness

“Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” —Jaques Prevert

You would often say to me “Jane, be happy” and I know that you would hate to see me as unhappy as I have been these last few months. So I am making steps to find my happiness again. It’s not that I am unhappy all the time – there are always the moments of happiness that creep up on me and take me by surprise. It’s just that there were more of them when you were around.

I knew when my marriage failed that I was not destined to be alone, I am a people person and I value those I hold close beyond all else. So I actively sought you out, sifting through the chaff of internet dating was a bit like panning for gold in the River Thames. I know I struck lucky.

You put the smile back on my face. You gave me memories to treasure. You made me feel loved & beautiful and cherished. You held me when I cried. You shared my laughter. You loved my children. You even cleaned the oven! We talked for hours and hours.

Your last visit we talked about getting married. Your last contact was troubled yet hopeful “life is so difficult here, but I dream of growing old with you all”.

The trouble is I am still that same person who wants a special someone in their life but I cannot see how anyone could withstand comparison to you. Unresolved grief they call it.

There is no difference between happiness and love. Will I ever know what happened?

In the mean time I have decided grain by grain, to try & find my happiness and this is part of the process.

 

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“Child of Hope”

It’s a harmless enough question when people ask about the age difference between my children. It’s almost 6 years. Nothing extraordinary about that is there?  My standard answer is “that’s just how it happened” and that’s true enough for most people. After all, when someone asks “How are you?” do you give them chapter & verse. No, I thought not.

November 5th 1999 I had a positive pregnancy test. Six days later I was in hospital with a suspected miscarriage.

Please tell me why they scan you in the same department as all the pregnant women with their swollen bellies? You hang your head, unable and unwilling to make eye contact with anyone. There is no joy in your heart or womb, just emptiness. You failed. I was sent home to let nature take it’s course. Miscarriage, even early on is bloody, painful and cruel. But that’s only half the story.

I thought that I was verging on insanity, you see, after years of infertility treatment I was fairly in tune with my body and its cycles. I felt pregnant. I felt crazy. I had seen what was flushed down the toilet. I honestly thought that if I mentioned it to my GP that he would have me sectioned. I didn’t mention it, I went back to work.

A week after my  miscarriage I had a routine blood test to make sure that “the products of conception” (Hey! That’s my baby you’re talking about!) had not been retained by my faulty, failure of a womb.

I took a call at work – I was working evenings – my GP said that I needed to go to hospital. I said “I’ll make an appointment in the morning”. He said no, that I needed to go immediately as my pregnancy hormones were still rising. What the hell did that mean? I think it meant that I wasn’t going crazy.

I’ll cut a long story short. More scans. More swollen bellies. More disgust with my own body. More failure. Nothing. There was no trace of the pregnancy, a “complete miscarriage” they said. That’s it then.child of hope

But it wasn’t, there was an ectopic pregnancy. This was a heterotopic pregnancy,  a rare situation when there was an intra-uterine and extra-uterine pregnancy occurring simultaneously.

I then had to sign a consent form to have the foetus and fallopian tube removed. It broke my heart. This is a very different kind of grief.

A healthy, very unexpected pregnancy followed very soon afterwards. My son is my Child of Hope. Even his name means gift. If I had to go through it all again just to hold him, I would.

 

Grief

My Grief is Like a River
I have to let it flow,
But I myself determine
Just where the banks will go.

Some days the current takes me
In waves of guilt and pain,
But there are always quiet pools
Where I can rest again.

I crash on rocks of anger–
My faith seems faint indeed,
But there are other swimmers
Who know that what I need

Are loving hands to hold me
When the waters are too swift,
And someone kind to listen
When I just seem to drift.

Grief’s river is a process
Of relinquishing the past.
By swimming in Hope’s channels
I’ll reach the shore at last.
– Author Unknown

I read this (or at least tried to) at my Father’s funeral. I had experienced grief before, but nothing like this. My Dad always had the solidity that I valued, he was a rock. My sister spoke about him at the funeral too and one thing that struck me was that we had both had very different relationships with him! I didn’t recognise the man she was talking about at all.

He was not present in my younger days in the same way that he was in hers – there is eight years between us – but nonetheless, I knew that he loved me.

Four days before he died he phoned me on my birthday to wish “his baby” a happy birthday. I don’t remember him ever being so softly spoken or gentle of voice. He was a big man, ex boxer, ex Army and manual worker, it just wasn’t his way. It left me puzzled at the time. And by the way…I was 42!

What I am feeling now 10 years later, for someone else, is grief. A very different kind of grief. It’s ambiguous. Why do I grieve? It’s uncertain. Are you dead or somehow still alive?