Recently I have found my eyes welling up and emotions spilling out at the most inappropriate moments. For example; sitting on the bed, pegging the washing out, waiting at traffic lights, trying to park the bloody car in the narrow spaces in the car park, the self-service till in Sainsburys, signing in to reception at work, and while cooking dinner. For heaven sake woman…GET A RUDDY GRIP!
I’ve been a mother for 22 years. In fact, I don’t consider that I have been a mother at all- I have an aversion to the word and hate to be called “mother”, it sounds harsh & formal and hopefully not like me at all. Generally, I answer to a simple “mum”, but often Muma or Mumma, occasionally Mummy, Mumsie or even sometimes Mumma Evs, you get the picture. I adore all of those names and all of the roles I associate with them. I have felt loved by my children and a few others who might associate the labels to me.
For more than half of my time as a parent, I have been a single parent and no, it’s not been easy. I’m sure that even in a two parent family it’s tough as well. I didn’t intentionally set out to have a fundamental goal as a parent, initially I just had to cope & get by and I can’t imagine that this is any different to anyone else. Over time, and as life became clearer, the notion of giving my children Roots and Wings became part of our family values. I wanted to raise them so that they nurtured a strong sense of self and belonging, grounded in manners & respect for others, with a strong understanding of how everyone can be different, yet we are all the same.
I am incredibly proud of how they have taken our ground rules and flourished as individuals. They are both passionate in their own way, they will speak up for injustices even if their opinions differ strongly form their peers, that can be hard to do. If they ever have children of their own (the jury is very much out on THAT topic), then it will be interesting to see how that is passed down to future generations. Will they be as strong willed? Independent? Fiesty? Bold? Anyway, I digress.
So, one has already left home and the other, I doubt will be far behind her only yesterday he said “can she take me too” (more on that in a minute). Back to this concept of roots and wings; roots to know where you are from, wings to be bold enough to be your own person & follow your own dreams and ambitions.
Roots are not a place, but a sense of belonging, they are by definition what grounds you. A strong sense of home but not the actual bricks, more the people in your life who make you feel “at home”. Roots are the part of your core foundation where you soak up the unconditional love and innate sense of belonging, where you gravitate back to when the storms shake you. It is the understanding of family and of values. It is your safe place.
If you think of it literally, in terms of nature itself, anything will grow strong with the right conditions, food, water and care. Look at the trees, those with the strongest root systems will endure the drought, floods, wind & rain and still KEEP GROWING.
Wings; what the hell was I thinking about giving them wings. There are times when I have wanted to clip their wings. To keep my children forever by my side; to keep them safe, safe from all harm and not let them hurt or be harmed by anything. It’s damn hard not to clip wings!
To let them spread their wings you have to love them and trust them totally and unconditionally. You have to help them find their path but also let them choose their own direction even when you feel that the other way might be quicker, safer, and more secure. This is your ultimate gift to them. Unclipped wings.
This month has seen each of my children book a one way flight. Thankfully for now, the youngest is sailing from home and flying back, but the eldest has booked a one way flight to start her own journey. At the moment there is no end date to this particular journey and I have to keep telling myself that it’ll be OK. That she will be OK. That I will be OK. I will won’t I?
I love you both to the ends of the earth. Have the adventures & live the adventures but please, please, please come back & get your roots watered from time to time.
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.
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?”
definition ~ a number of experiences or achievements that I hope to have or accomplish during my lifetime.
In no particular order to be added to, edited, and even deleted as and when the inclination takes me.
#1 Pay full ticket price to watch my daughter perform professionally: And I want to keep the ticket framed.
#2 Visit Scotland: This needs to happen for so many reasons some of them deeply personal. I’d also like to meet up with some special quines who have supported me, made me laugh, and generally been awesome friends.
#3 Sign up for that counselling course: It’s been on the bucket list in my head for a while now. To do this I need to have 3 hours free one evening per week. Not easy as a single mum, but I will get there.
#4 See the Northern Lights: I have actually done this, but out of a plane window on the way back from New York so I don’t think it really counts.
#5 Kiss *name unknown as yet* deeply and passionately on the beach at sunrise or sunset: Situation vacant.
#6 Visit Lake Como: It’s a George Clooney thing.
#7 Go white water rafting: My son didn’t believe me when I said I wanted to do this. I intend to show him that I mean business! Achieved August 2015
#8 Be taken out for Afternoon Tea: I feel that it is really unjust that I have wanted to do this for AGES and then my daughter goes and does it first. Without me *stamps feet in petulant fashion*.
#9 Visit Stonehenge: My Dad took me when I was a child, but we couldn’t afford to pay to go in so we had to look from afar.Achieved January 2016
#10 Have a go at Stone Balancing: For no particular reason. Most of all I would like to do this with the friend I refer to in Pebbles.Achieved January 2016
“I know not how I may seem to others, but to myself I am but a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to content myself with” Plato
I gave a compliment to a friend a little while ago and added the following codicil ‘You can deflect it if you like but it’s my opinion and you will have to respect it’.
In turn she bounced it back with ‘One day I will describe you as I see you- just so you know’ and then followed that with my own words ‘You can deflect it if you like but it’s my opinion and you will have to respect it (someone very wise and dear to me told me that)’.
It’s true; we find it impossible to see ourselves as others do!
Are you aware of the Johari window? Give people the opportunity to anonymously tell you how they view you, yeah that’s scary! I am still mentally processing the results of this task, but it has strengthened me.
So ******, to me you are:
In a way that there is no standard definition. To me you are interesting, layered, intriguing, fascinating, beautifully complex.
I was going to say powerful because to me being loving is the most powerful thing you can be. I chose loving instead because powerful has some negative connotations these days. Being loving changes lives, not by force, rules and regulations, laws and instructions but by consistency, example and faith in others. Like a river slowly smoothing pebbles, gently and irreversibly.
Like hot chocolate on a cold day. I would say like fruit tea, but I know you would see through that as the tease that is most certainly is. What’s the point of tea if it contains no actual tea, right? Warm and comforting, but no marshmallows or cream because you’re not sickly at all.
Wise enough to know that you are fragile. Wise enough to be strong for others. Wise enough to be humble in knowledge. Wise enough to hang on in there.
I had to include this one, because you make me laugh so much over such silly things. I tried and tried to write about the laughter over the ‘getting laid’* incident because I wanted to capture my feelings at having been able to laugh at the silliest of things. I wanted to hold on to how good it felt to laugh randomly and inappropriately, to lose all decorum just because the thought of our conversation popped back into my head.
Because despite all that life has thrown at you, you are still here and I am so grateful for that and to know you now.
I haven’t known her for very long but I have been changed by knowing her. We have had long and late conversations some silly, some serious, some deep and some not so! As a whole she has made me think, particularly about the way that my ex-husband treats me.
When I met her, I felt that I already knew her and this has made me question and probe my own beliefs and foundations. Through conversation, and something that I wrote about here, it transpired that we nearly met a few years ago, well nearly ten years to be more precise.
Words by KnotTheMeYouSee (@tanglesofme). Photo taken on the last day spent with Jon trying to see who was the most effective King Canute.
This led me to wonder are we always destined to meet the people we meet. What do you think?
If I had met her then, would the connection have been as strong? I doubt it. If I had met my partner at a different time would our love story have a different ending?
*Getting laid has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with a new floor.
Yesterday was such a strange day. Late the night before I had finished and published my previous blog post Not A Dear John Letter, it was a deeply personal piece and I was in two minds whether to publish it or not, but I did albeit under cover of darkness when I thought nobody would be looking. I shed some tears, quite a few actually.
I started writing my blog after a complete and utter failure to hold myself together. I started crying whilst ironing (yes, I know, who wouldn’t?) and was unable to stop. As far as I remember there was no trigger, no anniversary, no jolt of memories, just an overwhelming sadness. Years of ‘being strong’ had obviously caught up with me, but the worst thing about this incident was being held by my daughter and her saying ‘please get some help Mumma, I don’t know what to do’.
I didn’t want help, I wanted him back and no amount of therapy was going to make that happen so I sought help from me. I decided that I had to let myself grieve but also look towards a future that didn’t include him but to do this in a positive way if at all possible.
This morning a friend shared the lyrics to For Good from Wicked with me. The words are so appropriate, not least because it’s a musical that me & my children love (son is off to see it for the third time on Thursday), but because I have been changed for the better by loving him but also changed for good by all of you.
I’ve heard it said,
That people come into our lives
For a reason
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are lead to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you.
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you.
I have been changed for good.
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime.
So, let me say before we part:
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you’ll have rewritten mine
By being my friend.
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea.
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood.
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
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.
~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. You 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.
~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 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!
Is moving forward the same as moving on? I don’t think so. Moving on seems more final.
On Valentine’s Day 2014 I took off his ring. It was given to me “for love and commitment”. The memory of the day he gave it to me is one that I treasure and one that I do not want to forget. We had a discussion about what finger I would wear it on, I know that he was pleased that I chose to wear it on my ring finger, left hand. That was a definite moving on moment. Moving on from the past of a painful divorce.
I do not want to forget. I do not want to feel unfaithful. I do not want to feel that I have let him down.
I took off his ring, not because I wanted to move on, but because I wanted to move forward.
Moving forward is hard, because I always have the “What if?” questions in the back of my mind.
What if he is still alive?
What if he just turns up one day and I have moved on?
I would rather just move forward, day by day. This is my choice.