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.
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.
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.
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!
So despite telling myself emphatically that I would not return to the world of internet dating, I have done so.
It has taken a build-up of weeks and a gentle push from a friend for me to do this. The first step was writing my profile. I find expressing myself on paper relatively easy WHEN I have the right inspiration but in this case I was certainly lacking. I kept my blurb short & sweet with a view to expanding it if or when I become more comfortable with the idea.
In the meantime, if they want to know more, they will have to ask!
In the interest of keeping a sense of humour about all of this I shall share with you a few snippets of a conversation that ultimately led to me hitting the send button on this ‘adventure’.
On taking the plunge: They are your rules to make.
On casual shagging: It’s a bit like eating crisps; you really fancy them, they’re good while they last, then ultimately they are unsatisfying and best forgotten. (I haven’t got the time or the inclination for that.)
On grammar and poor choice of words in some profiles: Dominant? Or dominate? I’ve just choked on my tea (either way it means ‘deploy barge pole’).
On appropriate response to inappropriate suggestions: Send a message to him immediately- You disgust me you repellent arsehole, no wonder you are single.
So we all know that I like a man who smells nice and since the internet hasn’t yet identified a way to determine this, these are some of my first thoughts:
It feels like catalogue shopping.
I can’t get past a profile that doesn’t use at least some basic punctuation.
Why post a photograph in which you are not smiling or at least hinting at a smile, Mona Lisa style?
Why post a photograph in front of a fast car? ‘That don’t impress me much’ – Shania Twain
Why post a photograph in SPEEDOS?
And finally for the moment, I totally dismiss anyone who hasn’t taken the time to hit ‘rotate’ on their photograph.
I don’t understand the need to have identical hobbies, likes & dislikes. People are interesting, I like interesting people. They don’t have to like the same food as me, or have the same taste in music. I don’t want a clone of me. I want someone to complement me (compliments are nice too). In my experience the best guarantee of any relationship, be it romantic or otherwise, is a basic moral similarity and values that are harmonious. <This may have to go in my profile.
No. Wait. Before you go. One more thing… I have been categorised by my income, job and ambition and other personal statistics and that is fine except for the fact I am so much more than that. It will be interesting to see what happens next.
Yesterday didn’t end well, I had issues with my ex during the evening. I got into my nightwear and decided to put the rubbish out. On my way to the bin, barefoot, I stepped on a slug. I emailed a friend and finished off saying “and yet the world still turns” This was her response…
Oh my !
That definitely counts as a ‘not ok’ sort of day.
Yes the world still turns- but how dare it when slugs and exes join forces against you.
Still, as we know slugs and exes occupy a similar place on the evolutionary scale and are better off ignored or fed to birds or even drowned in beer- who cares as long as they don’t impact on those we love.
Thinking of you and very much hoping today is slug free xxx