Saturday, 30 April 2016

I'm out of the darkness

Things feel better. I mean, I feel better. I'm trying to work out what I mean by that.

I think it's this.

In a cafe in York last Saturday morning with the girl (I'd traveled up after work on Friday partly to deliver some stuff, but also in response to her split with her boyfriend and a strong urge to nurture), a word suddenly leapt out at me from the menu. "Bircher?" I texted to my cousin Fra, to get a "Yes! that's it!" back. An exchange meaningless to the rest of the world, the conclusion to a conversation started weeks ago, and hundreds of miles away, but that feeling of connection made me so happy, and I realised that it's one of the things depression takes from me. Depression makes me feel out of step and unfit for the world, like the screeching discomfort of a missed gear, and now here comes the relief of things slipping into place.

I'm looking ahead, something else I am unable to do when I'm not well. Snake and I have talked about when there will be some money from the house that will allow me to think about buying a small place, with a room for whichever of the children might want to be with me at any one time. Somewhere I can make my own, where I can keep my small dog instead of having to share him between houses (strictly speaking, no dogs are allowed at my flat, although he's so small and cat like that I smuggle him in when I can).

Impressive Sam keeps finding me more work, and telling me how much he likes the stuff I write for him. I'm thinking that in a couple of years the time might be right to move out of working for the LA and for using my odd ragbag of skills and knowledge in other ways. I met an old colleague for a drink last night, and alongside the slight anxiety of being out for a drink in the small town where (in my dark fantasy) everyone knows a twisted version of my story, there was enjoyment at being in a loud crowded happy place, with a few exchanged glances and words with a friendly person at the bar, an with catching up with Mon, and hearing her inspirational ideas of life after the public sector.

There's texting Ms M and saying, shall we go out for a drink tonight? and getting a yes yes yes! back, then texting Ms K with the same query and getting a similar response. There's getting a Friday afternoon email asking if Community Care magazine can publish an article I wrote and that was tweeted around social care circles a little while ago. There's spending a day at  a university interviewing potential social work students, and laughing with the tutors at the ubiquitousness of "I take the dog for a walk" as an answer to the coping with stress question (it seems to be a prerequisite to social work training that you have a dog now). There's the fact that the weather has been crap with January temperatures, but today the sun is out and the sky is skyblue and I'm going for a walk in a while with friends.

I still cry too much. FSF is still a cause for tears on too many days and I berate myself for my utter foolishness -  a middle aged woman blindsided by love, and weeping over its loss. But it's not a regret. Snake is happy and making plans with his new partner, Goldie is the most gorgeous, loving, bright, loveable 15 year old boy you could possibly imagine. The girl is dealing with a the break up of a relationship and writing a dissertation and looking for a job like she's some sort of adult of something.

Nothing new really, nothing remarkable, But I can see the shine in it all, the potential. I can feel the connections again.

Movin On Up Primal Scream

Monday, 18 April 2016

To be the one who walks 1000 miles to fall down at your door

I don't know why post titles are all about falling at the moment. If anything, I feel like a long long free fall is finally over, and, yes, there's a long way to climb, but at least there's a purpose to that, and some light showing somewhere up there.

Part of the reason for the long break in writing is lack of laptop until this weekend. They replaced the screen, the hard drive, the wifi something and the motherboard (I think they said motherboard?) apparently, and that seems to have fixed the myriad of frustrating unreliable habits it had developed, as you'd hope it would, since there's nothing left of that hugely irritating machine but the keyboard.

Me and the children went to Scotland to stay with my wonderful cousin. As I do when I'm up there, on one day I took off on my own to cross the mountains to do a work visit to a family. It must be among the most beautiful drives in the world, Torphins to Spean Bridge across the Cairngorms. I stop regularly to get out and breathe in that high, cold, still snow filled in April air, and to wonder at the space. The space. And the water. And the mountains.

Something shifted for me while I was there. Some corner was turned or perspective was gained. I got my head round a couple of work things - not in that I became able to solve the unsolvable, but in realising the need to tackle everything one small bite at a time. Things started to feel better.

This weekend I went on the anti austerity demo. I go for selfish reasons. I've been marching against various forms of injustice since I was 15 and, apart maybe from the poll tax demo, which did feel like a defining moment, I can't see that they have ever changed anything. But they are battery chargers, energy boosters, good will restorers. I went on an arranged coach and there were a couple of people I knew a little on there, but I made the decision to go off alone and get lost, wander through the different factions, see the particular and peculiar slants that different people were putting on it. In Trafalgar Square I watched speakers and people, and London life while slowly freezing from the feet up. It was a good day. It did the job.

And because this seems to be a picture post, I'll just add this one. I came home to this left on the doorstep one evening, and I'm a little in awe of it. Because I left school at 16 with nothing. Because I grew up as the non-academic one. Because I wrote my dissertation in a few miserable days with my life in ruins around me. Mixed feelings, but somewhere in there among the very real impostor syndrome, there is a glimmer of pride.

Friday, 1 April 2016

That girl was always falling again and again

I'm torn between wanting to continue to write here, and being aware that what I write is a continuous whine of "it's all so hard". I think I just need to go with it for a while longer and hope that one day the utter boredom of self pity wears off. Maybe in summer?

It's all still pretty hard, to be honest. Everything is a huge effort and I can't easily find a reason that means the effort is worthwhile. The children, of course. But it's easy to get into a loop where I feel my negativity, lack of energy, frequent flash storms of tears, are detrimental to them and that they'd be better off without me. Having said that, when we're together, we're fine. By nature of living in a one bedroom flat, when Goldi is here we spend the time together, far more than we did when I was still with Snake and we would all tend to gravitate to our own spaces. Now, we talk about the music he loves, he shows me videos he's enjoying, we catch up on out of date comedy series, and play games. The girl is home from York, and using the flat for study and space while I'm at work, and we've been out for drinks and coffee and walks, and I get to come home some nights from a shit day (every day at work feels pretty shit at the moment) to find her sitting in my bed with the laptop and packets of biscuits, and her beautiful face. Snake's new partner is spending a lot of time at the house, and is there with her son this week, and I am glad to be able to offer an alternative roof for my two for when they might want it. I mean, I'm sure they love her, but....and I suppose that's a whole other source of grief and bitterness and tears, in that just about anyone in the world is more loveable than me just now. And I don't want to lose my children to this perfect insta-family that has set up in my old home.

At the weekend Ms K asked where I'd go if I could go anywhere in the world, and there was no where I could think of, apart from my bed. Anything else felt like a huge amount of effort, even the decision felt too big, I felt unfit to take part, even in the fantasy of it. I don't want to be like that.

(Also, weirdly, I've lost my passport, in the latest of "if it can go wrong it will go wrong" series of events. Not that I'm going anywhere. But I live in a very small space. Where can it be?).

It's not that there are no good things. I cooked a vegan feast this week for two old friends, both of whom I was at school with, and who I lived with at various times, in various makeshift housing in London. We ate and drank and played Cards Against Humanity, an entirely unsuitable card game that Goldi persuaded me to get. 47! We're all 47 years old and trying to make sense of it all, and 5 minutes ago we were 15 and trying to make sense of it all, and surely we thought we'd be sorted by now? Each of us has a daughter, and each of us is living alone at least part time. How could we ever have foreseen this?

I've taken the day off work. I could have pretended I'd work from home, but that's not what I intend to do. And I could probably have legitimately called in sick. But I didn't want to do that either. So late yesterday afternoon I contacted the hugely tarnished former best boss in the world, and he, in lieu of asking how I was, or actually providing support or anything, agreed to last minute annual leave. So I have a day to do something with, and the sky is blue, and the children will be with me tonight for crap telly, and jostling for space on the sofa, and noise and energy and youth.

I'm trying to get through a day without crying. Mornings are hardest so maybe I shouldn't count mornings. I keep falling off that bandwagon by about 7.30 am. And I really did fall over a couple of weeks ago, in a busy London street, on my way to meet a friend, thinking look, I've made it to where we said we'd meet, I got out of bed and in the car, and did the underground, and I've actually made it, and then I was flat out on the street, with people stepping round me like they do.

Catch - The Cure

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Sometimes I get up and bake a cake or something. Sometimes I stay in bed.

There's some blossom appearing, and it's light when I walk across to swimming at 6.30am. Over the last week there have been too many evenings when I've been stuck at work until late,  but sometimes now, I get to leave in daylight. Some things feel easier. I think I'm crying less.

Then sometimes I still feel like I'm flailing around for some purpose, some reason to keep.on.going, with every step lead booted by...maybe not depression, but something that holds me back, makes everything a huge effort. Like being at altitude, or wading through weed infested water. Hard work.

(Hard work is one of the things me and Goldi say to each other a lot, after seeing a Kendrick Lamar vlog where he talks about his success being the result of hard work. Hard work).

(Kendrick's continued and surprising presence in my life - I went into HMV to buy the new CD and got into a conversation with the man behind the counter, who ran through the influences and connectors, writing names on the till receipt for us to look into, sharing his excitement).

The divorce came through today. Not something I wanted or felt I needed. I'm not marking it. I don't want to pretend it has more significance than the bit of paper it is. But the bit of me that is feeling sorry for myself is drawn to the idea that it's another rejection. Like the end of the relationship with FSM. Like the job I heard today I didn't get. What it feels like, if I give into the temptation to create a metaphor for it, is the cutting through of another root. And me a bit more unstable with each blow.

But I think I'm crying less. About 6 weeks now without citalopram. Sleeping a bit better too. Loving re re re reading The French Lieutenant's Woman. Relishing it, so that waking up at 4.30 has an element of glee, as I realise I have reading time ahead of me, and that I'll see the sun come up.

Life goes on, whether I want it to or not. That's the thing.

Racing Like a Pro - The National

Friday, 4 March 2016

Sunshine on my back

I've had this week off work, using up some leave. Most of the time has been filled up, with people and stuff, but I kept Monday mostly clear, and went for a long walk, just me and the dog, on a beautiful cold winters day. It's a walk I've done before many times (the annual slow sloe walk), but never alone, and I was sure I'd get lost. But I didn't.

Later in the day Ms M and I walked again, ending at sunset with what feels like it should be a march because of the majesty of the avenue of trees that takes you back to the starting point. We were accompanied by rooks (or ravens, or crows?) on their nightly return to their communal rest. The noise of their calls to each other and the beating of their wings was loud and arrogant and beautiful in it's purpose, its pre ordination.


And now it's March and that's feeling like an achievement to me, to have reached March. More light, more green, a shift forward away from this hard hard season.  Already, the mornings and evenings are brighter. There's some blue sky. The colour of hope.


After 2 years of anti depressants I haven't taken them for 24 days. With the ending of the relationship with FSF I think my timing might be off, and it's true, every now and then I'm knocked sideways by the grief, the disbelief of losing someone I loved. But it's not the relentless despair of depression. I might curl up sobbing for a few minutes at a time, but in between life seems interesting and full of challenges that seem worth tackling. 


And that's the other definer of this period of my life. Everything I touch seems to get knotted up and to take far longer then it should. Nothing feels easy. Maybe that's because I'm doing things alone for the first time, without Snake sharing the load (and the load can just be the moans, the complaints, the whines). But it does feel like the simplest task I touch becomes a mountain of emails and form filling and time-scales and information sharing that is ridiculous and exhausting, and on Wednesday led to me turning up on Ms M's door in tears, with a pile of paperwork and a working-only-intermittently laptop. She stepped in admirably, despite the difficulties she is in the midst of. And last night I went back with fewer tears, and a bottle of gin, and heartfelt thanks. 


I am so lucky to have the friends I have. So lucky. I am ridiculously introverted, reluctant to reach out, generally extremely private about myself (and I write a personal blog. Well, I guess it has to go somewhere). Still, this week alone, I was with the remarkable BB for drinking and swearing and remarkableness, at the cinema with Ms K and Peel and my parents and another person who might become a friend (The Lady in the Van was the film - completely ruined for me by the lazy, Daily Mail inspired stereotypical view of social workers. I feel like dragging the lovely Alan Bennett into my team for a week - THIS is what we do. THIS is how hard it is. And in real life social workers talk a lot less bollocks and swear a whole lot more than any of the representations I've seen on screen). Snake cooked for me one evening, and one of the joys of this spring is that I feel I can talk to him again after a time when we needed to partition ourselves from each other. I am pleased and thankful for his relationship with a new person, and hopeful that it means he and I can now start doing this divorce thing well. I met a man who I swim with in the mornings and who I occasionally go for a coffee with. I went for a meal with an old friend, who lives, magically, in the park with the avenue of trees and the crows (or rooks and ravens) and who is cool and clear and non judgemental and deeply sensible. 


5 other random things:
  • This evening I go and get my girl, to bring her home for Easter. 
  • My skin is rebelling, It's never caused me much problem, but suddenly I have big sore red burn like patches on my legs, and the skin on my hands is paper thin and cracking across the knuckles. Stress, or allergy or who knows. So far, aloe vera seems to be the way to go in soothing and patching. 
  • The National are headlining Latitude festival. This is very, very good news (Goldi announced this to me in an early morning text as I was travelling across the country yesterday "Fuck sake National headlining Saturday". I love this text. He knew it was important for me to know. He wanted to share it. He's a 15 year old boy who won't be able to acknowledge his mothers fantastic music taste for at least another 10 years, at which point he will be deeply grateful for the grounding I've given him, He gave me the information and told me his feelings in the minimum number of characters while not resorting to textspeak).  
  • I spent a morning in the school where I'm a governor, and was astounded at the teachers ability to maintain the attention of 34 (34!) 4 year olds on the subject of phonics (phonics! 4!). Isn't keeping one 4 year old safe and happy a full time job? I am hugely impressed but also....I don't know.....shouldn't they be playing?
  • I've applied for a job that, if I get it, will take me away from practising what I do, into strategy. I don't know what my chances are, but even applying feels significant, like I'm turning my back on the people that do the real work, and the people we support. Like I'm admitting defeat. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Regrets and mistakes, they are memories made

On Friday, FSF and I said goodbye to each other forever in an agonising phone call that there was no good way to end. We said goodbye to each other because being together was wrong, no matter how right it felt. Because no one else should be hurt. Because it was the right thing to do, 9 months too late.

I've spent the weekend wanting to be curled up and licking my wounds, listening to (I am SO SO SO SO PISSED OFF ABOUT THIS) Adele - Someone Like You (I am pissed off because my absolute expertise, my specialist subject if I am ever on Mastermind, my very reason for being - is sad songs, break up songs, dark, tearing, wrenching heartbreak songs, and yet I can come up with nothing less banal than Adele, lovely as she is. I am also pissed off because she wrote that when she was 21 and of course she was going to find someone else, but I'm 47 and I'd say my chances are slim. And where exactly would I start to look for a Smiths loving, Eastern European/ African Carribean, extremely English man, with the most incredible skin on the planet?).

But the weekend had other plans. I had a long arranged meet up with a friend in a town an hour away, which I longed to get out of, but which in fact was a lesson in positivity and hope, and I had coffee with Ms K who shared her strength and wisdom, and an impromptu meal and a walk and another meal and a deliberate (failed) attempt at drunkenness (it seems that oblivion or even haziness was not an option, no matter what I drank) with Ms M. And on and off through the weekend Goldie was with me, or in the background, or being delivered to or picked up from football.

Anyway, this person, this friend I met on Saturday, she's an old college friend of Snakes, and I'm not sure I've ever seen her without Snake before in all the many years I've known her, and I didn't know how it would be. But she was the first person in the 6 months since my marriage ended who has said to me that I am in a position to start again. That I should be having fun. That there were people out there to meet, and experiences to be had and lessons to be learnt. And as I was sitting there I realised that my main criteria for measuring the success of separation has been my ability to sit alone in a room, to remove spiders, to find my own glasses. And maybe I should aim a bit higher. Take chances.

(When I left her I got into my car and plugged the iPod into the radio, and put it on to shuffle. And the first song that came on was Chances by Athlete).

So a few days on I'm still upright, still functioning. FSF's support was nearly entirely remote, by virtue of the relationship we had, and the holding he did of me which at times over these hard hard months felt like the only thing stopping me from breaking, well, it was mostly virtual. I'm choosing to act like life will go on, even with the regular punch in the stomach when the fact of it being over becomes a sensory reality.  I'm trying to remember the warmth and strength and joyousness of him, and to count myself lucky for the time we had, even though it wasn't real, even though it should never have happened, even though it was always going to hurt in the end.

Adele Someone Like You

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Suddenly last summer

There's research that shows a significant increase in accidents amongst people who are bereaved, or who have suffered trauma, and I understand that. But some of what's been going on just feels like bad luck, fate, karma, divine retribution.....small brain syndrome, FSF called it, commonly linked to depression, and that may explain the lost keys, lost purse, backing the car into solid objects, but it doesn't explain the laptop suddenly dying on me, or the Sunday morning puncture that meant I missed a lunch with my parents (I hate letting down my parents; I'm working on how much I hate it). Or the landlord of my haven of a flat handing me notice. Or the cat getting ill and needing a series of expensive tests and treatments that there is no money for.

It's all OK. The puncture got mended, along with the smashed rear light. The landlord withdrew the notice when I agreed to a rent hike I can't afford (I still love my flat, but I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth regarding the landlord - but then, who says you're meant to like your landlord?). The laptop is fixed, and in getting it fixed I got to talk to a lovely man who is learning Mandarin for fun. The cat has nothing significantly wrong with her beyond great age. My keys were replaced and the purse is, miraculously, back in my hands. I'm still trying to sort out the mess I made of my on line tax registration so that I can get paid for the work I'm doing for Impressive Sam, but in the meantime, I'm loving the opportunity to do the work, even though it's terrifying and feels impossible - or at least well beyond my more-limited-than-usual limitations. But I wrote an article that he loved and that will be published. There's good stuff, there really is, and I'm clinging to it, but it all feels so hard and I don't totally understand why.

"I've lost faith in the world" I told a friend, and in saying that I absolutely know how lucky I am, how privileged to have got to my late 40's with some shred of faith remaining to be lost. My god, I'm so lucky, with my health (and the NHS still hanging on in there to support bits of me when they go wrong), with the roof over my head and drinkable water on tap, with parents still alive and, despite it all, loving and supporting me. My incredible children. A job that stretches and interests me and that feels like it's on the side of good. Books. Music. Walks. Friends who have been asked to change the shape of their affection for me and Snake over the last few months, and have done that, somehow, and in nearly every case have done it with grace and open heartedness (and where that hasn't been possible I understand. I do understand).

But the ground feels less sure now than it did a few months ago. 

(I need to say this - through all of this, and much of life just now, is an alternative life of a family whose home has been destroyed by a hostile and oppressive government, by extremists who speak of nothing they understand, and then, as well, by other governments who claim to want to help but build barriers across their borders. When I say the ground feels less solid, the image I get is off handing my family into an insubstantial boat to cross a sea that has become the graveyard for my compatriots, and where the best I can hope for is to reach a land that doesn't want me. I really, really do know how lucky I am with my life).

Yesterday, I spent the day with FSF. We don't see a lot of each other, although we're in touch all the time. But being in touch and touching are different, and it's very precious to get time together. Late in the day, when we knew we had to leave each other again, he held onto me and we talked about the decision that didn't feel like a decision, when we met one evening last summer and sat in a park and kissed and it felt like being 17 and fun and harmless and full of hope. And I still don't know whether that was a triumph or a disaster. I am, (to use a metaphor that feels tasteless - see above) picking through the rubble of what my life was, with the structure still unsteady and dangerous, and, surprise surprise, it's hard and it hurts, but I'm still here, and glad to be here and not there (there being in that other life, which only luck has dictated is not mine, and also there being a marriage that was crushing me), and I'm not looking back.

August and September - The The