Saturday, 30 March 2019

Yes, I am Iron Woman.

The doctors are getting younger at my surgery. I know that's an age thing - like when people say if you think police officers are getting younger it's a sign you're getting older. Last time I went I could have sworn the lad was only just in his twenties. He was good though so no complaints. The one I saw on Friday to get my results was just as young, but also buff. I mean proper goes to the gym, probably does iron man challenges and looked like the kind of doctor you see in an American TV show, not a suburban GP practice. Anyway, I wasn't there to ogle at his broad shoulders (they were fantastic !) I was there to find out if anything was wrong. He asked if I had been under any stress.

Hold my pint.

Now what are we counting as stress exactly ? I don't do stress. Nah. It's just not me. Do I keep myself busy doing things and keep going long past the point where by body and brain are tired of it all ? Maybe. Do I prioritise other people's needs over mine ? Mostly. Do I ask for help if I'm struggling ? Nope. Is it because I'm afraid of looking weak ? Dunno.

Have I experienced stressful situations recently ? Hell yes. Did I get through them ? Well, I'm here aren't I ? How did I manage the stress ? Well it felt like the whole world fell from under my feet. I was shaken and in shock. I put it in a box and carried on with what I had to do. I'm a parent after all. Kids don't care if you're an emotional wreck, they just want to know why they don't have that snack you promised.

Is it the stress that is contributing to lack of sleep ? Well dur. Of course it is. Waking up at 2am and again at 4am is no joke when you have to get up at 5.45 anyway. It's guaranteed to create a slight sense of unreality all the time.  Of course the clocks changing tonight and losing one hour of sleep isn't exactly helpful.

Buff doctor asked me if there was anything I was doing to reduce the stress. Not sure that's in my gift big fella. I mean it's really inconvenient having people get sick or die around you. Losing people (literally, figuratively or emotionally) is pretty much out of my hands. While I would love to have the capacity to make that stuff better I'm not sure I can. Yes I can run and swim and go to bed earlier. I can make sure I drink more water and eat sensibly. What I can't do is make someone come back, or not have cancer, or be with me if that isn't what they want.

Thanks Doc. I will take the healthy eating sheet and I'll increase my iron intake. I'm sure that will help.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Yes sir that's my baby

Do you remember what you were doing 4 years ago ? Is it a crystal clear memory of how you were feeling ? Was there a sense of importance about it ? I only ask because I know for a fact that we were preparing for a huge event in our lives - one that would change everything. It's not exactly etched in my mind as seared into my skin and the very fibre of my being. It wasn't just a moment though, it was a series of meetings and conversations. Everything was planned out and we were given a timetable to follow. I arranged childcare for Brown Bear and we went for the first meeting. 

Driving to the house was nerve wracking. We knew it was going to be fine, but had no idea what to expect. At first we drove past the house and had to come back and park outside as we were a bit early. Eventually we knocked on the door and waited for it to open. A familiar face welcomed us and we were led to the back room where he was waiting. He looked like the photo we had seen, but in 3D he was a bit different too. He was too shy to come over to us so we sat on the sofa and smiled at his as he clung to the foster carer's leg and looked at us. She explained softly that we had come to see him. He eventually came closer and picked up a photo book we had prepared. He pointed at it to show he knew it was us. He had a dummy in his mouth and a toy dog is his hands. He didn't let go of either. I sat very still just taking it all in. I didn't want to startle him. Like a tiny bird or a mythical creature. Hubbie was braver than me and managed to get him involved in a game on the floor. I watched them play and felt my heart swell with each breath. He was real. We were here. This was really happening. 

We had told Brown Bear we were going to see his brother and would tell him everything when he came home from nursery. He was desperate to meet him, but the rules were that we meet him first and slowly introduce the boys to each other. I took photos of Blue Bear and even a few short video clips of his gurgling laughter. I didn't dare get too close in case. I gave him the toy bus we had bought for him. Then he went out into the corridor and was pushing it along the floor towards the front door. I sat on the bottom stair and watched him. Hoping he would want to get close to me, but not daring to presume. He came closer and I gave him a tentative hug. I joked that he wasn't going out with us today, but another time. 

The 2 hours went so fast. We thanked the foster family and said "bye bye" to him. He waved at us and we went back to the car. The whole drive home we talked about how amazing he was and how much Brown Bear would love to meet him. I was overwhelmed by how much I felt for him already and couldn't wait to see him again the next day. Each day we stayed a bit longer. On one day we gave him a bath and got him ready for bed. He cried so much that eventually we called the foster carer in as he was clearly far too distressed to settle down. It was heartbreaking to leave him this way, but we knew it was going to take time. The next day we brought Brown Bear along to meet his brother. We all went to the park and played in the sunshine - it wasn't warm, but it was sunny. The boys played and hugged and as we left Brown Bear said, "Why can't he come home with us ?" We explained he would visit us at home the next day and come to live with us at the end of the week. 

On his first visit to our home it was as if he already lived here. He walked in and greeted the cat. He went into the toy room and found things to play with. We gave him some lunch and he had a nap on me in the afternoon. As I felt him snuggle into my shoulder I relaxed a bit. This was ok. He was gorgeous and he would be fine. We had to take Blue Bear back to his foster carers and Brown Bear said bye to him and stayed home with my sister. As we took his back he looked out of the window of the car and I just watched him. This beautiful boy, quiet and thoughtful. The dummy in his mouth all the time. His eyes taking in every little thing. When we dropped him off he waved at us. He didn't cry though. I wanted to, but I knew this was irrational as he would be with us very soon. 

When we got home I went in to see Brown Bear and to give him a hug before he went to sleep. "I miss him." he said. "I know baby. I do too." "When is he coming to live here." "Soon darling. Soon." 

And then he did. 

4 years have passed and we know he was always meant to be here. 

My baby boy. Brown Bear's brother. My beloved son. 

Monday, 18 March 2019

Carry on regardless...

I've written about that Sunday 'back to school' feeling before. The dullness that strikes around 6pm when you realise that Monday is not far away and the working / school week will begin again. Last night Brown Bear was lying next to me as I was resting after another tiring weekend and he said, "Mum you look exhausted." I smiled and laughed, "Yes. Yes I am." It was spot on and the fact that my 8 year old pointed it out to me was telling. We took the boys to my Mum's house early on Sunday morning to drop them off while me and Hubbie took part in a half marathon. It was tiring and much more difficult than I had expected. I trained for the last one I did in October. I haven't been able to train as much for this one for so many reasons. It was touch and go whether I would do this one - even as late as Friday I wasn't sure. Last weekend I took part in an event that involved walking in the Peak District. I signed up to do it without fully appreciating how much it would take out of me so close to a half marathon.

Every time I finish a challenge I say, "that's it for now. I'm not doing any more." Then something else comes up and I take that on too. This time I have to be a bit stronger about saying no. I am practising that the most this year. Taking care not to overcommit. Stopping myself from doing more than I can manage. I went to work today despite feeling peaky. I get in early and I wasn't entirely convinced it wasn't just the early hour that was making me feel a bit grim. By ten o'clock it was clear to me I had to come home. The drive wasn't fun with a pain behind my eyes that has been persistent for over a week now. I put it down to stress. 

This is in my hands now. I can choose not to do things that stress me out. I can choose not to have conversations, to see people or to take part in things that I think will have a negative effect on me. It's been a long road to learn to do this, but like most things it just takes repetition in order to become a habit. Equally doing more of what makes me happy requires commitment and the ability to prioritise what matters most. 

That bit of time that I spend with my boys one to one just asking how they are and listening to the answers. 

Making time for a hug. With my sons, with Hubbie, with a friend, with the cat. Hugs are magic. It's the easiest way to share love with someone and costs absolutely nothing. 

I popped my head round the door of their bedroom this morning and they were both on the top bunk of the bed laughing and playing a game. I never expected we'd get to this even a few months ago when they were still arguing about every little thing. 

Going outside even just for a few minutes to look up at the sky and to close my eyes and breathe in the day. Even if it's raining or cold it's worth doing this. Feeling nature in all its forms. 

Listening to music I love - often the same song over and over again. It's like a form of meditation and sometimes even therapy. 

So, now I'm going to give myself the gift of sleep. It may be broken and I'll probably wake up a few times, but I have to try. 

Night night. 

Sunday, 3 March 2019

You know you make me want to shout...

Hubbie sent me a message reminding me of all the things I'd done that made him laugh this week. Then yesterday we co-presented a radio show - live. We chatted, laughed and generally enjoyed each other's company. It reminded me that despite all the dramas and tension that comes with being married and parenting and the general hustle and bustle of life, we are friends. Proper make you laugh until you wet yourself (just me ?) friends. 

Last night we went to a gig. An incredible gig. The front man of the band is shouty, anarchic and hilarious. It was in a tiny venue in Hubbie's hometown and we had a few hours of childfree proper let-yourself-go fun together. At one point we were all crouched on the floor of the venue with the lead singer (well not me, you know not with these knees !) and he was regaling us all with a story. He had us all in the palm of his hand as he was playing up the fact that he was from a local town and his brother was in the crowd. I can honestly say it was a brilliant night. 

Sometimes I wonder what people who are friends with someone like that think of them. I mean he can enthralling a room full of fans, but what's he like as a mate ? Is he that one who can sometimes be a bit much if you see him often ? You know that friend who always talks a good game and is charming and fun and the life of the party ? The one who makes you laugh until your face hurts and your sides ache and it feels like the moment should never end ? The same person reminds you of all the times you’ve been ridiculous and you have shared jokes and embarrassments from your years of friendship. The one you would drop everything to see ? 

Do you find (as I do) that they are also the one who will cancel at short notice with little or no explanation. So often that now you don’t even expect them to turn up so you always pencil things in as there is a more than 50% chance they just won’t turn up. In fact it’s so unlikely they will be there that you are tempted to be sarcastic and say, “Oh you’re looking forward to it are you ? Like I was when we made that arrangement last time that you cancelled at the last minute ?” They're the one who is the first to say, "I’ll do it – count me in - sounds fun." When you asked if they wanted to take part in an event and you kept putting off signing up just in case - well you know what they're like. But you don't want to be unfair. Then the friend gets on your case, “I’ve signed up for it – have you ?” and you do only to find out that they can’t make it after all and you're left to do it alone. Not for the first time.

Or the time you were supposed to go to a gig or a show and you didn't hear back from them for ages and when you finally got a reply it was, "Oh yeah I can't make it now. I've got something on," All casual like they didn't just make other plans and leave you in the lurch. Well at least you got a response that time, Not like when they just didn't respond and you were left waiting outside the venue calling to see if they were still coming. Eventually realising that it wasn't going to happen and being so worried and upset that you just went home.
The friendship looks so very different from the two sides. The friend is all about outcomes, “We saw each other in the end didn’t we ? That was fun.” And you’re more about the process which was more painful than it needed to be. You have to do certain things in order to meet, arrange childcare, sort out transport / travel and decide how is safest to get home if it’s going to be late. The friend is non-committal right to the last. You say, “let me know what you want to do,” and they don’t respond - being a free spirit and all that. Then you get a text message the night before - or the morning you’re supposed to meet - saying, “so you still on for tomorrow / today ?” You want to yell, “of course I am !! We agreed this. It’s you I’m waiting on. I am already committed.” You don’t say any of that. You politely agree that you will be there. Then panic that this might be like that time when they just didn’t turn up. Or the time they did, but stormed off because you had become so anxious in the build up to meeting that you said something to them. Or maybe they will just cancel at the last minute again and make it your fault for being surly. You want to say, “Why is it ok for you to be selfish and thoughtless, but unfair of me to call you on it ? How am I the bad guy here ?” Of course you don’t.

Friends are the family we choose. The ones who we love even though we don’t have to. Just like family though there will come a time when we notice how uneven it is. How the effort expended outweighs the reward. How the much mooted get-together becomes soured by the messing about, the inability to value your time or feelings. The realisation that to this friend you are not really worthy of respect. This fuels anxiety. It makes being a friend so difficult. You wouldn’t do this to someone you care about. They are not you though.
Ok so when they are suffering you go to them and are 'present,' because that is your way of supporting. When you want a hug or need the same support they take themselves away and give you space. It's not how you would do it and it's not what you want, but you are not them. That doesn't make them wrong, any more than it makes you wrong. It's where the definitions of friendship differ for you both. When you are sad you might want closeness, but they think it's best to leave you be.
So do you accept that is just how they are ? Do you continue to martyr yourself for some non-existent recognition ? Maybe choose to protect yourself by responding in kind ? No that won't work as that would only add guilt to the mix. Maybe just stop feeling bad about the friend and try to preserve the friendship ? It might be that they are tolerating you too. It may not be a priority for them to see you. It is possible they think they are doing you a favour by cancelling or not turning up if they think you're not going to want to see them. 

Just as one day you realise that a relationship isn't working any more and you would be better not being in it, sometimes we grow out of friendships. It takes a lot for me to let anyone new into my friendship group. I have friends I have known for a long, long time and they've been through a lot with me. I have also been through stuff with them. I trust and love my friends. I am fiercely loyal. To be frank I don't need any more of them. 

As we grow older and life does it's thing I am being more selective about who I make time for. The friend who works abroad and when she is around for a few days checks in with me to see if we can meet up. Who picks up gifts for my kids from all her travels - and actually likes to see them. Then there is the friend who tells me it's perfectly fine if I just want to rant or not say anything at all. I will send a random text message with no explanation at all and she responds perfectly. She just gets me. A friend who has come to meet me at short notice so he could give me a hug because I was having the crappiest day - now that is a great friend. 

Not everyone makes the cut. 

To be honest I bet the lead singer of the band is a pretty awesome friend. Even if he's not at least he's an excellent entertainer. 

Ready Art Brut ?