Friday, 16 October 2015
It's that time of year again, that time when you can smell droplets in the air, when the bulbs have been planted, and the soil fixes on the lines in skin, in the the heart line, and the life line, and underneath nails, dry and chipped. I feel viral. I feel tired. But I have seen a russet moon, the colour of a dog's tongue.
Summer is being covered in yellow leaves and toadstools over the lawn. Is it a toadstool or a mushroom or a fungus? I never know the difference, and the spores make my breath rasp, my chest yearn for inhaler. But it has disappeared, the heat, the longer days, and with that I'm fattening up on crumpets and cake, sausages and mash. Most things baked and fried.
I love all the colour, it's just all these damn colds.
And she, she is six weeks into year one. The stories. How so and so chased so and so. The ongoing battle of girls against boys. Who is marrying who. The grazed knees and the cut fingers. It's hard to keep up. She is happy, she has friends, and I am happy too. She is reading, she is eager to spell. When I write a letter to a friend, she must also write one too. Mummy, how do you spell birthday? Mummy, how do you spell friend? And now she has discovered a love of numbers, loves writing number sentences she says. 4+2 = 6. 15+3 = 18. I think she has her father's precise mind, he's an engineer, a lover of logic and solution. Where as I, well I'm not sure, my brain is.... I was branded unclassified in maths.
Her new thing is sewing. I draw the picture on the material, a shape, a butterfly, and she carefully eases the needle with the red thread through. Her stitches to begin with are a little erratic, set wide apart, and then she finds her flow following the pencil, finding the coordination in her hands. She prefers it to the IPad. She prefers it to Pinky Pie and Princess Twilight Sparkle.
Any clues to Summer have now faded from my face. The colour. The freckles. All gone. I look a little wan, a little waxy under the eyes. And I try pulling back the warmer days but even their memories are as pale as my skin. A holiday home - an old vicarage. An ancient town built on a hill. The harbour. The cobbled streets. The tea rooms. The back garden disappearing under lavender, under holly hocks, under fallen apples. The wonky floors and the old beams. A princess castle with a moat. A grand old house with old, old wall paper and the smell of dusty, unread books - the smell of history. Days on a beach over-turning shells, adding height to sandcastles, running from an incoming tide. A weekend spent with Granny, and an aunt in her new pub. And a few days in a forest lodge with dappled sunlight and roaming deer. The discovery that peacocks can fly and the gift of a fallen feather. A morning spent purifying in the steam of a Japanese salt bath and the eucalyptus of a Turkish Hamman... It all seems a whisper away now.
And half term is around the corner. She has a new coat and new wellies. The zip on my coat is broken. And the winds are coming and so is the rain. One last mow of the lawn. One last pruning back of the shrubs and the clemetis overgrown.
I have my light box switched on: I am galvanising myself for shorter days...
Thursday, 13 August 2015
Nature has a way of finding its feet, making the best of every petal, every vein inside each leaf. It knows its space, knows the potential of its boundary, what it can climb to. It also knows its colour, and when to fade; what is good, its inherent beauty.
Above my head hundreds of swallows float like torn paper suspended on mobiles. On the ground, in the borders, the cat mint is wild, precocious, growing however and wherever it pleases while the lavender stands tall and sober, royal guard in purple bearskin caps. White petunias wrestle in terracotta pots around the garden perimeter like satellite dishes transmitting scent to those creatures that hover and buzz or in the early evening light, beacons, flares sent from sinking ships. And the vine. It creeps curious over and through the trellis like a child discovering a new den.
Nature. It knows how to grow, how to respond.
I'm trying to do the same, to do the best in the long term. For her.
I tried. I did. Every Sunday evening I cut the pills into halves and quarters, a lowered dosage for the coming week, their powdery residue on the duvet, on top of the drawers, but the hormones continued to yank my chain, make life difficult, the weed that persisted and wouldn't go away. At first, it felt good. I felt calm, cleared, the quality and depth of sleep improved, my senses sharpened on the school run, listening to her stories about so-and-so who'd received a continuous charge of red cards and made to sit on the thinking spot nine times that day. Really? Blimey...
It was short-lived, though. I became tired, nay exhausted, the days long and indiscriminate. Was I coming down with something? Limbs soaked in chronic fatigue? It was a struggle to wash the clothes, make the bed, roll out the yoga mat and force myself into a downward dog. This wasn't right. And I let her watch more TV, boiled up pasta again, forgetting her homework until it was too late. And then the belligerent mood swings, the impossible PMS, and the blood that came in shortened cycles of twenty-one days or less.
The doctor said, 'I have lots of patients who've been on anti-depressants for a long time - go back to your usual dose and try again in six months time.' I said this wasn't to do with depression anymore, I'm not depressed, it was my hormones, the pills masking an over-flow of perimenopausal symptoms. 'Oh,' she said, 'how old are you, and are you still menstruating?' I'm forty-four, and yes, I am. 'Well you're not menopausal then - we don't really have a name for the lead up to the menopause.' Yes you do, I thought, it's called the perimenopause - Google it. And to think this female GP was also embedded in her middling years - didn't she know anything about this stuff? 'Really, you'll be fine on the pills,' she continued to reassure.
I've been taking them for three years. For the post-birth trauma, for the resulting post-natal illness. Now it would seem I'm swallowing back the tablets for the rest of my forties and early fifties, but I've thought about it, and I don't mind, not as resigned as I thought I might be. By comparison these pills are the champagne alternative to living as a foul-tempered harpy, to enduring debilitating PMS, to battling through the best years of my life through hormonal adversity - just look how brave I am. Why put myself through any of this? I don't want to wear the medal of martyrdom.
If a plant is dying, you feed it water or show its face to the sun. Perhaps you place protective netting over its withering leaves or tie firm bamboo to it's stem. You give nature what it needs to flourish, to grow wild like the cat mint in the borders. These little white pills are my sun and water and fertile soil. Maybe not for long, but for the time being they'll do. I need me at my best, my daughter needs me at my best, or good enough, as life intended. I look out again at my garden. The bright white petunias. The dance of a butterfly's shadow. The unhindered vine that curls and secures itself. The lavender that barks its orders at the bees. Nature needs her props or she wouldn't exist. And so too, I need mine.
Monday, 3 August 2015
Motherhood. I haven't thought about it for a while. Have stopped observing myself going about the daily routine. I haven't clocked off though, still there amid the breakfast making, the tooth brushing, the reading, the spelling, the tucking in of the duvet at the end of the day. I am still very much her mummy; it's just I haven't asked myself how I'm doing in this job - the decliner of wants, the administrator of can't haves, the peddler of pleases and thank yous - for many, many months. I can only guess I'm doing okay, I guess.
And now the summer holidays. Play dates. Summer camp. Crafting anxiety (on my part). I took her to the hospital the other day. Glue ear. In the right one. She's had it for over a twelve months now, and I've lost count the times I've had to slug gloopy yellow antibiotics down her throat. She had a hearing test. The specialist deemed her hearing fine, although he agreed her canal looked dull. So there won't be any grommets yet, and instead we will have to battle on with pain killers and antibiotics every time her ear becomes infected which seems to happen at regular intervals of six to eight weeks. In the mean time, she's started pulling faces, scrunching her face as if about to sneeze, or tasted bitter lemon, to get, as she says, the gunk out. The specialist said she's trying to pop the pressure. Apparently research suggests blowing up a balloon with a nostril, and with a special nasal piece, is good for glue ear. Handy - we have a glut of bright water balloons stashed under the sink...
I have lived life internally this year. Not introspection as such, more a bombardment of characters and narratives and finely-crafted sentences. The novel has been the entire focus which in one way is good. I have shut my self away, got on with it, completed a third draft, and in the process raised £350 for The Birth Trauma Association. I am going to The Writers Festival for the second time this September in York. Two years ago I only had thirty thousand words to my name, this year I go with a more completed product, and maybe I will feel more confident in my one-to-ones with agents. Afterwards, a full and proper edit, further polishing, and then it will be as complete as it can be; I may even have a finished novel by the end of this year. A couple of weekends ago, in a gauzy field at the Latitude Festival, I was struck down by an idea for a new story, another novel sized adventure. The idea came from the sparks of another idea I'd had - a dystopian that needs a lot more work and research. This new story came complete, the characters fully formed, and I'm itching to get started. It's set in the Lake District (any excuse for a trip to one of my favourite places) and is another coming of age story. I love coming of age stories as there are no full stops, life a continuum, a cloud that puffs and flattens and dissolves at the end.
Motherhood. No, I haven't thought about it much at all. As I write this, there are mothers I know who are struggling with their daughter's diabetes, or in unparallelled shock their child has gone. I feel blessed, lucky for the luxury of not having so many worries about her. I only have the one girl. It's easier with one, especially now she's through reception, all dancing, all swimming, reading and writing. Sometimes I feel a fraud, that I'm not in the same league as those mums who are harvesting two or more, or those who are battling on their own with little or no support. Yes, by comparison, I have it easy, have time to roll out the yoga mat or have a mandala inked on the top of my foot, or my hair chopped every four weeks and highlights painted through. I am in a privileged position. I am time rich, a fortunate woman. And that is why I know I must get back to work, live a life in the external, to observe the everyday as well as the gallivanting images inside my head.
Monday, 4 May 2015
The daisies were all up - numerous, hundreds of the blighters - ahead of me, in my peripheral vision, squashed under foot. If I'd begun counting them I would surely have sent myself to sleep. One... two... three... A delightful distraction, a cornucopia of jolly petals, they saw away the apprehensions, a few of the worries circulating around my head...
But what if this and what if that... and what if I end up the same again... and what if I can't cope... and the pms - what of that... but my hormones... my bloody hormones...what if it's a wasted effort... what if I have to start over again... but it's been nearly three years... I have to give this a try... I have to give this a chance... I have changed... my life has changed... I think I'm ready to give this a go.
I have bought a pill cutter to cut the pills. The blade is sharp and slices through the compounds like butter. I blow away the tiny specks, the afterthoughts of the blade. The dosage is accurate or near enough. A week ago I reduced the dosage from 20 mgs to 10 mgs but too much too soon; after five days I felt strange, out of body, tearful and nauseous. So I had to start again. I bought the cutter and increased the dosage to 15 mgs instead. It made the difference. I felt lighter, near enough okay, a little off kilter in the evenings - the chemicals wearing thin.
I am weaning myself off them, the anti-depressants, but gently, gently does it, tread with caution, tread with care; the side effects are like wild horses, untameable, uncontrollable. The best way forwards (for me) is slow and steady. After three years of artificially created stability (and very necessary) it will take time to reduce the dosage to nothing, maybe even a year or more. 15 mgs for four months, then 10, then five, then as small as the cutter can cut... to specks. It will take time for my brain to reset itself, like taking a month to walk down a small flight of stairs.
I don't want the illness to return (and I'm sure it won't). But I am nervous.
And I am headed towards that time of my life. No more blood. No more eggs... and the flippin' hormones, those raging harpies... but... but... but...
I have to give this a go.
It doesn't sit well, no, no, not at all - the idea of being on medication long term. My poor, over worked liver needs a rest. I love the idea of a good night's sleep, free from the stimulation and the neon vivid dreams, dreams brighter and fresher than spring green grass, but too brilliant and too real (I won't talk about the nightmares). I have a structure in place. I have yoga and writing. I have a good diet and meditation. I have a plan...
These pills have served me well. I needed them. They brought me to a better place, saw me through the tough times of trauma, stress and depression. I need to see where I stand now... I need to see a new lay of the land, count all those beautiful daisies.
I am currently raising money for The Birth Trauma Association through my writing: writing was one of the biggest healers in my battle with post natal illness. If you would like to sponsor me, and find out more, please go to my Just Giving Page. Thank you. It really is for a great cause.
Tuesday, 24 March 2015
When I'd thought about the word imagine, I'd envisaged expansion not contraction. And yet my life dreams of being smaller. I need to be a turtle inside its shell. Or a hedgehog curled into a ball.
It's about an internal down-sizing. A need to create space to engage space. To view my inner workings as a compass and to ascribe each direction the things that matter most.
I think the word is balance.
... and then I only went and spilt water all over my keyboard. The letters stopped working, became illiterate, and I couldn't upload any photos - the drive was broken as well. So how was I suppose to blog, then?
All an excuse though. I did have a solution.
There is always a solution.
Such busy beginnings to the year: a self editing course, a vintage-styled wedding (pretty girls and bearded boys), and I lost my woolly hat.
January has never been a good month. But this year was a little better, a little more fair-weather. The facts of her birth have grown dim. I am looking through frosted glass. The past is full of shadow and images that can't be touched. At her party there is a sea of Elsas and Annas, an icicle hunt, a snowball fight, bubbles and marshmallows and five-year-old fun. I no longer see the ward doors or the imposing white of the theatre - I simply see her bright smile, her proud shoulders as she sashays down the red carpet and takes her place on the birthday-girl throne.
February I met myself. February, I had to be honest. I imagined being happier with a smaller piece of cake. I imagined a simpler life, the complexities peeled away. Or so I would wish. I stripped everything back. I mean I stripped the blogging back. In its place I have a daily yoga practise, a better diet, a stream lined focus on the novel. I have taken up running again. I am journal writing again - one with a note book and pen. I will return to practice as a counsellor this year.
But it's more than that. I am changing. I am regrouping. I am emerging from the broken lines of the infant, toddler and pre-school years. I am slotting into place. Who am I? Where now? I am reacquainting me with me once more. I have never felt better about my body and as a woman as I do now. I am rediscovering the feminine beyond the role of mother and the contours prescribed by masculinity.
I am woman.
I am free.
This is what I imagine this year.
To step into authenticity. To be me.
Monday, 12 January 2015
It was the Christmas of la boeuf. Spread over four consecutive days.
A bovine feast of such epic-ness something is still grazing inside my stomach.
On the first day a rousing spag bowl. On the second a heartening lasagna. On the third a very festive strip loin. On the final day a full bodied vat of boeuf bourguinon.
'We've had beef every day,' she noted, 'I hope it doesn't get stuck.'
I thought back twenty years; years dedicated to tofu, the simple, reverent cooking of vegetables and chickpeas.
That was all destroyed by that bacon sarnie. Or was it that turkey parmigiana? Whatever...
But to Granny's credit, everyday - be it mince or a cold slab of flesh - was cooked to perfection.
There was a big event this yuletide (and no, it wasn't down the loo) - she had her very first wobbly tooth. How strange that little gap in her mouth looked. This had been the first tooth as a wee bairn of seven months. It fell from grace one morning, two days before Christmas. She popped it inside the tiny pocket of a little cushion and a mysterious fairy came and took it away. (said tooth lives in an envelope at the bottom of the jumper drawer). And now the adjacent tooth is mutinous!
The Christmas haircut. Santa's loot smuggled in bin bags hidden in the boot of the car. A sunny walk over Norfolk flats dodging muddy puddles and cold, cold streams. Sitting on the sofa in our pyjamas eating roast ham and warm mince pies. Mugs of hot chocolate. Buttermilk pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup on the morning of New Years Eve while we unfolded the pieces of paper from The Joy Jar and read all the wonderful things that had happened in 2014 - a damn fine year.
The clues of late December still mark the walls. Nails poke from where the bunting hung. Spots of blue tack hug the plaster. The baubles, plastic snowflakes, festive bric-a-brac, wrapped in newspaper and tissue, have been stowed away in the attic for another year...
And now, so much to look forward to.
This is the year we rebuild our home.
My word for 2015? Imagine.