Tuesday, 26 February 2013


I've been feeling quite despondent over the last day or two. My trip to Egypt was cancelled and I'm at home with a heavy cold and no energy, which means I've spent the last two days lying on my sofa, feeling a wee bit sorry for myself. 

I've had some time to mull over one or two things that have been troubling me and I've come to a painful realisation about a particular friendship which has left me feeling quite sad. 

I've also started the task I've been dreading since November - sorting through Woody's clothes and bundling them up to donate to our local Animal Rescue Charity Shop so, all in all, I'm feeling pretty unsettled at the minute. 

I was going to write a more lengthy post about some of the details behind all of this but then I realised that I don't actually want to think about this stuff anymore, never mind write about it, so instead, I picked up Woody's journal and started reading through that as a distraction. 

I opened the journal at a random page and saw a very brief entry, which made me catch my breath by it's very simplicity...

          "Stared up at the evening sky and looked at the cirrus clouds. Felt light and calm. Then warmth at my side as I looked down to see Jason, cuddled up against me and staring up at me, feline eyes unblinking from his open, trusting face. There is spirituality in so many places..."

That entry was made on 6 September 2012, just six short weeks before Mark died. It was a private note made by him, for him, and a snapshot of his thoughts and feelings right at that moment in time, which I find pretty inspirational by anyone's standards, never mind someone who was living with cancer on a daily basis. 

He had such a wonderful attitude to life, even before his diagnosis, and reading his journal is a reminder for me that I need to stop dwelling on the negative aspects of life and concentrate on the goodness around me. He's right, there really is spirituality in so many places and I don't want to miss any of it because I'm too busy feeling sorry for myself to appreciate it.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I fall in.
I am lost... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in this same place. 
But, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in... It's a habit...but,
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Losing It

You know you're finally losing it when...

You're sitting in front of the fire, absently wondering why it doesn't seem to be lighting very well, when you take a bite out of a piece of flapjack, start gagging on the worst taste ever known to man and look down to find that you're actually eating a firelighter. 

So this morning I've learned that firelighters don't taste very nice when they're dunked in tea and flapjack biscuits aren't brilliant for lighting fires. 

They don't tell you about stuff like this in bereavement counselling.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Bin Lid Weather

It's incredibly windy here today. Woody used to call this weather 'Bin Lid Weather', a rather dubious term which came about after he once walked down a street on a very windy day and saw a dustbin lid come flying from nowhere and sock some poor unsuspecting fellow pedestrian across the back of the head. 

I have to be honest, I almost laughed an eye out when he relayed the story to me at home later that night but I suppose a dustbin lid, travelling at force, could actually do a fair bit of damage to a dude, so if you're reading this and you've ever had the misfortune to be hit by a flying bin lid, then please accept my sincere condolences. Also, out of idle curiosity, I just googled 'flying bin lid' and this story came up in the search results which makes me feel even more guilty for laughing. 

I usually have a great deal of difficulty getting into an upright position in the mornings so Woody was always first out of bed. As such, he'd also be the first to notice the weather and he'd call out a warning if it was a bin lid day. He'd also call out a score on his imaginary 'bin-o-meter' and if he thought the bin lid factor measured greater than 8.5, he'd urge me to stay indoors for fear of an incident occuring. 

Bless him, he was always very safety conscious. I miss him such a lot.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Grief - Three Months On

It's three months today since Mark died

It still doesn't feel real. 

I'm going through the motions of normal life (whatever 'normal' is) and I'm trying to fulfill commitments which were already in my diary. I don't want to let anyone down.

We had holidays booked over the Christmas period - a week in Lanzarote before Christmas and a fortnight in Cape Verde from Boxing Day onwards. I couldn't face the Lanzarote trip so I cancelled at the last minute, upsetting a very dear friend in the process. I feel pretty bad about it but I just wasn't capable of anything else at the time. 

I gave myself a stiff talking to and made (another) last minute decision on Christmas Day. I decided to go to Cape Verde, alone, as I thought it would give me some breathing space, some time to reflect and maybe begin to accept what's happened over the last three to four months. 

I was wrong. I returned home just as muddled and 'woolly' as I had been before I left.

I tried to immerse myself in work. I had a desk full of papers and files and everything had to be completed by 31 January. It was hard to concentrate and I felt as if I was wading through treacle but I think it was the right thing to do, to keep busy, to distract myself, to stop myself thinking too much. 

I suppose, on the surface, I must look as if I'm coping reasonably well but there's an anxious little voice inside me that keeps crying out a warning that I'm sinking. 

I feel exactly the way I did during my very first open water dive. We stepped into the water from the pontoon, my instructor and I, our jackets full of air to ensure we bobbed straight back up again, allowing us to float on the surface for a while, reminding ourselves of our agreed hand signals and dive plan, before making our descent together.

I hadn't been diving very long at the time and, although I'd learned the theory from my diving exams and pool practice, I'd yet to grasp the reality of the effects of water pressure on the air in my BCD. As we began our descent, the weight of the water above me compressed the air in my jacket until it ceased to keep me afloat and I began to sink like a stone. 

I was only in 30 metres of water so I suppose I would have simply hit the bottom at some point, but I still found it hard to contain the bubble of panic that rose within me as I struggled to kick my way back up. I suppose it's a normal reaction really. It feels so unnatural to be breathing underwater for those first few dives and it takes a while to become accustomed to it. 

As I continued to sink, the pressure in my ears began to build until I thought my head would explode, preventing me from thinking clearly. Trying desperately to equalise the pressure in my ears, I failed to grasp that it was only going to get worse because the water pressure would increase as I sank further towards the sea bed.  

It was only when my instructor grabbed my arm, using our pre-determined hand signals to remind me to add more air to my jacket, that I managed to regain an element of control and ascend slightly to release the pressure in my head. It took some time and practice before I finally learned to control my bouyancy properly but I've never forgotten that first dive and the sensation of panic that I experienced. 

I feel just like that now, as if I'm out of control and sinking fast, trying desperately to kick my way upwards but deep down, knowing that it's pointless. I'm not in the water but I feel just as helpless and hopeless. Is it possible to drown on dry land? 

I can only assume that I'm presenting some semblance of my normal self because everyone is still telling me that I'm "doing really well". 

I wonder if people are saying these things to be supportive, to make me feel better? Maybe they're being genuine? Maybe I actually do look as if I've got my shit together and I'm ok? 

I certainly don't feel as if I've got it together. In fact, I feel the very opposite of 'together'. I'm experiencing very strange sensations of detachment, as if I'm coming apart and splitting off onto two levels somehow. 

The first level is 'normal' me, engaging in conversations as if everything is fine. Accepting the good wishes and support and smiling my acknowledgement of the comments about how well I'm coping. 

It's not that this version of me is trying to hide anything. I'm lucky to have close friends, an amazing support network, and we all talk very openly about our life events. I want them to know how frightened I am, that I'm truly scared I'm losing my mind, but somehow I can't find the words to articulate the true extent of my internal hysteria. I can't make them understand what's really happening and as a result, I feel I'm becoming more disconnected from the world in general.

The second level is the 'detached' me. The person who has floated off out of herself and is now observing these day to day interactions from a distance, with a sense of rising panic because she knows that people can't really see what's going on inside and she's terrified. 

'Detached Me' is the crazy lady who wants to start beating herself around the head and screaming her lungs out in the middle of the shopping centre until someone, anyone, takes notice of the fact that she isn't 'coping' at all. In fact, she's very much the opposite of 'coping'. Maybe she's even just a teeny bit insane?

I'm not (yet) at the stage where my 'inner crazy lady' has taken over but it's a mystery to me that anyone can possibly think that I'm alright, never mind "doing really well"

I'm constantly reminded of that poem...

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead.
It must have been too cold for him, his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith