I wanted to write about the fantastic last 2 weeks I'd had, about the excitement and emotion of finally seeing my daughter. About the day I spent with my friend who I'd bumped into last year for the first time in 25 years and how we had a great day, and he had me laughing until my sides hurt. All of this happened and was amazing but from Friday until Monday it was overcast with sadness.
Easter Sunday would have been my husband's birthday. The fifth one since he passed away, so why did it feel like the first all over again?
I really was the happiest I've been in a long time but waking up on Good Friday I felt as flat as a pancake. It's quite normal for me to feel off, in the build up to an anniversary, but I'd not felt this flat in a long time. I found myself withdrawing. I stopped interacting with my group and stopped responding to friends. I was irritable and also worried my dark depressive period I'd suffered from October till January was returning.
I felt lost and a huge sense of sadness. I couldn't work out why the build up to this particular anniversary was hitting me harder than previously. Last year I was OK for his birthday. I was more than OK. Someone came to stay on that day for the first lockdown, so I was busy sorting and arranging the house. Easter fell later last year so by the time that came around I had company and was distracted. This year the birthday falling on Easter and being relatively alone hit me hard, a 16-year-old boy who is also grieving doesn't want to sit with his sad old mum, he wants to deal with things his way which is OK by me.
All day Friday and Saturday I felt on the brink of tears. I tried everything to lift my mood. I practised the mindfulness that has been working well for me, I tried to read, I certainly didn't want to listen to music as I knew that would start me off crying if certain songs played. I went for walks but all I saw were happy families and couples holding hands, that made me feel even worse. Even when my mental health has been at its worst I can usually fake it and portray to the outside world I'm fine, but I couldn't find the energy to do that.
Sunday came along and it was awful. I woke up crying. How bloody stupid! It's been 5 years since so why was I in this state. The more I cried, the more frustrated I got with myself. I had no motivation to do anything. My son had gone for a walk, he likes to act as if an anniversary is a normal day, so I was conscious of being upset in front of him. I did drag myself into the shower whilst he was out and just slumped to the floor in a ball and sobbed. The floodgates had opened and I couldn't stop. I knew I had to pull myself together for the sake of my son, so I got dried, put on some clothes but really couldn't face anything, so I climbed into bed. I must have cried myself to sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later feeling emotionally exhausted. I'd lost my appetite over the past couple of days and really couldn't stomach a meal. I cooked for my son crying the whole time. I hid away whilst he came down to eat, and when he went back up I came back down.
I've been a member of a group for young widows and widowers for quite a while and know that it is usually a great place to get some support or advice. Sometimes just chatting to someone who has experienced something similar is such a help. I chatted to a lady who was 10 years older than me but who had lost her partner at the same age I had. She got me completely. She said she had found the anniversaries since lockdown particularly difficult even though she's happily remarried for the past 5 years. This helped me to feel 'normal' and to stop beating myself up.
Grief is a peculiar thing. When Andy first passed away I was still trying to process his illness, but I went through the motions. I cried every morning on waking, on and off throughout the day and cried myself to sleep every night. There were many times I wished I wouldn't wake up, so I could be with him but knew I had to carry on as my kids needed me more than ever. Then after a few months I noticed I didn't wake up crying but then may do for another week or so. I laughed and felt guilty for doing so. Then I'd notice I didn't fall asleep crying and so on and so on until I realised it had been a week with no tears, then a month. Laughter comes easily and without guilt. Anniversaries come and go. The first ones are awful. The second ones are bad, the third a sadness. Each one becomes a little easier to live through. For the past 2 years I've been OK for most of the anniversaries except for the anniversary of his death last November when I was at a real low point and of course this weekend just gone.
There is no instruction manual on how to grieve. There is no timescale for how long it will last. Everybody grieves differently there is no right or wrong. Grief for me is like the sea. Like a tide, grief ebbs and flows. You can go months with a calm still sea then suddenly without warning a wave of sadness can hit. It can last moments it can last days but with each wave you know it won't last forever. It will subside until the next storm, or until a pebble causes a ripple effect. For me grief is not like depression, with depression you have no idea when 'normality' will ever return. Depression becomes your normality. Grief is different, it's a process. It is painful at times, but I believe it is healthy to grieve. You can only grieve for something or someone you have loved and lost. People always say time is a great healer. I agree to a certain extent, as time goes on you learn to live without that person. You learn a new way of life. I'm learning that it's OK to still grieve and that some years may be different to others and that too is OK. The strangest of years we've all had combined with the anniversary of a loved one has just been harder than normal to get through but unlike those early days of grieving where you never think you'll smile again you learn that you will and the memories of the past will once again give you pleasure not pain.
Today, apart from feeling unwell as a reaction to my COVID-19 jab 12 days ago, I'm OK. I have a temperature, ache all over, but the sadness has lifted (my lateral flow test was thankfully negative). I'm also prepared that future anniversaries will come and go without any sadness, but there could be that one in the future where it is difficult to get through and that is allowed. Grief is a perfectly normal part of life that I have to accept. I cannot control it. I just need to ride the waves when they appear and remember it does get easier again.
It's been 11 days since my hypnosis for confidence, self-esteem and self-worth and I can honestly say I feel great. I hosted a Zoom video call last Thursday night for my group, something I would never have done before in a social context, and I loved every minute of it. I have found confidence in everything from work through to my personal life and my anxiety remains under control as a result. I am still in awe at how I am feeling and acting but also still sceptical and have a small doubt that it could end.
I have always been fascinated by psychology, I started an A level in it whilst at college many years ago but sadly didn't complete due to circumstances at the time. Having my therapy and hypnosis has awakened a thirst for knowledge in me that I haven't had for a long while. I have signed up for a short psychology course starting from this week. Whilst I have no wish to pursue this as a career I am fascinated with how our brains work and how as humans we process thoughts and feelings. I have spent a lot of time looking at things that have happened in the past couple of years in my life. Events and people and what triggers my emotions and how I handle them. I now have a much clearer understanding of myself. I am relishing the fact that I continue to learn and grow each day.
My therapist had very kindly offered to run some sessions for my group. The first session last Thursday was an introductory to the psychology of relationships and dating. She got us to play a game that was great fun and showed us our personality types, ideal partners personality and preferred sex life. This generated a huge amount of laughs but was very interesting, thought-provoking and strangely true for all. The feedback from the session was fantastic, and we are running 5 more all completely free over the next few weeks. This week is all about confidence. I cannot wait.
Work has become a joy again. I am thriving and pushing harder than ever to gain the promotion I want. Personally life is fun right now. Yes we are still in lockdown. No I cannot socialise in person, but I can still enjoy things. Something I seemed to have forgotten to do in many months. I have not stopped smiling for the last 11 days. I actually wake up looking forward to what each day has to offer.
My group has been a huge factor in the fun I am having. Being in contact with so many new people from all different walks of life is providing me new hope and possibilities. Friday night we had a virtual 80's party. It started at 7pm and went on til the early hours with over 200 people taking part. Some were on video chats others just using text or comments, some posted pictures of themselves dancing. It was such a good laugh and a much-needed release in the current times whilst following the rules. There were definitely a few sore heads the following morning!
My bucket list is growing and one of my things 'to do' is looking like a real possibility next year. I have wanted to go to The Isle of Man TT since I was about 17. One of my group members lives there and has offered myself and a couple of others to stay so all we need to do is organise our travel when it does eventually happen. I am looking forward to ticking things off my list. I know life is incredibly short, and I want to live and make the most of it, not get 20 or 30 years older and be full of regret for time wasted.
After yesterday's announcement people have a new-found excitement. My social media has blown up overnight with people posting holiday bookings, table reservations at restaurants for 21st June and discussions about garden parties from the end of March. It is great to see the world excited again, but I am just a little reluctant to start making concrete plans and rushing things. I am an optimist but also a realist and a sense of we've been here before is lurking in my mind. Personally I would hate to make plans for it again to be cancelled, this would be a huge slap in the face, so I shall continue one day at a time. Enjoying what I can in the moment and under the circumstances we are in but also remaining hopeful as there is a light at the end of a long tunnel.
Here's a little story. I hope it raises a smile on this cold Sunday morning.
Most of my dates have been a standard coffee, drink, meal or bowling. I've only gone beyond a first date with a few of those. The ones that remain a first date only were for a multitude of reasons. One of the main reasons for me is laughter. If I don't laugh on a date it's not going to progress.
I love to laugh and humour is an incredibly important trait I look for in a guy. So back in my early naive days of dating, I had got a message from a guy one morning who seemed genuine and was quite witty. His picture was only a face pic. We messaged for a couple of days when he asked if I'd like to go out for a drink.
Now experience has taught me that I need more than 3 days of messaging before I should agree to meet but back then it was all very new. I agreed to a drink, and we arranged to meet at a pub local to me, he lived about 8 miles away. I always let a friend know when and where I am going and have a pre-arranged help sign. On this particular date the pub was less than 5 minutes walk from my house, so I felt very comfortable.
Whilst walking to the pub he messaged to say he had arrived and what would I like to drink. I told him I was on my way and that a white wine would be lovely. Now I was quite impressed at his timeliness and the offer of getting the first drink. Very charming! And yes I'm easily pleased.
I arrived at the pub, and it was quite busy, there were a few people who I knew in there. They said hello as I was scanning the pub for my date and asked who I was with as anyone who knows me knows I wouldn't have gone to a pub on my own back then. I said I had a date. I was a little nervous about meeting this guy with prying eyes from friends, but I wasn't going to run. I continued to scan the pub and messaged to say I was here but couldn't see him. Out from a little snug area popped a guy and a big smile and a very loud "I'm here". Everyone in the pub heard and turned to look at my date.
My heart sunk!
Have you ever seen Harry Enfield's Kevin and Perry?
Well I was greeted by Kevin. A full-grown man dressed like a teenager 🙈.
He was into body building and had a very low cut t-shirt showing off his chest. A denim jacket, pink skinny Jean's, converse trainers and a baseball cap. Not a great look for a 48-year-old.
I tried incredibly hard to not show my disappointment and to stifle the laugh that was trying so hard to come out, and said to myself it's only one drink. I walked over to "Kevin" and spied a bottle of wine on the table. OK so it's only 2 drinks then. I can do this. I would not have been rude enough back then at this point to leave when someone has made an effort to travel to me and buy drinks. I then spotted an empty pint glass. He gave me a kiss on the cheek and said he was just going to get himself a pint. The bottle of wine it would appear was for me. He came back to the table and poured me a very large glass of wine. A couple of the people I knew had moved close to where we were sitting, and I could see the amused looks on their faces as they spotted my date.
I had chosen the seat opposite his pint glass, but on his return he sat next to me which effectively trapped me between him and the wooden partition. No escape. He pretty much swallowed his pint before he had even finished one sentence and said he was getting another. I was a little concerned about him drinking and driving, but it was OK he hadn't driven. He had come the 8 miles on his scooter. Surely a scooter or a moped comes under the same rules of drinking and driving? No he was fine as he meant an actual foot propelled scooter. Like the ones my kids had aged 10, and he pointed to it under the table.
I found myself taking large sips of my wine but had forgotten it had been several hours since I'd eaten and the wine was going to my head. With each sip he topped up my glass, and I was finding it harder and harder to contain my laughter. Not because anything he said was funny, no, because I was out with a man child and could see my friends enjoying my pain.
The bottle was nearly empty he asked if I'd like another drink. I replied I would get them as I didn't want to come across as not paying my way, even though I knew we would never see each other again, I do not want to be a story of the date who took and gave nothing back. It also meant I could buy him a pint and myself a non-alcoholic throw it down my neck and get out quick drink. I excused myself to the ladies and said I'd get the drinks on my return.
I passed my friends on the way who called me over and literally were killing themselves laughing at my dates choice of attire. I told them of his scooter folded neatly under the table and could still hear the raucous laughter whilst I was in the loo. I came out to find "Kevin" had gone to the bar and ordered our drinks. Yay a second bottle of wine for me 🙄.
Needless to say in my politeness of not wanting to be rude. I got rat arsed. Every time I looked up I could see my friends using my predicament as a source of their evenings entertainment. I could have cried but instead my laughter was unlocked. I have no clue what he was saying I could not stop laughing. Tears were actually rolling down my face. The more I drank, the more I laughed. I came to the end of the second bottle and explained I needed to go. I made up a lame excuse that the babysitter for my children could only do 2 hours. My children at that point were 19 and 13.
We got outside the pub. "Kevin" unfolded his scooter. I again burst into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. I soon sobered up when he offered to take me home. No no no it's fine., you have further to go. I knew the direction he would have to go to get home, pretty much passing my front door, also I told him I needed to go in the opposite direction. I ended up walking for about 30 minutes still laughing out loud. Probably looking like a drunk nutter.
After a couple of hours and a few strong coffees I received a message from "Kevin" saying he had a great time and loved a woman who laughed so much at his jokes. I didn't reply and needless to say never saw "Kevin" or his scooter again.
I did learn something from this. Never ever go on a date where your friends are.
Nearly 2 weeks have passed since I last wrote on here and what an eventful couple of weeks it's been. When I last wrote it was my birthday and I'd had a bit of a wake-up call. I needed to get a grip and appreciate what I have and start living my life. There was something that had been playing on my mind in recent weeks and was adding anxiety to my life. I addressed it the day after my birthday. It took a huge amount of strength but I did it. It has given me closure and perspective.
I really have smiled more these past 2 weeks, I've had many smiles returned and it's amazing how differently I've started to feel now compared to the beginning of November. I'm still having moments when I could easily just hide in my bed, but they are becoming less frequent and I can honestly say there have been a lot more good moments than bad. I've made a conscious effort to get out more. I've met up with people and been out for quite a few walks and drives to the beaches and parks. I even managed to go to a pub at the weekend. Great food, drink and company. I can honestly say I have thoroughly enjoyed these past couple of weeks and I'm looking forward to what is planned for the next few.
I have also started a new project which alongside work and my growing social life is certainly keeping me busy. I said in my first blog I had been writing bad poetry, thoughts and feelings, little ditties and stories for years. Until I started this blog none of my writing has been seen by anyone. I have never been brave enough. I'm still not ready to give my name or put a photo up but this is a huge step for me. This blog has given me the courage and opportunity to off load my thoughts and feelings that I struggle to tell people. It has been extremely cathartic and has helped me in more ways than I ever thought possible. It's also been the catalyst for my project.
Just under 2 weeks ago a friend shared a page on facebook. It is called The Divorced Dad and is full of hilarious posts and stories. Have a look, it's a giggle. I laughed aloud reading some of his stories and it was so good to do so. He put up a post asking people to message him their stories, poems or thoughts and said he would post anonymously. I don't know what came over me. I thought about it for a while and thought oh what the heck do it. I messaged him a poem I wrote a couple of years back when I started dating for the first time. It was just a daft poem but it had humour in it. The reply I got really shocked me. He gave me amazing feedback and said I was very talented. (I still find that hard to believe). He told me I should set up my own page and put my stuff out there. We messaged each other for a few days about his posts and what I have, and he again encouraged me to set one up. I didn't know where to start and he very kindly became a bit of a mentor, encouraging and advising me on how to create a page. He has also become a friend. I created a page, wrote my first post and sent it to him before I actually made it live. He loved it, told me to be brave and post. So I bit the bullet and did it. I didn't post the poem I sent him to start with, I posted a piece of writing about starting over. Dating for the first time after losing my husband. It's a humorous look at dating over 40. I was terrified of getting negative responses. I have very little confidence and the past few months that's diminished even more. I have been suffering huge self-doubt in everything I do so to do this put my anxiety level on high.
I love humour, I love to laugh and I love to make others laugh. Seeing someone happy and laughing at something I've done gives me a huge amount of pleasure. My new found friend posted on his site my blog with a link to my page and within a matter of minutes my phone was going mad with notifications of comments, likes and people following my page. I was completely dumbstruck. The comments were fantastic and some shared their very funny stories. In the space of 2 hours I had over 100 people liking and following my page. I was totally blown away. Not one negative comment. Unbelievable!
I followed up my first post with my poem and again received great comments and private messages saying how funny they thought it was. I am still in doubt that it's any good.
The page has been running for a week now and each day I'm getting new followers, likes, comments and messages. I've been approached by a lady asking me to contribute to her web page. Which I have done. This may all be a flash in the pan but I'm enjoying every minute while it lasts. The fact that I've been able to bring a little light relief to a few people during a really crappy year really does fill me with happiness. In return the comments I've received have made me laugh and given me a much-needed boost.
Laughter has been the best medicine for me. I'm also incredibly proud of myself for how far out of my comfort zone I have gone. I feel like I finally have a voice. Through this blog and my own daft humorous one, I can get everything out. It's such a release. I even shared my Facebook page with family and friends. Although it's not under my name they all know who it is. I've had great feedback from them. Even my parents! One of my closest friends contributed on my page with his own dating stories. He now blames me for getting the writing bug. I'm happy with them seeing that side of me. The fun, happy and humorous side. I'm still reluctant to share all of my feelings but I have made progress. The tiny spark inside of me that I mentioned last time is growing each day. I'm gradually returning to my happy, fun, optimistic self. I'll be glad to say goodbye to 2020, it feels like a wasted year, but I am looking forward to what 2021 has in store.
Another week has gone by since I last wrote. It has been a mixed week. I've stuck to my plan and have been out on my bike. I definitely could have done with stabilizers on the first day as I wobbled like Bambi on ice. The second outing I was a little more confident and actually enjoyed it. Unfortunately the gears would not move from the hardest one and my thighs felt like I'd gone for a sixty-mile ride not the very slow six I actually did. I have since managed to rectify that and the third outing was far more comfortable.
I've been writing two positive things from each day. Saturday I actually had several positives and had my best day in a long time. I went to Holly Hill Woodland Park. It's a historic parkland and stretches from Sarisbury Green to the River Hamble. There are lakes with islands and waterfalls and dams. We walked around for several hours chatting, laughing and really enjoying being out. I felt relaxed and calmed by my surroundings. The colours, the smell, the sound of the water, the birds. I need to appreciate more the beautiful places' nature gives us so close to home.
There are a couple of wood carvings that you can see in the pictures. (I'm no David Bailey and my pictures do not do them justice). The carvings have been done by a guy called Paul Sivell. He takes dead or condemned trees and creates these sculptures. There is something quite beautiful about it. Something that is no longer viable, dead, decaying, and he transforms them into pieces of art that can be appreciated for many years to come. I found it strangely comforting that a new life/purpose could be given to something that would otherwise rot away.
One thing I noticed about the faces on the carvings, they were all smiling. I spent quite a bit of time Sunday thinking about this. About what a smile can do and how it can make you feel. I've missed smiling and I've missed seeing smiley happy faces.
I know that for most of us there hasn't been a lot to smile about this year. Since the wearing of masks we can't see if people are smiling at us, we can no longer see if the person in the shop smiles when they give you your change or if the stranger you've held a door for smiles as they pass through. I have found that quite sad.
It's very difficult to ignore a smile. If someone smiles at you, our automatic response is to do the same. Smiling releases endorphins, natural painkillers and Serotonin. These natural chemicals reduce physical pain, relax your body and elevate your mood. Smiling is a natural drug. Smiling is good for us! 😁
I have been told by several people that what they loved about me was that I was always smiling. It's really not a difficult thing to do and even when I'm feeling down, not having a great day, seeing someone smile can make me feel better. I am making a conscious effort to smile more. Even wearing a mask, a smile reaches your eyes, it changes your voice (you can always tell if someone is smiling when you talk on the phone). If a smile can make me feel better I hope it could do the same for somebody else.
For a few days after my trip to Holly Hill I was definitely beginning to feel much better. I was sleeping and eating well. I had certainly smiled more. Monday a friend came to stay (we are in each other's support bubble so lockdown rules were followed 😁). We chatted for ages, and he did manage to get me laughing. He also gave me something I haven't had in a while. A hug. I hadn't realised until that moment how much I needed that simple human contact.
Tuesday I struggled. I tried really hard to keep busy. Work was really productive but I found myself very distracted. Tuesday evening dragged I couldn't concentrate on tv or reading and listening to music just made me worse. I love music, I love to sing (badly), I usually love how music can make me feel, remind me of places, people and things that have happened in my life. Music can take me back to that moment. Lyrics can hold so much meaning. They can inspire me. But not Tuesday!
I often think my playlist knows what day it is, taunting me, a bad joke. If there is an anniversary or something happening in my life it seems to deliberately play songs that evoke memories or seem to be related to what I'm going through, like a soundtrack to my life. And that's exactly what it did that night. I had it on shuffle and the first three songs that played transported me. It took me back to happier times, when I was excited about the future and that left me feeling incredibly sad. I didn't sleep well that night so yesterday started off rather miserably. I managed to focus on what I needed to do throughout the day but retreated to my bed when I got home, to hide away from the world.
Today is my birthday! It started out really badly as I found out my mother-in-law has breast cancer. She has known since September, had surgery last month but decided to tell me in my birthday card. This really hurt. I am of course incredibly worried about her but left feeling even more cut out of my late husband's family. I was feeling very emotional and was contemplating going back to bed, but then something happened that left me speechless, which is usually quite difficult.
I was completely and utterly bowled over by human kindness. I had set up a birthday fundraiser on Facebook for The Rowans Hospice. I hoped that I may raise a little to help them as I know charities are finding it particularly difficult this year to fundraise as normal. The Rowans Hospice is very special to me, I can never repay the debt of gratitude I have for them. I know a lot of people this year are finding it particularly tough financially and I really didn't expect to raise much. I was literally lost for words when I checked my page to see the donations. I had friends donate that I haven't seen in 30 years. Other friends had shared my page and complete strangers had donated. A school friend who has recently been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer donated and shared my page. His comment was extremely humorous although a little warped (I do appreciate warped humour).
I stared at the page and cried. I was so moved by people's generosity and my friend's sense of humour during a horrific time in his life, that I sat and took stock. I felt incredibly humble. I thought about what I have in my life.
I have two amazing children who continuously make me proud and who make my heart swell with love for them. I have a good job that even though I have only been there a short time is providing me with challenges that I thrive on. I have my own home. I have some amazing family and friends that love and care for me. I really am very fortunate. This has inspired and motivated me to get back to being me. This has helped me turn a corner. With all the misery and sadness in the world there is still so much to be grateful for.
Tonight for my lockdown birthday I am being taken out for a drive and treated to fish and chips at the beach. Thank goodness for heating in a car! Something very simple and inexpensive but much needed.
So I find it quite ironic that on my birthday, 46 years from the day I was born, I feel like I'm waking up for the first time in a long while. It's really corny but I feel like I've been in a cocoon and finally the cocoon is opening. I've been in a mire of self-pity and sadness. On a rollercoaster of emotions for several months. Concentrating too much on what I've lost and what I don't have. Those acts of human kindness and generosity. The human touch. Appreciating what nature has to offer and the realisation I have a lot to be grateful for has shown me that I do have a life ahead of me that I want to live. It's not mapped out, there is no grand plan, but it starts today!
I'm already making plans for the days and weeks ahead. Things to look forward to. When I started writing this blog I just wanted to get through the day, then the next couple of weeks. Now I'm embracing what I have and starting again to work towards what I want. I believe in fate, that everything happens for a reason, even the bad stuff.
I'm continuing with the bike and writing the positives from my day. I can feel a little spark inside of me. It's not yet a flame but it's the start. I know it will take time for me to be back to my happy self but I'm finally on the right track. Who knows what is ahead? I certainly don't but it's kind of exciting.
Thank you for taking the time out to read this. Keep well, safe and keep smiling 😁