On Realising How Awful I Look. 

A day with family, holding a brand new baby, can make you see things from a new perspective.

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I spent most of today with family, welcoming my new great-nephew to the family. It was a day full of love, laughter and baby cuddles… and lots of photos. 

Holding my beautiful baby boy made me overflow with all sort of love. Seeing my 86 year old dad holding him made us all more than a little emotional. Another picture of four generations – my dad, my brother, a niece and a baby boy – is a wonderful blessing that many families don’t see. 

I have also observed multiple times today how awful I look. That has been my first reaction to every photo I am in. 

In addition to chronic pain and depression, too many months of anguish, stress and anxiety have taken their toll. I have cried every day for at least 250 days. I have feared and I have despaired. And it shows. 

BUT I have also survived. It doesn’t really matter how crapful I end up looking. I’m stronger than everything that has tried and still tries to bring me down.

My heart and soul have bled onto pages and screens, but my words have touched, encouraged and inspired people on the way. My writing have been praised, and my books have won awards. 

So when you look at me or see pictures and think I don’t look so great, you just remember that I’ve earned it.

RIP George Michael et al 2016

“RIP George Michael,
Another favourite gone…”

RIP George Michael,
Another favourite gone.
First Bowie, then Prince and Rickman
And then it was Leonard Cohen.
But Donald Trump is alive and well –
What drug has this year been on?

Tricky times.

I am so incredibly, achingly sad.

It’s the same kind of sadness I felt when my friend Rebecca was dying of cancer. We all knew it was going to happen, and we all knew that she was going to a better place. Even so, if we could have turned the wheels of time to keep her here a bit longer with her family, or turned the wheels of science and medicine to cure her, we would have. The time came; she was gone, and we all had to carry on despite our sadness at being left behind.

This time is a bit different because nobody is dying, but the deep sadness is the same. Three beautiful friends of mine are moving to the other side of the country. I fully understand why they’re going, and I know that they’re going to be a blessing and achieve wonderful things in a new place with new people. I sincerely wish them every good thing and all God’s blessings as they go.  I know we’ll be able to keep in touch via text, emails and Facebook, and heck – I might even call them sometimes and actually talk on the phone. That’s pretty revolutionary for me.

Even so, it’s not going to be the same as seeing them and working with them every day.  They’re the sort of people that everyone needs in their lives. Dynamic, honest, encouraging, empathetic and loyal to the core.  On top of that, they totally get me. That’s rare.

The knowing looks across the room, trying not to laugh at private jokes at inopportune times, encouraging smiles and fist pumps as we pass one another in the hallways, and the understanding smile of someone who gets it when life is difficult are just some of the many things I’ll miss. There’s going to be a very conspicuous absence when they’re gone.

It’s a big challenge to try to be positive in these last few days. but I really want to soak up the time I have with them, and enjoy every moment, even if it is hard to push my sadness aside and not let it pervade everything.  There will be plenty of time for misery when they’ve gone, after all.

Yes, I have other friends who are wonderful, and supportive, and fun, and all that. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their friendship – I do, and I make sure they know it.  I know life will go on, and people will always come and go from it. Sometimes that can even be a good thing. When it’s not a welcome change, though, it goes against every instinct and sense to willingly say goodbye to someone you love and let them go away to be wonderful in someone else’s life instead of mine, or ours.

So, for now at least, sadness it is.

Well, this sucks.

There are times when admitting that you can’t physically do something you desperately want to do really hurts.

Just when you think you’ve come to terms with chronic pain and the physical limitations that go with it, something new crops up to remind you, yet again, that some doors close to you when you have a physical disability.

It’s not that other people tell you that you can’t do it. It’s knowing that trying will cause you physical pain and misery, and that you’ll end up regretting making the effort the minute you realise you can’t give it 100% and do the job like you used to.  So you don’t take it on.  You just internalise the disappointment and keep doing the things you can still do, without telling anyone how much it sucks for your own body to be the source of your misery.

The Other Kind Of Journey.

I’ve had enough of hospitals. Waiting, wondering, hoping, fearing. Staring at walls in various shades of white, surrounded by people in scrubs who are all hurrying to be somewhere else. Steeping in the tension and quietness of suspense, strongly brewed.

I’d like to be somewhere else. Of course, I have preferences, but I wouldn’t be too choosy about a change of locale right now. Perhaps not jail, though.

Yet I am held here by forces stronger than my desire to be gone: an eclectic mix of fear, grief, loyalty, duty and belonging, amongst which the balance of power alternates at a sometimes giddy rate.

I belong here with the family, yet I know it’s different for me. I’m the only in-law here, but he’s my dad too. I’m still as afraid as they are.

I know what it’s like to lose a parent, to say goodbye that last time while still not wanting them to go at all. The others don’t know that yet. I think they all realise, though, that whether he lives or dies, they will never be the same again.

They’re blessed to be here together. When my mum died, it was just her and me. My sisters and brother couldn’t get there in time, although they desperately wanted to. It was me who watched and waited and wept in that quiet room. I sang her hymns and prayed with her. She held my hand, even though she was not conscious, and even though she had long forgotten who I was, I knew something buried deep inside her remembered me. How I longed for my siblings then. It was unfair for all of us. I had to do it on my own, but I had precious, awful time with her that they did not.

I thought about that day a lot yesterday when I knew the others were together. I’m glad they can keep each other strong. I’m glad I am here with them today.

The ominous, helpless heaviness of waiting has wrapped its dreadful cloak around us. There is nothing to be done except remain there.

The Sea.

Grey clouds loom and the cool breeze bites my face. The ocean whips into white points, hungrily reaching for something to devour.

I dare not let myself go near it today.

Instead, I sit by the old anchor nestled in the first tufts of grass at the top of the beach.

It’s cold and uncaring, impersonal and no company at all, but it does give me some sense of security. I envy its stability. It knows its place. It only needed to be itself to do what it was meant to do.

Some days the sea is gentle, the small waves lapping at my feet as I hug my knees and look into the distance, wishing for something different, longing for things to change.

Cold.

Mischievous.

Tempting.

It seems so much less sinister than it really is.

Some days, I sit on the shore and watch it heave and crash, knowing its force but thankful that it’s not turning me upside down, dumping me mercilessly and leaving me with little but pockets full of sand to show for it.

I’ve been there.  Struggling to breathe – no! to hold my breath, survive, stay afloat. A few seconds to gulp greedily at the air and then I am gone again, losing all sense of direction, being engulfed; the plaything of the waves.  I’ve limped from the sea and collapsed on the shore, wondering how I didn’t see the breaker that overwhelmed me.

It’s odd that the cold doesn’t numb the senses. It sharpens them, heightens the pain, deepens the wounds.

Some of those wounds still haven’t healed.

I feel him before I see him. He’s watching me, knowing where I have come from, and understanding the storm that is threatening.

I remember when he rescued me from the sea. It nearly won. I was almost gone.

Then I was claimed by his strong arms, beautiful hands, lifting me, carrying me, wrapping me in his protective embrace. His warmth radiated into the saddest, loneliest places within me. The softly spoken words of reassurance – he’s got me, nothing to fear, I’m safe now.

He is beside me now, his arm around my back, his strength protecting me from the elements.

He’s got me. Nothing to fear. I’m safe now.

The tide recedes except for the droplet that weaves a solitary path down my cheek as it chases after the sea from whence it came.