Sunday, 30 January 2011

I've started so I'll finish........well maybe tomorrow!

I’m great at starting things.

I’m great at coming up with new ideas.

I’m terrible at finishing what I’ve started.  Honestly I have a sewing project downstairs that I started when I was eleven. 

It was the first year of senior school.  In needlework we all designed and made a patchwork cushion or bag.  On each patchwork square we tried out the different embroidery stitches on the sewing machines.  All I need to do to finish mine is sew up the opening where the stuffing went in!  Half it is already done but I suddenly stopped, ran out of cotton, ran out of time and found something better to do…  I’d obviously brought it home from school to finish – fatal!

I’ve got several craft projects on the go, a scarf I need to finish knitting; I am up to the casting off stage.  A knitted bag that needs stitching together.  I have a box of beads to make bracelets and a stack of card and paper to make cards.

Besides the craft projects I have at least half a dozen books under my bed or beside my bed, all of which I’ve started, on the quest for the elusive book that’s going to be so captivating that it takes me away from my current woes to a land of make believe.  You’d be amazed how many novels I have on my bookshelves that are about losing a husband – these have been relegated to the bottom of my “to be read” pile – for now.

Then there are the novels in my head I want to write.  The short story ideas.  The thousands and thousands of words I’ve already written.  My “novel” also deals with a death, this time of a wife, hmmmm can’t quite bring myself to finish that one at the moment – one day…

That distant “one day” when everything will become clear and perfect and complete – ha! ha!

Andrew was also someone who started things, who had dreams of all the things we could do in the future.  We had so many plans.  Ideas for children’s talks at church, bus trips we could organise for fundraising.

What he was exceptionally good at was taking things apart.  They were usually broken anyway but he had these ideas that he could fix them.  Upstairs in his den is a laptop, a camera and two mobile phones all in pieces!

Now he had his moments of glory – he fitted our son’s mobile phone with a new screen bought cheap from Ebay.

He sometimes pondered these little problems for weeks before coming up with the solution.

The camera and laptop upstairs were still at the pondering stage – although quite honestly they are broken beyond repair.  I’m typing now on my new laptop and we got a new camera.

They were jobs he’d started intending “one day” to get them finished….or “one day” my nagging would have got too much and he would have admitted defeat and they would have made it to the wheelie bin where they belong!

They are a reminder he was here and that he didn’t plan to go.  If he’d known maybe I wouldn’t have so much to sort out.  Although if we knew maybe the mess would have all melted into insignificance.

Today as I drove to church I passed a cyclist pedalling up the hill.  It’s a very steep hill and I wouldn’t attempt it on a bike.  I would have stopped and pushed the bike up, after a very long rest and maybe and ice-cream en route! 

But it reminded me of what I’d written in my diary last night.

    Another Saturday filled
     Another late night trying not to remember
     The walls close in
     With things to do
          half completed,
                        then abandoned

    Don’t stop!  You were climbing

    Freefall takes no effort
       but you have to carry on
    And finish
         And finish to the end
                 the top
                      and see the view

     The satisfaction of completeness

It’s a bit of a rambling diary entry even by my standards! Can you call it a poem?   I’ve had a good week and got lots of things sorted but there are so many things that I’m in the middle of.  Things that have been started and left because I don’t know how to finish them off.

If you are in the middle, it means you have to come back, you are not ready to leave…

This week I finally chased up the whereabouts of Andrew’s bags from work.  They were full of stuff found in his locker off shore.  There really was nothing exciting in them except a photo of him.  It was obviously a photo that was stuck on a notice board showing everyone on his shift.

He has that half smile on his face and his eyes are almost laughing at the embarrassment of having to have his photo taken.  To me it is beautiful because it was such an unexpected find and he is just as I remember.  Our youngest son hugs it and tells me how much he loves and misses his dad.

The photo has made it upstairs and I am using it as a bookmark in one of the many books by the bed.  The bags haven’t made it out of the lounge yet!  I don’t know what to do with the clothes, overalls with his name on and bag of tools.

It’s just another job half finished.

Like sorting the finances and the tax forms and the mess that’s in every room. 

And the broken camera and laptop upstairs!

Of course there are some things I have finished things in my life…

I finished my wedding dressing in time to get married!  We finished decorating our youngest son’s bedroom before Andrew died.

Then last Friday I started and finished a project in a day!  I made this heart.  Not only did I make it I wrapped it and posted it to my cousin for her birthday.  But this photo is a reminder of what I can achieve.

It’s the end of the month tomorrow and I want to “finish” as many things as I can, even the little things like getting to the bottom of the ironing pile and putting the ironing board away.

Because now I have a new plan, a new idea, I can make some more hearts.  I’ve proved they don’t take long to make.  I’ve found my beads and buttons….

….there are things to finish but there are always things to start.  Life is on-going and some things never end…

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

"Revives Sun-Kissed Highlights"

Or so says my shampoo bottle!

My hair used to be more auburn when I was little.  I always called myself a red-head as an excuse for my temperamental and fiery behaviour.   These days some strands, particularly in the fringe, have grown lighter to the point that the colour appears bleached out altogether! 

The slogan on the bottle reminded me of the sunset from the day before.  The sky was a glorious pink filtered through the dark silhouettes of the bare trees.  We were driving towards it as I took my son to tennis and I was really paying far more attention to the wonder of it than the road!

“Mum why is the sky that colour?” asked son number two.  He even spotted a patch of the sky that looked green!

I explained that our sunsets are so spectacular because we live near an industrial area that spew out lots of chemicals and that causes it.  At least that’s what I was told once.  I won’t pretend to understand it so I probably didn’t explain it very well.

What I didn’t say to him was the old saying “red sky at night - shepherds delight”.  It was one of those sayings I learnt early on that has always stuck with me.  A scarlet skyline meant the next day was going to be fine.  A promise of a good day ahead.

All of a sudden there seems to be a few signs around of new hope on its way.

Last week when I put the bin out I spotted the first snowdrop in the garden. 

Today I saw several more sticking their heads above ground and it made me smile.

Then the other day when we arrived home the lamp post in the garden, which is set on a timer switch, was already on although it was still light!

The days are getting noticeably longer.  It’s the start of something NEW.

Andrew loved watching the sunset.  He told me more than once that it takes a full minute for the sun to go from sitting on the horizon to falling out of sight behind it.  He’d timed it many times while working off–shore, standing with arms resting on the hand rails.  I can imagine him clearly standing there.  Contented face lit by the sun's fading glow.

Not long before he died he’d won a new camera and one of the few photos he had taken on it was of the sun setting over the sea.

I can vividly remember some of the sunsets we watched together.  Magical highlights, romantic moments that I will always treasure.  Although it is the end of the day you just know the sun will rise again tomorrow.  And so the world carries on…

There were sunrises too, like the morning of the new Millennium.  We were complete then and had recently become a family of four.

Last week I found things hard.  I never “achieved” very much.   It took quite a while to write my last blog entry about people asking “how I was doing?”

On reflection there was quite a bit of anger there really and thinking about it now I probably got snappy as a defence mechanism.  Every time someone asked how I was I could feel the tears start to form.  Sometimes deep inside and sometimes very close to the surface.

I know crying can be good and that anger is part of the grief too.  It all comes out jumbled up like waves ebbing and crashing on the shore.

This week has been better so far.  I’m working through my “list” and things are getting done.  Although with each job ticked off I seem to find three more outstanding!

I need to remember all those things I’ve already written about taking my time and being patient.  Maybe I need to look back and see how far I've already come. 

But something is stirring with the coming of spring …..

….slowly and surely the sun-kissed highlights are being revived!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Will the real Sarah please step forward...

One of my favourite girlie movies was on last weekend so I recorded it and set aside time to myself to watch it while the boys were playing nicely.

“Steel Magnolias” – I can remember going to see it when it was first out.  There was quite a group of us and we left the cinema deciding which of the main characters we were most like.

I was the Dolly Parton character Truvey but without the big boobs!  Truvey is bubbly, positive and everyone congregated in her beauty parlour to set the world to rights.

I don’t think all my positivity has left me but right now I’m obviously not sparkling as brightly as I usually do.

At the moment maybe I identify more with Clairee (Olymipia Dukakis) recently widowed and looking for a new direction.  She buys a radio station!

Then there’s Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine) who utters the immortal line, ”I’ve just been in a very bad mood for the last forty years!”.  OK maybe I’m not THAT bad but I can understand her sentiments.

I put down my knitting and reached for the box of tissues when it got to the funeral scene.  

I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who’s never seen the film but M’Lynn (Sally Field) stands by her daughter’s grave distraught and angry at this untimely death.  She’s shouting and screaming and wants to know why?

There’s a lot there to identify with at the moment.  

The friends all gather beside her in true cinematic fashion.  It is the love and support they share that sees them through all the bad times and helps each of them face another day.

A couple of days later when I was half listening to the radio there was an interview about the different characters in Winnie the Pooh.

Andrew was always an Eeyore!  We had had that particular discussion many times.  I won a toy Eeyore in a tombola once and it still sits on our bed.

But who am I most like?

Sometimes I think I’m a Kanga, the maternal one who worries and fusses over everyone else.

When I’m in a quieter mood I feel like Piglet, shy and unsure of my place in the world.

Then there are the times when I long to be a Tigger, bouncing with certainty!

We are all totally unique, something we shared with the Treasure Seekers at church on Sunday as we played consequences and drew the most bizarre looking people!

At sixth form, in those days when you had time between lessons to consider such things, we decided what colour we were most like.  I was a pink person but with an orange personality!  Good luck working that one out!

You know I should really change the profile on here.  I’ve decided I don’t like the list of being a mother, daughter, sister ……and that W word!!!

The list is so limiting – so watch out one day soon I will change it.

People have expectations of certain words and because I’m so recently bereaved I get the constant question…

“How are you doing?”

It’s like that other horror when you meet someone new…

“So what do you do?”

What is this obsession with what people “DO”?

Now I confess that I am as guilty as the next person of not being more original but last Sunday at church it got to the point where when I was asked, 

“How are you doing?”

I would reply, “I’d be better if people stopped asking me!”

I mean it really is a stupid question.  My husband has been dead for a little over two months, I’m holding things together for the children and there are sometimes I feel really CRAP!   

The boys are the only reason for getting up in the morning and I have to carry on.  For a lot of the day I’m not the real me but an empty shell.  I’m truthful and I’ll give you an honest answer if you really want one but I have to move on for my sanity.  I’ve found out that if I dwell too much on all the sad stuff I begin to spiral downwards. 

Inside there are little bits of all these “characters” and they are not all fictional.   

There’s the person I want to be, the girl I was at 12 and the young woman I was when I married.  There’s a bit of a Tigger mixed in with a bit of Eeyore and a Dolly Parton character from a film!  If I were to draw it out for you it would look like those consequences people we drew in Treasure Seekers.

I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book, so good it’s in an envelope waiting to be posted on to a friend for her to read!   

It’s called Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  It’s one of those teenage novels that has so much to say to adults too.

The main character is magical and mysterious.  She is completely unconventional and that is her strength.

I’ve taken a great idea from its pages.   

Stargirl has a toy wagon on her bookshelf and in it are some pebbles.  Beside it are a few more.

I’ll let her explain for herself what they are for…

“It’s my happy wagon…It is about how I feel.  When something makes me happy I put a pebble in the wagon.  If I am unhappy I take a pebble out.  There are twenty pebbles in all.”

I thought this was a great idea, I’ve been looking for a simple way to determine how I am “doing” both for my benefit and for the boys to know.

I found a cup and saucer and I’ve counted out 20 plastic “diamonds”.

             In the cup = happy                 In the saucer = sad

The current ratio is 7 in the cup and 13 in the saucer.  All things considered I think that’s pretty good.

Maybe everyone should ask me different questions.  How many diamonds are in your cup today?  Is that more or less than yesterday?  

Realistically people ask because they care.  Having my cup and saucer of diamonds may help me to assess where I am and give a better answer than “up and down” which is a fairly standard nondescript reply.

There are always some people who wouldn’t take kindly to being told “stop asking me stupid questions!!!”

I’m certainly going to try and ask more interesting questions of other people.

Perhaps we should focus on who a person is and not what they do.

           Who are you today?
                A Clairee or a Ousier?
                       A Pooh Bear or a Kanga

                              Maybe even a Stargirl?

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Luxury of Time

                A second, 
                     a minute, 
                            an hour, 
                                  a day 
                                       and it’s gone

Little by little it fritters away
Try as you may you can never replace it

A moment of beauty you stumble upon
As long as you treasure whatever it is
Whatever it is can never be wasted

So if we all turn to dust
Better to have loved and lost
Cause everything has a cost

So if you’re gonna spend time
Spend it upon me

Just give me your time
Don’t take it from me

Such beautiful words but unfortunately not mine.  Just another set of borrowed lyrics – the song is "Time" by Ben’s Brother.

I half joked at the end of last year that I was so busy with Christmas and birthdays that I’d pencilled a “nervous breakdown” in my diary for January.

Yesterday was the first day I allowed myself the luxury of some time to fall apart.

Only “some” time because inevitably there were other people who NEEDED me!

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple of days arranging some temporary respite care for Andrew’s mum.  She can’t carry on on her own at this time and because of circumstances and geography I am the person she relies on most.

Respite is not just for her so she can get well but it’s a breathing space for me, to stop me worrying so much about her.

I have enough on my plate and everyone is always telling me to be kind to myself – well can someone tell me how that works?

I am a “stay at home mum” (SAHM – a blog speak acronym I’ve found since I’ve started this!).  It’s what I’ve always wanted.  Andrew worked hard to give me the luxury of time with the children and time to devote myself to the things I consider important.

But there is a huge downside – you are literally “on call” 24/7.  There is NO time off.  Everything I do is voluntary and if I say NO I’m letting someone down I care about.

If I had a job I could so easily take time off.  My employer would understand my circumstances and allow me leave.  Other people would understand and not ask me to do things.

Yesterday I really missed my best friend.  Despite the fact I felt he was so close agreeing with my every thought.

 It feels like he is just away at the moment and I long for the next phone conversation to catch up on the day’s events.

I’ve cried so many times and yet I know there are still so many tears bottled up inside just waiting until I have the time to cry them.  That space when I am on my own and no one NEEDS me.

A short time before Andrew died I had a bit of a confidence crisis.  I’d written a short story for a competition and I’d just had the rejection letter.  Once again my dreams were crumbling.

Then I had this unsettled feeling of what would happen if Andrew was away and I was taken ill or had and accident?  Who would look after the boys and do all the things I do?

“I just need a hug.” I told Andrew.  So we spent a whole afternoon curled up under the duvet.  Such a treasured time - just being so close.  He hugged away my fears, made me feel whole again and ready to face the world.

My oldest son gave me a hug this morning.  So lovely and reassuring but I worry that he is trying too much to protect me and not share his feelings with me.  I know he’s hurting too.

Also this morning my youngest son came into my room while he thought I was still asleep and whispered “I love you mummy.  I really do.”

It was so gentle and heartfelt so reminiscent of the special times I’d spent with Andrew.

They are little pieces of their dad and sometimes I don’t know how we will make it through.

People say time heals.   

Yesterday another widow told me time helps.  

Yet another widow told me this week via an email that it’s the time you spend alone that’s ends up being the most healing.

I don’t want to shut myself away from people but maybe every now and then I need to close the doors and put up a sign –KEEP OUT!

I know there’s no easy way for the outside world to know which mood I’m in.  

If I get snappy maybe it's best to leave me alone.  There are things I need to deal with on my own.

Please be patient and above all else - give me time….

I’ll end with more "time" related song lyrics.  This time James Blunt ”If Time is all I Have”.

                If time is all I have
                            I’ll waste it all on you
              Each day I’ll turn it back
                          It’s what the broken hearted do
           I’m tired of talking to an empty space
                  Of silences keeping me awake
                          Won’t you say my name - one time