Friday, 29 April 2011

Everybody loves a wedding

Today is a very special day.  

The day of the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

I’m sat watching the TV as I type and at the moment the discussion is all about the dress.  Then we cut to a sweeping view over the London skyline followed by a shot of the inside of Westminster Abbey filling with guests in their finery.

Everybody loves a wedding.  For Kate this is the day she becomes a real princess but every girl on her wedding day has her chance to be a princess. 
I remember my “princess” moment.  In fact my day was made up of a myriad of tiny moments and precious memories.

Before the day itself there is all the planning.

I listened with interest to the reports of how Catherine had definite ideas about how she wanted the wedding to look, especially the trees that lined the nave of the church, the flowers used and their meaning.  It is a bride’s prerogative to have the day she desires.

For me I always knew I wanted a dress with “something blue” as part of the design.  I wanted to make it myself and I only ever tried on one other wedding dress and that was my mother’s, my standby dress if I irreversibly messed up my own. 

The blue in my dress took the form of silk flowers around the scooped, ruched neckline and the tiny fabric covered buttons that ran down my back.  I also made bow ties for my two page boys with the same material and the shade of blue perfectly matched my Ceylon sapphire engagement ring.

I had a bouquet of silk flowers so I could continue the hint of blue theme, there aren’t many naturally occurring blue flowers to choose from.   The bouquet still sits on a shelf in my bedroom today.

Other details I remember from the day are making sure I got to the church on time.  Andrew declared if I wasn’t there on time he wouldn’t wait! 
My dad and I walked to the church from my mother-in-laws house as it was only yards away and just across the road.  We had no official wedding video but there is an amateur recording of me and my dad arriving on foot and having to back track quickly as Andrew and his brothers were still outside the church being photographed and I didn’t want to be seen by them before my grand entrance!

The service was reasonably informal and I will always treasure the sight of my two small nephews, my page boys, sitting on the floor in front of us drawing while we listened to the reading and sermon.

Then there was a time after the meal when Andrew and I looked across into an adjoining room and spotted his brother having what we later referred to as a “Bailey’s moment”.   He’d found somewhere to sit away from the hustle and bustle and have a private celebratory drink.

We didn’t have our evening reception until the following Saturday.  The wedding took place in Andrew’s home town, where we had met and the evening “do” where I had grown up.  It was a chance to wear my dress for a second time and invite even more family and friends to celebrate with us.

So on our actual wedding day Andrew and I managed to slip away fairly early in the evening and head off home together.  Not many people know that I made him carry me over the threshold in the traditional style when we arrived!

We shared another secret as we then headed off to another hotel for our wedding night.  I always had a dream of going back and celebrating an anniversary in the future, maybe a special one, just the two of us.

Our wedding was nearly 17 years ago but now I’ll never be married for more than sixteen years, seven months and six days.  That thought hit me pretty early on.  We will never celebrate twenty years of marriage or reach our silver wedding anniversary.  I felt cheated by that thought and still do.  To reach these milestones is an achievement.

Our anniversary is just over a week away on the 7th May, and it’s my next big hurdle to overcome.   We never made much fuss in the past but part of me is already dreading how I’m going to be on that day.

As it happens the boys and I have been invited to a friend’s fortieth birthday party that day and it is being held in the church we got married in.  I think it’s quite fitting to celebrate a happy occasion along with some of the friends who shared our own special day all those years ago.

But the trouble with grief is you never quite know what is going to trip you up.  You can be fine one minute and the smallest thing can knock you off your feet.  Sometimes you can’t even put your finger on what set you off again.  Somehow all the tiny details align and you realise the enormity of the whole picture.  It’s overwhelming.
Last week I found Easter particularly difficult.  Death and resurrection.  I cried at every service but fortunately I was surrounded by friends and felt comfortable to let my true feelings show.

As I’ve been writing this William and Kate have become man and wife.   The world has seen the dress and watched them publically affirm their vows.  They are now continuing their festivities with family and friends. 

I wish them well and pray they have a long and happy life together.   Today has been such a grand occasion but I hope they remember the tiniest of details, treasuring their own special moments from this day. 

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The sliding scale of normality

A couple of weeks ago at church we had a sermon about…

…well I honestly can’t remember the context or even the text used, except it was a long one (text not sermon), but the lasting point that stuck in my head and probably every other member of the congregation was the statement that “churches are full of weirdoes”!

Of course at this point in the sermon everyone looked round at everyone else with a few knowing nods that it is such a true statement.

Each one of us believes we are “normal” but as for the rest of the population …

Churches have a tendancy to attract people who are unique.  Broken people looking for somewhere to belong.  The beauty of the body of Christ is that we are all loved and accepted.  This diversity is good.  Where else would you find such an eclectic mix of people learning to love one another?  That’s how we grow.

A group of us from church met on Friday night for tea, as we usually do.  The grown ups chat and the children play.  It is the time of the week I feel most comfortable.  We started talking about this very topic and came up with the phrase “a sliding scale of normality”.

“That would make a good title for a blog post.” I joked at the time but then set myself the challenge to write it!

I like quirky titles.  I like their uniqueness and how they draw you in making you ponder something from a different perspective.

At the moment I would love to feel normal again – whatever that may feel like!

I don’t want being a “widow” to define who I am.

You may have noticed I’ve changed the “about me” box in the corner and “W” word no longer appears.

“I am a dreamer, a writer, a mother and a child of God.”

There are times when I do feel “normal”. Friday tea, being with friends and just being accepted.  They know who I am and they have shared, in part, the road I have travelled.  I can laugh with them, cry with them and be myself.

To be yourself is to be normal.  To be the person God created you to be without pretence.

In January I posted an entry called “Will the real Sarah please step forward”.  It was about feeling lost and not knowing who I was any more.

There are so many facets to who I am.  Like everyone else I have a distinct combination of DNA, experience and environment.

There is a “sliding scale of normality” but it’s not a uniform one size fits all scale!

Since November my normality setting has been seriously knocked off the scale.  FSD – full scale deflection – just some technical term Andrew taught me.

It’s similar to a dial on a radio being tuned to static.  I am trying to adjust it, first flicking the dial one way and then the other.

The signal is sometimes weak and crackly.  Then there are the days when you think you have got it only for the song to stop and you realise you’ve found some foreign station that’s incomprehensible.  The wrong voices – how I wish I could hear the right one! Gradually I’m finding the signal again and retuning. 

I still cry, quite a lot at the moment actually, I still miss Andrew and the life we shared together as a family, I always will, but here’s just one tiny reason why I know I am finding my way back to normal.

I rediscovered something I love to do and you mustn’t tell anyone but… I’ve been singing along loudly to some of my favourite songs on my iPod and dancing round the kitchen daydreaming when no one’s looking!  I think the boys stay out of my way when they hear me sing anyway!

These are the things I do that are essentially “me”, times when I’m wrapped up in my own little world and more importantly times when I am HAPPY!  I just need to find the happy songs and turn up the volume!

There is a spark of a hope as I slide back towards normality.  When I forget the “things I still have to do list”, let go and just “be me” even for a few minutes of static free, crystal clear sound.

I’ve not put any song quotes in for a while so here are some of the words to one of the songs I’ve been singing…just let me turn up the volume…

“dreams aren’t what they used to be
Some things slide by so carelessly
So smile like you mean it”
                                                                                 “Smile like you mean it” by the Killers

Happy Easter! 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Caught between the past and future tense

I haven’t written anything for about a week and I’m struggling to think of what to write.  I seem to have used up all my ideas and already written all the thoughts that run round my head…

Last week I wrote about finding some peace and quiet.  About downing tools and having a rest.

Why is that so hard?  Admittedly we’ve been busy because the boys are off school and there have been different but extra things to do.

What I find hardest is my brain doesn’t stop, doesn’t rest or switch off.  All the jobs I have to do, all the options I’m considering are always there bubbling away. 

I’m very good at writing platitudes about resting and stopping but not so good at living them.

As I said at the start I feel like I’ve used up all my creative ideas.

I’m still trying NOT to measure my days by achievements, attempting to get some peace.  How many times have I written this stuff?

I feel disjointed.  Some parts of me have moved on.  There are some things I’m doing differently because I can.

It's a small example but I’m wearing make-up and perfume more and more.  Andrew hated it but these days’ new eye shadows and mascaras are finding their way into the weekly shopping trolley.  He said I looked fine without it, wouldn’t even kiss me with lipstick on, but there are times when I look in the mirror and know I need an extra bit of “sparkle”.  Who is that old woman?

However sometimes I feel like I’m all talk and no action.  I have fanciful plans and dreams but I have lost “the wind beneath my wings”, as Bette Midler sang about in Beaches.

My confidence is slipping.  I can recognise the beginning of the downward spiral where everyone else does things so much better than me.  There must be a more interesting blog to be reading than this one?

I’m caught between the old life I can’t have and a new one I have to rebuild.  It won’t necessarily be better but different.

I'd trade this new one for the old one in a heartbeat!

I wrote a poem a while ago called “Caught between the past and future tense”.  I never posted it because it wasn’t finished.  I’m still not sure I’m 100% happy with it but it talks so much of what I’ve written today…

Caught between the past and future tense

Sometimes… I catch myself
Falling in between
What was and is

I say “we do that”
Instead of shifting
The word “do” to “did”
Shifting my world
From “us” to “I”

I get stuck somewhere in the middle
Of what is and is no more
And can never be

Sometimes I hear myself
Laugh and dream
Of what will be

I say “next time I…”
And move my world on
Like winding round the hands of a clock
Embracing the future

I get wound up in a wish
Of what can be
New hope to enfold me

Sometimes I am all too aware
Of where I am
What is.  The Here.  The Now.

I say “this is too hard without you!”
The day-to-day-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other routine

I get lost in the myriad of conflicting voices
I just want to hide and cover my ears
Curl up in a ball and disappear.

There’s a cliché that the present is so called because it is a gift.  At the moment it is a cruel one.  

I’ve called this blog unravelling edges and I feel I am still coming undone.

Imagine accidently catching your favourite cardigan on an unseen nail and it pulls.  You immediately want to be able to step back in time, spot the offending barb and sidestep it altogether.   

There are alway sharp points that catch you unawares, a song, a comment, an item you uncover and you crumple.  Sometimes just a few tears and other times a torrent of “why?” and “how?” and “what do I do now?”

My post seems pretty depressing today.  I am mostly optimistic for the future but in the present I have reached the point where I know Andrew isn’t coming back.  I’m still adjusting and fine tuning but I finally accept he’s gone – for good. 
I wish I could end on a more positive note, I really am trying to find one.
I just received an email from a friend of my mum’s asking for the link to this blog, if it wasn’t private.

Should I keep my thoughts to myself?  Should I just stop “curl up in a ball and disappear” like the end of my poem?
But if you have read this far don’t you want to know how this turns out?  I can’t promise a happy ending but I love the fairytales where everyone does get to live happily ever after.

Somewhere between the past and the future tense is NOW and that’s where I am living at present. 
It’s the bit where Cinderella is clearing up after her ugly sisters when they have been invited to the ball. 

It’s where Frodo and Sam are struggling towards Mount Doom through the wastelands of Mordor.

Being topical it’s the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 
Somewhere between the worst thing that’s ever happened and the resurrection.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

A man in a van with a spade

I have been having a long running saga with a cracked/broken/leaking water pipe.  

Several people have been involved in searching for the offending pipe.

A bit of digging, a fence pulled down.  A wall removed stone by stone.  More digging.

The location of the pipe was a complete mystery.  Somewhere under some tree roots perhaps?  Twisted, tangled and damaged!

The man from the water company came and traced the pipes with a fancy gadget like a metal detector.  So now we knew where to dig…

But then there was the problem of the tree it already grew at an angle leaning towards the house and garage and the roots were being severely undermined.

We called the tree man who said “STOP!  No more digging until the tree comes down.”

The tree came down and the digging resumed.

My dad dug deeper and deeper with no success.

Everything STOPPED for a second time as I called the insurance company to see if we were covered and they could send out some professionals.

“They’ll send a team of men with a digger and all the right equipment.” said my dad knowingly relieved he could at last go and dig another part of the garden and terrify the weeds!

We waited.

On Tuesday a man in a van with a spade turned up!

He had to ring me from just around the corner to find out where my house was.  I was full of doubt, fearing my on-going saga would never end.

The man muttered to himself, leant on his spade and pondered.  He seemed to be digging in a different direction.  Certainly not the way the man from the water company had led us to believe in.

But this man had his own detector gadget and that was obviously telling him something different and who was I to interfere?

After a few hours of digging, muttering, detecting he found the pipe and fixed it – all quite simple really.  There was no stress and no drama.  It was my dad who had been digging in the wrong direction all along due to a false reading!

In the end it took just one man in a van with a spade to do what six men between them couldn’t achieve!

His big advantage was that he had everything he needed to hand.  A spade to dig, the technical gadgetry to trace the pipes and the knowledge how to fix them.  Everything came together perfectly.

Oh if only everything in life was so simple. 
I wrote the other day about feeling like a child.  What I really want right now is someone to tell me all the answers.  I’m worried I might be digging in a misguided direction and things will go terribly wrong.

My only task is to make the good choices for me and the boys.  Ultimately there are no rights and wrongs in the decisions I make just other people’s opinions.  Life is full of twists and turns and like everyone else I just have to do the best I can with the resources and information I have to hand.

I’ve made some decisions already, some hastily out of necessity and others I’ve pondered long and hard, still not knowing the answers.

I know already that some decisions I've already taken may have been made differently in hindsight.

But I have reached the stage where I am trying to take some control and I need to rely on this strength I supposedly have.  It’s hard work and the scariest thing I’ve ever had to do. 

If it just affected me it might be easier but truthfully without the boys to keep me going I may not have got this far!

I need to give myself permission to fail.  It is OK if I don’t get it all right.  I can dig holes all over the garden looking for answers if I want to!

However just now I need to STOP a while and take stock.  The boys are off school on their Easter holiday so I need to take a break too.  Let things settle in much the same way I did over the Christmas holiday. 
Maybe some answers will come in the quiet stillness of resting and if not when the boys go back to school I will once more pick up my spade and start digging!