Always a mother

My son and his girlfriend are visiting for a few days. Although they’ve been together now for almost two years ( I think?) I feel I don’t really know her that well.

I remember when he went on his first date with her, at the time he was 22 and living with me. We were mid / between some form of lockdown (the Covid early days now merge into one big blur of dates, restrictions, washing shopping and overreacting to every cough). Meeting outside at a distance was permissible at this time.

My son is a lovely, quiet soul, very introverted, very clever and a deep thinker. Sometimes its hard to know where ‘he’s at’, as he shares very little. But he is a great critical thinker when I have a problem.

I was washing up at the time, he walked into the room saying, in a serious tone ‘ I have something to tell you’. I turned from the sink, I was worried, and my mind raced with, ‘what I have done wrong’ thoughts.. I quickly concluded nothing, and was all ears so to speak. (Its worrying that I went straight to the defensive). He began to speak, ‘I’m going to meet a girl, and I’m only telling you because of Covid……

I relaxed, inside I smiled, on the outside I was trying to keep a neutral response. I was excited for him, impressed he’d told me, but knew if I overreacted in any way he would bottle up. He had never spoken to me about any girls before, this was a big moment. Of course there was a slight risk in meeting someone new at this time, but I was just so pleased for him. I always thought it would be so good for him to have someone else who was ‘there for him’. I always worried that our divorce had deeply affected him, and I am unlikely to ever know the answer to this, as he doesn’t want to discuss it, and I respect his choice.

And then nothing happened.

Because of Covid, work etc they didn’t meet for weeks. Eventually they did, he said it was fine, on date two he showed me a picture, she looked nice, very petite I remember thinking. Then nothing happened again for a few weeks. I was worried it was over, but he seemed fine and eventually after a bit of stop and starting, it seemed to settle into once, twice then three times a week. Versions of Covid continuing, and with my own work and house selling and moving dramas the months passed, they continued dating and I didn’t know much, but the main thing he seemed fine. He seemed slightly happier – it was lovely to see.

The big reveal happened on his birthday. I was to meet her over a meal. I had my hair cut that morning, I needed to look good as ‘his mum’, I dressed up and bit and met them there. I didn’t really have time to be nervous, but I knew he would be and all I wanted was for it to go well, and of course I wanted to like the new GF. My daughter had already met her, they’d been to his dads for tea. It upset me a bit that the dad ‘he’ had got to meet her first, but I knew this was genuinely more about circumstance – at the time I was houseless.

It went well, we were only together for about 90 mins, but I was happy. So different to perhaps what I had expected, but sweet, caring, clearly intelligent ( she would have to be) and most impressively of all she knew a lot about me and our family. And before you think this is slightly narcissistic, I should add – for me this showed they talked and shared and that’s what I loved, it felt like he was trying to connect her to his past and family, and that she wanted this connection, and that felt so good.

Fast forward two years…. and they’re still together….. phew but yet I worry more…

Yes they look happy and close, but is what they have strong enough to weather the storms, the trials of love. I ended up in a messy divorce, from a relationship that everyone felt was so great, we were told we had an ‘energy’, that we had something special, that people just knew we’d get married. And we did and we had 20 good years, before the intense pain. I love my son so much, so deeply, at times it hurts… and as a mother I have an instinct to protect which I guess I’ll take to the grave with me.

I’m reminded of the wise words a friend gave me shortly after my daughter was born. ‘There’s always something to worry about with kids, in 6 weeks this current ‘big issue’ will pass and something new will rear its head’, be that nappy rash, not sleeping, not eating, not walking etc , and now it seems to be ‘protecting his heart’.

This ‘homily’ has got me through the years and got me through my own life. I guess I need to refocus on this, enjoy what they have at the moment and the luxury of having time with them….

I’m now trying to shove my worrying gene, back down in its bag and get up and sort breakfast ……………

‘Our deepest fear …..’

Today I treated myself to a back, neck and shoulders massage. Having trained in massage many moons ago, and loving a massage I ‘know my onions’ so to speak when it comes to both massage type and quality.

Over the years I’ve probably had a couple of hundred massages, and my conclusion is that there are a few truly brilliant massage therapists and many therapists are just running through the motions, rubbing their hands aimless up and down your back as they plan their shopping or rest of day. I would place myself down the end of the scale, whilst I enjoyed it and found it very grounding for me, I don’t think I was that good, and neither did I put in the practice to improve. In short I would rather receive than give a massage.

Since moving to a new area I have been trying to find good local therapists, these are the people who help to keep me and my body on the straight and narrow. And 11 months in I’ve had limited success, but there’s always hope …

The first lady I went to was a Thai therapist and exceedingly skilled, but she insisted on talking all the way through the treatment, which might occasionally be ok if you know them well, but her conversation (or should I say monologue) was a toxic rant about men, and at total odds with the promoted promise of a ‘blissful, relaxing treatment’. This was one heck of an angry therapist. I’ve never returned.

Attempt number two was a therapist working in a small fabulous converted lodge, with large windows leaning out over the Lake District Fells – big tick. The place looked, felt and smelt good. However the treatment was sadly lacking, the therapist was at the start of her career. I later found out that she had done most of her training during Covid, and my treatment felt as ‘virtual’ as her training probably was.. it was almost as if she was fearful of touching me.

My third attempt was much better, a Hotel Spa booking provided a short Scottish lady who applied all her inner might to tackle my knots, it was good, but at more than an hour away, and hotel spa prices, this was unlikely to be my regular treat.

But today walking up the hill to the treatment room I had a good feeling and I began musing over ‘touch’ as a ‘gift’. I believe we all have a special ‘gift’, some are clear what theirs’s is and enjoy it through fun, hobbies or as their career. For others its a mystery, unknown or hidden from the world as Marianne Williams put it’

our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous’ .

The gift I admire most in others it the ability to make you feel truly seen, a combination of real listening, emotional intelligence, warmth, empathy and genuine interest – I have one fabulous friend who naturally does this. The other gift, the one I would have for myself, if we got to choose, would be the ability to sing. For me singing, in tune singing, is an expression of the soul and love. I have an inkling of my gift, and I will share that in a future blog.

I continued up to the therapy room, a dedicated room in the local community centre. The building has big rooms, small rooms and shared toilet facilities filled with posters about sexual health and child line. Perhaps not a promising start. But as you enter the treatment room, your worries, the outside world and your shoes are left outside.

Inside the room is a haven for relaxation, ‘rest, relax and restore’ imagery and scents of ylang ylang and patchouli.

45 minutes later and I’m writing this from cloud 9. The treatment was bliss, no other words required.

When I thanked Maya at the end and said how good she was, she replied I love it, its my gift. My respect for and connection with her deepened.

What do you care about more than yourself?

I’ve just been out to buy myself an easter egg. This is not good. I used to struggle with binge eating and bulimia… so overeating is a part of me, but a part I’ve largely had under control for the last 10 plus years. In recent years I have had the occasional bad day (even then nothing like they used to be – thankfully) so hopefully this is a minor mishap.

As I stomped down the street to the shop, with the express intent on buying and then eating aforementioned egg, I reflected on how I was feeling. I was cross with myself – why am I not doing the things I want? why do I feel stressed? why am I not finding time for important things like writing my blog or dating?

The answer was not far away. ‘Work’ that pesky four letter word. This morning I had felt vexed, crossed, frustrated and mildly tormented all within 30 minutes – by my work. And simply because ‘I care too much about work’. As I made a conscious move last year to a lower graded role to try and avoid work stress this acknowledgement is more significant. But as my sister said this is as much about me as it is work. Whatever I do I will probably care too much.

As I stomped on – shop in sight – I did my usual self-flagellation. Is it wrong to say I care too much? what would my boss think? Does this mean I’m a bad person?

Fortunately my brain was working well today, I only did one mental loop before I realised the real issue here. The issue is not caring too much, as to care is good, but its about my caring hierarchy, and the fact that I place my own self-care behind my care for work! I cancel plans for work, I deprioritize exercise for work, I don’t cook good meals because of work. Wow …. of course I knew I overworked but this was a simple but fascinating realization when I looked at it through the lens of a caring hierarchy.

They say that ‘awareness’ precedes change so this is good, but I think it could take some time to re-programme 30 plus years of my working life. So in the random way that I work, my middle name is ‘left field’, I decided to add something in as a new priority. For the next 30 days I will try and blog every day..

Will this make me less stressed? who knows, but my bizarre thinking is that blogging is partly self care as it is a creative way to get to know myself better – lets see.

What do you care about more than yourself ? ( saying ‘your children’ is an acceptable answer)

Is life just one big game of whackamole?

Many years ago, I worked for the Police in a non-uniformed role on a short-term contract. I remember my first day walking into the office and seeing row after row of middle-aged men, in grey suits working at computers. I was horrified it looked so bleak and boring. I may have been tempted to run, but I needed a job, it was near to home, and I was there.

I was part of a small team of 4 men, all 40 plus, one of them was also on a short-term contract and we hit it off quite quickly. His name was Dave, he was in his early 50’s, very clever, quite wise and quite bruised from workplace politics over the years. He was clearly capable of and had come from a better, more responsible job, and was looking for more, but he needed work. He based his working life on game theory and was bemused by my enduring positivity, naivety and bonhomie in the workplace. And even more enthralled by my early dalliances in the post-divorce dating world.

After a few months of friendship, I was flattered to be invited for tea and to meet his wife, who was lovely, and told me that Dave liked few people but somehow, I’d cut the mustard so to speak.

Sadly, we have since lost touch, but I remember a few wise and profound things he told me, I also think he helped me understand more about the male psyche in the workplace, where pride kicks in and (massive gender stereotype warning ahead) how I think redundancy etc seems to affect men more than women.

One of these lasting memoires was his view on the fairness or not of life. In my view its simple – life is not fair, but it’s not something I dwell upon, life is what you make of it. I remember our conversation on this, and I sensed a degree of bitterness in him on this subject, as he talked of those people, he knew who in his words ‘went through life without touching the sides’ i.e., who lived a charmed or easy life. As I get older, I realise that I don’t know anyone who fits this brief, my close friends have suffered losing a son to a brain tumor, bankruptcy, affairs, husband’s suicide, the deep tragedies of mankind.

Yesterday as I was laughing (in a trying not to cry way) about my current challenges and Dave’s phrase ‘without touching the sides’ came to mind. Fortunately, none of my current challenges are the tragedies I’ve listed above, but instead I seem to be moving through a series of minor to mid-level annoyances / stressors, the polar opposite to the easy glide, I seem to be touching and bouncing off multiple sides of life, getting caught on one twig, wriggling free to then get caught up in another.

A few weeks ago, I was really struggling on the friendship front. Uber keen to ‘find a friend’ in my new location, someone I could connect with, who seemed to have similar references points and interests. I thought I’d met a couple of such people in the first few months since my move, we’d meet for a walk, arrange the next, then it fell through, then the next fell through again and again. I consider myself a fairly flexible and understanding person and know that things often change, and that it’s easy to overcommit and for things get in the way of plans. But after 3 or 4 last minute bails and on one of these occasions I saw one ‘potential friend’ who’d told me she was ill heading out later that evening. I was hurt, questioning my friend-ability and also annoyed that I’d wasted time when I could have gone out on my own. After some reflection I decided enough is enough and these early forays and hopes for friendship were officially dashed.

About a month ago I met someone who again I thought I could click with, we first met round the campfire of a women’s circle, then the next day bumped into each other at a wild swimming event – clearly, we have similar hobbies. On chatting, chatting and more chatting (all good signs) more similarities appeared. Since then, more swims, texting, sharing jokes its looking good… Then a strange thing happened, two other women stepped forward keen to do things, keen to share secrets… scarily I seem to be making friends .. I’m in danger of feeling fully settled.

But just as one part of my life feels calm and comfortable, the car begins to make strange noises, the plumbing in my house decides it wants to be more than just a set of pipes, it now wants to make music all night long. I’m not sleeping and without sleep I just want to cry….

Then came the rain – the real rain, and after a lovely day out I returned to find a flood in my garage, wood store and back porch, I feel as if I’m lurching between these minor challenges. I think there’s a lesson in here – I just haven’t found it yet. Instead, I can feel myself getting cross, getting indignant as the flooding could potentially have been avoided if my landlord had undertaken essential maintenance. I feel the anger rising I want to hit things, to whack things in true whackamole style. But I know that if I whack something down, something else may well pop back up….

Better still to aim for balance and calm, and put my whacker away…

How’s your life?

The beauty of getting lost

Thursday evening was beautiful. The sun was shining and the heat was building up in the car, I probably should have put the roof down – but I was on the motorway, so it was too late. I was playing some of my favourite music, Rag n Bone man, on repeat. I recently went to one of his concerts and I am proud to say I knew ever lyric – I could have stood in for him if needed …. well apart from the fact I don’t have his amazing voice, and the audience would have been mightily disappointed! I love the soul and power of his voice and his lyrics touch me deep inside.

This week has been a weird and tiring one. My son was due to make his first visit to me this weekend – but he got Covid and so was unable to come, this has really upset me, and I’ve shed a few tears. I have some ongoing admin stuff to work through with my siblings which has also been very draining, and I’ve been toying with lots of things in my head. So, as I started the drive, I was tired and deep in thought.

I knew Thursday’s route reasonably well. With the sun shining, the scenery seemed even stronger than usual, the hills even larger and I was driving mulling over issues, against a backdrop of ‘wow this place’ is so beautiful thoughts running through my head. The traffic was fairly light, it usually is on this stretch, and I drive fairly slowly. I’m not a great lover of speed (in any aspect of my life) and definitely not on a motorway … feeling the pressure of someone driving on my tail really stresses me, I soon get hot, flustered and so I prefer to stay in the inside and slower lanes.

After a while I had this slight nagging thought – where am I ? do I usually drive into this range of incredible hills, what signs am I looking for. It was a slightly scary thought – not as in I’m lost, but more a wow where have I metaphorically been… and I’m driving a car – how can I have such little awareness of my route … but yet at the same time I did.

We talk about auto-pilot, but this was more about being fully absorbed, I was in the ‘flow’ .. I realised that my mind had dropped all my worries and contemplations I was (as Wiki would define it) ‘fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full enjoyment in the process’ and as a result something weird happened to time (again according to Wiki) ‘transformation in one’s sense of time’. I was no longer driving home.. I was absorbing and feeling the beauty of my surroundings, I felt rewarded and ‘filled’ by this. Then a moment of panic, I began to wonder and worry about my driving during this time, had I been safe .. but no one had beeped at me, I was still in the same line, at the same speed – yes, I think I was safe.

A sign appeared on the motorway – I was not where I should be, I had never been this far before on this motorway. As I headed towards the exit I realised that I was not one, but two junctions past mine, and when I checked later this equated to, 20 miles off course. 20 minutes in the complete flow of driving and connecting to the surroundings. I began to doubt myself again – had I drifted off, but no it was the hills I was in those hills.

I got off the motorway, did a full 360 and got straight back on in the correct direction. I switched off my CD and focused hard for signs – I needed to get home.

As I drove back fully attentive for road signs, I had a huge realisation. I may not be fully settled in my job, I still miss good friends and family, but I realised I could never fully leave this area.

Five months ago, when I moved up I was nervous, unsure and convinced that I would return to Warwickshire. At the time I told myself as much as others, that I would aim to do at least a year and then see how I feel, and at the same time I gave myself permission to not stay if it was not right. Now after 5 months here, I realise that what most people say is so true ‘once you come to the lakes you never leave’.

That evening I realised I can’t let go of the beauty, this ‘living on the edge of opportunity’ feeling, the lakes, the hills, the nature, the fresh air, green algae and all – this is now in my lifeblood.

Would I have realised this if I had not got lost… I don’t know, I don’t need to know. I know that I need to get a base here, I may not always live here, but I need a base so I can choose to stay here or visit here as and when I want.

I’ve signed up with the estate agents…. let’s see what happens now.

Which part of you is tired?

Today I saw a blog entitled ‘when your soul is tired’, it grabbed me, not because my soul is tired – quite the contrary, but it made me acknowldge my own physcial tiredness and change my plans for the day accordingly.

Many years ago when I was going through my divorce I started counselling. I remember the counsellor well, and I saw him on and off for 4 or 5 years. I felt very comfortable with him, lets call him Pete, he listened well (I suppose this is pretty fundamental for a counsellor), he regularly asked me, ‘how did that feel?’ and would often gently challenge my response. His common line was ‘I know you, you can rationalize anything- you’re a very rational person’ but what did it feel like, below your head?’

He had a good point.. I can explain, make sense of, logically forgive, understand, rationalize and talk my way through most things,, but the feeling side, well they’re so well packed away down there (not neatly, but securely) and ‘beaten’ into submission by my logic that they may not emerge for years and years…

Pete also used to regularly referred to the four perspectives of life, and how these need to be fulfilled and in balance to achieve a sense of wellbeing. These being the spiritual dimension, our physicality, mental perspective and emotions.

The year of 2021 was a tough one for me. I had to move out of my family house due to a nothing less than a nightmare neighbor. He would shout, and he was a big man, he would swear and occasionally he would bang. This could go on for literally 12 hours a day… during the autumn 2020 lockdown, he shouted on and off for 6 weeks solid. I felt trapped and was literally at breaking point… I screamed back, I shouted back, I stopped, I cried, I sobbed, the only thing I didn’t do was sleep – and I am someone who needs sleep. I was a wreck ….

All the agencies knew about him, people tried to help, but there was so much bureaucracy as he owned the house, and he presented as a vulnerable old man, and he said he couldn’t help it. I won’t continue as I feel my old anxiety coming back.

At the same time there was a huge change at work and I didn’t like the direction of travel, so I opted to leave. At the time it was a huge shock and it wasn’t what I really wanted to do, but I knew it was the right thing ( and I don’t regret it) but it was painful. I was going through such a lot on every front. I was exhausted physically and emotionally. Mentally I think I was ok (others may disagree) I knew that if I didn’t leave my house my mental health would be in danger, but I think at that point it was fine. As for my spirituality, I had, as I always do faith.

I had faith (my own personal faith) that it would all be ok. Against the backdrop of the pains above, I had this little calling (I still don’t know to what exactly) saying that although that life was good it wasn’t fulfilling my spiritual needs. So the events of 2021 were perhaps an exceedingly painful way to present me with an opportunity to redress this.

So I left my house and job and am now I’m working in the lakes -(it wasn’t quite as easy as that but you get the gist…)

And now I feel that my spiritual needs are being better met – the lakes, the water, the mountains – all speak to my soul. I get excited by the thought that there’s an adventure around every corner, I feel the hills calling me, I feel at home as I climb them. My soul has been awakened. I’m not convinced this is where I will settle long term, but its great to feel this alive and relatively free again. Physically though I’m tired and this is what I knew today …. I’ve been living like I’m still 20 – swimming, climbing, walking, cycling and I need to slow down a bit, rest a bit not for long but for a few days… The blog today reminded me of this and I’m now reminding myself that the water will wait and still be there in a few days .

Which part of you is tired… ?