This morning I left the house to walk the dog just as the skies cleared, after days of stormy weather. It felt like a fresh start: like the feeling I get after I’ve been crying for hours feeling terrible and I stop, breathe, and give myself a break. When I look around and say it’s fine and, despite some puddles and other damage, the storm might never have been.
I spent last night having a long conversation with my hubbie and stepdad about parenting, depression, anxiety and life in general. It came after reading two interesting posts: The first was a viral one on WordPress about marriage not being for you but for others. It included these words:
[M]arriage isn’t for yourself,you’re marrying for a family. Not just for the in-laws and all of that nonsense, but for your future children. Who do you want to help you raise them? Who do you want to influence them? Marriage isn’t for you. It’s not about you. Marriage is about the person you married
Past You may not be as awesome as Present You, but Past You worked really hard to get to Present You, too.
The world does enough beating us up, […] We don’t need to do the beating up ourselves. Inside your head should be a safe space to make mistakes, to grow and change and learn, to find acceptance, forgiveness, and kindness.
As often happens, all these sources of inspirational thought combined in my mind to give me the ghost of a feeling. The feeling that’s been echoing around my head is one of grace; of being kind to yourself and looking out rather than in.
I’ve spent much of this year, and longer, beating myself up for all the people I’m not, for all the things I haven’t achieved, for not becoming a better parent, a better person, despite wanting to be. But you know what? The excuses become a thing in themselves.
If I feel bad then that’s okay because I’m taking responsibility for my own actions. But what if there’s a better way? What if you can forgive Past You for the things that didn’t happen because, quite frankly, Past You was doing her best under difficult circumstances.
What if taking responsibility is over rated and we just have to stop thinking about it at all so much? What if the past were erased and we had to start fresh from today, with the saviour’s birth?
I listened to Mary J Blige on the radio, on Sunday, discussing how her Faith saved her, and I envied her. What do you do without Faith or Belief? Who do you turn to to tell you there’s a grand plan, and you’re doing fine and, besides, all is forgiven in the end?
My husband is my rock, he says all those things, but I don’t always believe. What if I decided to have faith in him, in us? What if I got up every day knowing I was going to do my best, even if my best on that day involved a lot of shouting and some tears? But instead of failing as a parent, as a human being, I was just being one in the best way I knew how? What if I could learn to celebrate the successes, not dwell on the failures?
I feel a new blogging theme coming on. I may take January off from the internet, to recover and recoup. But from February I might try to make this blog a place for positivity. Not glossing over the bad stuff, because too many people do that. But if my best positive note for a day is “no one died”, well then at least it might make people smile, and that’s good too.
So a very contented Festive Season to you all, whatever this time of year means to you. I hope you enjoy your family day, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It will be what it will be and then it will be Boxing Day (in the UK at least). Let’s acknowledge the moments and move on. Christmas is about children so let’s learn to live like them. In the now, with much laughter.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire looked around the table at the eclectic group of people and couldn’t help smiling. Their good humoured banter and jibing was infectious as they discussed their first aid course. While they chatted she tried to work out who was who.
Timothy sat opposite her, at the head of the table; every inch the lord of the manor or the patriarchal leader. To his left sat Gemma, the chef. She looked like a school matron, as if her mission was to make sure the world was well fed and received plenty of hugs.
Next to her sat Louise, the site manager. They’d met before dinner and Claire found she liked her, although she was more used to working for men. Louise had explained that she lived off-site with her husband and two small children. Claire wondered how she managed to juggle it all.
Next to Louisa sat the only other older gentleman there; he was the gardener apparently and had been working in the grounds all day, rather than attending the first aid course. She thought his name was Giles or Geoff, but as he hadn’t said two words during the meal, she wasn’t entirely sure.
On the other side of the table sat the younger members of the staff. They were the entertainment during the meal, and Claire was fascinated, trying to fathom the different relations between them. The three in charge of activities – Jess, Eddie and Ryan – seemed to have some sort of love triangle going on, while the youngest member of staff sat wide-eyed and silent. Fresh out of school, it was her responsibility to keep the house clean and do the laundry. Claire thought she possibly had the hardest job of all.
As she assessed the people around the table, who were all tucking into the delicious lasagne and homemade cake, Claire wondered why she was paying them so much attention. Was she trying to imagine herself as part of the group? Could she?
I’m not really a team player – Carl told me that often enough.
But for all their jibing and barbed jokes, these people were not Polly, Molly and Sally. There didn’t seem to be any face: what you saw was what you got. Claire found it both refreshing and intriguing.
A hush fell over the table and she realised everyone was looking at her expectantly. “I’m sorry, I was miles away!” She felt the blood rushing into her cheeks.
Timothy laughed. “Don’t worry, I’m sure we’re a lot to take in, the first time you meet us.” He turned to Louise, who it seemed had asked her a question.
“I only wondered if you could imagine joining us here? We open next week, so we’re keen to have the staff finalised.” She seemed to realise how much she was putting Claire on the spot, and gave an apologetic smile. “But of course you need time to decide.”
Claire felt wrong-footed. Was the job just hers for the asking? With no interview or credentials. “But you don’t know anything about me,” she blurted out, and winced as everyone laughed.
“Ah but we do.” Timothy’s voice cut through the laughter and he frowned slightly at Eddie, who was still sniggering. “Maggie sent us a link to your blog. We’ve all read about your exploits, both here in the UK and in New Zealand. We are most impressed. Climbing mountains, white water rafting, surfing and sailing: you are more than qualified.”
“But I don’t know how to do any of those things.” Claire’s voice was more of a wail and she fought the urge to cry. Now everyone watched her as if she were a bomb about to explode. The young girl to her left gave her a sympathetic smile and Claire felt foolish. If a mere child fresh out of school could come and get stuck in, then what was holding her back?
“Don’t worry, lass, none of the kids will know how to do it either, so they’ll just be impressed you know more than them.”
Claire looked towards Eddie as he spoke and envied the confidence of youth. He had an edge about him, though, that suggested he’d seen as much of the world as she had, and possibly more.
Dinner continued without further incident. Claire sipped at her beer and enjoyed the sense of good will. During it all, something nagged at the back of her mind. An ache, a twinge, that tugged at her and wouldn’t let go. Conor. She tried to picture him here, amongst the motley staff, and knew he would be instantly at home.
That’s assuming he ever speaks to me again.
Claire looked out the window at the setting sun. The room Timothy had shown her to perched high in the attic. It wasn’t very big, but the view was enormous, stretching across the parkland to the sea. He’d explained that the staff rooms were all in the attic, with tiny en-suites. It was only a step away from hostelling, but it felt good to close the door and know the space was all hers.
She lay back on the bed, and her view diminished to a blue rectangle of sky visible through the skylight window. She imagined lying in the dark looking up at the stars. There would be no light pollution out here.
Slowly, as she absorbed the details of the room, Claire realised she was already viewing it as hers. Despite avoiding any kind of definite answer at dinner, she had gone as far as to say that her contract finished in a fortnight. A proper answer would need to be given before that, but she didn’t feel ready. Saying yes to Timothy felt like saying goodbye to Conor.
Reaching for her phone, Claire sat staring at the black screen that still refused to produce a message from him. She inhaled deeply.
Swiping the screen, she tapped out a message and hit send before she could change her mind. She looked at the words and wondered if they would be enough.
I miss you