Whatever the weather ….

woman holding red and gray umbrella while raising it
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It makes me smile. In the UK we are renowned for our capability to strike up a conversation about the weather with anyone and everyone who’s willing (and admittedly unwilling or unsuspectingly caught at times).

In truth it’s not a “real” conversation as we are just stating facts and agreeing with each other. With our tongue in cheek humour, we laugh at ourselves – if you visit our country and you can join in this talk, welcome to our way.

To the untrained ear, it may sound like we are always moaning; I believe the Aussies refer to us as ‘Whinging Poms’ (smile).

Yes, our recent hot weather has been amazing – we love the sun (Let’s face it to be guaranteed hot weather most of us who can will travel abroad.) We express to all and sundry how lovely it is but ‘just a little too hot’…

The sea breeze near the coast freshen the air – we love the breeze, but it prevents us from putting up our sun umbrellas as they get blown away. So we say how lovely it is but ‘just a little too strong’…

The warm summer nights arrive, we love socialising outdoors with friends and family, no need for a jumper, our idea of holiday weather, how lovely it is but ‘a little too warm indoors’…

The rain we have been waiting for comes. (A little aside note here, my husband has just returned from shopping as I am typing, his first words to me on this, our first rain since the heatwave is, “it’s not coming down quite as heavy but still coming down” – he doesn’t know the topic of my blog and rather bemused by my laughter – I have had to take a minute out to explain!). We are so lucky not have to worry about drought, a welcome drenching for our scorched earth, it’s lovely but ‘does it have to rain ALL day’…

In the winter, before Christmas time, we as adults get our kids all excited at the thought of fun in the snow. After a few days, unequipped to cope with snow, we want it to melt, it’s lovely but “it’s too slippery now, can’t go out’…

Do you get the gist? We really are so fortunate to experience such varied weather. It is the very extremes that make it such a talking point.

Our standard homes are not fitted with air-conditioning, but for such a short time do we really need it? Our heating is, in truth, far more necessary. Our carpeted floors are appreciated in the winter, but tiles are so wonderfully cool in the heat. Opting for summer time flooring and adding rugs in winter is maybe the option!

I feel that our ever changing seasons are like our every changing life. We enjoy the good, deal with difficulties and look ahead to repeats of the things we love. How wonderful to not have the chance to get bored. How appreciative we are of what makes us feel good when we can balance it against what isn’t so good.

So, next time someone ‘passes the time of day’ with you by making a comment on the weather, try and see it as complement, you obviously are being seen as person deserving of their time. We Brits are being friendly when we talk about the weather, you will invariably see us smile on parting.

I see it as a metaphor for life, if I say “what a lovely day” I am feeling good and want to share that with you and, if we are darting for cover as the storm arrives, we share the discomfort but know it will be over before tomorrow.

If you have read this far, thank you for giving me your time to read about the weather, and I haven’t been moaning, honest,  – have a great day …

 

Grieving the living …..

greyscale photography of woman wearing long sleeved top
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Could grief for the loss of one we love be greater (if that is at all possible) than the grief we suffer over our loss from death?  Anyone who hasn’t experienced this form of loss, but is suffering from torturous grief, will probably want to scream “No” but let me expand.  If someone dies, they had no choice (unless suicide of course but even then there is an argument as to the choice they feel they have).

My dad walked out of the door just before my 8th Christmas.  I vaguely recall being told it was nothing to do with me.  He had fallen out of love with my mum, not me.  I would be OK.  Would I?  I watched my mum shrink to skeletal proportions, whilst I piled on the pounds.  I heard her heartbroken sobs, whilst I hid silent and confused in my bed, feigning sleep.  I became a very “good girl” fearing it was my naughtiness that had driven my dad away.  My fault my mum was in pain, maybe I could make it better if I was “gooder”!  I missed my dad so much, but I missed my mum too.  Not only that but I missed Santa; apparently even he didn’t think I was very good as he didn’t leave me many presents anymore!  I didn’t know then that mum was financially as well as emotionally struggling.  My world had turned upside down and I grieved the loss of everything.

At first, he took me out for a few hours every Saturday.  We would walk along the seafront together (but he didn’t hold my hand).  He would give me 2p coins to put in the slot machines, or watch me on one of the rides – but he never did these things with me.  He would buy me ice-cream, donuts, candyfloss, piling more pounds onto my young body (body image and weight issues ever since).  I didn’t want to refuse these things, they were nice and seemed to make dad happy buying them.  I had started to want to please others more than myself.  When he dropped me back home I would kiss him good-bye and say, “I love you daddy”, where I waited for the usual answer of, “I love you too”.  He stopped saying it, and very soon so did I.  One day he picked me up and there was a strange woman in the car “Meet my wife” he said.

Rejected.  Jealous.  Scared.  I still saw him every Saturday but now he took me to his new home and his new life.  I didn’t fit.  I continued to try to please and didn’t complain.  As I got older friends started going out Saturdays but I couldn’t go.  “I have to see my dad” I said.  I was scared to tell dad I had invites elsewhere, I thought it would hurt him.  I also feared if I didn’t see him he would forget me.  So I, in turn, rejected friends losing that time of building those important peer relationships.

At 18, I left college, got a job, left home – I needed to run and get away from my prison of pleasing others.  I was depressed and running but didn’t know that then.  My dad didn’t try to contact me or even find where I had moved.  I felt I had given him all those Saturdays, and actually when he left mum he had wanted to leave me as well after all.  I had been right.  He felt duty bound to see me, nothing more.

I grieved over the years for the loss of my dad.  He was basically dead to me as I didn’t know him, didn’t see him.  I began to wish he was.  Immediate tremendous guilt.  I really was a horrible person.  I made myself stop those thoughts, I feared my thoughts to be so powerful I would make it happen and I didn’t really want that.  If he died there was no second chance!  Then I tried to forgive him.  I admitted to myself I missed him.  I loved him, he was my dad, surely he did love me too?  So I contacted him.

He acted like there had been no separation over the years, seemed pleased enough to see me.  Never one for much conversation, he could avoid and blankly refuse to engage, just listen to others with the odd nod.  Without words, I still felt his disapproval.  If he didn’t nod, I knew it was a topic he didn’t appreciate and I would change the subject.  I also still believed he did love me, I made every excuse for him I could find.  Then I met someone and planned to marry.  Of course, being the dutiful daughter I asked my dad to give me away.  I thought it was an honour, but he hated it.  He didn’t have to say it – but I knew.  Sadly, my step-dad who loved me so much, understood why I had to ask my paternal dad, and he stepped back and watched.

When I had my daughter, I thought maybe a baby would help us connect again.  Maybe I deluded myself, it was what I wanted.  He saw her at a week old, then 3 months, then a year.  I stopped calling him, waited for him to contact me.  Gone again.  Rejected again.  Grief again.  This time not just for me but for my daughter.  I strengthened my resolve to not let him hurt her like he hurt me so I stopped calling.  I tried not to miss him but I still did.  I hurt for the loss of what I craved from my dad.  But a stubborn streak developed in me and I would not be the one to contact him first.  A negative trait I apparently share with my dad.

Ironically, my daughter turned 8 (the age dad left me) and I was very ill in hospital with pneumonia.  My husband warned my daughter I could die  (big arguments over that one) and she thought I was so ill because she had been naughty.  I didn’t see at the time history repeating itself in her development even if it was for different reasons.  Bless her.  She felt her “missing grandad” would want to know his daughter was ill, got his address from my address book (all paperwork then) and wrote him a letter.  He turned up.  He did love me! I would forgive him anything.  He was in our life for the next 3 years and it was the best it had ever been.  We had holidays.  We had fun.  We had time.  I been right after all.  Albeit delayed, but my baby had brought us together and she adored him!

More my father’s daughter than I could know…. I ended MY marriage.  My ex knew the emotions I had gone through and we talked and worked hard to keep her life as balanced as we could.  But my dad was livid!  How could I do that to his grand-daughter?  How dare he, he should understand not criticise.  When I met someone new, it was the last straw, he didn’t want to know me.  I knew it was me he didn’t want to see, but of course my daughter lost a grandad too!  More grief, more suffering, more loss.

My daughter, history repeating yet again, did the same as me.  When she was old enough and had learnt to drive she turned up on his doorstep.  She was angry with me, telling me he was so pleased to see her, so sad to have lost us.  He was going to call her and she told me she would see him even if I wouldn’t.  He never called.  She grieves a living grandad.

So, as awful and as guilty as I feel for saying this, IF he had died when I was 8, I would have cried and grieved.  I would still be sad, but maybe I would recall the happy times.  Instead I have had years of grief with alternate hope and rejection.  When we lose , but they are still somewhere out there, the burden of rejection, guilt, self-doubt and loss can be overwhelming.  I am sure it’s the basis of my lifetime’s underlying depression which I have to actively manage every day.

With the development of social media, 2 years ago, I was able to find him on facebook. Did he want to be found?  Yep, you guessed it, I couldn’t not try, I sent a message on his birthday, “Dear Dad, I know we are no longer in contact but I want you to know I think of you with fondness.  I remember the happy times and I wish you a Happy Birthday” – almost what I would put on his headstone.  I grieve.  There was no reply.  I also know the day he does die, I will grieve yet again.

 

 

 

 

Felt by the heart ……..

adult animal beach blur
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Once someone has wound us up, it is very difficult to unwind, frustration and irritability grow making everything they do exasperate us further. We become the proverbial elastic band that will eventually ping and hurt someone in the process. How do you get things back to a happy balance?
Take this morning. Countless times I have asked my daughter, who is back living with us following the break-up from her boyfriend, to put the recycling rubbish in the green bin, non-recycling in the yellow bin, food in blue and garden waste into the mauve bin outside. So when I lift the lid on the green bin for my paper rubbish I see an old Easter Egg box. Halleluiah! At first I feel pleased as paper rubbish is in the correct bin!  It doesn’t last longer than a few seconds as I realise Easter is long past and almost immediately see that there is other rubbish stuffed into the box. Of course I now have to investigate further and take the box out of the bin to examine its contents. Perverse! Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I just leave it there and trust that it’s all recyclable. I know it won’t be though, and I can’t help but prove myself right!   So I take a look and sure enough it is stuffed with totally non-recyclable rubbish. Is she deliberately trying to hide it from me? Is she deliberately trying to annoy me? Or at the age of 24 does she really need lessons in which bin to use? Is this actually a new subject that should be on the curriculum in schools, one that youngsters need to pass to be a good citizen! Or not an annoying one! Maybe it is already and she just failed that subject abysmally! Whatever the reason, it has touched my irritation button and all I want to do is throw the contents onto her bed and shout “I am not the rubbish fairy! Now sort it and put it in the right bin”. Sounds stupid doesn’t it, but boy am I fuming!
Added to the inability to see what the fuss of re-cycling is all about, is my perception that she doesn’t understand what it means to clean up after herself. Big aggravation! In fact, she has not returned home alone but has her baby Molls with her too. In truth, Molls is actually a dog, but to my daughter she is her baby and can do no wrong. I really do totally understand this.  As irritating as it may be for me to admit, it is probably my fault she is like this. As her mother and role model she has seen me humanise pets since the day she was born. She was younger sister to “Fizzy cat” until the age of around 3, when Fizzy then magically became her baby brother, until we lost him at the grand old age of 18. We grieved together inconsolably for weeks, turning to months. The fact we lost him over 12 years ago has not stopped tears of loss appearing whenever I come across a photo or a memory comes to mind. Cruel bitter sweet memories, initial happy recollection followed swiftly with the pain of loss. Everything good has its counterpart.

So, back to Molls; irritation, but really not the dog’s fault. Katie has a heart of gold. Molls became her rescue when she learnt that having travelled half way round the world to be with her adoptees, they had at the last minute looked at a photo and declared she was not the dog they met on the beach and didn’t want her. Molls arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, having come all the way from Mauritius. So how did Katie happen to even meet Molls? Totally, annoyingly, my fault!
I had been on holiday to Mauritius in the summer and fell in love with a beautiful, mistreated, young, stray beach dog. We fed and gave her affection daily and then felt a huge sense of guilt at leaving her to fend for herself again when we left. I cried about leaving her there to an unknown future. Once home I researched about the abuse and cruelty prevalent on the island and berated myself at leaving her there to this fate. I found a rescue that worked to bring the dogs to the UK for rehoming. I had been on a mission to raise funds and get the beautiful stray bought back to the UK and give her the best life ever. I totally acknowledge now that I was not acting realistically, all I wanted was to save her. My husband told me again and again that it was sad over there but we had two dogs here, what if they didn’t get on, what if it didn’t work out? But I was determined that it would work, I was living an idealistic dream. And so, after a roller coaster chain of events I was told she was booked on a flight to Paris. I called on my daughter to help me with the journey and, the gem that she is, she takes a day’s holiday from work and off we go on the drive to Paris.
It was actually such a feel good drive. I was excited and feeling high on the prospect of being a saviour and my stray to totally love being rescued. Katie was very dubious and cynical. Knowing me and my health issues, from the start of my mission, she had said, “Mum, your own two can be too much for you at times, you won’t cope”, but I wouldn’t be told, no, I just wanted to be understood in my need to save this poor creature. I see now that I was understood, but concern for me was higher on the agenda of those who loved me than for the dog I wanted to save. My stubborn determination won.
We did have a laugh though. It wasn’t an easy journey as we experienced high winds and rain, but we laughed through most of it. We drove, talked, laughed and didn’t have many niggles. I felt Katie being very patient and supportive with me. The drive was long and tiring. I don’t choose to do long drives with my health, but I was buzzing and so proud of myself for this achievement – I actually amazed myself, and Katie. We had a lovely evening meal and saw the sites of Paris via Uber. Then I had a very poor night’s sleep, belatedly tormented with anxieties about what I had got myself into.
Early the next morning was the scariest drive I have ever driven; dark, pouring with rain, on the wrong side of the road (for us), sat-nav not receiving signal, misguiding road signs and so much traffic. Katie was amazing and managed to calm a very stressed driver. When we managed to park in exactly the right bay of the right car park, we just looked at each other and laughed, nearly hysterical from a combination of fear and excitement induced adrenaline. Amazed we had done it.
We waited in arrivals for ages. The plane had landed but no dogs were coming through and we worried something had happened. The rescue try to save as many dogs on one flight as they can and I had agreed to drive another dog back for her adoptive parents. The other two were being collected by another lady who we had been talking to whilst waiting. There was a palpable air of nervous energy. Finally, out they came, four dogs in total with flight companions, Katie and I looked at each other, smiling, Katie had tears in her eyes, she felt it too. I went straight to my stray’s crate and she instantly calmed, I felt she remembered me, she was safe. Katie was with Molls, our other 4 legged passenger, and was calming her. Within half hour we had two dogs in their crates in the back of the car, and off we head back to Calais to get our train back to the UK.
Once we had navigated the roads out of the airport, we recognised the easy straight route and relaxed, we laughed, we felt exhilarated. A moment I will never forget, Katie looked at me smiling but serious and said what a wonderful thing I had done, and she understood now, and knew I had to do this even if it didn’t work out. My beach stray would be safe now whatever happened. I didn’t know then what that would be. We shared emotion and experience that would never be repeated but always remembered, she said, “I am so proud of us mum”. Yeah, me too.
It was during that emotional, euphoric journey we heard from the rescue that Molls, no longer had a home to go to so could we detour at Folkestone and take her to the kennels they used before continuing on our way. Well by the time we got to the train at Calais we had been with these dogs for approx. 6 hours, had several “comfort” stops and humanised them as we saw their joy in being given food ,water, freedom (albeit walks on leads), love, kindness and the warmth of the car and clean blankets. We tried to make the rest of their journey as pleasant as possible after the trauma of an 11 hour flight in a freezing cold hold of the plane, trapped in a cage hardly big enough to stretch in.
This was when Katie was by now nearly in tears at the ordeal Molls had gone through to now be put in kennels and not have a loving forever home to make it all worthwhile. So because of the empathy and care she feels, she asked the rescue group if she could keep her. On a foster basis at first so that if it didn’t work out they would agree to look for a home for her as they would have to do now anyway. For now she would have love and patience, a life worth living. That is how we now come to have Molls living with us, as my daughter is so much like me she wanted to rescue and give this poor dog a home – yes, all my fault, I have raised a caring, rose tinted glasses wearing daughter!
So, back to my aggravation this morning, that was the fact that Katie had not cleaned Molls’ food bowl from last night, the very something I have asked her about since she moved back in months ago. The dried food on the edges requires me to soak and clean it off before I can give Molls her breakfast. Why? Because Katie doesn’t really have the time or thought for this? Maybe she just knows and trusts me so it really doesn’t cross her mind, but she will need to when she moves out again into her own place. It irritates me because I really don’t want to be having to do this, to have extra work, even if it does only take a minute or two. Then Molls shakes and I see her hair “fall out”, well that’s how it feels to me while I am hyper sensitive and I scowl at the hoover as it gets plugged in yet again.
It’s not just my irritability that makes me say this, but the concern and desire I have that my daughter makes the most of her life and every opportunity in it. I cannot but feel that keeping Molls is not the right scenario for Katie right now, in the same way she could predict “pre-Paris” that another dog in our home wasn’t going to be easy or good for me. She could see clearly it wouldn’t work even though she admired the virtue of my intent, I wouldn’t hear it, and it didn’t work. I can feel good again about my stray as she is now living in her perfect forever home, in retrospect, far more suitable than the life I would’ve given her. She was only with us a month, but every day got harder and harder on me until I sobbed my way to the kennels where, broken hearted and disillusioned, I had to leave her. One of those bitter sweet memories as her photos still make me happy then sad.
I understand Katie and know she loves Molls. To give her up will be heart-breaking and is unbearable and unthinkable for Katie right now. But, if the time comes, just as everyone else could see with me, Katie may need to make the hardest decision for the sake of Molls and herself. Katie has done an amazing job with Molls, she is now house trained and responsive and would be snapped up as an easily rehomeable dog. She may need to be with a family who are home for her, and maybe Katie needs to have more free time. But she won’t see this at the moment, of course not, not now, she is too much like me. She will have to make her own decisions in life. She will have to decide when she moves out if it is too difficult or if it is too difficult for Molls to cope with. Maybe she will need to love the dog more to let her go and give her what she needs if necessary. At least now Molls knows that humans can love her. Who knows, but I have to trust she will make the right choice for them both and the right choice is never a failure.
Katie didn’t say on that memorable return journey that I shouldn’t have saved my stray. Having met the dogs and other people involved in the rescue, along with living the emotion of the experience, she felt it was totally right what I had done, she was so proud of US. And I am so proud of you my daughter, so much like me!

So how do we get things back to a happy balance?  Remember the good, and is the irritation worth the energy in the scheme of things?  Remember the love and what’s important.  Maybe I am not right all the time!  OK, so maybe I have unwound, just a little, until the next incident!