Some times things happen at the right time, without any time to prepare. Some times, these things are exactly what is needed…
Bestie 1: (2009)
Standing in doorways was the hardest thing I could ever do at one time. All of our gatherings were either at my house with the doors closed or me on one side and you on the other.
You went off to college and I stayed standing in the same place, never moving, never progressing. To live through questioning you: What is college like? What is it like being on a bus alone? What friendships are like when you can choose them for yourself…
One day, I asked you if you thought I could do it one day. You were always positive with your encouragement that I would not always be left standing in the same place. Until you asked me what I wanted to do…
“Dunno. Maybe psychology or something. You think I could do that?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Yeah. I guess you’re right.”
Bestie 2: (2016)
You helped me through it. “Come on, C. Let’s go for a walk.” Encouraging but never pushing. Any time I needed to turn back and retreat, you were with me. Only made it to the end of the driveway? “You made it to the end of the driveway, C! You’re doing great!”
But then I recovered and the dynamic changed. I no longer needed a hand to hold every time I set foot out of that doorway. I could walk down the street and walk into a shop without needing to retreat.
“I’m thinking of applying to do this Access to Higher Education course. Not really sure what it’s about but I think it helps with Uni and stuff.”
“Don’t do it.”
“It isn’t worth it.”
“It’s psychology and stuff, I’ve always been really interested in that kinda thing.”
“Yeah. It’s your thing. It’ll interest you and you’ll leave.”
“It’ll open doors for you and you’ll go. You aren’t going to stay around here, are you? You’ll leave and I’ll miss you.”
“My plan has always been to leave.”
“I know, but now it’s real. Don’t do it.”
The dialogue from Fences between Troy and Rose has always spoken to me. This morning a thought entered my head that perhaps it spoke to me because, for a time, it was me and it could have been me for much longer if I had felt a bigger need to put my closest friends before myself.
My two closest friends believed without a doubt that I would get better one day, or they at least portrayed such a belief. In the years following, however, they were not so keen on my decreasing need for dependence. What was once two very strong, positive friendships suddenly became volatile and hurtful. A lot of deceit that had been previously hidden came to light… their only reason being “we were protecting you!”
The guilt felt from putting myself first and walking away is slowly fading, although, I am unsure if it shall ever truly fade completely.
…It’s not easy for me to admit that I been standing in the same place for eighteen years.
…I been standing with you! I been right here with you.
( http://www.iupui.edu/~elit/fences/fen21txt.html )
This month, I started out with the idea of taking up jogging – a positive step towards physical fitness.
So, on the 1st of June, I jogged and then thus ended my jogging experience. Once was enough. It was not enjoyable and was slightly painful to my already sensitive joints.
So I was going to have a month free of the pressure to do something new, however, I have actually still completed some goals.
I have said yes to many things. I have worked hard to earn some much-needed money and I have socialised more than I can ever remember socialising. I have said ‘yes’ to last minute plans, I have travelled more than I have ever dared, gone on day trips to a place that I have been wanting to go to for over a decade and created strong bonds with people I have only recently met. Finally understanding what people mean when they speak about ‘clicking’ with people and feeling as though you have known them years when in reality it has only been a few short months.
June has seen me returning home to my mum for a while, I turned another year older, my mum got the all-clear after completing treatment for pre-cancerous cells, my aunt still remains in remission and I have passed my first year of University.
With thanks to the people around me, I have managed to remain in my hometown with minimal depressive thoughts.
Saying yes has been scarily exciting and the month is not over yet!
The hospital is dark, only the dimmest of lights flickering. That ever-present hospital smell floats around her like an ominous mist. Walking slowly down the corridor, her right boot squeaks, the sound seemingly amplified in the stillness around her. Glancing down at the offending boot, she takes notice of her clothes, as though she was not previously aware of such things. Her black jeans, tucked into her black boots, feel tighter than she remembers them being. A stark contrast to the baggy summer top under her open plaid shirt that is hanging off her frame.
Walking past the nurse’s station, she glances to her left, the bay is eerily silent. All but one of the eight beds shrouded in darkness, the lone occupant seemingly asleep with an almost translucent light surrounding her. Slowly approaching the bed, she notices how strange it is to see the lady, not in a hospital gown, but her own clothes. Taking in the appearance of the familiar navy trousers and that white shirt with its blue flowered pattern brings a feeling of sentimentality. Leaning down over the bed, she kisses her forehead, tears in her eyes as she pulls a chair forward from behind her.
Bright blue eyes open and meet her misty ones, “You look like my Sophie. But older.” Her voice is so soft and unsure, it breaks her heart.
“It’s okay, you’re just dreaming.” She reaches over for the hand resting on the bed.
She nods slowly, “yes.”
“I worry about you. How you’ll be.”
“I know. I’m fine. I miss you, I always will but there are times where I feel you with me and it is such a strong feeling that I can’t even attempt to brush it off as me just being hopeful.”
“I’ll always be with you, sweetheart.”
“You know, at some point, you told mum that she shouldn’t worry about me because you knew I would be okay…”
“I know you will be.”
“I never thought I would be.”
“We raised you to be. You’re a fighter, whether you want to be or not.”
“It still hurts. I always miss you.”
The grip on her hand tightens, thin fingers wrapping around her palm, “and I you. Always.”
Her head drops to their clasped hands, tears leaking freely from her eyes. She feels a hand in her hair, comforting in a way that is almost foreign to her now, “I love you.”
“I love you too, sweetheart. So much.”
She raises her head, sight blurry as she lays a soft kiss to the hand she holds. A cold hand reaches out and places some fallen hairs back behind her ear, “Tell me about your life now.”
“I’m a social worker. I work with children with similar problems to the ones I had.”
A content smile and a knowing look is her response, a slow nod of the head that she reads as approval, “Married?”
She shakes her head quickly, “No. I couldn’t get past the idea of not being able to walk down the aisle with you and grandad there.”
“We’ll be there. Maybe not physically, but we will be there. It isn’t something either of us would ever miss, sweetheart. Please, don’t let that stop you if you have someone special in your life.”
“Visiting hours are over in 10 minutes, ladies.” A strong voice surprises them from the hallway.
“I think that’s your cue.”
“It’s okay. Go. Go back to your life.”
“I love you too.”
Standing up, leaning over one last time to place a kiss on her forehead, she starts to walk backwards. She keeps eye contact for as long as she can before she’s no longer in her sight, turning to walk back down the silent corridor.
I was wanting to work on my tenses – and also on writing something that hurts… this is what happened (Part 1 of 2)
Standing at the bus stop, there’s a strange hue in the air that has her tilting her head and reaching up to clean her glasses. Glasses clean and hue still present, she wanders down the street with curious intent. Turning the corner, she is approached by a couple she recognises, a couple who have been long since gone. A friendly, knowing smile and a polite tip of a hat while he passes her a newspaper is their only greeting. She follows them with her eyes as they move by her and continue on down the street, her eyes only glancing down to the newspaper once they are out of sight.
“Tuesday 8thJuly 2008”
She stands motionless for several moments, blinking at the date. Her eyes move once more to the street in front of her, feet propelling her forward. Looking around and taking in the house in front of her, she comes to the conclusion that this is all just a vivid dream.
The house is in darkness as she stumbles in through the back door. Walking through the kitchen to push open the living room door, her head peaks around it, unsure of what she may be walking in to. The room is full of people, people she recognises. Her aunts, cousins and grandfather are all asleep on various chairs and sofas, in what looks to be the most uncomfortable positions. ’Oh’, she thinks, ‘I know why I’m here.’
Quietly walking through the living room, she hovers near the staircase. The red patterned carpet causes her to become sentimental and tears spring to her eyes. A hand is suddenly loosely around her wrist and she fights back a yelp of surprise, turning to see her grandfather’s bright eyes. “It’s okay”, she tells him, “It’s okay.” His hand leaves her wrist as he nods, a very slight incline granting her his permission to proceed. Her feet start to move her forwards, climbing the stairs much slower than she can ever recall climbing them.
As she enters into the bedroom, her eyes automatically glance to the mirror, startled eyes meet with the warm blue ones reflected back at her from across the room. Making her way into the room and turning to face the figure in the bed, she pauses. Her mind repeating the words she had not so long ago spoken to her grandfather. ‘It’s okay. It’s okay.’
“It’s okay,” the lady’s voice is light and hopeful, comforting in a way that has her feeling emotions she has long since forgotten the strength of. She moves forward, stepping into the light, slowly lowering herself onto the chair at the side of the bed.
She looks up, making eye contact with the lady, her Nanna. Eyes misty, she sees the deep intake of breath and the almost whispered words, “There you are.”
Sitting in the chair, hands in her lap, unsure of what to say in this situation. Wanting nothing more but to reach out and gather her Nanna into her arms, she instead sits motionless. Her Nanna lays there, swallowed up by the huge double bed, an all-knowing glint in her eyes as she smiles and tells her, “I’ve been waiting.” A frail hand reaches over to a pale sweaty one. As soon as contact is made, the tears start silently falling, “I…”.
Taking a deep breath, she starts again, “I got better. I fought hard and worked even harder and I did it.”
“Tell me, sweetheart.”
“I’m a social worker, Nan. I help people who are feeling like how I was feeling all those years.”
“And you’re okay?”
She smiles sadly, “I am…”
“…but? What is it, sweetheart?”
“Losing you. You took a part of me with you. I’m like a jigsaw with permanently missing pieces.”
“Sweetheart. There is nothing in this world that would make me leave you permanently. You’re my Sophie, our bond is much too strong, not even death itself could break it. I will always be with you, somehow. Please, know that.”
“I do know that. I feel it. I’ve always felt it.” She smiles with wet eyes, wanting nothing more than to stay, “I have to go now, don’t I?”
“You do. So do I soon.”
Bringing her hand to her lips, she leaves a kiss on her thin skin before leaning over to place a kiss on her forehead, “Nanny” her voice cracks, “I love you.”
“I love you too, poppet,” and with a final squeeze, she lets her hand go.
She rises, walks to the door, their eyes meeting once more in the mirror before she turns and heads back down the stairs. Her movements are quicker now, a little panicked as she can hear voices, her family are awake. Looking into the living room, she sees nothing but vacant space, the voices travelling through from the kitchen. Walking quickly, she aims to reach the front door without alerting anyone of her presence. As she steps outside and pulls the door shut, she notices a car pull up. Her feet start to move towards it, as though they have their own motivation. As the door opens, a young girl steps out, a terrified look in her eyes. They stand and look at one another for a few seconds, before she moves closer, lays one hand on her younger self’s shoulder before heading back down the street.
Walking back towards the bus stop, she sits down on the seat underneath the shelter. She places her head in her hands and takes a breath, energy suddenly drained. The feeling of another presence is sudden and startling, as she jerks her head up, she is met with stunningly familiar, bright blue eyes, “Mummy, what’s wrong?”
She smiles, content, “It’s okay. Are you ready to go?”
I was wanting to work on my tenses – and also on writing something that hurts… this is what happened (Part 2 of 2)
Here he stands, now
Tall as he can be, a hand gripping mine
My eyes water as the band starts marching to the Last Post,
His back straightens, head raised
I see him, as he was then
My mind’s eye has him standing there in uniform, medals glinting in the winter sun
That he fought for us,
That he has lost so much, makes my heart hurt
The pride I feel just from standing in his shadow is immense,
Growing up, I was always a happy and confident child. I was the joker, the little comedian going out of her way to make silly faces and look daft in the hope of making people smile. Always putting on shows, dancing and joking.
As the years went by and I grew older, things changed somewhat. Mental illness hit from nowhere and wiped me out. It took every single part of myself that I knew and left the shell of a stranger. I lost my voice. For a long time, I spoke only to my mother, my grandparents and our Olga. It was a long few years.
But I had “my boy” – my light in the darkness. My one constant. From age 10, he was my reason for smiling. My little big shadow, always by my side.
And so as my mental health deteriorated further and further and my thoughts turned from I hate this world straight to, I should leave this world… I found comfort in my boy and in the moments I shared with family.
But then, my beloved Nanna, who always knew me without words ever needing to be spoken, fell ill. In what felt like the blink of an eye, she was gone. All that praying and wishing for it to be me had not worked – there obviously was no God. I lost my faith… but, I still had my mum and Grandad. In our conversations, we kept her alive.
But then, I got ill. I got diagnosed with Coeliac at a time when my mental health was starting to ease up. It felt like a kick in the teeth, battling every day to make it through only to then be given a life-altering diagnosis. What the hell was this life? I spent so many months and years distracting myself by taking photographs and concentrating on my boy. It was the biggest help, possible.
But then, things started to change. I got angry and I found some fire. I chased after some things that I wanted to do and I did them. I fought really damn hard to get into college as a mature student and take my GCSE’s. When they said ‘no’, I found somewhere else. I emailed and I emailed again and I applied despite being discouraged. I interviewed and I spoke to many different people who all had varying opinions on what they thought I could and could not do.
But then, my Grandad became ill. Months in the hospital with what started with a broken hip and later became two heart attacks, a blood clot on the lung, another possible stroke, a crumbling spine, heart failure and a diagnosis of vascular dementia, left me feeling unfocused and unwilling to concentrate on anything other than him.
And so after years of studying and fighting, I took a break. I left college after my last exam in mid-June with the intent to spend time with my Grandad and make sure all that needed to be happening with his care, was indeed happening. Less than a month later, he was gone. I felt lost. So completely lost. I spent my days keeping busy and distracting myself with taking more photographs. So many photographs that the people refer to my boy as the most photographed cat in the village.
I did everything that year. Every single thing that I could. I wanted work experience doing whatever job I could do. So I did it. I did retail, cleaning, administration, reception, volunteered, got myself a placement and had a miscarriage. I soldiered on, the worst had happened. My Grandparents were now both gone, the house I had grown up in was empty and I was now having to show potential buyers around it while simultaneously wanting to yell at them to get the hell out of my house.
But then, on a whim, I applied for a course. It had been mentioned previously but I never felt the time was right and I continuously put it off. I don’t recall what made me apply, just that I did it. A ‘why not, at least I’ll be doing something’ moment.
And my God, it was the best thing I ever could have done!
But then, on January 11th 2018, my boy died.
And 2018 became one of the worst years of my life. My light was gone and I was terrified of the dark. How do I do this? What now?
I have never been one for getting emotionally overcome, I am very stiff upper lip. I do not like crying in front of anyone – family, friends, in public.
In 2018, I cried more than I can ever remember crying. I have sobbed until I can no longer catch my breath, I have fallen apart on buses and in the middle of the street and I have not cared. My boy is gone, my heart hurts.
But, I have carried on.
Carrying on is what I do, it is what I have always done. Sometimes, most times, without knowing how I am doing it. This damn year has broken me more than I ever remember breaking.
This blog was anonymous, now it is not.
I am being my true self – whoever she may be.
This is me.
Hello, I am Chloe.
…and in the darkness, stood a Christmas tree. The lights from each branch reflected in the eyes of those gathered. The evening was still and calm, and as more people approached, a lull met the atmosphere. The voices of children rose as they gained their confidence. Teachers stood by their side, encouraging, coaching, arms conducting as they moved their arms in time with the words coming from the younger generation…
“It was on a starry night, when the hills were bright
Earth lay sleeping, sleeping calm and still.
Then in a cattle shed, in a manger bed
a boy was born, king of all the world.”
Families with torches shining down on the lyrics in their hands, paper blowing in the wind. Proud fathers and grandfathers with thick scarfs and gloves, ensuring the rest of the family are able to see. Leaning close together, gathering warmth. Smiles bright as they watch and listen to their choir…
“And all the angels sang for him,
the bells of heaven rang for him
for a boy was born, king of all the world.”
The community together as one. This is tradition, of gathering and coming together, surrounded by the ones who light up their lives. Voices that are now louder and more vivid reach the end of their performance…
“Soon the shepherds came that way where the baby lay
and were kneeling, kneeling by his side.
And their hearts believed again for the peace of men,
for a boy was born, king of all the world.”
And as their voices sing the last note, there is music. The live band of local musicians begin to play the next carol. Every member of the community joins in joyfully.
This is tradition.