Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings

I_Think_Alone_by_Gordorca

I am coping with life as best I can, because that is all any of us can do. And some days are fun and funny, sunshine and roses, smiles and warmth. Other days I struggle to see beyond the clouds, even when I know that they shall pass. Most days I drift, the hours pass by as I try to make them count. I clean, I cook, I am there when required, and I write.

My role is one of support, my lack would be noticed more than my presence. The friends I meet up with for walks, my wider family, they have their own lives to lead. Would they miss me if I was gone? Perhaps there would be moments of sadness, but I am a shadow, appearing briefly before they move on into a different light.

I have yet to experience the loss of a close family member, a death. My mother once called me a cold fish for my lack of feeling and I carry that thought, untested for now. I see grief in others and wonder how I shall cope when the time comes.

I have lived through the passing away of grandparents, aunts and uncles, even a few cousins over the years. I cried for some, but not with the passion I felt at the death of my daughter’s teenage friend. The depth of her family’s loss touched me to the core. I felt that deeply, yet moved on.

I rarely cry over films, getting more upset at animal cruelty than that involving people. Animals trust and love unconditionally, whereas people can be so selfish. Is my lack of feeling selfish and cold? Is it a result of the armour I have built to survive?

I wonder sometimes who would miss me if I were gone. My absence would inconvenience; the jobs that I do must be done and would fall to others, who would likely find them mind numbing too. The one thing that I and I alone give is a mother’s love. Nobody could care for my children as I do.

I wonder if I am as cold and uncaring as some may think. Am I reflecting back my own experience or is it an innate part of me? Have I buried the warmth and love that I once felt so deeply to protect it, or to protect myself? I wonder how I feel; I wonder if I feel.

Do not criticise me for my perceived lack of emotion, if I do not act as you would. Too often I feel almost more than I can bear and struggle to cope. I bury, gloss over, make light of what is happening. I may not see life as you do, but I have not lived your life. And you have not lived mine.

 

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Moods

Riding this roller coaster of moods is exhausting. Yesterday I woke up feeling low. By late afternoon I had cheered up sufficiently to pour myself a glass of wine and start my Christmas shopping. An hour or so later I was feeling festive and regretted not decking the halls as my youngest had requested. Yet a short and innocuous enough exchange with my husband whilst preparing dinner brought me close to tears again. I can’t be doing with this. It makes no sense. I retreated under my duvet early last night, I mean really early. I will try to do better today.

First though, an observation. I seem to have lost the ability to talk sense. As can only be expected, my family discuss an eclectic mix of topics. Space travel, chemical reactions, medical issues, the latest innovations in computer technology, and television programmes that I do not watch were all covered this weekend. There was little that I could join in with. I try to follow what is being discussed in the hope that I may learn something, but trying to take part merely shows up my ignorance. It is therefore galling that, on the rare occasions when I should know what I am talking about, I can still spout nonsense and allow myself to appear witless.

We have plenty of areas of mutual interest but they rarely get raised around the dinner table. I seem unable to present my thoughts in a way that generates curiosity. I no longer seem able to contribute anything coherent enough to be worthwhile. It is frustrating for me that I am turning into the foolish old woman that my children see me as.

What happened to the clever young thing that I used to be? Despite attempting to exercise it regularly, my brain appears to have atrophied. It exasperates me that I seem to be contributing to the low opinion my children have of my mental abilities each time I speak.

However, I must learn to live with what I am and seek to improve when I have the opportunity. Today is Day 2 of my countdown to Christmas and I am looking for positives in my day.

Our weather continues to be dry and not too cold so I decided to work outside. This view from the bottom section of my garden, even on a dull December day, is cheering. There are still enough leaves to add colour, but the view over the fields has opened up as the foliage descends.

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It is this descent that I was tidying up. Barrow load after barrow load of leaves were raked and lifted into sacks for disposal. I am sure it must be a great workout. As my husband has taken my little car to work, something that he does fairly regularly to keep it ticking over as I use it so infrequently, I was able to fold down the seats in our MPV and use it to cart rubbish to the recycling centre. Thus our garage is no longer clogged up with an old mattress and the broken door and bed end that have been gracing the front of our house for well over a month have now gone to be turned into…  I do wonder if the myriad of rubbish that is so carefully sorted and transported to the recycling centre actually get recycled.

I enjoy a good clear out though. It has been a tiring but fulfilling day, I am well exercised and my garden looks a lot neater. I will put my hens safely back in their runs and prepare for the return of my children from their long day at school.

Then I just need to make sure that I hold on to this positive mood through the evening. That would make it the good day I am aiming for.

Words

I am thinking about words. Not the fifty thousand or so satisfying words that I poured into my NaNoWriMo file, now floating in the Google cloud awaiting rewrite. Not the thousand or so words that I fill each post on this blog with. I am thinking about the words we speak and, more significantly, the words we cannot speak because they are so hard to find.

On a typical day I do not say very much. Many of the words that I speak could be pre-recorded and played on remote. ‘You need to get yourself ready’; ‘Have you packed your lunch?’; ‘What time will you be home?’; ‘Have a good day’; ‘How was your day?’.

I suspect that the daily repetition is irritating to those around me. The alternative is to say nothing, to stay out of the way, which I sometimes choose to do.

Over dinner in the evening I find that my children now drive the conversation around the table with their happy chat about friends and teachers, television shows and funny happenings. When I try to join in with an anecdote of my own it often falls flat. It is best if I remain largely silent.

My husband rarely makes conversation. We pass each other essential information or significant news. Sometimes we find a topic of mutual interest, an update from someone we have met, a topic from current affairs, but this is a rare treat.

Perhaps this is why I have found my writing to be so therapeutic. All of those words in my head that want to come out, all of those thoughts and events that I want to share but have nobody wishing to listen. I throw them out into the ether and feel pathetically grateful when someone, anyone, responds. It feels like interaction, sometimes even understanding.

Television shows depict friendships where people can share anything and everything with their close friends. In order to draw the viewer in to the plot there is necessary dialogue. Do friendships like this exist in real life? Do people ever share the plot lines of their lives so openly?

I was brought up to adhere to a strict set of rules. There were some things that we should not do, but if we did then it should never be mentioned. There were some things that we should never discuss. If nobody talked of the shameful thing then we could all pretend that it hadn’t happened. It would remain hidden, secret, unspoken, unacknowledged. Eventually it would go away.

Words spoken do not go away. A careless, cruel or unkind word will bury itself deep in the hearer’s psyche where it will fester and grow in proportion, beyond anything intended. It will shape perception of the speaker, creating waves that spread out as a pebble dropped in a pool of still water. Little wonder that many words are better left unsaid.

What to do then with the emotions that are so hard to express but which affect not just the bearer but those around because they cannot be fully contained, they affect the way we live and act? I have tried to explain so much to my nearest and dearest, yet have been unable to find the right words. I encounter blankness, irritation, misunderstanding. Do I keep those words inside and cope as best I can? Do I try to share in the hope that some sense can be made of the way my life is being blighted by these feelings of despair?

Words are powerful and dangerous. A lack of words can be equally hard to bear.

Am I looking for understanding only so that things may go my way? If I cannot make myself understood, the repercussions may cause a reaction that is worse than holding it all inside. How do I find a language deep enough to express such intense emotion in the short time that I can hold a listener’s attention?

My silence is painful but words, once shared, cannot be contained or controlled.

I cannot explain, even to myself, why these emotions exist and affect me so negatively. How am I to find the language that will allow someone else to understand? If I bottle it all up inside, will it explode and cause more damage because the cause was never adequately communicated?

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Social anxiety

I like to think of myself as intelligent. I don’t mean super intelligent in an impressive way, just intelligent enough to be able to question, consider and understand what is going on around me. Be it politics, economics, marketing, health, parenting, relationships or literature I like to think that I can look at the wide variety of points of view, gain an understanding of where other’s are coming from, why they may think as they do, and form a rational opinion based on life experience and knowledge.

I do not just believe what I am told; I am interested in how the human mind works and how decisions are made. I try to examine from different perspectives and to reserve judgement until I gain a better understanding. I try to be rational, fair and practical.

All of the above has made it particularly difficult for me to deal with the changes that I have experienced in the past few years in my own, personal ability to cope with living my life.

I know that attitude has a huge impact on how we deal with issues in day to day life. I know the importance of a healthy diet and a sensible amount of beneficial exercise. I can rationalise, contextualise and put problems in perspective in my head. Knowing that most of the hurdles that I face are minor, short lived and that other people deal with these challenges just fine; that I dealt with them just fine up until a few years ago; this knowledge simply makes how I am now behaving appear more foolish or, even worse, selfish. My behaviour is irrational. I wish to make myself act in a more acceptable way.

But I can’t.

I think, perhaps, accepting that I can’t may be a big step forward in attempting to live with how I am now. My name is J and I have a social anxiety problem. I dread certain social situations so much that I am physically sick at the prospect of having to experience them. I am dropped into an emotional turmoil where I flounder, desperate to escape by whatever means. The thought of being coerced into certain social situations makes me feel that my life is no longer worth living.

I read that last sentence and think ‘overdone melodrama’. I look at myself and recognise what a fabulous life I lead with my healthy, loving family and beautiful home. What right have I to complain about anything? I am not being asked to face hardship or danger, just to spend a short amount of time in a room full of people.

Just thinking about that sets my heart racing, I break out in a cold sweat, I shake, feel light headed and experience waves of nausea. I want my world to stop and let me off, to run away and hide where nobody can find me and ask me to do this thing. I inwardly beg for mercy.

I cannot rationalise what is going on. I cannot explain why this situation has developed. I cannot find a way to cope that will allow me to meet the expectations of my loved ones and deal with social gatherings from time to time. I have tried so hard and I cannot do it.

What I can do is try to explain that I have a problem. Even this is strewn with difficulties. Mental health issues are difficult for those who do not suffer from them to understand. This situation is hard enough for me to understand and I am in the middle of it, experiencing the problems it causes.

Can I call this an illness when I have not sought medical advice? The health service in this country is creaking at the seams and my life is in no danger. No matter how panicked I may feel at times I am not going to take my own life; I love my children too much. I know that I need to find a way to live with the way I am reacting to certain catalysts. Would others be more accepting if this were defined as an illness even if self diagnosed and self treated?

Left to my own devices I can get by just fine most of the time. If those around me can accept, no matter how reasonable a request may seem to them, that it is beyond my ability to grant them what they wish, then the anticipatory fear would diminish and I may be able to find a way forward, perhaps even a way to improve.

My writing helps hugely as it helps me to clarify my thoughts. I wonder will any of this make sense to others.

English: human mind for performance psychology...

Autumn

Autumn is here. Today is a typical, October’s day here in England; it is dark, dreary, wet and windy. Having opened the windows a crack to air the house this morning, I now have a whistling draft disturbing my peace as the gusts of wind push their way around the house. I love this time of year when the weather is dry and I can go for long, sunny walks with crackling leaves underfoot and glorious colours to admire in the trees that surround our village. On a day like today though, I am tempted to stay snug, warm and dry indoors.

The BBC failed to forecast this weather on line last night. Younger son had arranged with a friend to cycle to school if the weather was dry and I was informed that it would be. The ground was wet but it was not yet raining when they set off in the dark this morning. I was unaware of the unpleasant conditions to come; I wonder if this will put them off repeating the exercise. I would like my children to cycle to school more often, but not in weather like this.

Younger son has developed a minor cold that he has been sharing with the rest of us. Sitting around in damp clothes is not going to improve his ailment. Perhaps it is as well that the teachers have arranged to go on strike tomorrow, giving the children an extra day’s holiday. A day of rest may help him to recover.

I have been struggling to keep the main living area of our house warm this last week. Temperatures have dropped significantly so we switched on the heating only to discover that part of the system is no longer working. A plumber should be calling with us today; I hope that he can quickly rectify the problem and return us to comfort throughout the house.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon baking which helped to warm things up. I have been doing my reading and writing wrapped up in a duvet to protect against the cold. My elder son is impatient at such necessities; when things stop working he cannot understand why I do not act immediately to get them fixed. I can give him no logical answer.

Yesterday I was required to stay in to sign for a parcel. I was impressed with the communication I received from the courier, reminding me the night before and on the day that I needed to be here. In the event, the parcel was delivered but left on our doorstep. There was no knock to inform me that it was there; I could have gone out after all. Yesterday would have been a fabulous day for a walk; today is not.

Despite the weather, despite the cold, I have maintained a more positive attitude to my life recently. I am still jittery; walking in sunlight but always on the edge of a dark void. Long, bony fingers reach out to try to pluck me down into the abyss; I glimpse them out of the corner of my eye but will not acknowledge their presence. If I keep moving forwards, pay them no attention, they will not get me.

There is talk of Christmas amongst some of my on line acquaintances; I am trying to avoid this spectre. Christmas was a bad time for me last year and I need to build up my strength to cope with whatever it may bring this time around. I lose control at Christmas. I am not good at dealing with expectations and demands; going with this type of flow erodes my well-being.

For now though we are approaching Halloween; a festivity that offers family fun with no need to interact with the world. My daughter has many plans for the holiday, some of which clash with my husband’s wishes but none of which seem insurmountable. I am looking forward to the break from routine.

I am discovering new ways to live in my world that challenge and excite me; new paths to walk that are mine. I like this feeling, that I am finding my own way without coercion. The newly discovered independence of thought and action wraps around me like a warm blanket. I wonder where I will find the armour that I need to protect it.

the tired old wizard & his dragon

There and back again – me

Although I was only in Berlin for five days, and have been back home for over a week now, the sights and experiences of the trip are still uppermost in my mind. It feels as though I have learnt so much in that short space of time, not least about myself.

It would seem that, despite my inner desire to avoid conforming to societies expectations of how a wife, mother and woman should behave, I am still overly indecisive and submissive. The former I can understand based on my day to day experiences over many years. The latter I find more irritating but suspect that it is an innate part of my character. I dislike conflict and wish to please.

When I am on my own and my decisions affect nobody but myself I have no problems choosing a course of action. As soon as I become responsible for an outcome that will impact anyone else I become anxious. I fear other’s opprobrium should things not turn out well for them.

My husband is hard to please. It is rare for him to offer praise or satisfaction over anything; with the exception of food, his default setting appears to be disappointed. With my inbuilt desire to please I experience a sinking, crushed feeling every time something I have suggested disappoints. To avoid this I try to get him to take responsibility for his actions so that I may not feel to blame. I have developed a habit of avoidance, indecision and deferral.

Society is all too willing and eager to judge mothers harshly for their actions and results. Between media advice that is thinly veiled criticism, the education establishments desire to churn out clones, and the competition that seems to exist between some women over their own and their children’s behaviour and outcomes, I have felt blamed for a plethora of choices over many years. It is hard not to feel cowed and defensive at times.

In Berlin I was being asked to make simple decisions such as choosing a restaurant; I just couldn’t do it. I tried hard, but there was an inner voice squealing at me that I had no idea what these places were like and it would be my fault if I opted for what turned out to be a bad experience. Of course, none of us had prior knowledge of these places. I knew, however, that I would not be concerned about outcomes so long as it were not my responsibility. I do not like that I was so incapable of dealing with something that, in this situation, mattered so little. My friend would not have reacted as my husband would and I was forcing him to take me on as a follower rather than an equal.

My fear of being blamed for bad things also manifested itself in my desire to leave vast swathes of contingency time when we travelled. I chose to get to the airport with hours of spare time, preferring to wait around rather than risk missing a flight. I imagined all the traffic delays and accidents that could result in us having to rush; I had a deep seated fear of how I would ever face my husband if he had to pay the exorbitant cost of replacement flights if we missed those we had pre booked so cheaply.

I had not realised until this trip just how submissive I am. My inclination to follow has left me unsure of how to lead; my children showed more ability at navigating baggage check in, security and boarding. All I seemed good for was packing, ensuring we knew our times and route, buying cups of tea and taking care of passports and paperwork which I checked and rechecked constantly. Travel tickets that needed to be bought from machines, even withdrawing cash from ATM’s, was left to my son as I feel panic if I do not understand what to do next and fear losing my card or money and the difficulties that this could present.

I find it hard to believe that I once traversed the globe alone without any of these concerns. When did I become so anxious? I can see how the habit of following has developed along with my desire to please those I love, but to have become so incapable of simple decision making is an irritation for me and must annoy those who are forced to help me out.

Within our home I run much of the time keeping and organisation that ensures we are all where we need to be at the correct time and with whatever we need. I forward plan and build in contingency as best I can. Once I step outside though it would seem that my confidence evaporates and, with that, many of my abilities. I have developed a phobia of letting others down.

None of this detracted from my enjoyment of the trip because, at every stage, there was someone to pick up where I could not cope. I may have exasperated my children at times, but they accepted my concerns and apparent lack of ability as how I am. It frustrates me though that I have allowed myself to develop in this way. I know that I am capable and that my fears are unfounded; people will generally be more forgiving of failure than I give them credit for. I know that I should not take the negative comments that are sometimes made so much to heart.

My newly honed awareness of these issues offers me the opportunity to work on improvement. I suspect that my husband would prefer me to be more innovative; he married an independent career girl and has ended up with a useful doormat. If anything is going to disappoint him then it may well be that.

Just as I have started the new academic year with the aim of improving my health and body shape, so I now wish to work on improving my mindset. Breaking a habit can be tough; developing a thicker skin even harder. It is obvious though that I am the only one who can modify what I have become. Most of my problems exist only in my head and in the way I perceive and react to my day to day experiences. Only I can do anything to counteract what I have allowed myself to become. I will learn this lesson and do my best to improve.

Experience

Home

My daughter returned from her big adventure yesterday; I have missed her so much. From the day she left us, exactly a month ago today, to the morning before her return, we heard nothing from her. It turns out that she could have made contact on a couple of occasions, but chose not to. She was having the time of her life and wanted to maintain the break from home for the duration.

When she did text it was to say that we didn’t need to pick her up from the return coach drop off point; she had arranged a lift with a friend. This came as no big surprise and was not an issue; my daughter has been eager to extend the time she spends with certain friends from she was at primary school. It proved that she was happy and enjoying herself.

I have spent the weekend anticipating her return. Much as I try not to wish my life away, there are some occasions that I look forward to with such eagerness that I just want the days in between to pass. Her journey home started early on Sunday and I was avidly watching the on line departure and arrivals boards at the various airports she was to pass through, following her progress. I was unsure how smooth her journey would be after last week’s events at a key changeover point (Nairobi airport closes as fire crews tackle blaze) but all seemed to proceed smoothly.

And then she was home, bringing with her the joyful tales of adventure and fun; the stories of new experiences, friendships and mishaps that seemed amusing in hindsight. We poured over the photographs and mementoes, sharing the memories and misadventures. Even the tough times were recalled with fondness; it was the trip of a lifetime.

In her absence the dynamic of our family changed. I thought that it would go back to how it was when she returned but now I am not so sure it will. I cooked a big welcome home dinner; my youngest son baked a cake and a batch of cookies; from the moment I sat down my presence at the table upset my boys so I left them to enjoy my daughter’s return and ate later, alone.

I listened in to their conversation as I sorted the mountains of laundry, washed dishes and tidied away. I did not miss out on the tales but on the camaraderie. My family are a unit of which I no longer feel a part.

This will be a tricky one to negotiate. How horrid it would be for my daughter to find, after a month away, that we had fallen apart without her. I must somehow try to mend the chasm that has opened up. It was not this obvious until she returned because my gradual banishment was accepted, perhaps even desired by the boys. She will not take it so calmly.

And I am grateful for that. I knew that she was my ally, but she is valued by my boys as much as by me. I must work out a way to get by that will be accepted for all our sakes.

I love all of my family very much and want nothing more than their happiness. It is hard to observe that what makes them happy is me becoming silent and invisible. It is hard that my presence puts a dampener on their craic.

This is not about me or my daughter or even my boys; it is how we all interact when together. I need to try to work out why I have become such an irritation. We are all so happy to have our favourite girl home. I do not wish to spoil this for anyone.

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Rain check

I am staying under my duvet; trying to hide from the demons lurking in the periphery of my vision, waiting for their chance to pounce and bring me down. I will avoid them, ignore them, fight them. I can feel their presence but will not succumb to their dementor’s kiss; not this time.

The family holiday has finished and my boys are spending their days in their rooms, mesmerised by their computers, voicing frustration at games and at me if I try to suggest any other activity. This is so different to the way I brought them up to be. This is them as they are.

My daughter is away from home and I miss her company so much. I would not wish her to be anywhere else; I want her to experience life and adventure away from the ties of filial duty; I have no wish to bind her to me. It is I who need to fill the void that she leaves when she spreads her wings and leaps forward into life.

I am nursing a damaged foot, injured walking down the stairs; how stupid does that seem? Not an injury from an exciting activity or an accident due to attempts to achieve, but a sudden awareness of pain that has no apparent cause. It is preventing me from walking with ease; it is curbing my freedom.

I have aching muscles in my shoulder and back. Perhaps I have slept in an awkward position or swum with a bad technique. I cannot explain; I do not know. Today I feel old and battered.

I have allowed myself to put on weight again. At least I can take control of this, but not today. Today I will comfort myself with food and then despair at the tightness of my clothes. How pathetic I feel.

I need to get up and out and on. I need to make progress, not wallow and hide. The demons are lurking in the shadows, but I can put on the lights and drive them out. If only I did not feel so tired; I slept well last night yet do not feel rested. I shirk the responsibility I know I must embrace.

The rain has arrived after weeks of sunshine. Planned activities must be rethought, put on hold until the sunshine returns. Life is too short and precious to waste on a rain check. I will not succumb.

Buer, the 10th spirit, who teaches "Moral...

A month out of the country

Tomorrow my beloved daughter is setting out on an adventure that she has been preparing for and looking forward to for close to two years. She is travelling to Madagascar on an expedition organised by Explorer Scouts.

I am aware that these sort of trips have become de rigueur amongst late teens. Many schools take their sixth form pupils away to some remote and seemingly dangerous destination in order to test their stamina and team skills. As a parent it can be hard to gauge just how big a challenge these highly organised excursions will be; it can be hard not to worry just a little.

The cost alone will put off many potential participants. In order to encourage a view that any may join in, the organisers emphasise the need to fundraise throughout the many months of preparation. In practice this is only likely to cover a fraction or the cost, with parents expected to make up the shortfall.

Some of the older students may have part time jobs and therefore be able to contribute, but this was not an option open to my daughter due to her age and the constraints of exam preparation. Apart from a couple of days bag packing at a supermarket and a few stints babysitting for friends, the cost of the trip and the required equipment (which added about 50% to the initial estimate) had to be met by us, her parents. I was unwilling to ask friends for sponsorship or support. Having agreed to let our daughter go we felt it was our responsibility to get her there. We were very grateful when my mother made a generous contribution to funds early on.

However, the money has been found, the ticket paid for and the equipment purchased. All is now packed away in the specially fitted rucksack ready for the coach pick up tomorrow. My daughter will be away from home for a month during which time she will not be able or allowed to contact us. I will find that rule very hard to cope with.

Thanks to the prevalence of mobile phones this has not happened on her many, previous trips away. On these occasions she has been able to send me a daily text with a little update on what she has been doing so that I may be comforted in her absence by the knowledge that all is well. This trip to Madagascar will include a ten day trek which will count towards an achievement called the explorer-belt. During this time the team must not receive any outside support which precludes contact with home. To ensure that the requirement is met, no personal mobile phones may be taken on the trip. She will have no means to contact me all the time she is away.

As a family we have never travelled abroad. Both my husband and I did our share of exploring the world as students and young adults. It has always seemed unnecessarily expensive and troublesome to go far with the children. During their time at secondary school they have taken part in a number of trips to Europe but never further afield. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for my daughters enthusiasm for this trip; to her it really is the ultimate adventure.

The large group of scouts travelling out have been divided into contingents; my daughter is a Lost Penguin. We love the films (Madagascar / Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa) and this seemed so appropriate. She is taking her own little penguin to keep her company during the cold nights in her tent. The temperatures in this part of Africa are currently lower than in England.

A trip like this is a fantastic experience for the participants but is also good training for the parents. Letting go of our children is a gradual process and one that takes some getting used to. I expect that I will miss my daughter far more than she will miss me; I do hope that this is the case. I will feel that I have done my parenting job well if I can bring my children up to manage fine without me, but to freely choose to offer me their occasional company anyway.

For now though, I face my daughter’s departure with some trepidation but also a great deal of eagerness for the wonderful time that I hope she will have. I want her to experience adventure; to build her independence and resilience and to gain confidence in her abilities. I know that she is an amazing individual; I want her to realise this as well.

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Smile and wave boys, smile and wave

Good times

So many good things have been happening to me recently; I need to take time just to sit back and savour the pleasure. I have activities to look forward to and recent, fun events to look back on. Whilst I can certainly enjoy what I am doing at the time, I derive pleasure from the excitement and anticipation of an event as well as satisfaction from the happy memories. With so many good things going on in a short space of time I want to be sure that I allow myself moments of reflection. Pleasure should never be taken for granted. Joyful life experiences, particularly those shared with others, are precious and should be valued.

Since her exams finished in late June I have had my daughter home all day and we have been able to go out together on some lovely, long walks in the beautiful countryside surrounding our home. These have been all the more enjoyable since the warm, summery weather has arrived. This month has offered us sunshine and heat in abundance; a rare treat in the England of recent years. As a family, we have been spending much of our time outside. I love outdoor living, especially from the comfort of home.

My daughter and I have been walking together, swimming together and yesterday went on a cycle ride. I do these things on my own regularly, but it has been lovely to have such good company on my excursions. I am grateful that she appears to enjoy being active as much as I do.

As well as being a welcome companion, my daughter can be left to look after the rest of the family and I have had opportunities to take advantage of this. Last night I enjoyed a trip to the theatre with an old friend who I only get to see about once a year. I can enjoy the night out all the more knowing that my little family are being well fed and cared for. They remembered to put the chickens away without prompting and even the dishes were washed when I came home.

One of the things that is left undone when I am busy enjoying myself is the general housework. Somehow the never ending need to vacuum floors and wipe down surfaces seems less important when we are not spending so much time inside observing the mess. My ironing pile is growing at a scary rate.

When my boys are in the garden playing ping pong, or we are all sitting around the patio table enjoying a refreshing drink, I am not going to walk away from this family time. The fluffy seeds that are blowing in through the wide open windows from our neighbouring woodland may be showing up the spiders webs that I have failed to clear, but I cannot make myself care enough to deal with them. They pose no danger; there will be time enough to be house proud when my family are not around for me to enjoy.

The transience of moods can be hard to remember when life is more difficult. These good times will not go on forever, life’s path is never that smooth. I wish to appreciate this time, reflect on what I have now that I may use the memories to keep me going when things become tougher. Perhaps if I did not have to deal with the more difficult issues then I would not be able to fully enjoy these better times.

For now though, I will enjoy the cool freedom of my summer clothes, even if I am a little old and rounded for shorts and short skirts. I will bask in the warmth of sunshine and family life. I will lie back in my hammock and watch the wispy clouds drift overhead instead of dealing with the household dust and debris that is never fully tamed anyway. When life can be enjoyed this much I will live it to the full.

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