It’s happening again, the broken sleep, the intricate dreaming.
Woven stories with such a huge amount of detail that it feels I am not sleeping at all, but reliving a moment in the past, except that it can also feel like the future.
Things that I should know, are laid out before me. As clear as day.
Unrecognisable places where my life is unfolding.
People who seem to know me, where I am a part of their unknown life.
Like the ghost of Christmas past has visited and gone, is this the present and the future all rolled into one?
There is such clarity, a picture in time, just there. No explanation of it.
No voice to tell me why.
Or a statement of fact or truth, like a lightning bolt, waking me from slumber, forcing me to sit up and take note. Literally.
Sometimes, I am able to return to sleep, much later on in the night. Then I go back to dreaming the same dream, the same people the story growing as the night continues. I awake and can relive these dreams over and over, remembering the minutest detail once I am up for the day. Sometimes I feel that I don’t want to be there at all, not with a part to play or even as a bystander. Sometimes the subject matter concerns me so greatly that sleep is gone for the rest of the night and I am perturbed or upset.
Occasionally I just awake with a different feeling, as though something has changed its course and I am unable to do anything about it. I merely have to accept the new direction and go with the flow.
And in my waking hours things have also changed. There are skills that were previously hidden from view suddenly out in the open. Improvement in my mathematics, mental arithmetic and that is a first for me. Also painting and drawing that actually looks like its meant to. Recognisable artwork, just because I have tried a new technique I’ve seen or a different medium.
Things like I have experienced some sort of awakening to the real me. The feeling that nothing is impossible and I just have to try and it will all pan out. Perhaps the universe is finally working in my favour. Teaching me how to be better or stronger, preparing me for some unknown.
I have awoken once again as I have done for as long as I can remember in the past few months, exactly two and a half hours after I had gone to bed. It seems to be such a regular occurrence now, part of the new normal forcing its way into my life. Again I am compelled to write about what has happened in the past few months and get it out of my head in the hope that it will not spend more time there and that I will be able to move on from it in some small way. I do not know if that is forcing something which is not ready to leave, or just stop it from occupying most of my thoughts.
I have been quietly writing in the background the past few months, so much has gone on in my private life which needs to remain private for now, but the difficulties of the past few years seem to pale into almost insignificance in comparison. I have sat and purposefully written in a bid to explain, but those posts will not be shared publicly, there has been so much pain to deal with and I have been fighting still despite feeling ill equipped to do so. I have also written a few more poems, some of which I’ve posted here on the blog.
It is difficult to know where to begin so I guess it will just have to come right out and say it, that which I am able to share with you. My brother passed away, he died suddenly and although it was a huge shock to us all. I am struggling to deal with it. The past almost three months since his passing, have felt like a year, endless in its quest and dragging onward. It is not over yet, since the grieving process has really only just begun due to the delays caused by legal formalities. He is not gone from my thoughts and remains very much a part of me. In my home I am surrounded by his things which bring back memories all of the time. Of course this does not just affect me, the rest of the family are left reeling from the shock of it all, he was a relatively young man at 48 years old and this was totally unexpected.
He lived his life in the enviable position of having no responsibilities in fact he positively shied away from them, left no will and made me his next of kin. Suddenly, there was a policeman on the telephone, faced with the duty of informing me that there had been an accident and that I was to contact his employer urgently. At that point, he was in a critical ward of a hospital in Corsica and it was my job to inform Mum. We spoke on the phone since I was also away at the time, and only a couple of hours later, he was dead. Gone forever it felt surreal. He had been working away for most of the last five years, returning only for short periods in between and staying with friends, who were extended family, whenever he was back in the UK we tried to catch up, but during his trips he would call me at length and tell me all about where he was living and the people he was working with. He was excited by life and new experiences and I loved those conversations. I was lucky to have had one such conversation the afternoon before he passed away, which made me wrack my brains and replay every moment in my mind to see if I could have sensed that something was wrong, if it could in some way have forewarned me of what was to come. But it did not. What happened was just an awful accident, cardiac arrest brought on by shock of the extreme heat of the climate, to cold water in an outdoor swimming pool. One misjudged moment in time, deciding to go for a swim and he drowned. It was awful and it still is. To think of a life so suddenly gone, I am still coming to terms with how final that is. He was just getting to do the things that he wanted to and living the life he felt that he should. He had plans and was excited by what the future may hold.
I still can’t believe that he is gone and not coming back, as a seasonnaire chef, his summer stint would be over and he would be back by now. I like so many others, his friends and his family are waiting for that phone call we would normally have had by now, saying “Hello, I’m back”. He stopped calling it home a couple of years ago, when he decided that he wanted to live in Italy and began looking for a flat there, alas that was not to be. But here was where he returned to, his roots and the extended family he had chosen, lifelong friendships with people who anticipated his return.
It was August when he passed away. It took two months to get him home and have the funeral since there was an inquest and repatriation to deal with. I am relieved that his employers were a reputable company who had insurance, otherwise I for one could not have coped with it all and the costs of bringing him back and dealing with it all would have been impossible. It would have been a very different situation since as far as I can find out he had no insurance to cover him for his death. He had not written a will and had no savings whatsoever surviving from one pay check to the next and never quite managing it consistently living beyond his means.
Thankfully, from a leaving people behind point of view, he did not have a wife or children, just parents and siblings, me and his sister. He also had literally hundreds of friends, dotted around the world. I honestly feel that he never lost touch with anyone he ever met, leaving a lasting impression upon them, they stayed in touch or he would walk into a place somewhere in the world and someone would know someone who knew him, or an old acquaintance would reappear. It was uncanny. He was a loveable rogue and when we planned his party for him, in celebration of his life it only then became clear to us how loved he was. He did not want a funeral where everyone was sad, he wanted a party where everyone could gather and talk about the good times, drink and dance and talk. Throughout the planning I was worried, wondering if I would make him proud. It had been many years since I had planned an event, but I wanted it to be perfect for him. Nothing would spoil it and as it turned out it was a wonderful night, which a month later people are still speaking about with fondness, cherishing new memories along with the old and rekindled friendships. It was a wonderful compliment to be told that if he had made it to fifty and had a party, then this would have been exactly what he would have wanted to do and it couldn’t have gone any better.
We picked a location he loved as fate would have it there was a real ale festival at the first pub. A local place where he always returned to, it was the perfect setting on a beautiful warm and sunny day. A refreshing seaside breeze after a funeral service packed out with around 400 people. It was massive and although emotionally exhausting, it was filled with love and tributes. We spoke, which was something I knew that I had to do, anecdotes from growing up together and then I read a poem I had written just after his passing, called My Brother. (You can read it here) It was a first for me, reading something I had written out loud in front of an audience but it was very well received. Our sister, who is a musician, sang a song live which she had written, also a first for her and it was emotional and beautiful. Our Mum told everyone stories from his past which had everyone laughing and smiling at the memories. My partner got up and spoke, thanking all of the people who had helped and been there for my brother and for us and the tribute from his friend, reliving the memories growing up, were both entertaining and captivating.
After the initial meet up where the beer festival was held, we moved onto another pub, where we had organised a buffet, some of his school friends who are DJ’s played the music he loved for a packed out pub full of people from all walks of life and all age groups who were there to say goodbye. Our sister played live with her bands and we were fortunate that the entertainment that the pub had already booked for that night flowed effortlessly from what we had done for him. Everyone had a great time it was not like a funeral at all. It was a day and a night filled with love for someone who has left a wide gaping hole in our lives by his sudden departure. We had guest books and reading them after the funeral was lovely. We encouraged people to write their memories of him and are planning to publish his story at some point, the book he didn’t quite get to write. I am sure that he was still too busy living his life to write it all down. I have spent two months looking for the book he always spoke about writing one day, but have not yet found any evidence of it. We decided that the stories should not die with him. They are too funny, heart-warming and vivid to let go.
I was sent out to Corsica by his employers, they arranged for me to attend where he lived and worked and meet the team, his working family and the ones who had tried to save him. It was cathartic towards the end of the trip, I was so pleased to be able to do that and it helped immensely to piece together the time before his death and share some wonderful memories with those who surrounded him. I returned only six weeks ago, it feels much longer. Time seems to drag on and all of a sudden it will be three months since he died, this weekend it has been a month since his funeral. The seasons have changed and with them so have I. Although I am not sure whether it is for the better or worse and I am so far out of my comfort zone lately that I can’t remember where it is any more.
As I deal with his affairs in the line of duty, my own personal grief has kicked in it catches me out at the most awkward of moments, creating havoc in the day to day. Having dealt with the formality of the funeral now, it no longer consumes my every moment, I am still dealing with formalities as this will take some time to do. I have time to think now and remember and those memories which fall as tears when I think of him, of that lump in my throat which arrives when I get to thinking about the fact that I will never again get to hug my infuriatingly haphazard, but very endearing and loving brother. Meanwhile I am surrounded by the belongings which I am still gathering in able to sort them out and share out amongst family and his closest friends. He left his things all over Europe and even now I am not quite sure where, some are only just coming to light now. I do not know if I will be able to recover it all. Despite my daily routine being somewhat relaxed, insomnia and concerns are wearing and damaging to the health and mine has suffered, along with that of my partner who has been at my side, supporting me every step of the way. He is tired, for that read exhausted and already suffering ill health it has really taken its toll upon him, I must look after my rock and not let it crumble. As he pointed out to me, life is for the living and we are still here.
Last night I visited one of his close friends, I called round on the off chance and we talked for over an hour about the funeral and how he would normally be home by now. That he still shows up now and then, in the strangest of ways. She has been married to his best friend for over 20 years and they were a very large part of my brother’s life, always there for him come what may. Only 3 months ago I had never met her. It was the case for so many of his friends throughout his life he kept them and his family separate. But the love and warmth that they had for him has been extended to me and the rest of us and never fails to move me. I came home happy but emotional it was good to talk about my brother, but I am conscious that we also talked about other things in our lives such as making plans for the future. It was just what was needed after a week where I have been going stir crazy at home, seemingly chasing my tail to get things done, although I have made small progress nevertheless.
As time goes by, things are slowly changing, things which are forcing me to re-evaluate and make new plans. I need to concentrate on improving our health and moving us onward. I hope that down the line I can begin to follow some of my dreams with regard to work and I want to be able to write again, not just poetry but other things. The future could be a long time, there is much to do.
And as I drew the picture in my head as I have so many times before.
The image began to take form.
I saw before Me a large egg shape intricately decorated. Standing strident behind it a small blonde woman. An unlikely looking warrior with a look of determination upon her face as she swung the hammer high, bringing it down heavy upon the egg, into which were engraved the words, Hate. Fear. Loathing. Anger. Sickness. Poverty. So that they were gone, shattered fragments of a past, no place for them and as she stood there a smile spreading across her face.
Ready to rise from the things that bound her up to that point. A past which no longer served her.
There she stood reborn. Unknowing as to what would happen next. Her new beginnings ready to grow from the remains of an eggshell.
And finally these words sprang forth from the debris.
I remembered that my brother used to use this phrase, but it was usually injected with humour after he had done something on a night out, when he had been foolish and got drunk and got caught out in his actions.
I haven’t done anything involving alcohol for a while now or which would apply in this scenario.
However I feel this morning that this saying applies to me.
You see in all of what happened during last year, In August I was referred back for counselling and have been trying to get through everything with the loving support of my family and friends. Sometimes barely holding it together but somehow scraping through. I have been on a list and in the past couple of weeks have been questioning whether I actually need that counselling when my turn comes. I thought that I have been able to heal from last year and had made progress especially since the arrival of furry son #2, otherwise known as the care bear. After all I can now leave the house without fear or panic although I am still watching my back. I have been able to go visiting friends and family and get the shopping again and keep the small quantity of appointments that have been made. I even got and made it through a job interview which was real progress. With legs that felt like lead I walked to it, lightheaded and feeling nausea coming over in waves as I tried it o remember to breathe in full blown panic. I cannot recall what I said to myself to calm me down before I went inside other than, they are only human and if it’s meant to be. Then it’s meant to be.
I came out of there feeling that it had gone well, I was told that I interviewed well and the woman spoke about two jobs that she felt I would be right for. I said that of the two, personally I felt I would be better suited to one of them and she said she would let me know. It was a little over a week before Christmas. I heard nothing. After Christmas I contacted the person who had called me for interview to see if she had any news. She chased up the interviewer and came back to me with apologies for the delay but I did not get either job. Fair enough it clearly wasn’t meant to be but it was a setback.
[However the job search continued and I apply for anything that I feel I can do, old want to do. You see I do not have an industry. I want to find new things. I had a thirst for new experiences and knowledge. I have worked in several industries and yes, there are some I would be happy to return to and other’s I was glad when that episode of my life ended. ]
Meanwhile I have been bonding with our adopted dog and here for my partner who has been unwell. We have spent this valuable time together and both feel that it has been essential to our healing. We have talked openly about depression in both of us and the physical care that he now needs on a daily basis due to his health issues. I am that care giver. I wondered out loud last week how he would cope if I were not. It didn’t please him I should have kept my thoughts inside. We have talked about our escape from this place and the situation which has left us feeling so melancholy and the fact that the authorities are powerless to stop the man who is still running wild and free having threatened our very existence for several months of last year. Life is not the same for us. Our loss and grief continues to marr what could be such a good life and threatens our happiness on a daily basis. Thoughts of our beloved dog and how sick he became due to the actions of that person. My partner and I have also become sick through it all both physically and mentally we have struggled through it and we are not out the other side yet.
Yes I am angry. Not in a twisted way or hellbent on revenge as some might be. I am trying to forgive but I am unable to do that yet. I feel as though the only way that will happen is when I no longer see his evil smile. It is not a kind, happy smile which welcomes you. It is an angry sneer belittling everything you do or feeling that you have whilst he is planning his next move. I can do nothing but watch and wait anticipation it before it happens and trying to diffuse the anger that builds since he is getting away with it. Treating the authorities and the people who look after him, despite the fact he is more than capable of looking after himself, with utter contempt and disdain. He is pulling the wool over their eyes an accomplished actor donning many disguises to play the parts. He has them fooled, he can even do meek and mild and quietly reserved until they bring him back and his champion of the world kicks back in to rule with an iron fist and all the time he knows exactly what he is doing, the consequences of his actions and the mayhem and upset that he wreaks.
I thought that I was coping with it all but I am dogged with a voice two octaves lower than it should be. A gravelly throat with visible lumps inside it and a persistent cough which chokes me at night. This is not a metaphor but it so easily could be. It is the reality and I am stifled. The police told me that I could not say these things about him. That it may incite violence or ill feeling towards him and that he is vulnerable. So for months now I have felt stifled and unable to speak. At times I have almost lost my voice, literally hoarse from a condition which My doctor told me was brought on by stress. The lumps come and go Antibiotics have no effect upon them. I wonder if there is any physiological reason for it. Is it connected to the pain and temporary deafness which comes and goes. My referral to the ENT department cannot come soon enough. But I cannot help wondering if it all stems from this trauma which continues to play with everything I do or think.
I thought I may not need the counselling that there is someone out there who may be more deserving of it. A letter arrived this week asking me if I still required it. I wasn’t sure. My partner was very matter of fact he told me to get on the phone. There are things that you sometimes feel you want to talk about with others. We can talk about anything but as he has figured from my past experience with the counselling, we need to go and do it and get that other perspective. From someone who is outside of the situation and whose judgement is not clouded by knowing how you think. I have requested the same counsellor since the barriers of getting to know someone even in that controlled environment have already been broken down. She was like a new friend to me. I appreciate everything she told me, both personal and professionally in our sessions and it would be nice to see her again as she knows my history to an extent.
I have realised in the past two days that I have a long way to go before I have recovered from this trauma and ordeal. I have been trying to kid myself that it was over and I could move on but it isn’t. The realisation that the creature over the road has been biding his time, waiting for the fuss to die down so that he can start all over again has been tough to stomach. With the arrival of mysterious foodstuffs placed in sections of the garden in places the dog could find have made me realise he is up to his old tricks again. My partner called him on it and other neighbours have seen him throwing food into our garden. We have picked it up and inspected it, but poisons can be unscented but when food is spoiled it does change consistency and colour. So far we have not seen any sickness but when the pup is off his food with a hot nose we worry that we may have missed something and he has found it. But I will not let the creature rule this year. I will not live in fear again whilst he flaunts his carefree existence. He will not tie us up in knots day after day worrying, but he already is, the sickness I feel in the stomach is already there with a gut feeling that knows he has already got to us so I must learn to stop that. There has been a distinct shift in our moods since the arrival of the odd food in the garden and we check for more before we let the dog out there. Every time and thoroughly.
I know that to get out of the situation here would be a new start, a clean break would be a positive thing for us and I am trying to make that happen but I need help. A new job, a new home should be a positive thing, but why does it feel that we are giving up and running away. Why should we be chased off by a situation we cannot fix? We have spent six months trying to think of another way, trying to make it work here and get on with our lives. Our lives have been on hold, waiting for the problem to be dealt with by the authorities and we are no nearer a resolution. I cannot sit and wait, I do not want our time to run out, or be cut short by someone who feels that their actions will never be accountable. He has no fear, a whole lot of other problems maybe but no fear.
I need to move us on from this, to stop it eating away at us to reboot our onboard thinking we are not running away, but are making a break for freedom from this. Life has dealt us some blows, thrown a few bricks at us. It is time we begin to build new things with them.
A leading question and forgive me for a moment if I’m going to go deep…
I am talking about how many chances to make a new life? Something better than before, or at least different. I am sometimes likened to a cat by those who know me, but I wonder whether I have the nine lives people so often speak of. I don’t know how many chances I have had. I have never thought to count them before or even how many I may have already used up and I’m not going to start now. For whatever the answer is, I am grateful.
What I do know is that throughout our life we are given so many opportunities to make it different. Some we may miss. It may be that we simply don’t see them at the time. Or that they come out of nowhere and we reach out and life as we know it changes completely.
I want to tell you about one such time in my life. It was 8 years ago (Oh how time flies) this week, just days before my Birthday.
I had prayed so long for the moment, hell I’d even begged for it. The operation which I was sure would change my adult life from the one that had been plagued thus far with pain and illness. Once they had found out that the cause of all this misery was Endometriosis, an incurable condition and I had met the specialist, then he could set about sorting me out finally. I was overflowing with hope of what would come to me in my new life after they agreed to give me a full hysterectomy. The pressure in the past that I’d felt, to provide children to complete my existence was suddenly removed and I could finally move on from it. By just announcing “I can’t have children”, instead of the wistful ” I don’t have children…. yet.” Somehow the weight was instantly lifted and it was just accepted by others as well as myself. It was also possible that since my pain and symptoms were cyclical and my menstrual cycle outweighed the rest of the month, this surgery just might put an end to it in one fell swoop. It was a drastic approach, but I had tried everything else that was suggested and it hadn’t worked, I was by then absolutely desperate.
Of course I had the last minute doubts before the operation because it was so final. But, the pro’s definitely outweighed con’s in my mind as I thought about the opportunity to actually start living and be able to follow some of my dreams without being held back by my condition at last. My partner was a tower of strength and supported my decision all the way, he wasn’t going anywhere he said, we were in this together.
There were moments in the past where I had gone after a dream and encouraged by my partner had gone far and achieved things that I had not thought possible.
I awoke from the operation euphoric. Full of hope for what might come next in our lives, after the three months recovery time at home I would need. Thankful for being given the chance at starting my adult life over again. I was now going to be able to go out there and actually begin to live it! I was also extremely grateful that this time I had understanding bosses who had agreed the time off on full pay that I would need. It was such a huge relief that we did not have that particular stress hanging over us through that.
I healed really quickly on the outside and felt invincible and ready to take on the world. My partner held on tightly to the reigns for a while to stop me doing something that would set my recovery back and I started straight away on HRT patches so that I wouldn’t go into a menopausal state with immediate effect. I didn’t want to go through that on top of it all and since I was young I wanted something that would protect me from the brittle bones often suffered post menopause for as long as possible. I am still using them.
So how do I feel 8 years on from this? Did my new life begin? Was it as awesome as I thought it would become back then?
Well, yes I got a new life compared to the old one. It started to be like most lives, it’s been a pretty mixed bag. Not always awesome, it has been filled with ups and downs, we have been sick and healthy, jobs have come and gone. I have lost people and loved ones along the way. I have fought for what I believed in, I have tried to remain strong even when I did not think it were possible. I have often felt as though I am at rock bottom but I have had my loved ones beside me along the way but most of all it is not over yet. There is no “fat lady” singing yet.
I have gone sometimes off at tangents over the past few years, not really knowing where it would lead but I want the other chances which might be open to me. A life can be long or short, we have no way of knowing which of those we will have. As mine continues I will look for the opportunities in the hope that they present themselves as often as possible. I hope I will find them, at the corner of every street, on every day that I am lucky to wake up and to breathe and in every person I am lucky enough to meet. Yes, I do see those things as blessings, sometimes in disguise, but experience is gained from every encounter.
I haven’t yet worked out for my purpose is for this world, I feel as though somehow I am being led to help others. I am not sure of the direction but I am certain that I have a place and I belong here and I want to make a difference, somewhere to someone.
There has been a distinct shift in our lives the past week or so…
There was bound to be, we have dealt with some more upset caused by this Summer’s issues with our neighbour here, which we are trying to resolve now that we have caught our breath from the journey back from Scotland and have to settle in for the winter here.
The arrival of our new furry son has brought smiles to our faces and happiness to our hearts again and he is settling in and finding his feet, we are setting the boundaries and so far so good, his re-training in certain things is progressing. The original training has held him in good stead and he is eager to please us.
My partner has reached a big Birthday, which has quite obviously got him thinking about what he does and doesn’t want to do with his life. So this week marks the end of a voluntary career with the local community spanning around ten years. During this time, he has worked tirelessly for the benefit of others, often been ostracized for his work and suffered abuse and downright harrassment at times, often from unexpected directions.
He has decided this week that he does not want to be involved in the politics of it any more, to be ruled by it all and last night tendered his resignation upon the advice of a police officer who felt that the neighbourhood situation may calm down if he steps out of the public eye. He has given it alot of thought and emailed his resignation last night. I can tell that it was not as easy a decision as he first thought, there is disappointment at mistreatment and lack of support throughout the summer and over the years. But this morning he tells me that he is happier to be out of the game, the back-stabbing and if he is no longer involved, then he does not have to be a part of it.
I guess, he’s just finally had enough.
Today he is quiet, pensive and thoughtful. He is trying to dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Tie up any loose ends, he is dealing with things. I don’t know what he plans to do next, but I am sure that whatever it is, he will throw himself wholeheartedly into it and give it his best shot. After all, that is the man he is and doubtless I will support him with it in whatever way possible. We are a team, a partnership and I stand by his side.
15/11/16 I wonder what will come next… Am I apprehensive? Maybe a little, but change is supposed to be good. I should welcome it, goodness knows we needed so much to change and are fed up with leaving things to chance so why am I unsure?
Last night there was a Supermoon, he encouraged me to make wishes. Although there were sightings of it the night before, I was waiting to see it but it was hidden by fog last night here. I wish we had been up on the hill, where I am sure it would have been huge and bright and I would have bathed in it’s glory. But I did manage to get a good look at it the night before and the dog and I sat in the back garden gazing up in wonder at it. Will my wishes come to fruition, I hope so but am pleased that some of them already have.