Going home …

I’m on my way home today. It’s time to attend to my other two boys, my Home and my work.

A very fierce series of hugs for son1 and I this morning – I don’t feel sad, because I know he is on a journey, and he needs to walk alone at the moment, but I am acutely aware that I will miss him (this new grown up version of my son) more – now that I have met him!

He says he loves me, that he has really enjoyed our week together, that he is really aware of and values my unswerving support. He says there is nothing to forgive me for with respect to ExP, and nothing that he blames on me. I believe that right now at least, he means that …

I’m still a bit overwhelmed with the whole experience, although my feelings and thoughts are beginning to make connections and arrange themselves so that I can draw some conclusions and lessons from what I have experienced.

Just one other whole thought stream that has arisen from this week …

I have had sone small exposure to Buddhism and the Buddhist philosophy. I know very little at the moment, but I am intrigued and intend to learn more.

Growing up

I have written a couple of posts about my eldest son before. The most recent is Here. And there is a link on that post to the one before…

This is the update after he has been living and working in Nepal for almost 5 months, and we have just spent a week travelling together.

If I say he is wonderful, it would not be an over exaggeration of my feelings. After all that has happened, all the tears and heartache, the soul searching, self blame and despair … he is just amazing. Not the finished article (are we ever?) but …

He has matured beyond recognition. He is confident, resourceful and capable. He is more organised than I could possibly have imagined he could be. He is thoughtful, kind and considerate of others. He is curious about the world around him, the people he meets and the situations he encounters.

He has a plan. He has drive, he has I believe the commitment and dedication needed to make a success – if not of this initial plan (because there are many logistical unknowns at the moment) then of another …

Travelling together has been fun, we have had a laugh; and it has felt more like companions than mother and child. He is much better at haggling than I, so he does it… when I was ill, he took care of me, we have discussed plans together, as equals and made decisions together, as equals. I love this !

We have also talked and talked and talked. About his biological origins – and his feelings about this; about his early childhood experiences with my ex husband; about my Ex Partner and the effect of his emotional bullying. We talked about Son1’s past behaviours – his persistent theft and stealing, about the “wrong crowd” he got into, about what this taught him. The opportunity to share this, listen to one another, apologise, understand, forgive …. oh so truly wonderful ..

There will be more, that we both reflect on, once the holiday is ended… but the framework for a longstanding positive adult relationship is secure, and that’s a powerful, enduring, precious gift.

How lucky I am 😊

What a country….

Tonight son1 and I are in Nagarkot, a small conurbation about 20km from Kathmandu. We are staying in a hotel perched on a hillside with panoramic views over the Himalayas with (on a good day) a view of Mt Everest in the distance. People flock to Nagarkot for the beauty of the sun rising over the mountains, turning the ice of the Everest summit pink in the morning light. Sunrise tomorrow is at 06.50 or thereabouts, and we will be up, hoping for a clear morning.

In the last seven days we have really pushed ourselves. We have travelled to 4 different parts of the country and crammed in the most intense, immersive experiences. We have visited both Buddhist and Hindu sacred places, observed the funeral and cremation practices of Hindus. We have jumped off mountains, climbed to a world peace Stupa, rowed across lakes. We have ridden elephants, walked through jungles, canoed past submerged crocodiles and followed rhino as they went to drink.

What a country where all this is available …

it’s not easy in Nepal.. the water is not fit to drink, nothing has a fixed price, it’s dirty, dusty, and smelly. The roads have no markings, are full of potholes and being driven anywhere is an alarming experience if you are used to traffic lights and the Highway Code. The poverty is all around you, grinding desperate examples of humanity literally scratching a living from the earth. Cows wander the streets (they are sacred) and are avoided and venerated; stray dogs are beaten and have stones thrown at them. Electricity goes off randomly, there are no trains; buses are crammed to capacity twice over… hotels are SO variable, it’s pot luck (slightly improved by the power of trip advisor) … the Nepalese drop litter EVERYWHERE, and seem to care nothing for dustbins, they spit in the street, and double the price of everything the minute you walk into their shop…

But …. but: The Nepalese are friendly and welcoming, they are genuinely kind. They smile and try to help you, it feels very safe here. The scenery is breathtaking and the ongoing efforts at conservation of endangered species are really special. In Chitwan, for example, poaching of tigers has been eliminated by the stationing of significant numbers of Army living IN the Park, regular checks on visitors / permits and guides (four times in the day we were in the park) and rigorous prosecution of any offenders. Tiger numbers are increasing, slowly, but they are increasing. The new government is investing hugely in infrastructure – new roads, safe reliable internal air travel and there are a few small local co-operatives (eg in Sauraha there is one selling jungle honey where all the bee keepers join together, pool their honey to make the best and all charge a fixed price)

I’ve fallen in love with this country with all its problems, and below I’ve posted a few photos to give a taste of the infinite variety of experiences we have had over the last week.

There are so many more things I want to write about, to do with my relationship with Son1, about his maturation and experiences , about what I have learned about myself this week… but these can wait till the thoughts have percolated a little …

just a small word about alcohol. It has not crossed my mind to drink this holiday. I have not missed it at all. The one evening we went somewhere quite nice I had the most delicious minty, citrusy virgin Mohito … I could NEVER have done what I have this week with a hangover, fuzzy head or pre-occupation with the next alcoholic drink… I truly feel like an adult who does not drink because she doesn’t want to – and I have gained so much from this on this trip .. I wonder why I ever drank at all ?

I quite literally cannot arrange my thoughts enough to form a coherent post. I am overwhelmed; with emotion, visually, physically, spiritually. I cannot make a pattern of anything. It doesn’t matter, for now I experience and enjoy, later I will process.

AlL I Know is that I am overpoweringly thankful , for this opportunity, and for the experiences with my wonderful, maturing, loving adult SON

On my way …

I’m sitting here in Heathrow Terminal 4 waiting for my flight to take me to Nepal, and more importantly to take me to see son 1 who has been there now for 4 months.

Always in the past few years Ex P and I would visit the champagne and seafood bar, drink a ridiculously overpriced bottle of champagne and, buoyed up on bubbles and excitement, begin our holiday in the insalubrious environment of the terminal building. This is the first overseas trip I have made since we separated, and I smiled ruefully at the travellers propping up the champagne bar, and took myself over to Costa. I’m eating skinny popcorn and drinking coffee – much less romantic, but about 1/20 the price!

As an aside, why am I drinking coffee when I really hope to be able to sleep on the plane !

The last trip I went on with him, was a week in Dubrovnik. What a beautiful, enchanting city, surrounded by old walls and full of winding cobbled streets and beautifully maintained squares. The recent history of the siege and bombing of Dubrovnik is largely invisible in the architecture now, but alive in the poignant museum exhibitions of photographs and news footage from that destructive conflict.

We stayed in a beautiful hotel on the sea. Carved out of the rock, you had to take an elevator down to reception and the hotel was barely visible from the road. Elegant and exquisitely tasteful without being stuffy the hotel provided a motor launch taxi service from its little jetty to the city harbour side. Many of you will know Dubrovnik from Game of Thrones – the scenes in the fictional Kings Landing are largely shot in the Croatian city.

It should have been a magical holiday. Certainly the surroundings and facilities were as close to perfect as I have ever experienced. In fact it was possibly the loneliest seven days I can remember. I had hoped for the opportunity to calmly discuss some of our mounting problems; ExP told me firmly on the first day that he didn’t want to discuss “anything heavy” . And so, of course, we did not. Instead we embarked on unreal conversations and debates about trivial subjects whilst I drank myself into oblivion to blot out the sadness.

So, what of this trip. Undoubtedly less luxurious, not romantic (!) non alcoholic, but I truly hope it will be more honest, more open, more REAL. And I would far rather have that than all the luxury and shattering loneliness.

Art

A few years ago I took up painting. I had done no Art since I was 14 and dropped it at secondary school. At that time I didn’t enjoy Art, was quite convinced I had no ability whatsoever and was pleased to drop it from my curriculum.

Over the intervening years I occasionally wistfully wished I could draw /paint, but considered it one of those things that others could do, not me. But the idea of ‘having a go’ appealed to me, and as I got less self conscious about my lack of talent I investigated some options. Back in 2014 I took the plunge and enrolled in a drawing and painting for beginners evening class at the local adult education college. It was true, I discovered, that I did not have a great deal of talent, but I enjoyed it and found it absorbing. My original aim had been to paint with watercolour, but that, I found is a great deal harder than it looks! I decided to have a go at Oil painting, and to my delight found it very satisfying – as the paint doesn’t dry for ages, there is plenty of opportunity to correct mistakes, and I enjoyed mixing colour and trying to create something pleasing to the eye.

I did 2 years of evening classes, and produced a number of paintings, (one of which is pictured above with apologies to M Monet! ) All very positive, but as my relationship broke down I found it impossible to get out in the evenings, and my general apathy resulted in lost motivation. I painted occasionally, but mostly my art box languished in the corner of my room and I made no serious effort to resume any creative activity. Last May, on holiday I had a most delightful chance encounter with a proper artist, which I wrote about here. I was enchanted, inspired and re-energised. But again, general apathy and lack of direction meant that I’ve dabbled a bit since then, tried to engage with another evening class … and its all kind of fizzled out.

But underneath I have realised that, talent-less or not, I am quite creative and really do enjoy ‘crafting and producing’ things. I’ve done silk painting, pottery painting, some patchwork, with varying degrees of success; I’ve attended a variety of exhibitions and tried to learn from the techniques I see displayed. I’ve even read a bit around the techniques, and practised  my drawing skills occasionally…

Following my last, rather spiritless and tedious post (which reflects my mood sadly) I started wondering about what I could do, that I would enjoy, to give myself a bit more purpose and (hopefully) fulfilment. An evening class is too complicated for the moment, as I can’t commit to being out, but it occurred to me that a weekend day course might be an option.

Typically, once that thought has established itself in my brain, I have to act. So, as I write, I have booked a day course at the V&A museum in drawing (in April) ; a watercolour beginners day (in May) and a two day Oil painting course ( in June). I even got vouchers for two of them so that they were 1/2 price …Never one to do things by halves, me !

All of a sudden I feel a bit, well, energised, more positive and slightly invigorated… which is nice 🙂

Onwards and upwards …

Not Depressed …

I’m not depressed.

Depression is a common disorder that causes people to experience low mood, loss of interest or pleasure in doing things (anhedonia), feelings of  low self-worth or guilt, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration. Depression is different from feeling down or sad. I’ve been depressed. I’ve been anxious. Biologically not right and I’ve had the weight loss, apathy and inertia that (for me) accompanies this

Right now I’m a lot better. My sleep isn’t great, but I’m neither depressed nor anxious. I take a hefty dose of an SSRI to ensure (as far as I can) that I stay that way. Biological anxiety / depression is really horrible. I’m not depressed.

But I am low.

I’ve now been sober for 675 days. The 2 year soberversary is approaching. My little app tells me I have saved £12, 309 from not drinking (based on a bottle of wine a day and more at weekends plus the extra bottle I was buying for A N Other). My whole life has changed.

But I’m facing up to rather a void. I know this is dull, and for those just starting off on the sober journey I do NOT think this is inevitable. For me its a juxtaposition and a number of different life events / stages all at the same time rather than JUST being sober that has led to this

Looking at what I used to do with my spare time… I had a partner so we spent time together. Cooking together (for pleasure), going out for lunch at weekends (and drinking) watching movies together (and drinking) going to exhibitions and then for a boozy lunch together afterwards. We visited friends together (usually involved some kind of drinking) Now of course I have no partner, so although I do some of these things with others, it requires planning in a away that spending time with your partner doesn’t. I’m not lonely, but I am sometimes a bit purposeless.

I think I’m realizing that I need other things to stimulate me. Its no good expecting to be able to do the same things, just without alcohol. For example, I used to really enjoy entertaining. Now, with just me to prepare everything, clean up the house in preparation, make sure everything is just so… Its really lost its appeal. I’m limited in what I can do out of the house as the kids need me to be there.. not because they have any interest in interacting with me more than they have to, but because they fight, create chaos and do nothing useful eg homework if I am NOT there… social interactions with people I don’t know are a strain without alcohol… I need new things to do…

I’m not depressed, but I feel like I am restarting my personal life with one arm tied behind my back.

sorry, that’s gloomy. Its a LOT better than actively miserable (as I was) but it seems quite a long way from happy, or even content .

 

On community

Since I have been sober I have been more involved with other people. Starting small, because, as previously mentioned I am quite introverted, I have started reaching out a bit to friends I may have lost touch with, or people I don’t see as often as I would like to.

I’ve been building a bit of community around me, to help me when I am down or stressed, and to put some support back in for others when they need it. Dry Lily has more to offer – more time, more patience, more thought… and I have realised more than ever, that it is the quality of our relationships that make the difference to life.

In the past 6 months or so I have been drawn back into the community that I first met when I was married. A group of men (including my exH) who went to College locally remained close and still meet every week for a beer. The wives and partners of these men have become interwoven and its a group of people with different interests, careers and situations – but who have known one another for a long time. When I was living with my ex Partner I drifted away from (most of) this group a bit as I think he found it hard to integrate with them (also they were originally the friends of my ex-husband). I understood this – I wouldn’t have wanted to spend time with a group who were common friends of him and his ex wife, Since I have been alone again I have become closer to them again. Its a nice feeling, spending time with people who have known you for a LONG time, and I enjoy their company. Last weekend I went for lunch with one of the other women, it was good to catch up – and I was able to talk about some of my concerns (about my exH) to someone who knows him, and understands.

There are communities that form between mothers of children at school, between the parents of my son’s friends. There is the work community of which I am part. My brother also has some very close friends, again I have known these people for a log time – and we spend a wonderful evening together at the end of December to celebrate my brothers birthday.

I notice that my relationships with both friends and acquaintances have become more important and more meaningful since I stopped drinking. I’m no longer looking for activities that involve alcohol, no longer drunk, or on the way to being drunk whenever I socialise. I went to an exhibition at the Tate gallery with a colleague I have not worked with for many years, but we have kept in touch via Facebook; I met with another virtual (initially) friend for supper one evening and wandered down the Southbank catching up on each others news.

Since I have been sober I met Tori, my sober sister, who stopped drinking at the same time as I. Like me, she has children, drank too much for too long, struggled to quit, and is negotiating life as a dry, professional woman. She has been a blessing and support to me, as I hope I have been to her.

All these people I have met though different ‘parts’ of me. Tori because we are both sober, some through the children, some via my work, and others socially – either in person or on-line. Each offers something different, a different understanding or perspective, a different (or similar) experience of some facet of my life. Hopefully I can offer something to them as well.

Community, or social capital, has such value. Relationships, both new and old, marked by reciprocity, trust, cooperation and mutual experience. When I look at the photographs of me on holiday in August 2016, I can see no hint of the loneliness at the centre of my life. Outwardly I had everything, outwardly I looked happy. But I was lonely, confided only a little of my desperate unhappiness in K, and tried to manage my anxiety and frustration alone. I had a ‘partner’, but I was (or felt) totally alone with the struggle to try and ‘make’ that relationship work, to balance the wants of my partner against my own needs and those of my children.

By building social networks and connections I hope I wont ever feel so alone again. Certainly I will notice if I feel I can’t confide in anyone, if I feel I’m carrying a heavy burden alone…From my past experience isolation with problems generally means everything is not ok. The shame I felt at my ex Partners behaviour and my own tacit acceptance of it isolated me from everyone…

I won’t do that again …

 

Forgiven

Some months ago, I wrote about me struggle to ‘forgive’ myself for past mistakes. If you are interested you can read it here.

Over the last few days a couple of things have happened that caused me to revisit this topic in my thoughts.  I moved a camera memory disc from an old camera that I am intending to give to Son1 and cleaned the pictures off. Up came a lot of photographs from the last holiday that I went on with my ExP. We broke up the day after we returned from that holiday.

The photographs show a couple who appear to be in love. No hint of my mental turmoil and stress is captured in the photographs, in fact some of them are very good photos of me. But I know I was in turmoil. I’ve read my posts on this blog from that time here here and particularly here. I was absolutely, utterly wretched and desperate. More of this in a minute.

Last Summer I felt quite badly let down by my two business partners. I was very upset because I felt they had made me look ridiculous and as though I was promising things I could not deliver. I felt they had damaged my integrity and professional position in my community. In the past, when things have happened like this I have not allowed my annoyance to show, but inwardly seethed over it . This time, unconsciously, I behaved differently.

I challenged them about their actions.

Not aggressively, but in a straightforward and honest way. I explained how I felt and why. Although initially they were rather defensive, they both later apologised. I would like to say I instantly forgave them: I didn’t, but I have now reflected on the whole incident and acknowledged that I may not have been as clear to them as I had thought about my plans, and that misunderstanding rather than deliberate and willful undermining may have been the underlying cause of the problem.

Yesterday, looking at the photographs of me with my exP, I realised that somewhere, somehow, things have shifted. From being very intensely tied in the emotional fall out of our relationship I feel oddly detached. I can loom at him, think of him with less emotion. The anger is fading, I care much less. I can accept that my life and his have diverged and that we will not be together in the future, because that’s not what I want. That shift from @we wont be together because he is unkind to my children/ doesn’t earn any money/ wont talk to me etc etc’ which implied that if there things were no longer the case we might be… has shifted to ‘we wont be together because I don’t want to be’ And I don’t want to be because he is the wrong partner for me. simple.

I no longer feel so desperately hurt and damaged. I no longer feel that I could never trust anyone else again (not now for sure, but I might, one day) I no longer feel that my life, both now and in the future, is diminished because he is not in it. I no longer feel I’m being denied what I ‘should’ have … I’m not so angry with him. I have forgiven him, not because it means we can start again, but because it means I can move on.

On my own.

Free.

At last.