Its been a funny old day. A lot of ruminating to be done, which to be honest is pretty difficult as you are running around on a poorly staffed ward full of patients that are anxious, in pain and some with a little bit of dementia thrown in. At one point we ran out of commodes and that is never likely to be a good situation to be in, surely?

I haven’t had all that much time to think about the fact that it is our 8 year wedding anniversary today and I appear to have lost my husband by the wayside. I didn’t expect to be a single mother again either but with the addition of two more children. Our LO was adamant he wasn’t staying with me last night. After two nights at his father’s he was determined to stay every night with him. But eat at mine. (Possibly not such a good idea, as his father is a trained chef and I clearly, am not). He clung on to his dad who tried and failed to extricate himself. The horror reflected in our eyes at the screams and tears. Eventually I managed to stop him from following out of the front door but instead he tried to launch himself out of the front room window. I held him as he pushed and pulled away from me. Eventually he flung his little tear stained arms around me and buried his head into my neck, sobbing. the MO went out into the garden unable to cope and the EO fled upstairs, enveloped in her own PMT misery and anger at life. Tears silently fell down my cheeks as I told the LO that I knew, I understood and I was sorry.

 

Being sober has been my main weapon – I feel like a somewhat fatter and less fit Xena – belly bulging under my breast plates – wielding a shield purposefully. Being sober has been a godsend. An unknown strength has manifested inside and whilst I wobble from time to time, as some of the reality ekes out like a poison, I seem to have focus. My heart aches and I feel winded – how can I be without my best friend; my soul mate? – yet I somehow put one foot in front of the other.. and keep walking.

Surviving Tofu

I did it! I bloody well did it! I have eaten tofu and lived. I didn’t actually know that it was possible to almost (note the ‘almost’) like the damn, weird, curdy bean.. beany curd… stuff…

The featured photo is indeed featuring an entirely plant based lunch. AND I am drinking soya milk in tea now.. like all the time. We’ll conveniently forget the cheese pizza we had last weekend because I just can’t do pizza without cheese and right now I am not ready to forgo the lot. So, I’m proud to present myself as an almost-teetotal-nearly-vegan. I reckon it’s got a ring to it.

I have definitely skipped a lot today… mentally and physically. I am very pleased with my efforts to embarrass the MO at the docs as he needed his trillionth skin issue sorted out (he must have weak skin). We sat for far too long in the same spot and that’s when I began to fidget.. we both realised that we weren’t going to be leaving before I had done some damage, although maybe telling the doctor that once he had to sit on a cushion because the boil on his bum was sooo sore, was a little too far. To be honest, he usually proudly carries said cushion around with him but maybe it was all a bit too early in the morning.. and yes, constantly holding his fringe back so that the GP could actually see his face, was probably irritating but I like to think I made my point. And maybe reading the sight test card thing, with my head upside down, wasn’t necessary but I was getting bored.

After that I skippity skipped – ok, drove – to the gym where I tried to suck my belly in whilst using the bike machine and nearly passed out as a result. Lots of young, fit and nubile people walked past and I tried not to dribblglare, meanwhile repeatedly  forgetting that bouncing one’s head to the drum ‘n bass playing in my earphones was probably very un-cool. It is however, imperative.

I then returned via Tesco to home, where I am now sitting at the dining table which needs tidying (as does everywhere), writing this and not sitting in the garden office planning my next assignment.

The very, despite invisible, point to this post is to say, that one can come out of the other side of the doldrums.. even when nothing essentially has changed. Maybe it’s the sun. Maybe it’s self-love (not masturbation, just to clarify).. maybe its listening to my instinct.. who knows but today is a good day. IMG_1612.jpg

Where am I?

The tension mounts but the pressure drops and the sky darkens. Gusts blow post-winter debris along the ground and birds stop singing. I know that from somewhere deep within I am going to blow. Where’s my blue sky?? Where’s my fucking blue sky?! I am stuck in dark clouds, they are everywhere. Under my feet, above my head, they are suffocating. As the heart rate quickens, the tears prick the eyes and I feel caged within my own mind. I can’t penetrate the bubble that everyone else is in, the laughter so loud, so shrill. I can’t laugh. I don’t know how to laugh. What happened? How did this suddenly arise? At what point? Which comment? Which thought? And like a train bound to crash, I know I can’t get off. I grab at a passing reason. No, not that one.. that one doesn’t fit.. that’s not why.. what about that one? No, although it might be plausible than the other. Is it hormonal? Is it overwhelm? Am I tired? I feel anxiety and anger, I feel resentment, I feel fear..and at the same time I feel numb.

At this point I would reach for a drink. Drink through it… ‘just keep drinking, just keep drinking’; not sure Dory would approve. The paranoia continues to mount like some determined mountaineer. ‘Take a break’, I whisper, ‘take a fucking break’.. ‘Oh no young Chloe, no breaks for me.. we’re on a roll!!.. We are going to reach the peak!’. I don’t have the energy for the peak. Not enough sustenance inside of me, I didn’t pack enough protein bars. I panic, I run home and I hide.

These moments punctuate my life in fits and starts. Hard for anyone to understand, including me. I know from past experience though that this is my ‘me’ talking. This is gut instinct yelling at me that something is wrong. That I am not listening. I think I know but I don’t want to hear it. It used to be come-downs from alcohol, or not getting enough sleep, or pride, or ego. So how do I know what it is this time? Which me do I trust?

The more I strip back, the more I face, the more raw and vulnerable I feel. The problem with not self medicating like I used to, is that now I have to face all the Chloe’s in one. And that is no mean feat. I want to line them all up and remove the ones I don’t like. Slowly, I hope to merge the others I do like into just one. Like bits of mismatched play doh… all the same substance but different colours… moulding them together. Making a version of me that I love and am happy with so that in time, others can be happy with me too.

Long, dull evenings..

I drank on Monday evening. I kid myself that I ‘like’ the taste of red wine. Yeah.. I do but as I drank it I realised that it is so obviously not just simply the taste. I like the taste of orange juice but I don’t drink glass after glass after glass. So, if it’s the zoning out I am after, those glorious evening hours of ‘fuck it’ land whilst I would watch tripe on tele and finally feel the muscles in my neck relax.. then I can honestly say, I am struggling to replicate that with anything else.

Up until about 3 or 4, I feel great… la de daa great… I’m killing this shit, great… then I start to panic ever so slightly.. ‘oooh noooooo.. I have hours before bedtime… what will I doooooo? How will I sustain this gleeful skipping? I have mundane crap to do.. and how will I turn off? How well I tune out?’.

A bath is great… for maximum half hour but then you have to exit said bath and find something else to do! Languishing in tepid water does get a little dull after the billionth night. So maybe reading a book? Yesssss.. but even that can get tiresome when it’s night after night. And sometimes I don’t want to be productive.  I just want to relax. I might not want to crochet, or draw, or plan, or sort.. I just want to switch off. I want my mind to get a bit fuzzy and to not care so much about everything. Meditating for hours may well achieve this but try doing that with kids coming downstairs every half hour complaining they are hungry.. it’s not possible.

So please, someone out there… have you got any magic solutions? Will this restlessness ever ease?

Shifting.

Some rather monumental changes have been occurring in 2018. I didn’t plan any of this; there were no pre-meditated goal-setting sessions or  earnest  recordings of my 2018 resolutions (which are never stuck to anyway). This has happened almost accidentally, but not quite. I planned to do Dry January and in doing so cemented the fact that I was seriously damaging my mental and physical health if I continued to drink as much as I was in 2017. To date I have drunk alcohol on 13 days out of 85 and as already established in previous posts, this is something short of a miracle for me.

During this time I have found the head space to meditate more. Still needing my hand held by using guided meditations, but nonetheless, learning to be more mindful is helping me in situations where I would normally let rip and decapitate someone, mainly my family – so at least they are appreciative of the new, sparkly, 2018 model of Chloë.

They may be less enchanted by my very new vegan status. This has been bubbling on the surface for a couple of years but due to my complete inability to maintain grand promises of change, I have – to date – been a proper shit vegan. As evidenced in previous blog posts, I have a tendency to fall of my various wagons on a regular basis. The vegetarian and vegan wagons appear to have particularly lose bolts and I tumble from them.. well… daily. I then run as fast as my legs will carry me, desperately trying to scramble back up, clinging onto my dreams of a more humane way of living, clutching at the sides of the wagon, hoping that perseverance will finally pay off.

I am a source of huge entertainment to my friends – they seems to simultaneously despair of and yet, almost appreciate these efforts of mine. For most of them probably, they think I am just making my own life (and possibly my family’s…) too difficult by trying too much at the same time and that if I only just calmed down and gave myself a break, then life would be a bit more peaceful. So, maybe I can explain what drives me:

There are two Chloës. Fuck it Chloë and Peaceful Chloë. We don’t get to see the latter very often because the former gets in the way. Peaceful Chloë often seems Frantic in her quest for Peace. But bear with, this is how I work:

know that ultimately there are things I need to do in this time on earth that will fulfil my spiritual expectations of myself. Often ego gets in the way but this is not what is happening here. I am not on a VeganTrain – this isn’t about fashion. Since I was a child I have tried to go veggie. I failed miserably because I literally kept forgetting and didn’t have the willpower to do it successfully, which is interesting because I was basically brought up a vegetarian in that my mum would only seem to cook quiche, pasta and omelettes. And all were without meat. In excitement on my school lunch breaks I would dig out a 50 pence piece and buy a sausage roll. I wasn’t given lunch money and was expected to go home and have a cheese sandwich instead. However, this wasn’t deemed cool and as we know, being cool has never been my go-to status but I at least needed to appear willing, so shop bought sausage rolls were bought and I nonchalantly ate them as if this were an everyday occurrence, forgetting about proclamations of being a vegetarian. I was a member of Animal Aid by about 12 and once pinned a horrific picture of a sheep in a slaughterhouse on the wall of my room so that I could macabrely remind myself and my friends of the horrors of what went on to produce the meat we ate. Since then I have tried and then failed and for as long as I can remember I have only eaten free range chicken and eggs and veered away from any caged or intensively farmed animals, clinging to the promises that the RSPCA assured us, in their blue stickered meats.

It wasn’t until I watched Earthlings last year that it was so effectively drummed into me that I was practising specieism. I loved my cats and my two chickens (but not all the other chickens I ate) and I wouldn’t eat that cow but I might eat that pig. Since watching Land of Hope and Glory last night, I kept myself in a joyful little bubble of thinking that UK slaughter houses were different. They are not. They beat piglets that aren’t thriving against the walls until they die, it’s the most cost effective way of culling. This isn’t hearsay. It’s filmed. Farmers are shown kicking the shit out of ‘free range’ pigs and torturing them for fun and a new born calf is kicked repeatedly whilst being called a ‘little fucking cunt’ and a pregnant cow kicked whilst lying down as she is ‘fucking useless’. These farms are in Dorset, Wiltshire, Somerset, Kent.. up North, down South, along to the East and not forgetting the West of the country. These are the free-range, organic farms as well as the intensive ‘shit’ ones.

This makes my heart bleed, the tears that fell as I watched this, were angry tears. Tears that, we as humans, are plundering this earth,  in a bid to push ourselves higher and higher up the ladder of our preconceived ideas of grandeur.

I am not jumping aboard a vegan wagon in a bid to be fashionable. Just the same as I am not moderating my alcohol intake to prove a point to anyone else. This is my journey and there is an inherent need to calm my disquieted mind and soul. You see the frantic me is the scared me. If I want to see good in human beings then surely I need to see good in myself first? In order for me to make changes about mine and my family’s lifestyle, I need to have a clear head. So not drinking and practising mindfulness faciliates this. Without the ups and downs of hangovers, anxiety and depression, I can start making decisions and actually sticking to them. We don’t need to eat meat. We don’t need to contribute to the torture that animals are subjected to daily. We don’t need to drink milk, it’s not for humans, it’s for calves. Yes I will miss cheese. God I will miss cheese but I will get over it and if somehow I can also bring up children that might follow this train of thought in the future, then maybe we can contribute to lower levels of carbon emissions and less flooding and just maybe, we won’t be using as much water because the food we eat doesn’t need as much as the ‘free-range’, grass pastured cow, pig or sheep.

The Peaceful Chloë is actually starting to emerge and I want my children to feel this peace. They, too, love animals. They, too, want to live in a world that feels safe. We can’t control what everyone else does but we can control what we do. The EO watched some of the films, the youngest two didn’t. However, they  solemnly agreed as I announced that I wouldn’t be bringing anymore animals products into the house.

The Frantic Chloë is calming and the kids can sense it.. Fuck it Chloë is slowly being pushed to the side and, just maybe, some will start to call me Sanctimonious Chloë 😉 .. meh… whatevs… I am sure in time they’ll get used to my levitating ways ;-)…

 

Shoes and Nail Varnish

I miss my grandmother. Things so small can suddenly remind me of her. Elderly female patients with their painted fingernails or the way they bend and reach their fingers down to remove their shoe for an examination.

She was a force to be reckoned with on the outside, soft and insecure on the inside. Crabby sometimes, like the Cancerian she was. And vain. Oh so very vain. She needed prettiness in her life to brighten the dark evenings that being alone brought her. She once said to me when I complained about a boyfriend, ‘surely it is better to at least have a man in your life, rather than have nobody?’. She craved attention and whilst loved by many, in those last 20 years, it wasn’t the kind she sought.

Brought up with austere Victorian parents who apparently didn’t have much by way of loving parenting skills and by her own limited accounts, were shy of affection or warmth. Her own house apparently should have been a bungalow except her husband refused to sleep on the ground floor and so an upstairs was built – which was a shame – he ran off with another woman not long after.

My memories of the house are that it was cold and often felt ominous. Difficult to put a finger on why but it was the sort of place where you had to sing very loudly whenever you felt scared. Just in case. I couldn’t manage to enter or exit anywhere that was dark without loud singing, it was a Ghost Shield. Central heating didn’t exist in Woodpeckers and often it felt like there was literally no heating at all except for when you were practically sat on top of a two bar electric fire or sat directly in front of the open fire, competing for space with her oversized cats. And of course then you had the choice of having one side of your body absolutely freezing and the other burning to a cinder.. so you’d quickly turn round and repeat the process on the other side. I remember in the mornings before school, watching my breath above the counterpane.. knowing that I had to somehow race across the room, plug in the electric fire and then race back, grabbing my uniform on the way and hurtling under the covers again. I would dress inside the bed, getting tangled up in my knickers and tights. Only then could I brave the ‘outside’. The bathroom and toilet were the worst. You had to brace yourself before you sat on the toilet seat… the water from the bathroom basin burning your hands and face, it was so cold. The millions of spiders in the corners that kept watch, looking on, their eight knees a-knocking.

The kitchen, was a different story. I loved the kitchen. A coal boiler in the corner, the Heat Mecca; I would worship it first thing in the morning and straight after school. There was a wicker basket beside it, just big enough for a cat much wider to try and wedge it’s gargantuan body into. The walls were yellow and white painted French windows overlooked  the wild front garden, with a string of monkey nuts hung from one tree to another. The nuts were for the birds but the squirrels would often get there first; cue Phyllis racing outside shouting at them to go away. I would sit in the kitchen at the small dining table doing my homework after school, listening to her teaching the piano to another child. She painstakingly attempted patience but both I and the pupil could hear the rising irritation as she would try not to bark “back straight, shoulders back!”.

She had shoulder length brown hair that she would curl and pin every night. She practised her floor exercises every morning and I remember being tiny, laying beside her, desperately trying to do bicycles in the air. Her nails had to be painted, usually a coral sort of colour and she wouldn’t be seen without her lipstick. If you rang the doorbell before she was dressed she would shout ‘bugger, bugger, bugger!’, with each step as she came to the front door. Seething with anger that she had been interrupted. And sometimes if you rang her on the phone you could almost hear her angrily muttering “I can’t STAND IT” as she answered. She would tell you she had no time at all to talk to you but you couldn’t get a word in edgeways until she had finished regaling her current news.  Then in a fit of fresh annoyance she would protest that you had now made her late for something and  hang up. Left open-mouthed still trying to say hello, slowly you’d replace the handset.

She loved nature. Her garden was her world. She had somehow managed to create a fantasy world for me as a child. The French windows and doors opening up onto a patio that flowed onto a rockery – full of pink flowers and jumping spiders – which led to a a lawn split into two by a flowerbed. Then there was the woodland part, to the left a black metal swing with an uncomfortable rotting, wooden seat and upon which I spent many a day swinging on.. until I felt sick. To the right there was a little copse with painted white metal furniture and between two staunch trees, lay a hammock. She would lie in it whenever she felt she had time but most often I remember her retiring there in late summer evenings. Her safe place. Past the copse the path took you to the rose garden, the apple trees and the vegetable garden. Long, hot Summer days I spent there ‘helping’ her garden. As I grew up, the more I resisted, preferring to spend time with other teenage friends, getting wasted and preying on fresh blood who simply saw me as the London bike. She gardened up until 3 weeks before she died. Balancing awkwardly on a kitchen chair, bending down to slowly pick the weeds, she refused to be beaten. I remember climbing the apple tree with my (imaginary) friends, I would dress up and pretend to have adventures; she even had a rope ladder made for me. In this same tree, my mother once sat there in her early teenage years, angrily refusing to go back into the house after having locked Phyllis and her musician friends in the front room. She caused quite a stir.

We camped when I was young. She would put the tent up in the garden and I remember lying there, the sky still light. There were long walks with picnics. So many, many picnics. No season would, or could stop the picnics. Birthday ones were a favourite. The older she got the more scant they became. For her 80th I threw her a summer party at her house and I am glad I did, as she died less than two years later. She used to have one most summers; a midsummer party based on a theme.. She would always get cross with the guests not going into the right place at the right time. “But it’s warm and light outside, why aren’t they in the garden? They should be in the garden!”. She was a social butterfly but like a moth to a flame, she would return to the house, banging against its loneliness.

When the three of us were together, my Mum would inexplicably become naughty. She couldn’t help herself. Phyllis would start a conversation, Mum would snigger and make a joke and before we knew it, the three of us would be snorting, then howling with laughter. I miss that. I miss that so much.

The house was sold and within a few years it had been sold again and knocked down by developers. I have seen the new house, mostly in dreams. And I still see Woodpeckers. I am never afraid now and I know Phyllis is dead but she comes back to life in her bed upstairs and the doctors are baffled. And then I nurse her while she dies again. I put this down to guilt or grief, as the day I decided not to stay with her in hospital, happened to be the day she died.

Finally, my favourite memory is on Christmas Day and us squishing in her queen size bed, Mum at the end.. all of our legs managing to find space. And on the bed too, was a baby rabbit I had received just before Xmas, Cecily Parsley (later named Cecil.. for obvious reasons). S/he bounded about the bed, skipping and causing us to squeal with joy. Droppings pinging everywhere but we didn’t care. He slept in a box next to the cats, by the boiler until he was old enough to move into a hutch.

Whether our paths will ever cross again, who knows.. But each time I see a rose, or smell lavender, or I hear the word ‘Bugger!’ – I’ll always have her close to me.

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Fragility

Like an icicle melded to a branch, as the heat rises the tell-tale shadow of a hairline crack snakes its way through. It drips.

I drive to work, empty. Even the sound of the radio would be too coarse, too damaging to my heart. It contracts, not just as a means to an end but with pain. He can’t help himself. He is young. He ssss-stammers his anger out, he literally writhes with his emotional angst because no-one can understand his grief. He is incensed that he is questioned, that he has been denied. His small, lithe body squirming as he screams vitriol. My heart hammering, blood pounding in my ears as I try and control the torrent that courses through my veins. I cajole, I threaten, I comfort, I cry. Nothing changes the pattern. It is on repeat. It drips.

Letters and emails, phone-calls and a million conversations. Should have dones, would have dones, a zillion recriminations. Nothing changes.

I stroke his head as he sobs himself to sleep. I place my hands on his head and back, willing energy to pass through. I need to heal him. For him. For me. For everyone. It drips.

I arrive at work. I brace myself for the day ahead. It must have got colder because the icicle has stopped melting. The threatening minuscule divide has ceased to explore further. But I remember, nothing changes.