Letter number nine

Dear Vivienne,

It feels that I should already have written a letter to you, but I don’t think that I have. If I have already, consider this a bonus, and if I have not, then here is your letter.

A few days ago, you read my blog ‘I am single’ and sent me a message that kinda blew me away and I have not yet responded to you. Sometimes people say things to me that seem so powerful, so kind, generous and all those things that feel so humbling. There aren’t enough words to say thank you and I love you all in one. Maybe this is why people use emojis. Sometimes words seem too little.

I met you first as a student, and my overwhelming first impression was that you were shorter than me (a lot of people are), blonde and northern. Maybe this was not so much an impression, but statement of fact. We were doing the same course and although our peer groups were different, the course was sufficiently small to create overlap. Things I remember from that time include watching you contend with a fever by bundling yourself up in a huge amount of blankets and duvets and me genuinely wondering if this might, in fact, finish you off altogether. You including me in a cinema visit with your friends and then bailing, so much argh for me, but Ghost World was officially amazing, which more than made up for the fear of having to contend with people that I didn’t know too well. And drinking with you in halls on the last night of term, where I was throwing shots over my shoulder because I didn’t want to drink them, and you not noticing until the following day when you saw a big sticky mess on the floor (It was Galiano, no one should ever shot that). I should probably write a blog about being in student halls, but that might be much too incriminating.

You were also really good with my hair. You cut it, coloured it all sorts of mad colours, stripes and bands of purples and reds. You also straightened my hair for me when I was going out. You looked after me and made me pretty. After we had finished our degrees, you went back up north, but still came ‘down south’ on occasion and always found time to come and see me. Even now you have moved to the other side of the world, you still make that time (whilst accumulating much time in the sky). It means a lot to me. When you asked if my daughter would be your bridesmaid when you got married, it was endorsement of all the love I felt for you. You are amazing. You are amazing. It is definitely worthy of saying twice.

Sometimes my life is hard and I won’t always share this with others, because talking about miseries does not always serve a purpose. Some people have told me how strong I am, how resilient I must be. And I am possibly both these things. But I am also vulnerable, which doesn’t come across so readily. Your text hit my soft bit, made me feel a crumply mess of almost tears and heart singing gratitude for you being in my life.

Thank you

Love always

Sally.xx

Map Point. Who understands my vulnerabilities?

Picture note – these are Vivienne’s words, but are surely meant in a metaphorical rather than physical way! They make me smile muchly.

Fix

I used to work with people who had significant issues. My job was to help them to achieve some life skills and independence. I would metaphorically parachute in once a week and offer support, comedic entertainment and optimistically they would gain a new perspective or skill. Then I would go, and their lives would continue muchly as they had before my arrival. Interlude over. I am not trying to be cynical or undervalue the assistance that I offered, but sometimes I feel that way with friendships too. I want to be able to offer so much more. If I see pain, I try to help, but I can never really know the impact I have on others. I can guess, presume, assume (there is a difference..) and hope that whatever I am doing has value.

I have a particular friend, Cassie, whose life resembles the contents of my wire bag. This bag is a huge tangly mess and has what feels like every wire I have ever owned in it. And quite possibly it does, given my magpie-like nature.  She has many issues, and if I were to approach her like someone who I was working with, I still would find it tricky to know where to start. But I go to see her, she makes drinks and helps me with things that I find tricky. Then I listen to her and we try to bring a little order to some of her chaos.

It humbles me. Cassie is someone whose life, by my appraisal, is hard. But irrespective of how bad her day is, we have an utterly reciprocal friendship. I always feel glad to see her, she is funny, usually in a self-deprecating way, and she has such amazing strength, which she doesn’t always credit herself with. I think that she is the kind of woman that one day will see just how amazing she is and at that point, she will bloom. It is a day that I feel genuinely excited about.

I don’t think that I can ever know precisely how valuable I am to someone else. But I completely understand how valuable the people that I love are to me. They are all shiny.xx

Map Point. Who helps to fix me?

Eighth letter

Dear Anne and Victoria,

This is my thank you to you both. The presence you have had in my life has been one of support, love and a genuine desire to see me happy. I love you both dearly.

I first met Anne at the baby clinic, where parents go to make sure that their babies are growing properly (and sometimes to watch the people weighing the babies play on their phones, but that is another story). Anne was wearing some amazingly purple trousers and from then on, I very much hoped that we could be friends! We started talking, our daughters were nine months apart, so it was a friendship of lots of baby play dates. Swimming and coffee seemed to be our weekly purpose for quite a while.

When we got to the stage of trusting each other more and sharing our histories, it became obvious that we had both gone through some similar, but not same, experiences. Finding other people that can empathise with what you have gone through is just so very important. It takes away the isolation. And there was the shared humour, the love of board games and the passion we both have for our children. You are utterly the sister that I never had.

And Victoria. You are one of the funniest people I know. Your facial expressions, your deadpan humour, your sharp observation makes you an amazing story teller, and your stories are the stuff of legend! You also had a way of knowing what people want before they ever have to ask. You get that.

You both gave me so much guidance, so much love. When I went through tough times, you were there for me, you looked out for me and my daughter. When I saw you both, it felt like I was home. And when you have had hard times, I hope that I have been able to offer this feeling in return.

I think what I want to thank you both most for was showing me how to be a good mum.

Love always

Sally.xx

The birds on the rooftops

I found myself listening to the birds singing their evening tweetings and was suddenly aware that my eyes were leaking. The massive panoramas of beautiful vast places are easy to feel a sense of awe about. A sense of spirituality. I think that we all find this in our day to day, generally without even thinking about it. This world is a place filled with possibility, and we are people of much curiosity.

It is seriously easy to assess our time with negative things, to mark off the milestones with the disappointments and hardships. But what if we marked off our time by the things that have amazed us, by the things that have elevated us. That would be better.

I went to university when I was twenty-five and made a conscious decision not to share any of my sad stories. Before this, I had sort of carved my personality around them. It wasn’t that I was always unhappy, as there were definite ‘up’ times, but I didn’t understand myself well enough to be able to maintain that for extended periods of time. So sad stories became something of a theme. However removing all my sad stories, it transpires, wasn’t enough to make me happy. So I began to make changes.

For me, change wasn’t an all overnight thing. I have the deepest admiration for those who can make decisive cuts into their lives and have the tenacity to stick with it. So from my mid-twenties, changes have been small.

I think that the purchase of me new rock boots marked a new era (aged twenty five). They are massive, they are striking, they are happiness in the shape of a boot. I stand over six foot when I wear them (the platform is intense!). However the boots themselves are utterly arbitrary, but it’s how when I wear them that’s important. And I feel amazing. The same applies when I dye my hair. My hair when I was small was a rich chestnutty auburn, but has faded up over the years. And as such, I occasionally put a bit of colour in it. My favourite would likely be a bright post box red. The feeling that I get when I change my physicality, be it through different clothes, hair or make up, gives me an instant inherent confidence, I feel like the person that I am meant to be.

In understanding the link that my physical self has on my mental state was empowering. But it didn’t change the basic way I was feeling, it could provide a short term boost, but nothing that could be sustained (I now understand why some people obsessively clothes shop!). Then after my daughter’s dad left, things started to change emotionally for me. I learnt who I wanted to be. This was the first time in my adult life that I had been single for a sustained period of time, and I also had a three year old to take care of too. It was scary, my Mum’s support was invaluable, and I coped. I developed a strong circle of friends around me, people that I could genuinely rely on, which although I had epic friends before, I acquired more! Through these beautiful friendships, I learnt so much more about me. For the first time, I could see my strength. And from that position, I started to see beauty and my place in my world.

The birds are still tweeting.

Map Point. What changes have I made recently?

 

 

My amazing friend

This morning I went to visit my friend Trevor. Trevor is someone who I have known for around fifteen years, he has always been a friend who is guaranteed to give wise counsel, amazing ideas and a somewhat wry sense of humour. He is someone who always uplifts me, he makes me feel good.

This morning I told him about my life, the people I have recently met, how my daughter is doing, this blog and also the current political situation (which is worthy of note!). I also gave him a heads up on what was going on around him, as Trevor is currently in hospital in the ICU. He has many wires and tubes attached. He is aware enough to squeeze my hand but had not yet opened his eyes post surgery. I also talked a bit about the football.

Midway through my visit, there were some bits that needed to be done, so I went to the waiting area. I cried a little bit. Seeing anyone I love in such a situation is hard, but I am reassured that having visitors, irrespective of how much awareness is going on, is important to recovery. I also thought about the things that I am currently stressing over, and what a sharp relief that was. If all I have to worry about is a few letters and phone calls, then my life is indeed very blessed.

I was called back in by the nurse so I could see him again before I left and he opened his eyes. I was blown away. There is something about being able to look into someone else’s eyes, and have them look back into yours that is utterly beautiful. I have every confidence that Trevor will get back to his usual tip-top form as soon as possible, and he is in my thoughts always.

Map Point. Which people do I love spending time with?

 

 

My Scary Scary Cupboard of Spice

The photo attached to this particular blog was the contents of my spice and vinegar cupboard. I had multiple duplicates (a few scarily out of date, as is the tradition of the cupboard of spice for me), as clearly I have utterly no idea what was in there. I get the impression that I buy spices based on a singular recipe then banish them to the cupboard and they seldom ever see the light of day again.

I know that I hoard elsewhere in my life, but food seems to be a weird one. Food is perishable, I don’t have favourite memories attached to a particular can of tomatoes, I take a deep sense of pride in my spotlessly mould free refrigerator, so am struggling so ascertain the rationale behind my deluge of spice.

A friend has a house that has much more food (though am not sure on her spice detail) than mine does. The fridge is generally rammed and to locate food in her cupboard generally involves removing at least three more favourable items. She said that she likes to feel that she has a store of stuff, it makes her feel safe. This doesn’t really relate to my particularly deliciously scented cupboard, but it’s good to consider all variables.

I think that for me the cupboard represents possibility. The possibility that I will make more delicious foods with an amazingly incredible array of spices. It is the cupboard of good intentions and broken promises. It is a cupboard that silently mocks me – for everything that I could possibly do if I were to risk a little bit more.

My Mum often laments about her she doesn’t like more foods and wishes that she did. My daughter has friends who seem to survive on an incredibly limited diet. Maybe some of us simply don’t have the conditioning to accept new tastes, or maybe the choices are too vast.

I have a friend, Laurel, who is a fearless warrior when it comes to food. Whenever I go to her house, I am amazed and more amazed by what she has created. I have experienced cold pressed coffee, homemade vanilla essence, a huge array of vegan paleo food and her fridge is a sea of glass containers filled with unknown delights. This is also the exceptional woman who when I first found myself unable to tolerate dairy when I was a student, brought me round bags of shopping, filled with dairy-free delights. She loves food, is passionate about food and is generous with her talent.

So, back to the cupboard. I dutifully cleaned it all out and returned most of it to the shelves, creating a little space with the removal of sad, unloved and unused, spices. I think it is likely time to go have a chat with Laurel.

Map Point. Which of my friends have the knowledge I want?