Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Deal

I had been warned that the only thing I would ever be able to do with a music degree was to teach but I had other ideas in my mind as I sat across the table from Mr Clarke, the careers officer.

At 14 years old, I had set my heart on playing in a world class orchestra and travelling the world to perform great masterpieces to halls of appreciative audiences. Why would I think of a career in teaching, if I was to spend my days jet setting and living out of a suitcase, in the most exciting cities of the world?

I practised everyday - for hours at a time. I passed my exams with great marks and secured a place at college in Manchester to do a degree in 'Band Musicianship'. It was all very exciting in 1989 - the 'Madchester' music scene had taken off and as friends took up places at more elite institutions in London, my route was straight up the M6 - where I moved into a bedsit in Salford and discovered the joys of the Hacienda, Stone Roses and bowl-head haircuts.

I also discovered that it was very difficult to enjoy the delights of a blossoming social life and keep up the practice regime that I had so diligently followed in pursuit of my northern escape. Somehow I emerged from those 3 years with a second class honours degree and then sat in the pub on the day of my final tutorial with the words of Mr Clarke ringing in my ears.

In 1992, I waved many of my peers off as they went to do a Post-Grad in teaching. I went to the job centre and found a position in retail. It was music retail, so I managed to appease my folks that it was at least somehow related and well worth the massive student loans I had taken out to support my (Ahemm) ...musical career...

Don't get me wrong here - some of my friends went on to have very successful careers as musicians.

I worked for HMV. And then I caved in at the thought of having to work on Christmas Eve and New Years Day for the rest of my life and decided to train to be a teacher. For me it seemed, Mr Clarke was correct.

And now it is 2015. My teaching days are over for now at least, as I have spent many years in an advisory role. I don't use my music knowledge at all - in fact I haven't played for 15 years.

But I loved teaching the very youngest children when I was in school. There is something so magical about the child who is convinced that they have the skills of spiderman or the exuberant nature of a four year old that tells you with such passion that they are going to be a scientist, a footballer or a ballet dancer.

'Why not?' I would say. After all, I am not Mr Clarke.

Amidst all of the reading, writing, scientific enquiry and a curriculum that is bursting at the seams - there is one objective that is planned for every single day in the Nursery class. As teachers of young children, we are required to explore the concept of 'fair' and 'unfair'.

We all grow up with an expectation that things should be fair. From our earliest days in the Nursery class (just like the one I taught in), we are conditioned to spot when things are not fair. We are aptly trained along the way, to identify when we or someone else is getting a poor deal and we want to fix it in some way.

From who has the biggest slice of cake to how somebody jumped the queue in the post office - we spot it straight away and if we are confident then we try to correct it.

Children especially are the first to call out that something is 'not fair'. They become experts at bargaining and negotiating from a very young age and like adults, there are always a few that find it difficult to shift their thinking and be less selfish.

But actually, right here in my new normal, I have felt compelled lately to insist that it would be far more useful to explore the concept that some things in life just aren't fair. I have reflected on this greatly and decided that as a child, it would have been more useful to grow up with the understanding that sometimes the concept of fairness just doesn't apply.

Sometimes, when you experience an earth shattering loss - like I did when my world came crumbled around me, there is no amount of adjustment, bargaining or negotiating that will alter the situation to one which is 'fair'.

As stupid as it may sound, it is the mind blowing unfairness that my husband died so young that has been probably the most difficult part of my situation to try and come to terms with. I stopped short of using the word resolve because there will never be a conclusion.

I am clever enough, despite my 'mickey mouse music degree' (as the lovely Mr Clarke put it), to realise as an adult that life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people right?

It isn't fair that Bebe died.
It isn't fair that he died just as he was reaching a point where things were going well for him in every single aspect of his life.
It isn't fair that his parent's had to see their only son die, just as they had begun to enjoy a more mature and adult relationship with him.
It stinks that his sisters have lost their brother, and their children have been robbed of their uncle.
It isn't fair that someone who only ever thought of other people and who never put themselves first for anything, winds up with cancer.

It isn't fair that I have to pick myself up from all of this and carve a new life out that I didn't plan and I didn't choose. If I sound bitter, then it is because I am. It is softening with time but it still tastes sharp.

When children see an injustice, they speak up straight away. They put up their hand or they call out. Or they run over to an adult to complain that things aren't as they should be and the adult sorts it out.

I am not a child, I am a forty-five year old woman. I call out in the middle of the night and all I am met with is silence. There is no-one to fix this violation.

So what do I take from this? What would I like others to take from this?

I didn't choose for any of this to happen. But I can choose how I react to it.

Firstly, I accept that I have struggled because I have been conditioned to think that everything in life should be fair and I have had a personal and brutal awakening that clearly this can not and does not happen.

Secondly, although it seems that life has been hideously unjust to Bebe and all who loved him, we are a grain of sand in the sea of horrible things that happen the world over on a daily basis. It is important to realise this because otherwise the mind can wander to thinking that 'evil just got personal' and that is not the absolute truth.

Thirdly, I must stop comparing my life to that of others who are enjoying their own 'highs' right now. The new job, the new house, the birth of a new baby in the family, the planning of a wedding, the joy of a loving relationship and fabulous travels together. We experienced all of those. Life was more than fair to us then and a million times over, we believed we were the luckiest and happiest people on earth.

It is okay for me to accept that what happened is grossly unfair. This is a very important aspect for me to accept and it is rather more helpful for me to view it this way than to look for some kind of supernatural or spiritual reason for my loss. I refuse to somehow negotiate with life and all it's complexities in order to 'let it off the hook' or 'forgive it' in some way. I accepted when life was good to us, so I shall accept that it dealt us the crap.

Have I come to terms with my loss? I am a work in progress.
Have I accepted that my loss was unfair? Yes.

Life is not fair.
Life can be cruel.
But I know that life can be beautiful. It was once and it will be again.

For Bebe: If I had not met you, I would not have realised just how beautiful life can be! It is more than okay for me to moan about how unfair things were - because they were. But I also know that it would drive you mad if I didn't accept the unfairness of it all and then move forward.


  1. I think this many times when I see others having what I conceive as being 'fair'. What has happened to us isn't fair and I would give anything to make my life how it was again. However, I am trying to make my life the best I can, I have choices now that before would not have been possible and I look at my new normal as being amazing, even if it is not what I want. I think your thoughts and journey through this mess will all end up in the right place and it will be good again xx

    1. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment. It means such a lot to know that I am writing about aspects of widowhood that other people in this new world can relate to. You have a superly positive attitude Suz and it also means a lot that you took the time to share it with me because it helps me progress too. xxE


Thankyou for taking the time to read my blog. I am interested to know about your experiences and your thoughts.