Thursday, 30 April 2015

The Schedule

I approached my thirties with a grand degree of optimism. The previous decade had been an absolute joy and so utterly carefree that I never felt an ounce of apprehension as the big ‘three zero’ approached because I had every reason to believe that my life was on track. 

I always had this ‘thing’ that I would say to myself which went along the lines of ‘if I was to die right now, then I have reached every goal and achieved all that I wanted to do by this time in my life so far’.  

It wasn’t that I was particularly ambitious or that I had consciously set myself a host of goals but I had sketched some sort of vision of how my life might be and I had a rough plan of how I might negotiate the journey. As I look back, I guess I had some kind of tick box that was tucked away in my subconscious. 

So, the big things in life were sorted by 30. 

I had got married 3 years previously (to the one before Bebe) in a kind of ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’ kind of way.

Don’t get me wrong, it was love. But in hindsight, which we know is a perfect science, it was probably a little hasty to get engaged in less than 2 weeks and married just a few months later. But like my sleep habits, falling in love was a kind of boom and bust thing for me back then – and I was clearly in a boom period.

The bust bit came a few years later and not without complexity. Following a magnificent thirtieth birthday, we had settled down to start a family. But a series of tragic and life changing circumstances completely de-railed the love train.

My closest friend had taken her own life just months before. She had suffered with depression for her whole adult life and made a choice to leave this world. I understand now that she didn’t want to cause us any pain but at the time, I was so full of anger. I was the one who found her and my then husband was the one who tried to resuscitate her. It was a horrific experience that I hoped with all of my heart would bring us even closer together. I equally feared that it would not.

Despite living with the nightmare of post-traumatic stress, we twice entered the heavenly heights of anticipated parenthood together. I was pregnant during the inquest but collapsed a few days later at work, only to wake up in recovery with the dreadful news that I had suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy at the life-threatening stage of 13 weeks. I had lost 2 litres of blood, along with our baby and was left with the stark realisation that this thirties lark was going to be harder than I had imagined.

The second loss tipped us over the edge. We lived in the most beautiful house and were financially stable, with both our careers looking promising. I climbed on the grief train and he fell off the wagon. Living in a dream home and going on expensive holidays to far flung destinations don’t fix that kind of thing as it turns out. 

We had both been so badly damaged that the only fix was to be separate. In the early hours of yet another morning, when he hadn’t come home – I packed all that was precious into my car and I drove away. On reflection, it was an act of love for us both.

The schedule was wiped. However, I was able to gradually sort myself out after the obligatory chaotic party period (yes the thirties crisis had hit!) and I just seemed to bounce back. Being on my own was something of a therapy. I landed a job, I bought my own house which was tiny and modest, and filled it with second hand furniture. I dated the most unsuitable men and had a sumptuous fling with an old flame. I got to a place where I was thankful that I had inadvertently been gifted with a new chance at life. 

With life’s timeline in shreds, my timings on a smaller scale had also become a little shaky. I would arrive at work within a shrapnel of a moment to spare but yet be the last to leave. It didn’t seem to matter how much time I would allow myself to get ready for an appointment because there was always a sudden dash at the last moment because I had dilly dallied and failed to keep a close enough eye on the clock.

I would always be a little late to the ball or get lost on the way and turn up as the lights came on. Either way, I went out looking like Cinderella but returned home looking like maleficent. Snow White I was not.

So it was no surprise to me at least that when I met Bebe, he was early to pick me up for our date and I was running ridiculously late getting ready. 

I had been chatting on the phone to a friend, getting a last minute pep talk on how to apparently ‘Wow!’ my suitor that I had completely lost track of time and when the doorbell rang, I was half clothed, half made up and not in the slightest bit ‘Wow!’ at all.

But as he stepped through the door, he didn’t bat an eye lid. It was like he had come home.
He wrapped his arms around me and I stood on tiptoes to reach him as we kissed. He seemed to tower above me in his 6ft frame and when we sank into the sofa, it was already clear that my tiny house was not only filled with junk furniture – it was also filled with love.

In my new normal, one of the most challenging questions to come to terms with has been the one of ‘what if?’ 

More specifically, I have battled with the ‘what if I had done this?’ or ‘what if I had done that?

What if I had spotted something was wrong earlier?
What if I had urged him to go to the doctor sooner instead of supporting his mission at the physiotherapist? 
What if I had realised that he was losing weight before it was so obvious in the week before diagnosis?
What if I had noticed that he was eating a little less than normal?

I have already talked about what ifs but they still creep in, nearly one year on.
But they aren’t helpful to me. 
They are questions I will never know the answer to and I have already addressed the excruciating frustration of the why and the wherefore in my previous post
I can not go on like this with these questions haunting me.
I refuse to punish myself even more and live on this monorail of torture. 
When you love someone so deeply it is magical - but does not bring the kind of magic that comes with having a crystal ball.
Bad things happen to really good people. 
It sucks beyond description but it is what it is. 

I commit myself to asking only the questions that are helpful for me to move forward.
It is up to me to change my own thinking. I have the power to do this.
In my new normal, I have lost the power or control to do so much but I am in charge of my brain and I can make it my enemy or ensure that it is my friend.
I refuse to be unkind to myself any longer. I am sad enough and I have mountains to climb here.
I need will not beat myself up with guilt in a world where quite frankly shit just happens.

So. Instead - the questions I ask are now in reverse.
I ask myself 'What if I had not..?'
What if I hadn’t experienced such tragedy in my life?
What if I hadn’t experienced the loss of my babies?
What if I hadn’t been through the heartache of realising that I couldn’t survive in my first marriage?
What if I hadn’t had the courage to walk away and start again with nothing?
What if I hadn’t moved back to Manchester after those miserable years of living in Sheffield?
What if I hadn’t taken the chance to meet Bebe because he was 6 years younger than me and he lived too far away?
What if I hadn’t abandoned my schedule and pressed on regardless?

These are the questions that are helpful to me. I have answers to them now and see clearly that all of these cruel events and the terribly difficult decisions that I made with a tired and tattered heard were an important part of my journey that preceded meeting the one that really mattered.

If I had not been through these traumas and if I had not abandoned my schedule, then I would never have lived the truly wonderful life that we had together and I would not have known the real meaning of love.

Real love does not disappear because difficult times are pressed upon us. It doesn’t begin to slip away but rather it continues to grow. The roots of this kind of love deepen, they bond you together and hold you steadfast.  The harder life gets, the stronger love becomes.
It doesn’t weaken, or crumble or thin out when life vomits tragedy.
Instead, it rises up and proves itself with magnificent authenticity.

That kind of love screams out - yet you can’t hear it.

You feel it. You trust it.

I know the love between Bebe and I was real. It showed me that previously it never really existed. No matter how hard I clung on to it or tried to mould it.

Our love was not malleable. It was like water because it naturally found its own way by seeping to the very roots of our relationship where it nourished us and gave us room to grow stronger together.

It lasted on earth until the end. And still it continues after death in so many ways because it is eternal.

For Bebe: When my thinking becomes unhelpful to my progress, I seek to reprogram my thoughts and reverse them as promptly as possible. I am thankful for the traumas I experienced before we met and recognise that they were all part of the jigsaw that brought us together. They helped build my resilience and led me to recognise real love. If I had not been through such pain, I would have been a different person and in an entirely different place.

 The pain I am learning to live with now that you are gone, is nothing in comparison to the torture of imagining a world in which you and I never met. And I continue to move forward with you in my heart.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful words from one of the bravest ladies I know x
    I remember your sparkle and shine, even in those darkest of days.
    Keep strong lovely lady, you continue to wow us all with your inner sunshine, radiance and light.
    Much love, x 💙


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