0

She’s beautiful

5th May 1945

Dear Ted

It’s difficult for me to write you as we are complete strangers, but I’ve heard of you through B.. and no doubt I was mentioned to you perhaps in a letter.

To explain my writing to you –  in B..’s (or did you call him Tommy?) well anyway, in his personal effects one or two of your letters were returned and I felt I must write and break the news to you – even so I’m afraid it’s very delayed.

Last July – the 21st, I heard that B.. was reported missing over Essen. One of his crew was reported POW seven weeks after and he wrote us that he was the sole survivor. Since then, I have heard officially that B.. and the crew are buried at Schoppingen in Germany.

Unless you have heard from any other source I don’t doubt this news will be a great shock to you. Naturally, it was a very bitter blow to me – after four months of married life. He was a good guy and well thought of.

I found your home address in amongst books, papers etc and I’m hoping your mother or wife will pass it on to you wherever you are. If you have written at all, I expect your letters will have been returned so you’ll know now just why.

I trust you are in good health and spirits at the latest turn in this darned war.

Sincerely yours,

P..T..

PS Tommy has a daughter too – what a pity he didn’t know she’s beautiful.

The above letter was written to my Uncle Ted.  It’s one of a few letters he received, that have survived intact from his time serving during and after World War II. I was going through some of the letters today and this one made me sit quietly and think, as it has done every time I’ve read it. Yesterday (27th January) was Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the nazi death camps. The letters that my uncle received tell only a fraction of the human stories behind the tragedies, behind the atrocities. The letters are a sobering insight into the true cost of fighting tyranny. The memorials serve to not only remember those that lost their life but to remind us that we must never let it happen again.

I personally find it slightly surreal and incredible that on the same day that we remember the millions that died in the nazi death camps because of their religious belief, sexual orientation or political standing, POTUS signs an order “protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process”. Interestingly, though this order is publicised as an action of his first week in office, the actual order has yet to be published. Its widely reported that this presidential order bans refugees and those from 7, predominantly Muslim, countries.

There seem to be no such qualms about publishing the order that reinforces the intention to build a wall between the US & Mexico.

Actions have consequences. It’s simply physics. Actually, I may take the liberty of rewording that, there is, in my opinion, nothing simple about physics! Newton’s Third Law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Now Newton may have been talking about motion, but the law is just as applicable, I think, to human behaviour. In simple terms, actions have consequences.

I was speaking to my friend (the little minx from my last blog post). She told me how she had come to a new school, struck up a friendship with a boy and had no thoughts about who and how people were linked by friendships. Her actions had completely unintentional consequences. She said that she just lacked an awareness of what was going on around her and she feels that trait has actually followed her through her life. She had no idea of the profound effect her actions were having on me. She gave me another example of a throwaway comment she made that was relayed back to her decades later. Again, she spoke with no thought for the consequence. She wasn’t being deliberately cruel or spiteful – she doesn’t have those bones in her body -, from her perspective, in the case of X, all she was doing was making a friend and the case of the throwaway comment, she was just thinking out loud. We all do it. We all do it multiple times a day. What we don’t all do is have the awareness to realise when we should just keep quiet. Little Minx (she’s gonna hate me for dubbing her that) has learned the lesson, though. She now has enough self-awareness to recognise her occasional lack of sensitivity to what it going on around her.

The point is (yes, there is a point) we aren’t always aware of what is going on around us. We don’t always know what battles others are fighting. That harsh word spoken to you by a colleague may be the consequence of a turmoil they are experiencing of which you have no knowledge. I try to remind myself of this. I admit, I sometimes forget to remind myself of this. It’s not always easy to disconnect from a hurtful comment, but if it comes from a person who isn’t usually deliberately hurtful, then maybe it’s time to ask them if they’re ok or if you can be an ear for them. Maybe if we were all just a little more considerate, charitable and kinder toward each other, there would be altogether less pain in the world. The only actions you can control are your own. The only reactions you’re responsible for are your own.

It’s now Sunday and I’m thinking about P..’s words about her daughter. Her father, shot down over Germany, fighting a war to end tyranny and persecution. Her mother’s letter to a stranger to explain a lack of communication. An act of kindness to put a potentially troubled mind at ease. A simple declaration of facts without effusive emotion, but leaving in no doubt that the writer was a caring, kind person. Widowed after only 4 months of marriage and mother to a beautiful child who would never know her father. All actions have consequences. The ones you see, the ones you anticipate and the ones you have no idea about. Be mindful of this as you go about your day.

1

Am I the only one who…

I’m pretty certain, actually, 100% convinced, that I’m not the only one who silently cheers when I read a headline that states the bull gored the bullfighter to death. Hell, I’m also pretty certain I’m not the only one who engages in a little fist pump to go along with said quiet acknowledgement of the bull’s victory. I don’t actually read the article mind you. I find it far too distressing that bullfighting is still acceptable, in some parts of the world.

I know for a fact I’m not the only one who reminisces about my youth with a little rosy glow and perhaps some tinted specs. I was chatting with a friend about this very topic, and in particular, first love a few days ago. I hope she doesn’t mind me reproducing it here to dramatic effect… Actually, I know she won’t mind because I said I was going to, and if the subject of my first love happens to be reading this – yes, I know you know who you are – then, I hope your memories are as fond as mine. To spare his blushes, I won’t use his real name but will refer to him as, simply, X.

I think I can safely say that the loss of X at the tender age of 10, was my first foray into heartbreak. I cried rivers over him. Sadly, he was not the last boy I have cried over. We first met around the age of 6 at school (no brainer really). We became virtually inseparable very quickly and we spent every spare moment we had (you know, that time between school finishing and tea time and then again between tea time and bed time) together. I was either at his house or he was at mine. I loved being at his house, it was so much bigger than mine, plus he had a sister and I’d always wanted one of them. Hmm, was I materialistic 6-year-old or were my preferences borne out of his house having just so many more rooms to play in? I clearly remember that the bathroom was significantly larger than my apartment is today and I can’t get close to describing how wonderful his garden was. So, materialistic tendencies aside, our friendship blossomed into the kind of romance that only kids seem to have. Pure, cute, tender, loving and safe. We were joined at the hip. We would hold hands and kiss during playtime at school (this was the 70s; it wasn’t illegal then!), we would sit in the field behind my house and talk about our future. We were obviously going to be married. We were obviously going to have 6 kids, although I think we both believed that you either bought babies at a special shop or the stork left them under a rose bush. We were going to live on a farm and we were going to be blissfully happy with each other. We never said “until our dying day”, as we didn’t know what death was.

Then, at the age of 10, he got the whiff of fresh meat and I was dumped. I was devastated. The little minx who stole him away from me was a new girl at school. She came, she saw and she got my man! I went from spending all my time with X to staying inside and crying on the floor. Such was my heartbreak. My Mother explained away my pain by simply claiming that I’d never really had a friend before X (bit brutal, I had friends!) and that I was not grieving the loss of my soulmate and future husband, but merely the loss of a friend. I didn’t really understand what she was banging on about then, but nearly 40 years later I can understand that she wasn’t ready to see her 10-year-old married off to some cad who could so easily have his head turned. Then, the unexpected happened, X’s Mother whipped him out of the local primary school and sent him across the country to another school. Well, it was actually in a nearby village, but it could have been another country for all the difference it made. Neither I nor new girl saw him again.

The friend I was chatting with a few days ago about first loves, is actually the new girl who stole my man. We actually became great friends. She asked me the other day why I didn’t hate her. I answered, quite truthfully, that I didn’t know I was supposed to. It wasn’t her who had hurt me; X was the cause of my suffering. I’ve heard that used as an excuse by those who carry on dalliances with married men/women. The fact that they are not the one actually cheating on the wife/husband, would seem to absolve them from all liability. Obviously, this example is a little different to my childhood love, but it’s an interesting argument to ponder.

With heartbreak number 1 securely under my belt. Comprehensive school beckoned and a whole new game began.

I don’t imagine I’m the only one that had their heart smashed to smithereens as a child. At the time, I didn’t really understand why I was hurting so much. My Mother’s attempts to make me feel better failed miserably. Actually, when I really think about it, I don’t think I’ve talked to her about boys since! Oh dear. The first boy I brought home at around 16, was met by my Father and our exuberant Boxer dog! He didn’t come to my house again and I never brought another boyfriend back to meet my parents. The next guy they met had already been living with me for a few months before they even got to hear about him, let alone meet him!

My dad took full advantage of Rusty – the Boxer – and the fact that all you had to do to make Rusty foam at the mouth and look like he was going to eat you alive, was grab his collar. Rusty was a rescue dog. He was the subject of an RSPCA prosecution case and so we didn’t get to know much about him, but my dad was told a few facts when he and my Mother went to see him. My Dad had Boxer dogs all his adult life. I got my first Boxer – Skipper –  when I was a mere toddler. Truth be known, I’d spent months stamping up and down the stairs at home chanting “I want a pony” and getting a puppy Boxer instead (I like to think he was all mine, but actually he was for the family) was simply the best thing to ever happen to me. Anyway, the point is, my dad knew Boxers and knew how to handle them. Skipper had died, I’d finally come out of my room and my brother had started to speak again, and it was time for another dog. My parents crossed the mighty Pennines, passed the dark, satanic mills and arrived at a Boxer rescue centre.

Rusty, or Rastas, as he was then called was approximately 2 years old. This was his second stay in a centre and he was proving extremely difficult to rehome. My parents were his last chance. His previous rehoming ended badly when he was simply turfed back out onto the streets of Manchester to fend for himself. Sickening to do that to an animal. Rusty was wearing a red cat collar. The centre said that he simply refused to have it removed. Rusty was also bald, one of his jowls had been ripped, his jaws no longer fitted together and he had been beaten and kicked badly enough that it seemed a rib or two had broken and healed. My Dad took the lead and collar we’d used for Skipper and put them on Rusty. The centre didn’t think Rusty would walk with my dad or even take to him at all, such was his experiences. But, that could not have been further from what happened. Rusty walked with my Dad as if he was at Crufts. We had our new family member. It wasn’t always easy with Rusty, but he and I formed an incredibly special bond. He was, without any doubt, my dog. I remember when my parents brought him into the house on that first day. I was standing in the kitchen and the back door opened. This thing just charged in, charged through every room in the house, ran up and down the stairs and finally jumped up at my Dad, nearly knocking him off his feet. We definitely had a lot of work to do with this fella. We managed to get his cat collar off and replace it with Skipper’s old one. It was pretty loose for a while, but as Rusty started to gain weight (and fur) it seemed the right place for it to be.

We don’t know the outcome of the RSPCA prosecution case against Rusty’s former owners. I don’t want to know the full horror that Rusty went through as a puppy. I do know that when he sadly had to be put to sleep, he had had an amazing life with a family that loved him very much. Rusty brought a lot of joy into my family and I like to think we gave him a really happy life in return. I’m not the only one who can’t understand why humans treat other species with such cruelty and I commend all those that work tirelessly to try to make sure mistreated animals are represented, rescued and cared for.

In case you’re wondering, I do know what became of X. Although, we haven’t seen each other since we were kids, we are in touch. I like to remind him that he broke my heart and hence ruined me for every man I’ve met subsequently. I suspect he believes he had a lucky escape…!

 

 

0

Jigsaws and how do you know its the right part?

I’m full of how? How do you know if something is right? How do you know if the piece fits? How do you make a choice, and not just any old choice, but the right choice? The best choice? The good choice? So, the box I’m thrusting my hand into in order to choose the new parts for my life; how do I know its the right part?

Trust your gut? Trust that hidden, internal feeling? That instinct? How can you trust your gut when the only good decision it’s made recently is whether or not chocolate counts as dinner; and even that was a bit of a questionable one. Apparently chocolate isn’t a sensible, nutritious, filling dinner option. Who knew?? My gut thought it was. My gut enjoyed it actually. Is enjoyment enough to make it a good choice, though?

Joking aside, I’ve heard most of my adult life, that the way forward is to trust your gut. Listen to that small, internal voice that gives you a direction. In hindsight, I’ve often wished I’d listened to my quiet little communicator, the one that’s tucked away in a part of me that isn’t yet tainted by that thing we call life. Sometimes, it’s hard to hear, though, don’t you think? There is so much white noise in this life, that it’s not always immediately easy to close that off and tune into instinct. Or maybe we can actually always hear our own vibe, but don’t trust it. Rather we question it and find ways to negate the suggestions. Sometimes, we find it easier to listen to others and their opinions, rather than take full responsibility for our own desires. I think it makes it easier to accept when it doesn’t work. There is someone else to blame. “Well xyz told me to do it this way…, I thought it was a bad idea and it turns out I was right!”. We then relieve ourselves of the responsibility. It’s a bit of a cop-out, but we’ve all done it to a lesser or greater degree.

For me, all the how questions feed my procrastination habit. I know that I should have done things differently a long time ago, my gut told me that (through bellyful of chocolate)! Yet, I got bogged down with all the how?, what?, why? and when? that meant that instead of listening and acting; I sort of heard and found excuses not to. The only question I chose to answer faithfully, was the who?. It has to be me. I’ve palmed many parts of my jigsaw off onto others. I’ve given endless advice on what someone else should do with their particular issue, problem, windfall or situation. But I have not taken full advantage of my glorious insights into the workings of the world and pointed them at myself. Oh hell no. I’m quite happy to tell you how you should live your life but I’m sure as sh*t not going to apply all that common sense and wisdom to my own! Actually, that’s not strictly true. I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone how to live their life, although I have thought it on multiple occasions, but I’ve never shied away from giving my thoughts/opinions when asked for them.

So why is it easier to fix someone else’s issues, than it is to deal with your own? Well, that’s easy. You don’t have the responsibility of action and consequence. If you offer advice, the recipient has the choice to act upon it or not. At that point, you are absolved of guilt, erm, responsibility. “On your own head be it”. I’m self-aware enough to know that, on occasion, when I ask my friends “what would you do?”, I’m hoping they don’t come up with a totally tangible action that any argument against would make me seem more ridiculous than I am. If I get an awesome response, I like to pretend I didn’t hear it, in order to continue with my procrastination. And yes, I’m perfectly well aware that this is daft. So, my way around that little pebble on the path is to not ask for help. I stick to asking the really important questions that involve billions of dollars to fix (I don’t have that therefore I can’t fix it), billions of people to fix (ok, slight exaggeration, but you get my drift) or existential questions to which there is no right or wrong answer. See, no flies on me!

Yet, this cunning little plan of mine hasn’t got me far. This not asking for help malarkey has seen my drugged up to the eyeballs on anti-depressants, terrified of any questions (actually answers) that relate to “me” and stressed to high heaven and back. If I don’t ask the questions, I don’t have to hear the answers, so I don’t have to change anything and so my comfort zone isn’t breached. Yet, I will quite happily jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet or cage dive with apex predators in murky waters. I’m very proud of these achievements. My gut demanded I did them, demanded that I followed through and swore blind I would enjoy them. My gut was spot on. When I get to the jumping off point that marks the switch from conscious living to whatever comes next, those experiences will be on the 7-minute highlight reel, that apparently plays.

So, how do we choose those pieces and how do we know they are the right pieces. There is the don’t pick any new pieces and change nothing road to the left; then there is the don’t know, don’t care, just grab the first piece you can road to the right; or the tune into your own vibe, allow your own instincts to flourish and sing and go with them road that lies straight ahead. Easy right?

Of course it’s not!! When has anything worthwhile ever been easy?! I know you’ve heard that said a million times before (yes, as well as a procrastinator I also tend toward exaggeration). It boils down to allowing yourself to trust yourself. Why should the advice you would give to the one you love most in the world, be any different to the advice you would give yourself? Get your best friend, your parent, your lover, your partner, your lawyer(!), your pet (I talk to mine, I’m certain they give awesome advice) to turn your what if back on you. Answer the question as if it’s not your life and your responsibility but a desperate plea from a friend. See what answers that gives you.

While you turn that little nugget over in your mind, think about this. There is an infinite number of jigsaw pieces in the box. Don’t overthink it. Pick it up, turn it over and around quickly and tune in. You do know what’s right. If you aren’t ready to dive in head first, then hold on to the piece for a while until you are ready to make the changes. Just don’t hold on to it too long. If you do, you may crush it and what could have been perfect will become an “I wish I’d…”. Then guess what, you go back into the box and you pick another piece. At least you will know you’ve tried.

I had that conversation with a very dear friend just last night. It revolved around simply knowing that neither of us wants to get to that 7-minute playlist and find something missing because we didn’t have the courage to try it. Another friend commented today that you don’t need to have all the pieces so to see the big picture. How very true. Do you like what you see in your evolving picture?

Fear of the consequences or of failure are a natural part of life, I think. Was it Edison that said he hadn’t failed, rather he’d found a thousand ways not to create a lightbulb. Or words to that effect. The point is, not to give up. We aren’t all meant to run at the same speed, some of us are better at being a tortoise than a hare. Who gives a rats ass if you don’t want to jump out of a plane? That was my dream. It doesn’t have to be yours. If you want to be the person who designs knickers that don’t ride up your bum, have seams in uncomfortable positions and actually do feel like you are going commando – please do! Undergarment design is not on my list of talents, but I sure as hell know the benefit of a comfy pair of pants!

Explore your talents (pieces); practice what gives you pleasure and eat chocolate in the knowledge that it doesn’t hinder the ability of your gut to steer you right.

2

Jigsaws and New Beginnings…

Everyone is entitled to a second chance, right? A chance to pick back the pieces and build new connections? I think that has to be true. I don’t really know how I feel about that in the context of evil people, but right now, they don’t really concern me.

So this is the first kinda proper musing since I plucked up the courage to change what has worked for me – Epilepsy and … –  and turn it in a new direction. Those particular puzzle pieces worked beautifully for me, but now they aren’t so easy to push into place. It’s time to take a new chance in a new direction. This is something I’ve been procrastinating over for far too long.

Procrastination is something I do bloody brilliantly, even if I say so myself!! If I can put something off, I totally will. I’m not sure I even do it deliberately. I think all my latent fears and worries are so ingrained that they do it for me! So changing the way I write this blog, for example, it’s something I’ve turned over in my mind for a very long, long time. But I was worried about how it will be received? I mean, how could I go from writing about how one particular aspect of my life affects me, to writing about, well, how life affects me? That’s when it kinda dawned on me, that I’m being daft. Epilepsy is a part of my life, but it’s not my whole life and I was really writing about that anyway. So, what difference would it make to just change the titles of the blog posts?? That’s really it. Oh and spending hours trying to figure out how to make the new blog posts go on a different page! A tech-whizz, I am not! So, if you know how to keep the previous blog posts on one page and direct the new ones to the new page, please feel free to drop me a line – I’m clueless. What I did, finally, figure out is how to make the new posts go on a new page (categories rule!) but not how to stop them still appearing on the Epilepsy and … page. Heyho. Into each life, a little rain must pour – right?!

So, my jigsaw. I think most of the pieces are in the right place to date. Most of them. I know some of them aren’t sitting comfortably and so they will need to be unpicked. I don’t expect this to be something I find particularly easy to do, so I guess I’ll just have to take my time. The first thing I need to do is accept that they are in the wrong place. I can’t force it anymore. Forcing them, or rather forcing the actions that they represent, is becoming too draining. I know in my heart that they aren’t right, but making the changes seems too overwhelming, too hard and too downright scary! I do know, however, that those pieces need to be in a different part of my life. They need to be attached to the past. The pieces, I believe, are correct for my life, they have served a purpose, but they are not in the right place. Other elements in my jigsaw have built up around them and proved that, while at the time, it seemed like they were a perfect fit, they simply aren’t. I’ve spent a great deal of time and far too much energy pretending that they are.

There is a lot going on in the world right now. War, famine, new presidents, old leaderships, protests, acquiescence, ignorance and fear. The world seems like a more vulnerable place to me than it did even a just a couple of years ago. The feeling of a global hope is something that seems like a far-fetched fantasy right now. That’s my feeling. I watched the inauguration of the new President of the United States the other day. As I watched and tried to comprehend the speeches, I was struck by something entirely different. I don’t think it was my imagination, it very much seemed to me that there was a lady standing up there who simply did not want to be there. A lady who seemed completely terrified at the position she was occupying and one who firmly believed she shouldn’t be there and didn’t want to be associated with it. That lady finds herself standing next to POTUS. She stands next to her man, rightly, because she married him. But I kinda wonder if the reasons why she married him were running around her mind. Maybe she is waking up and thinking about her jigsaw and how the merry hell it ever came to this! She will forever now, be compared to the ladies that have come before her. And probably to the ones that come after her too. Her position, to me, seemed even more painful because of the speech the outgoing POTUS made about his lady wife taking a role she didn’t ask for and making it her own. I found myself wondering how the present FLOTUS is going to do that, or even if she will. I felt for that lady standing up there. That lady who is lying in the bed she made, but under the duvet she probably didn’t want. That lady is now bound by something more than a marriage vow. I thought she looked lonely and scared.

There are lots of sayings that sort of fit with how that lady is where she is. They apply to her and they apply to all of us. The first one that springs to mind is “you reap as you sow”. What you put out and lay the foundations for are what you will gain in return. Yet, it just isn’t as simple as that. We all know how it feels to put our heart and soul into something, only to find that it fails or isn’t reciprocated. (Reciprocated. One of my favourite words). What does that mean in real terms? Well, I can’t be 100% sure because god knows I’ve put my heart and soul into a lot of things and got, what feels like, nada in return. But what I think it means, is that if it’s the right action, at the right time and for the right reason, then the reward will be bountiful. But if it isn’t, then reward is in the form of a lesson learned. Those lessons are bloody difficult. It’s often nearly impossible to pick up all the scattered pieces of a broken heart and dream and accept that all the effort was merely for a lesson. My personal experience has been that its far easier to pick up the bits that are within reach, leave the other bits behind and retreat. Retreat and stay afraid of the same outcome and so not try again. Does that make sense? If I’m being honest, though, that approach hasn’t really got me far.

So my jigsaw. It’s a work in progress. That’s the best way I can describe it. There are some bloody lovely parts, there are some not so pleasant pieces and there are too many bits in the wrong place for my liking. I find I can no longer live comfortably with that knowledge. It’s time to pick them up, turn them over and around and have the courage to place them where they truly belong. Then thrust myself back into the box of pieces, there are millions of them, run my hand over a few of them and choose some new parts. I can do that. Life is full of chances and opportunities after all. If I’m not in that metaphorical box of pieces, then I can’t take advantage of those that are there for the taking.

Life is a choice. Life is a chance.

 

0

Jigsaws…

I feel myself moving away from “Epilepsy and …”, and moving towards a different kind of blogging. My writing is always from the heart and perhaps it’s time to explore that a bit further. Maybe it’s time to delve into the “perhaps I’ll get to that later…” episodes.

My jigsaw is at the forefront of my mind at the moment. There are so many pieces and I’m struggling to work out which bit goes where. I’ve talked before about my jigsaw. Parts of it are built and some are even pretty well-developed. But then I am 45 ,and that should probably be the correct state of affairs! Yet, I can’t stop thinking that the bits I’ve not built out are the bits that will provide the most fulfilment.

For those of you who have followed my blog so far, thank you! I hope you will continue to enjoy it and provide me with the kind of feedback that lets me know that I’m heading in the right directions and talking about subjects that you want to chat know more about it.