Friday 28 November 2008

November Morning

'Beauty before me,
Beauty behind me,
Beauty to my right side,
Beauty to my left side,
Beauty above me,
Beauty below me;
I have beauty surrounding my life'.
- Donald Engstrom-Reese

Monday 17 November 2008

A Little Loosening of the Pincers

As The Griffin pointed out in a comment on an earlier post of mine, we Cancerians tend to keep a pretty tenacious pincer-grip on things. In that post I was musing about uncharacteristically just letting go and going with the flow, being open to change and possibility. Then again, although I may have Sun, Venus and Mercury in Cancer (and Scorpio rising), they are offset to a certain extent by my Aries moon, so it is possible for me to be impulsive at times - at least in theory!

Maybe that's the reason, or maybe this is, or maybe it's all just part of my current process; whatever the reason, I am beginning to feel OK about letting go of the past, and perhaps more importantly also the future that I had imagined lay in store for me. I am realising it's OK not to necessarily know what's in store. In particular, Donald and Deborah's comments on the same earlier post made me see this time of uncertainty as a chance to reset my course, and to realise I am not a helpless victim of external forces. I have important choices to make, but I have the luxury of time to make them in - and if at the end of the day I find I don't like the road I'm on, then I'll choose another.

Perhaps the black pit of depression I fell into recently was the last stand of control-freak-Cancerian Moonroot refusing to let go. I'm not sure. Maybe in time I will have a clearer overview of my emotional journey during this period - for now it's enough to just ride the storm without drowning.

For the time being, I'm pretty sure that another reason for my new perspective is due to having spent the last few days helping my brother (who has also been going through some big life changes), move into his new home. I feel like he is where I hope to be in the not-too-distant future, making a new start in new surroundings. His new home is beautiful, and I felt an itch of excitement and envy at the prospect of making such a fresh start. I also felt the mixture of relief and poignancy as he shut and locked the door to his old home behind him for the last time.

T house-sat while I was away, and coming back I was a bit apprehensive. Every time I see him, when we part I experience loss and grief all over again. Having been so depressed only too recently I wasn't keen to find myself there again. Yet when T left, I felt only the mildest twinge of regret. He was here, and he's gone - and I'm OK. That is huge progress. It seems I am adjusting to and coping with my new circumstances after all.
Pincers hold tight and securely, but wielding them is also about knowing when to open and flex to allow for adjustment and change. I'm loosening mine so that I can get a better hold on my new life. It's good to find that after holding on tight for so long, they can still be flexible after all.

Wednesday 12 November 2008


Does grief get harder to deal with as we get older? I have been through bad, sad, dark times before, yet I am absolutely certain that I have never before experienced the depths of depression and despair that I have felt of late.

Perhaps it's so bad this time because divorcing T means not only losing my husband, but also my home, my lifestyle, and to a certain extent my sense of self. So I suppose it is no wonder at times I find myself floundering in hopelessness.

My theory is that the brain goes into a kind of numb shock at times of great distress or trauma. Feelings are to a large extent blotted out by this shock, as a means to keep the body functioning and surviving. The problem comes when a little time has passed and the numbness wears off, and the grief comes rushing back in. I have noticed a pattern of feeling better for a few days, feeling stronger and positive about the future - and then crashing back into despair as another wave of grief sends me reeling.

In the better times, I remind myself that this is all part of the process, all part of the healing. The grief is coming in because my mind thinks I'm ready to deal with it. I have to feel it and acknowledge it for it to begin to heal. Suppressing it is always a bad move - it will catch up with me sooner or later! In the bad times - well, if I can, I just tell myself to breathe through it, know that it will pass. If I can't even manage that, I just cry. A lot.

Since being back from Kevin & Ann's, I have been crying a lot. I think the contrast of spending time in a house full of friends, talking and not necessarily focusing on the divorce, and then coming back home to an empty house and reality was too much. Unfortunately, I didn't see it coming and the crash was jarring.

On a lighter note, the last couple of days have been better. My Tai Chi class seems to help immeasurably, and the sun has been shining the last couple of days too. So I am on enough of an even keel to think about writing this.

One of my faults is that I find it hard to ask for help. It's not that it hasn't been offered - I have had so many people offering help and support that I have been truly amazed. Even if I'm not reaching out for the help offered when I'm feeling down, just knowing that it is there is wonderfully comforting. So if anyone reading this has offered help of any kind, and I haven't responded - it has most definitely been appreciated. And when the struggle gets easier and I have more energy than just basic maintenance level - I will take you up on your offers of help, company, fun, food or whatever.

Thank you!

Thursday 6 November 2008

Moonroot and Roots

[The photo shows part of a wrought iron gate in the garden of my grandparent's house in Essex]

Driving back to Wales from Essex, I took a bit of a nostalgic detour for the first part of my journey. From Maldon, Woodham Mortimer, through Danbury (where I first laid eyes on T when he was best man at Kevin and Ann's wedding), on to Great Baddow, where T and I first lived together. From there via Galleywood (where my cousin still lives) I cut across the common to Margaretting, down Maldon Road where my grandparents lived when I was young, past Margaretting school where my father went as a child and on to Ingatestone where I and my siblings went to school. From Ingatestone to Mountnessing with its distinctive windmill and so many childhood memories, before finally joining the A12, M25, M4 and back to Wales.

From weatherboard, pargetting and thatch houses to stone and slate cottages. From flat open fields and the big skies that inspired the likes of John Constable, to hills, valleys, waterfalls. From meandering lazy willow-lined rivers to tumbling trout streams. From a land of flint and clay to one of slate and clay.

I now call Wales home, but really, is it? I have lived here now for eight years and in that time I've made a conscious effort to really put down roots. Roots are very important to us home-loving Cancerians! But I sometimes wonder if I really have roots anywhere.

I was born and raised in Essex, as were my parents. But every one of my grandparents had come to Essex from elsewhere, their families originally from London, Somerset, Wales, Scotland, France. So I'm only second-generation Essex. Compare this with my neighbour from a farm just up the road from Halfway-Up-A-Hill. His family have lived on and farmed that same piece of land for eight hundred years. Eight. Hundred. Years. I find that continuity extraordinary. And I have been here in Wales only eight years! How can I possibly call it home?

I also lived in Australia for eighteen months, where I made a conscious effort not to put down roots as I knew we wouldn't be staying (very hard as rooting seems to be my default setting), yet it was still a place I came to love. I feel connections still to Melbourne, to Essex, and now to Wales.

So where is home? They say that home is where the heart is, but I find my heart scattered all over the place. I have dear ones in Essex, in London, in Kent, in Somerset, in Wales, in Australia, in America. They all have pieces of my heart... And now T has gone, is my heart still here at Halfway-Up-A-Hill?

Actually, it is becoming clear that whatever happens, I will have to move on from Halfway-Up-A-Hill. Without T, in the long run I will not be able to manage here on my own, either financially or practically. Sure, there will be a divorce settlement and T will provide for me financially, but it will not be practical to stay here. And perhaps a new start, new surroundings would be healthy. But where should I go? I think I shall probably stay in Wales, given that I have begun to feel part of the community here. But actually, in some respects, the world is my oyster. I could settle in Wales, or decide to explore Costa Rica. I could dig in for the long haul or pack a few belongings in a knapsack and follow my feet to wherever. Do I in fact, even need roots in one place?

As with most of my life at the moment, there seem to be more questions than answers. But at least that means that there are also choices, and opportunities, and the chance to start over. Which can't be bad.

Hallowe'en in Essex

I had a wonderful Hallowe'en weekend in Essex visiting my dear friends Kevin & Ann.
We carved pumpkins and planned treats for trick or treaters...
We walked Sancha the labrador puppy in the woods, fields and by the lake, enjoying brilliant autumn leaf colours under sweeping Essex skies...
Charlotte baked yummy gingerbread pumpkins and 'spiderweb' cupcakes for us...
10-year-old Mikey went trick or treating (dressed as a Jedi knight!) and came back with plenty of sweeties to share around...
We snuggled up in the lounge to watch Hocus Pocus and drink mulled wine as a constant stream of trick-or-treaters in fabulous costumes called by...
I learned how to play Chinese chequers...
Ann kept us well-fed with her delicious cooking (I have brought home her recipe for roast parsnip soup!)...
And we talked, talked, talked, about good times past and those yet to come...