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Where have all the good men gone

They say there is plenty of fish in the sea, really?  I must have been looking in the wrong one.  Maybe there are but honestly would you want them?  Surely by my age the good uns, the ones you would have dared to take home to see Mother are all snapped up and if their woman has any sense will be keeping them on a tight leash.  No takeover possible.

And the ones available will generally fall under three categories: never married and you have to wonder why, widowed, still pining for their one true love and separated/divorced. The trouble with going out with a man going through separation is he may very well realise the error of his ways and reunite with wifey dearest.  Even if he met you after the initial separation you are still technically ‘The Other Woman’, to be despised and villified by the injured party and the offsprings.  Worse still they may not really be separated and are actually happily married and he is just selling you the ‘my wife doesn’t understand me’ line.

If they are divorced they still have to pay alimony.  If there are children that is worse, he will have the financial burden of supporting them till they reach the legal age of being an adult.  If you marry he’ll have two families to fork out for, unless he is a billionaire you are always going to be arguing about money.  You also run the risk of being Mrs Rebound.

You single women out there, listen up, we won’t die without a man but we will without food or means to support ourselves.  You can be happy, repeat after me, you can be happy and live a fulfilled, meaningful life single.  Love comes in all shapes and sizes and from unexpected places and not always with the pretty wrapping.  It doesn’t have to be the man falls madly in love with woman ride off into the sunset and live happily after variety.  Anyway you know and I know ladies that that is the biggest and most insiduous lie of all time, since records began.  We are brainwashed, sold this lie constantly from movies, songs, media, advertising etc etc.

There is no happy after and fairy tale, no fairy godmother to wave the magic wand and turn the toad into a prince, only struggle, pain, hurt and if you are very lucky a good honest guy who will stick by you through thick and thin and last the distance.  Otherwise when the going gets tough the tough get going.

Not that I am looking mind, just saying.

How?

Jade asked me how did you survive all that trauma and last night was lovely and balmy especially for October and I met a young Canadian backpacking, we shared a table drinking happy hour red wine on the pavement of Old Compton Street, Soho and he asked the same thing.

How?  The six million dollar question.  Do share with us Mama G the secret, the magic formulae, the secret weapon.  I look at couples who have been married a hell of a long time and they are still happy and holding hands and talking and I often want to ask them what the secret is.  Obviously I had failed miserably, whatever that secret ingredient was missing in my own marriage recipe, the cordon bleu dinner burnt to cinders in the oven, past its best before date.

How?  If I was privy to the secret to how to mend a broken heart on the fast lane I’d be sunning myself in the Bahamas listening to the soft sounds of the waves, swinging gently in a hammock under the shade with young gorgeous men at my side, bringing me pina colada and there sky would be a turquoise blue and fluffy cotton wool clouds and let’s not forget the palm tress swaying ever so slightly with the breeze.

How?  It helps to have nothing, to be stripped of all the materialistic trappings and realise you can live on very little and not die.  I had it all, albeit on a small scale but I had it.  The tall dark handsome husband, the beautiful clever popular daughter, a cosy detached home in a picturesque village outside Cambridge with front and back garden, two cars, two cats, two pygmy goats …

I was a professional, a primary teacher, hubby was an engineer with his own business.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?  We used to go on holidays abroad at least once a year, when we had two well paid jobs in London to Cape Town and Kruger Park for a 7 days’ safari and later on camping holidays in France.

When ex decided to throw in the towel, it was a glorious June day, a Monday.  He’d just come back from a weekend away on his Harley to visit biker friends up north.  Little did I know when I woke that morning that would be the last day of my marriage, like we don’t know when the last day of our lives will be.  I think of the end of my marriage very much in terms of death, of huge loss and that I need to grieve for as long as I need.  Nobody has the right to set the agenda and timetable for me, when I should get over it and stop talking about it.  I will do it for as long as I need to and if nobody is willing to listen anymore then I will talk to myself or write it down in the form of poetry or blogs or diary entries.

How is very individual.  Like I say to Jade I’m afraid there are no shortcuts, magic wands, easy solution.  No ten steps to how you mend a broken heart.  7 things you can do to move on and not feel hurt anymore.  Personally I hate those self help books such as 7 habits of successful people.  Is it really that easy and clear cut?  You just imitate those 7 habits and you’ll be successful?  Then why aren’t all those who’ve read the book filthy rich and all just for the price of the book?

When I lost everything and I mean everything I read this book by a Buddhist, I can’t remember the author or the exact title but it was about how it is actually a good thing to have lost everything.  How it forces you to re-evaluate what is important in your life and how it frees you to begin afresh, from scratch, from zero, unburdened by the usual trappings and obligations.  I found it oddly comforting at the time.

I wrote poetry obsessively, every day.  Inside I wanted to scream with pain, anger, helplessness, hurt, despair but if I did that in the streets I would be carted off so instead I tried to get all that pain out onto the blank page.  The result was a volume of poetry which I made into a book and sold to friends and family entitled, ‘No Wine Or Men’.  I came across it again just the other day and the poems shocked and moved me with its rawness and the pain is palpable and leaps off the page.

I cried a lot.  Did a lot of soul searching, tried to get past the anger and blame to figure out what my role and part was in our not making it to our old age , that dream we had of being together at 64, you know the Beatles classic.

Mind adopted me.  It is the major mental health charity in Britain.  They offered sessions of counselling with an excellent therapist and Shiatsu.  Mind’s support and services were instrumental in my embarking on my road to recovery.

Kindness of strangers.  I found myself in a new city having been offered sanctuary by a friend to whom I will be forever grateful.  He took in a wounded frightened little bird with broken wings.  I made many good friends, one of which I still keep in touch with and met up again only the other day.

The kindness of strangers stopped me from becoming bitter and twisted thinking everybody was bad.  It restored my faith in humanity and taught me seek the grey areas, nothing is just black and white, good or bad, somewhere in the murky middle lies the truth and reality.  Just because one person whom you loved and trusted hurt you badly and let you down and weren’t there for you when you needed him most and has now ejected you from his life doesn’t mean there are not good people out there who mean you no harm and would even go out of their way to help.

Friends.  The ones that still talked to me after the divorce.  Amazing how instantly you find out who are his friends and who yours.

I wish I could say family but that would be a lie; mainly because I kept them out but that is a long story and for another post.  His family has never spoken or contacted me since.  I have ceased to have any significance.  I didn’t have much while married to their son and the mother of their first grandchild; now I certainly don’t have any.  The only person who rang me was his cousin a lovely lovely caring man and I still keep in touch with his wife and they have two gorgeous kids.  They are the only nice side of that family and one day I will take the ferry across and visit them.

How?  Digging deep to find some courage and strength you didn’t know you had.  Finding you can cope when you didn’t believe you cope.

Having your back against the wall.  No choice is still a choice.  The choice is simple and stark:  either lie down, give up and die or crawl off that floor inch by inch, get to upright position, wipe the tears, wash your face, put the kettle on, have a cup of  tea, a slice of toast, put on your armour, charge into battle and fight fight fight fight fight like hell for your life, for your sanity, for your future, for your daughter, fight.  Keep going, don’t stop, don’t look back.  Never give up.

Hope there is always hope.  The good thing about hitting rock bottom is the only way is up.  Things can’t get any worse.  Extremely reassuring and comforting.  It can only get better.  And it has for me.  I tell you at the beginning of this year I would never believe that I would feel happier, freer, more optimistic about the future than I have for a very very long time and I am talking years.

Sorry long and rambling as usual and I’m not even sure I’ve answered your question Jade.  But finding your identity, becoming your own person again, reminding yourself of your worth and the rose tinted glasses finally falling off so you can see the person for who and what he is rather than the delusional version.  Reminding myself of his faults and what made me unhappy and how much happier I am now.

Over and out Mama G.

Let’s talk depression (3)

What’s it like to be depressed, how does it feel?  Everybody’s experience is unique but this is how it is for me.  It varies.  Sometimes it feels I’m in quicksand and the harder I struggle the deeper I sink and all effort is futile.  Other times it is like drowning in the fierce currents of life and desperately grabbing onto any passing debris. At times it is like being at the bottom of a deep pitch black well with the lid firmly shut.  Sometimes I feel nothing, absolutely nothing at all. 

It is the fact that everything feels such a chore, the simplest of task like getting out of bed, having a shower seem to take such will power as if I am running the marathon.  It is as if your feet are stuck with superglue and it takes monumental effort to prise one foot off  and then the other, leaving you wasted.

On top of that is an overwhelming sense of futility.  What is the point?  Of anything?  Why get up at all?  The meaninglessness of life.  The trials and tribulations endured, what for?  Why are we here at all?  Every day is exactly the same; a struggle to stave off hunger, to answer the call of nature and battle insomnia and to persuade yourself to hang in there, to stay alive because maybe just maybe it will get better. 

You don’t really believe it, you can’t imagine it ever being any different.  You can’t enjoy anything, not even the stuff you used to.  You don’t notice the sun is shining, that the daffodils herald Spring, that life is going on outside the prison of your mind.  You don’t care.

You hibernate, isolate, burrow deep into your warm cosy safe duvet, refusing to tunnel out unless absolutely necessary when your body screams food and your bladder is full.  You build a formidable fortress all around with a moat that even the closest people to you cannot scale.  It feels secure; nobody can disturb or ask you awkward questions forcing you to face harsh reality but neither can you reach out and it kinda feels lonely.  You feel unloved.  You have friends but disappear off the radar; you don’t want to be a burden, you know you are bad company, you are sick of yourself, why would anyone want to spend time with depressed you?

I used to really hate the term ‘mental illness’ and that I was a sufferer because the word implied I was a nutter, crazy, mad, insane.  I resented it cos I knew I wasn’t.  Now I realise it means that depression is ‘all in the mind’, that is why it is a mental illness. 

I decided to make a new life in Hong Kong because I wanted to leave the scene of the crime, there were too many painful memories that I couldn’t leave behind physically and mentally.  Why HK?  Well it was where my life began but more importantly I associate the city with happy memories.  The three years of university followed by another three in the 80’s teaching English there were the happiest, most carefree of my life.  I wanted to return and recapture those happy thoughts and rediscover that optimistic, sociable, innocent me.  I remember loving and being loved.  Friends, colleagues, pupils, my first boyfriend liking me for who I was.  I was very popular.  They appreciated my sense of humour, naive enthusiasm and openness.  I was young, in my early twenties, beautiful, hopeful, the world was my oyster, I could be whatever I wanted to be.

Then I hadn’t suffered years of being put down and criticised; made to feel inadequate just wrong.  Not good enough, that I did not belong, however hard I tried.  I had not become a doormat, lost my voice, to keep the peace, for the sake of the family.  I had yet to become a martyr, sacrificing my own needs, very own identity and scrimping and making do so that my husband could indulge in his ever changing expensive hobbies and that my child was not the poor kid on the block.  In the end that man whom I love for 18 years evicted me without any notice from his heart, mind and life.  Just like that.

Yet I have to take responsibility.  I have learnt not to keep playing the victim.  I allowed it to happen, the emotional abuse, the lack of respect, the being shut out, not listened to, the feelings disregarded and mocked.  I sold into the romantic myth hook line and sinker and was prepared to pay the price however high.  Losing your identity, very being is too high my friends.  That’s why it took me so long to get over the divorce.  No longer a wife I didn’t know what I was anymore, that was my role, identity and life.  That family unit of 3 was my world.  We were going to grow old together.  That was the plan.  But as you know plans are for fools.  Life is what happens when we are busy looking the other way.  I think Lennon said something along those lines.

 

Let’s talk depression (2)

I like to think of myself as living with depression rather than suffering from; it puts a more optimistic and positive spin on the illness.  And yes it is an illness like any other, a chronic one which some associate with being very serious or even terminal, no it means it is long term.  No magic wand, fairy godmother to kiss it better, no amount of willing, pulling your socks up, pulling yourself together, snapping out of it is gonna do it.

I must have read all the self help books that were ever published and seen countless counsellors, courtesy of the nhs and privately when I could afford it.  Psychologists and when it got really serious, as in suicidal thoughts serious, even psychiatrists galore.  Weird that there are no resources to help you but once you say you would be better off dead, miraculously a whole crisis team turns up on your doorstep daily until you have seen the error of your ways.  An appointment is made to see your local consultant psychiatrist.  They can’t do enough.  Is this to cover their arse?  Not wanting to appear before the GMC or another enquiry?  Lessons to be learnt?  Lack of communication between the multi-agencies?

The crisis was of course the recurrence after almost reaching the magical 10 year ‘cured’ mark and the business going down the drain and the hubby having a nervous breakdown, how convenient, and there was selfish me expecting support.  I was told off by ‘friends’, clearly they were his not mine, ‘Can’t you see the man is suffering?’  Excuse me who is the one with the 2.9cm grade 3 lump on the side of the total mastectomy?  Grade 3 for you out there lucky enough to have escaped breast cancer is the most serious short of metasis, which means the cancer has spread, that is stage 4, which spells the end.  Time to write your will, say goodbye to your family.  Then they don’t talk about ‘cure’ but jargon like ‘palliative care’ is bandied about.  That means they’ll make you comfortable, try to improve your quality of life, control pain but you’re going to die in the near future.  Time to get your affairs in order. 

I started off talking about depression and have digressed.  But you know as well as I nothing is clear cut.  It is all a murky messy slimy mess.  Depression, cancer, divorce are all entangled in the web of my fragmented head and heart.  The holy trinity of mind, body, soul and for me the three curses of my life the 2Ds and the big C.

I am convinced I am still here despite it all merely to irritate.  I am good at that. 

Watch this space.  For further installments of broken heart, mind, body, spirit; coming to a good blog near you.

Over and out Mama G.

Dear K

Five years on I’m still crying; I know you’re not worth it but the heart has to catch up cos it still aches.  You did not ‘cheat’ on me per se not in the classical sense, not third person/intruder to blame, just rejection pure and simple, that sucks.  You don’t love me, you still cared but just not in that way; you lied you didn’t give a damn.  That’s how you operate, I know, I slept next to you for 18 years.  Cold, rational, practical as ever, once you decided in your infinite wisdom it was over, I am firmly confined to that compartment in your head marked ‘past’.  You turn your back resolutely to the future and beyond.  No point in feeling a drop of sadness, futile, it didn’t work out but hey ho that’s life one soldiers on.

I envy you the ability to rationalise, shrug it off, see the pointlessness of wasted time and energy on indulgent soul searching.  Where did we go wrong, could we have saved our marriage, how sad that a perfectly happy loving family should be smashed to smithereens by friendly fire with collateral damage; broken heart and screwed up kid switched off from her A levels pretending it is all fine, clearly not.  Not for her pulled down by her dumped middle age mother’s recurring depression and pressing the pause key on Life for the duration.

Your only child had 2 gap years, not travelling the world, seeking adventure and experience, no VSO worthy causes passion ambition working holiday saving money for univ to reduce debt round neck.  Nope, 2 gap years, literally.  A gap, huge black hole in which she fell into the abyss of wallowing suffocating burying depression; she in her room behind closed doors venturing out to scavenge from the fridge freezer, the microwave got overtime bonus, ready meals its best friend and I in my own tiny prison with the window so high up I could not look out in my bedridden state.

Both in a bad place, stuck in the rut, quicksand sinking fast, no one to throw a lifeline to either.  We hardly spoke.  Sometimes she took pity and left food for her mother in the oven.  Other times she just saw to herself.  Mother would creep down at the smell of food cooking in the oven to find an empty warm space and disappointment hurt swallowed up her hunger.  She would creep back up stairs, get back into that perpetual cage of a mattress on the floor, that duvet beginning to smell and push down the feeling of being unloved uncared for.

I sensed anger resentment exuding out of the closed door.  I thought my baby hated me.  Mother depressed yet again.  She has to play the parent and I the child needing to be looked after in every way.  If there was no call of nature I would never have got out of bed.  It felt safe, a hiding place where I got left alone, where I could be me and that was ok.

I did not see the point of getting up.  I had lost the only thing I cared about, my family.  Nothing would get that back.  Everything else paled into insignificance.  They tell me ah but you still have your family, you and your daughter, it is just different.  But I wanted the original, first edition with you and us.  We.  You and I and our baby created out of love and hope.

Did you have any inkling that was how we lived?  Did you care?  You didn’t give a damn about me that was crystal clear but you’d always had a special bond with our daughter.  I was envious and often felt excluded.  You’d always been a great dad, credit where credit is due.  Tragedy is you are not even that now.  You have gone back on your word to pay the rent as part of your contribution as a father forcing me to use up all my house proceeds , the pittance I walked away with;  to show for all those years of devoted service.

You needed your space.  Your perrogative to pursue your own happiness and freedom.  What you were getting out of the marriage was a lot less than what you put in, like a balance sheet as you patiently explained to the heap on the floor ripping up wedding photos.  When you married me you went with the flow, too young, not sure what you wanted.  Good news now you are sure and that is you don’t want me.  Congratulations K.  Talk about kick a person when she is down.

Could you not leave me with a few good memories.  You know like at the beginning when we married and the first few years love was a two way street till the shit started hitting the fan and was so comfortable that it stayed and procreated and moved in the whole family, aunts, uncles, cousins and all.

You want your life back.  I made your life hell, depression, recurrence, you had to support the family alone the times I couldn’t work, yep, I get it.  But did you really have to be so brutal.  Do a total demolition on someone cradling the shattered pieces of her heart having only just recovered from the recurrence.  By the way you were awol during the second half of her journey to hell in the form of chemical weapons fed through her veins.  She saved a lot on shampoo purchase .

This is what I don’t get.  How you can turn your back on a woman you loved and the mother of your only child and delete her from your head, heart and life.  How you could not bear to stand by my hospital bed after I suffered heart failure two years after chemotherapy which had forced my heart to work too hard and become enlarged.  The consultant told me I could have died if the ambulance had not delivered me in time.  Two litres of fluid had collected in my lungs, hence the breathlessness and extreme fatigue.

What I cannot forgive: betrayal, abandonment, lack of humanity, compassion.  The coldness is chilling.  No need to go to the Arctic to experience sub-zero temperatures.  Just look into the eyes of a man you once loved and was going to grow old with, a stranger you no longer recognise even like never mind respect.

I loved you with all my heart.  I will never love like that again.  I will never trust with abandonment no bars hold again.  I am afraid to love, to risk being hurt ever again.  Five long years it has taken me to superglue every minute bits of my smashed trampled heart.  The blood is leaking through the endless cracks.  You have robbed me of my innocence, purity and transformed me into a bitter cynical paranoid fearful middle age divorcee.  I don’t dare trust, believe.  Someone is kind to me, what are they after?  I hate that.  Once I believed the world was a good place, people meant me no harm, being good and kind would ensure a happy life.  Now I aspire to imitate the baddies because they seem to get ahead in the world and have escaped cancer and serious disease.

At least you have a clear conscience and am dignified in your poverty.  I’d rather be sunning myself in the Bahamas sipping cocktails listening to the waves of the ocean with a toyboy by my side.  I was a martyr in my marriage; compensated for your liberal view of budgeting and ensuring our baby was not the poor kid on the block.  I forgo nice clothes, shoes, handbags, all the trappings of a woman.  I worked when I could, looked after the home, the family, childcare, took time off when the kid was ill as your business took precedence over my teaching.  I ran with the pushchair down the road to the childminders before school and did the reverse journey.

Ironically I foolishly thought I was the superglue of the family, an indispensable part, that is why I struggled through the hellish treatment because if I died on the operating table, during chemo, what would they do without me?  My fear was unfounded.  For one I didn’t perish and for another I was surplus to requirements, thrown out with the trash.  They carried on without me perfectly fine.  Life goes on and it did.  Your world has collapsed, you want to die and be swallowed up in the void of nothingness but earth continues to spin round, the sun rise and set …  I have news for you, you are totally insignificant, not even a speck in the vast galaxy.

Why am I telling you all this?  You don’t care you don’t want to know.  You had hoped after all this time I would have moved on, for my own sake.

The hurt goes deep deep into the bowels of my soul, very being.  I cannot hear the roar of a Harley blasting by, the whiff of barbecue smoke in the summer heat, the mention of Holland, windmills, tulips, clogs without an overwhelming sense of sadness and futility, of love squandered and a family demolished because of one man’s selfishness.

Are you happy?  Was it worth it?  Do you sleep well at night?

melancholy

Gorgeous is a little melancholic today, suddening realising that this day 21 years ago she was a beautiful bride in plum silk cheung sam sitting on the love of her life’s knee to take their wedding photo.  It was the  best day of her life followed closely by that early morning half a year later when her beautiful baby came into this world.  Her angel and shining light.  She was beaming from deep within and so was he.

Alas the fairy tale didn’t last; the princess turned into a middle aged cancer survivor/divorcee living with depression and nursing a broken heart literally and emotionally.  Rejection has hit her hard, to the very core of her being and she has had to dig deep, grit her teeth and go on.

Yet

Yet
I mourn you 
     you are not dead
Love lives on
     turned your back
I cling on
     futile

Sane 

heart broken

Longing

you will not return

Yet

I mourn you

Cancer or Divorce? Husband or Daughter?

You know those games where you are confronted with a dilemma, if there was only one space left in the lifeboat or hot air balloon, who would you choose to save, husband or child?  I am assuming all parents would say child without hesitation.  It is our maternal/paternal instincts to protect our young.  The adult can look after himself whilst the child cannot and his life hasn’t even properly began yet.

And given a choice between cancer and divorce I’d opt for the former any day.  Why?  You may be shocked by my choice.  Cancer is a physical disease which if caught early enough can be treated.  There is also a time scale to all the gruelling treatment, you know when the 6 cycles of chemotherapy will end, the 3 weeks of intense radiotherapy Mon to Fri.  You can work out accurately to the day when all this will be over.

On the other hand, how long your stay at Heartbreak Hotel is uncertain.  Will you ever check out completely?  Maybe you will leave and return for a brief visit now and again.

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