From Buttcakes to are we Human… or are we Dancer?

I went for a run this morning – not an unusual occurrence – and whilst running, as ever, my head cleared itself, my body kicked into gear, and I listened to music. Unless I accidentally forget to charge my ipod, then I am always accompanied by considerable tuneage. The last time my ipod battery rudely died on route, I discovered that I can indeed run without the aid of music to motivate me (when I first started I had to have a beat to time my feet), but I also discovered why elderly people turn in fright as I bumble sweatily up behind them, panting down their necks on pavements like Darth Vadar with a severe bronchial infection, and it was most off-putting. So; I run, I think, and I listen to music. Today’s song choice was very poignant indeed.

I grew up surrounded by music and lyrics in a childhood that bordered on unconventional. My dad was in a band and had a huge vinyl collection which passed to me when he died. I was 12 years old at the time, and by 14 I was heavily into The Doors and spent many a weekend getting up to mischief with a very good friend of mine who lived in Waterlooville. We were passionate about music and words in general – a good lyric is a balm for the soul, and well written prose set our little teenaged worlds alight. Whereas many of my friends have pictures or symbols as their tattoos, I have Emily Bronte and Pablo Neruda inked across my feet. I truly am a nerd for literature – a beautifully turned phrased has the ability to make me feel complete. Some people get that feeling from art, or drugs, or exercise… some from all three, some – God forbid – from nothing. It is often intangible: you can look at a painting or read a book or hear a song, and you can’t say why it evokes such a response within you (and if you could explain it, then it probably isn’t that awe inspiring anyway), but you know that it does. A bit like love I suppose.

We experience a vast array of love in our lives, if we are lucky. There is, of course, the kind that we associate with passion and sex. Cynics may say it is a chemical reaction, romantics may argue for a once in a lifetime connection of souls, but either way it does indeed appear to contribute rather significantly to the survival of the species and therefore cannot be scoffed at. There is the love that we feel for our friends, our pets, our extended families perhaps. And then there is the love that we feel for our children – and oh my goodness, what an eye opener that little emotion turns out to be once those of us who are parents first experience it. And it starts even before they are born.

With my first pregnancy, I experienced intermittent bleeding from 8 weeks up until 36 weeks of pregnancy, and the fear of losing that child whom you have never even met does not leave you for a second. You assume that it may ease once your child is born and safely ensconced in your arms, swaddled in the blankets that you and your partner have purchased in John Lewis whilst cooing over the cots and fantasising about pushing the buggy that you’ve chosen with your little person actually cocooned within it (all the while being prodded by the bony finger of The Fear, who perches upon your shoulder whispering in your ear not to count your tiny chickens until they’ve hatched). And then, finally, after 99 months of pregnancy, heartburn, morning noon and night sickness, varicose veins, lack of sleep, weak bladder (I’d best stop… this is turning into a written contraceptive), your small person arrives. By which I do not mean of course that a munchkin is delivered to your house courtesy of Parcel Force and enlisted to your care, but that your child – a life that you have actually created – is born. And then, The Fear (whom you had secretly hoped might just do one and bugger off once you could see your baby with your own eyes and not those of a grainy ultrasound), jumps down from your shoulder, grows five feet, and trots along beside you, grasping your newly-parented nervous hand with theirs, and refusing to let go. Presumably forever. You realise that perhaps a baby in the womb is actually easier to care for than one outside of it, that perhaps trying to keep a nursery at 16-18 degrees during a long hot summer (not in the UK then ho ho) and sponging down your screaming fever-ridden infant in the dead of night with one hand whilst you speak to the on-call doctor on your mobile in the other (by this point The Fear has you by the throat so both hands are free), is far far harder than an average healthy pregnancy. You begin to suspect that your friends who had children before you have either been keeping something from you or perhaps they are just much better at this than you – because they never once told you how every time their baby developed a rash, or had a drowsy grouchy day of rising temperatures and useless Calpol, or projectile vomited their bottles across the room, their parental brains immediately screamed MENINGITIS in flashing florescent letters above their tired heads (whilst The Fear nods on sagely, assuring them that even when their baby is graduating from university, it will be there, bony fingers applauding next to theirs, as they watch their child toss their mortar board in the air, clueless of The Fear until they have a child of their own).

However, the love that you feel – a physical love that pulls in your chest at the sound of your baby’s cry – is all-consuming. It knocks you sideways and you know you’d kill for it if you needed to. The Love and The Fear, as I have discussed in earlier blogs linked to my husband, are almost one and the same. You cannot have one without the other. They dance side by side around you, always taunting that perhaps you could be doing better, always taking you by surprise when you let your guard slip. They caper around in the darkness as you lay in bed at night, waiting for sleep but always keeping one ear open for that lone cry that signals all is not well in your world. Your children are the most wonderful thing that will ever happen to you, yet simultaneously, they may be the people who will at times irritate and frustrate you more than anyone else you have ever encountered. They will also embarrass you beyond belief – cross reference the time that my eldest daughter smuggled into pre-school a tampon that she had stolen from a box in the bathroom and wrapped in a tea towel. It wasn’t until I collected her and saw her from the corner of my eye as I chatted to the pre-school manager that I realised what she’d done. She stood, oblivious, swinging around what looked, by then, like a bedraggled cotton ball on a string, occasionally sucking on it, whilst beaming innocently at other parents who must have wondered what in the name of arse I’d sent her in with. The pre-school manager had spent an entire day presumably blindfolded not to have noticed what my eldest had been referring to as her ‘pet mouse’.

But through all this, all the trials that we go through as parents, ‘we’ are at least fortunate enough to be parents. Because here is where language and the written word can let us down and we need to be careful not to unwittingly exclude each other. ‘We’, ‘us’, ‘them’, ‘they’ … the collective always leaves out someone. I have friends who do not want children, friends who cannot have children, and friends who have faced the unthinkable; the death of a child. The latter is the reason for my poignant running song this morning. I often listen to The Killers when I run, and last night I added Human to my soundtrack. A dear friend of mine, a beautiful friend whom I have known for close on three decades, used to dance about to that track when she was pregnant with her eldest son. He would squirm and squiggle to it, and they would bop about the house together. I think, although I may be wrong, that she was able to enjoy that pregnancy by the latter stages without The Fear, though she had experienced already the loss of miscarriage more than once. I hope that she did enjoy it, as I know that in subsequent pregnancies she has danced hand in hand with The Fear, unable to shake It off, and I wish I were able to protect her from that; to cut in and to shimmy her off in a new direction. Her eldest son passed away when he was one week old, a beautiful splash of love and creation, unrepeatable and adored. The lyrics to Human are a lesson in poignancy, and I as I ran today I listened to them and thought of the little boy whom I never had the chance to meet, but who I know is more loved than some children who have lived for decades. Because of course the exclusivity of ‘we’ and ‘us’ do not account for those parents who do not look after their children, for whom The Fear perhaps does not come knocking. The Fear may creep over us, haunting our steps, but its interchangeability with Love contributes to our protective instincts and our base needs to look after our own, against all odds.

I have other friends who, this past week, have had to wave their ‘little ones’ off to university, with varying degrees of heartbreak and anguish. When I became a parent it ceratinly made me look at my own parents in a new light – when I was a child I’d had no comprehension of the true extent of the love they felt and feel for me. I run my fingertips sometimes over the cardboard sleeves of my father’s LPs, peering back through the window of nostalgia that smears and smudges like a pane of ice picked from a puddle on a frosty day, breath misting in front of my mouth, memories wavy and a tad distorted. Memories that are drenched in love though nevertheless. I wonder at times how my mother coped, and I’m grateful to live close to her – though I’m still enough of a child myself – her child – to fall back into sulking and taking for granted on occasion. I look at my own children, when they play and when they sleep, and when my youngest, who is four tomorrow, tells a shop assistant that mummy is ‘baking buttcakes’ for her birthday, and I am over-whelmed by total love and a similar sense of completeness that certain lyrics or compositions or paintings or books can sometimes bathe me in. I say only ‘similar’ because nothing else really compares, not really, but there is something a little bit magical about gazing at the sleeping form of my children – and it is not just that they are quiet for once. A friend of mine once said that he thought you could forgive anyone if you watched them sleep. Perhaps he was right.

For now, I am off to organise the baking of some cupcakes (alas my youngest had it muddled – I am going for standard fairy cakes and swirls of frosting, not a bunch of royal icing arses on a sponge base, though with her toilet humour she’d most likely appreciate the latter), and to wrap some birthday presents for a very excited soon-to-be four year old. This time four years ago she was dancing in my tummy, and now, today, she is dancing with her sister in our living room, to a song that will forever have special meaning to her mummy.

Close your eyes, clear your heart,

Cut the cord…

Wave goodbye, wish me well,

You’ve gotta let me go.

The latter, as any parent knows, is nigh on impossible.

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Fat and Skinny had a race… Fat is a defensive issue.

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Fat and Skinny had a race,

All around the pillowcase,

Fat fell down and broke her face,

“Haha”, said Skinny, “I won the race”.

Fat is a feminist issue, or so said Susie Orbach in the late 70s. Orbach claimed that female obesity was about much more than the simple maths of calorific intake versus physical output and that, instead, gender inequality makes women fat; body fat is a way of giving the middle finger to society’s concept of the ‘ideal’ woman.

“For many women, compulsive eating and being fat have become one way to avoid being marketed or seen as the ideal woman,” she writes. “Fat expresses a rebellion against the powerlessness of the woman,” says Orbach.

I’m not sure about my opinions regarding Orbach, but I do know that weight, amongst women at least, is an issue to obsess over – and argue and lose friends over. I’ve experienced both sides of the fat/thin coin, having been in the position of wanting (and needing in my opinion due to personal health preferences) to lose weight following the birth of my little girls, and I can confirm that the reactions of people towards you vary vastly according to your size – but not in the way that you’d expect them to.

One of my friends once told me that her fat friends no longer saw her as an ally following weight loss – she’d crossed to the ‘skinny dark side’ and seemed to have given them silent criticism by shrinking herself. Ironic because she never saw herself (her real ‘self’) as any different, the only difference was in their eyes, yet she became alienated by her new weight, or lack of.

I have some other very good friends (including my mother) who have always been very slim. All of them have experienced the same thing: that when you are thin or slim, other people think it’s ok to tell you that you are ‘too thin’, or that you ‘should gain some weight’, or that you ‘look ill’. None of these friends is actually too thin at all, their bones are not protruding from gaunt faces, they are lucky enough not to be in the grips of an eating disorder, they do not hobble about on the brink of osteoporosis, ribs snapping when they laugh. None of my friends look as though they have stumbled out of Belsen, they are simply slim.

On the other hand, I also have friends who range from curvy to fat. These women too have told me that they know people comment on their weight, but that it is often done by strangers. Their friends do not see fit to tell them to their faces that there is something allegedly at fault with the way that they look. Interesting. Are we to assume that it’s ok to tell our friends that they’re too thin and to make derogatory comments regarding this aspect of ‘weight’, but not to tell someone that they are too fat?

In the case of a person who is actually endangering their health with weight loss (or gain) – and I mean truly endangering it, not simply enjoying exercise and needed weight loss with health benefits – then should we say something? Because, ironically, slimness is the healthier option, but it’s become acceptable in society to openly criticise the slim or skinny person for their weight (I am not suggesting a BMI of 6 is healthy, I am emphasising slim or thinness without psychological issues or eating disorders). I wonder if a person who is happy to make mean comments to a slim friend’s face would be happy to openly criticise an obese friend to their face for their possible future drain on NHS resources and tendency towards conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes and cancer caused by their own unhealthy habits?

Often, we do not wish to cause offence, and if a fat friend doesn’t mention their weight themselves, we are likely to keep quiet. But be honest – would you find it easier to agree with a fat friend who says they need to lose weight, or would you find it easier to agree with a size zero friend who says they want to gain a little or layer on some muscle? Probably the latter.

Of course, on yet another side of the multi-faceted fat/thin argument, even if you are reasonably slim, you may still be unhealthy. If you don’t exercise and your arteries are clogged and you puff away on 20 fags a day and drink more than your recommended units a week, then on the inside you may not look so great. But I don’t believe that this is all a health issue. When women make mean comments about how an anorexic looks, they don’t care about her health, just her jutting bones. Perhaps it’s down to women and an innate wish to criticise. The fact that women openly bitch about their friends’ thinness simply proves the very point that they are trying to pretend they don’t agree with – slim is preferable over fat for a majority of people.

If slim were not the socially preferable option, then we’d all be happily telling our fatter friends to step away from the pie in the same way that we tell our skinny friends to get a Mars Bar down them and eat some cake. After I lost my baby weight – and then some – I received comments from a vast array of people who suddenly found it ok to speak about my size. I certainly received compliments, which I note are always associated with weight loss and not gain (we don’t congratulate averagely sized women on gaining two stone and placing themselves in the obese category it seems), but I also started receiving criticism. My phone would beep with text messages telling me to ‘eat more’ – but NEVER when I was fat did it beep with messages telling me to STEP AWAY FROM THE MILKY BAR WITH YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR. Funny that. I’ll always have the female guilt about ramming a Twix down my chops, bonkers but true and common amongst women, but as it happens I do love food. I lost more weight than was necessary because I know from dieting in the past that some weight would go back on once I’d decided enough was enough and that treats were allowed again. But I never saw myself as ‘dieting’ this time – this was the cliched but true ‘change of lifestyle’. And I have never starved myself – as my husband and mother are happy to admit, when it comes to sharing an evening meal with me, I’ll put away more than they do. But since I lost the weight, four years ago, I have had a healthier and, in many ways, less interested attitude to food.

In the past, if I’d dieted, I would spend all day thinking about food, and what I’d eat and when. Now I plan an evening meal, try to make it clean and lean, and then forget about it – other than to look forward to it. I pick up what I can during the day if I feel peckish, and I suppose I obey my hunger. I’m as guilty as the next woman in terms of having skipped the odd meal in the past to get a zip done up, but last time I checked the Morality Counter this didn’t equate to child-beating, drug dealing, or other offences that may warrant heavy criticism.

However, another thing I lost four years ago, aside from fat, was friends. Not good friends of course – by definition I wouldn’t have lost them over something that was good for me. But, my wish to not eat cake randomly and only when I really fancy a piece instead, was seen by some as my pissing on the proverbial party and dampening the mood. But never would I have considered turning and saying to those people that the constant takeaways, processed food, fags, drugs and beer combined with lack of exercise were doing nothing for their physique, skin, or health. And the reason for this? Myriad – including good manners, a lack of interest in what doesn’t concern me, and also the fact that I am comfortable in my own skin.

Fat, clearly, is a contentious issue – I’m still not sure about whether or not it is a feminist issue. I have experienced both sides and I have never believed that you have to be thin to be beautiful, far from it, and I do not think that weight plays the part in beauty that the media would have us believe it does. On the other hand, I’ll hold my paws up and openly admit that I’d rather have an averagely cellulitely and wobbly leg, than a leg that looks like stilton pelted with cottage cheese and weighs in at more than an entire seven year old child, attached to the dysfunctioning hip of a 40 stone adult who can’t leave their abode without the use of a crane. I’d always choose averagely slim with curves over either fat or skinny, it’s my personal preference. As Dawn French once said, if there were a button you could press that would make you effortlessly slim, the majority would be reaching for it.

Perhaps fat is a defensive issue. I’ve never seen a fat or skinny friend from an extreme end of the weight spectrum post one of those pictures on Facebook that unfavourably compare thin women, such as Keira Knightley, to the curvaceous beauties from the 50’s pin-up era. Personally I think that both Marilyn Monroe and Nicole Kidman are stunning creatures; just because I’ve lost weight in the past myself, it doesn’t mean that I think negatively of curvier shapes.

There is a difference though between curves and obesity – we can’t keep calling morbid obesity ‘curvy’ – that’s just glossing over huge health, financial, and social issues. Equally however, one can argue that just an anorexia is acknowledged as a severe psychological disease leaving sufferers at risk of death, so is obesity for some. But obesity is linked with greed – not control – and perhaps, on some innate level, this is what disgusts us and strips away our public sympathy?

When I lost weight, I always found myself defending my weigh loss: so for me, yes, fat is a defensive issue. It is something in which we are entrenched as a society, and to say there are no easy answers about our battles with it, is a huge understatement. And who knows, one day I may be fat again. I wonder what negative comments my friends will make to my face? Bugger all I expect – that, as I have learnt from experience, is only, apparently, acceptable when you’re thin.

Chickens and the Silver Cloud of Snot

Momentous events this past week times two:

1.) I had my hair lopped off after three years of growing it. 

2.) We purchased two chickens (the live and laying variety, not dead, plucked and cellophane wrapped or similar as per usual).

In fairness, compared to the Hospitalised Husbandly Howard momentousness, the above events are not that newsworthy… more shocking is that actually, I quite love the chickens. And the chopping of the hair.

There is something liberating about sitting in the chair at the hairdressers and allowing them to chop a foot of hair off your head. Having been sucked in completely by the very cool and very young ‘Joss’, and his assertions that using a razor to chop my tresses would ‘look really good, the hair will sort of whirl’, I succeeded only in warding off the threat of a panic attack by repeating the mental mantra ‘It’s only hair, it’ll grow, it’s only hair, it’ll grow.’ I confess that my eldest daughter’s tears at the news that I would be scalped – in conjunction with her own assertions that ‘you will look like a weirdo Mummy’ – did niggle at the back of my mind, but seeing as she had dressed her younger sibling in a canary yellow swimming hat and pants combo for the morning whilst gracing me with her sartorial opinions on high fashion, I decided not to dwell. At 6 years old, my eldest is firmly of the opinion that a girl is not a girl if she does not look like Rapunzel. Many thanks, Disney.

And so, 3 hours after I sat down at the hairdressers with hair that fell to middle of my back, I upped and left with hair that tapers the nape of my neck. Joss The Cool (bountiful of locks and sporting of skinny jeans and pointy boots) had indeed used nought but a razor to relieve me of my barnet, doubtless viewing me as a mummy-project upon whom he had to bestow his coiffing skills and save from the safe traditions of a ‘full head of highlights and a trim please’. Ironically, my eldest daughter loves it – the youngest however bounced up to me at pre-school, beamed her most impish grin, and let me know that I looked ‘everso silly and a bit pisgusting (sic)’. Fab stuff. 

Whilst at the hairdressers, and under sole charge of Joss The Cool, I had plenty of time to reflect on the events of the past few weeks. Aside from a few long runs, this was my first chance to clear my head (of actual thoughts, not just follicles) and dwell and take any real thinking time for myself. During the 3 hours of hairy solitude, I decided that I would relent and allow Husbandly Howard to buy his much longed for chickens. Having faced some horrors recently, a couple of chickens seem like small fry in comparison, and you only live once … it seems fitting to start cramming in some experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise go for. So, chickens it is. Two of them to be precise; Peggy and Barbara. Given that the other animals in the Howard Family Farm are named Colin, Stanley, Mavis, Tom, Kirby and Label (was Mabel but youngest daughter couldn’t pronounce it so she changed it of her own accord to Label and we all followed suit), ‘Peggy and Babs’ seem almost run of the mill. Who would have thought that watching chickens ambling about their business would be so therapeutic? Little heads and red crowns bobbing, fluffy bottoms perched in the soil scratching for a dust bath, whistling and cooing and scaring the cats away with a mere flap of feather and a whisper of wing. All the while trying to mentally block the image of the poultry aisle at Tesco.

Of the chickens, Barbara is the eldest, and so the responsibility of First Egg lays solely on her wings. Babs however (who I suspect would loathe the abbreviation if she were aware of it) is a haughty and bossy creature, and I fear she may make us wait purely out of showing us who is boss. Peggy is far more docile and enjoys cuddles and much stroking of feathered head, whereas Barbara Bossy Boots pokes her beak in the air, deigns to grace one with a beady eye of disdain every once in a while, and gives my husband a wing beating run around if he attempts to put her to bed at what she perceives to be too early an hour. That first egg may be some time coming.

In the meantime, I must mention my snot, purely because I can’t mention it at home (lucky you, Dear Reader). In light of what Husbandly Howard has suffered through, my razor throat and sticky sinuses are nada and therefore one cannot complain. Plus I have discovered a fabulous side effect to this common cold – I can’t smell Colin the Shit Machine! Oh rapture and dancing seraphim and spangly angels on high, let joy be un-contained! I may have to pick his crap up in the garden (how long out of hospital before I can shirk that duty back to the husband? Perhaps a sweepstake is necessary?) but I cannot smell the filthy hound, and, following the insidious stress of the past few weeks and the dark and creeping worry that always threatens, lurking at the sidelines, I am thankful of small mercies … and also the whopping great ones and shiny silver linings that life sometimes overwhelms us with, as long as we remember to relax long enough to enjoy them. Enjoy your silver linings this week friends; go shake a tail feather. 

 

It’s all about the little things.

Image courtesy of Bob Ewing

Image courtesy of Bob Ewing

(From September 2012 – a reblog)

My husband has been home from the hospital for 48 hours. Two whole days. Therefore it must be true, and I can begin to believe it. I hope. And boy, have we learnt a thing or two about hope in the last few weeks.

Since his return, which was accompanied by tablets and appointments with various departments and specialists (not to mention emotional trauma and a true testing of nerves), we have managed a 15 minute sit on the beach, and a 20 minute walk to the local shop and back. Both of these pursuits exhausted my poor man, and the beach expedition resulted in a 3 hour session of deepest shut-eye just to recover from the exertion.

It was also, however, utter bliss. We lay on the stones, listening to the sea echo around us on a near empty stretch of shingle, marveling over the simplicity of the blue sky, the trailing wisps of cloud, and the familiarity of his chest beneath my head. We focused a little less on the fact that his arms look like pin cushions, he’s smothered in yellowing bruises, and that these – combined with his heavy head and withered little limbs – give him a not-fleeting resemblance to a smack addict stumbling his way past the sea, being avoided by parents and their small children, in the fear that he’ll be drop a needle in their path or puke on their shoes. We looked about as far removed from love’s young (alright, approaching middle-age) dream as you can get, but it felt like heaven to me. It’s all about the little things.

Our friends, as has become familiar over the past weeks, though never taken for granted, have proven themselves to be Super Friends, all deserving of coloured capes and pants outside of trousers malarky. We have friends who raced to physically support me after the time I arrived at the hospital only to find a bay empty of my husband’s bed, and in its place a registrar who led me to the Relative’s Room to explain about the first seizure, in which my husband had turned a shade of blue for a while. The feeling had disappeared from my legs as he spoke, sensation flooding away with the wave of fear that washed through me, oddly reminiscent of white noise, but in my limbs and not my ears.

We have friends who drove through the night simply to stand and hug me for 5 minutes in an NHS corridor, my snot and tears gracing their shoulders, as my husband lay under his oxygen mask and the glare of a hospital light in a ward that was otherwise dark and silent, save for the hiss of O2 and the beep beep beep of the machines to which he was wired. We have friends who organised a rota of visits once he felt strong enough to see people, all hoping to rouse him from the depression that threatened to creep across him like a shadow; friends who threw open the curtains of ‘normality’, to remind him that life still existed outside, and that breeze and sunshine and cooling rain still poured, away from the smell of cloying illness and stagnant air and bleak sterile walls.

We even have friends who, upon hearing that his appetite had returned and that only stodgy nursery comfort food would sate it, presented us with a bag from Waitrose, brimming with puddings and cream and custard and crisps. It’s all about the little things. Friends from all over the world, from whichever corners in which they may have settled after the winds of university and life and marriage threw them up and let them land, have made contact and checked, consistently, as to whether or not there is anything that they can do. Friends and family, who have delivered chocolates to my door, looked after our children, walked our dog, texted or phoned or sent love on a regular basis. Friends who define friends. Thank you.

As I type today, I sense that some of my husband’s usual mischief may be returning. He may be weak, but he senses that I am too, and is currently playing upon this in his latest effort, Mission: Convince Wife To Buy A Duck/and or Chickens. He is laying on the sofa as I type, and my eyes rest upon his foot that dangles over the edge, still vulnerable, still battered from years of football. I recall my earlier blog that spoke of their fragility. I wonder how many members of staff in the hospital ever take the time – or have the time to take – to note these little things. Because those feet of my husband can dance.

The first time we met he was dancing, and I love a man who has some rhythm. Before I became pregnant with our eldest daughter, we used to dance all the time he and I, until my burgeoning bump and changing shape became too vast for him to place his arms around. At that point in time, our time, our favourite activity was to watch the tiny life that we had created shimmy and kick and dance in my tummy, until her birth and emergence into the world. And with this, of course, our priorities changed again.

I suspect that, following the past weeks and whatever is to follow, we shall again experience a shifting of priority and a new appreciation of the little things in life. Blue skies and warm stones on my back, the dry skin on the heel of the man I love, his hand resting on my hip as I sleep, chocolate pudding and custard, the arms of my friend pressing between my shoulder blades as she whispers into the dark that this will be ok. The little things, infinitesimal unless observed with perspective, and under-appreciated unless we take the time.

Take the time friends, take your time. I cannot wait to dance with my husband again.

Dancing again... July 2014

Dancing again… July 2014

31st December 2014 – NYE (& insomina) have had me thinking over the past few hours, about the little things in life. Some of you will remember that my husband was seriously ill two years ago, and I wrote this blog upon his discharge from hospital. It could do with some polishing from a writing point of view, but I love that – because it’s raw and it’s honest and it’s sheer emotion; digging into the heart of what really matters in life. The sentiment is one that I’ll carry into the new year and for all the new years that I am lucky enough to experience. It really is all about the little things x

The Sweet Vulnerability of Husbandly Howard’s Hospital Hobbit Feet.

In the midst of the emotional and physical drainage of the past fortnight, I sat at my husband’s bedside following the second of the two seizures that he has suffered, holding his hand as he slept and staring intently at the sight of his football-battered feet protruding from the very unhospitally-cornered bedding. The sight of them, such a familiar sight in such an alien environment, was painful in its stark and scalding vulnerability. It made me think of when our girls were born; tiny infant skulls, bathed in wisps of hair, exuding fragility and needing of infinite care. You could cradle those little heads in one hand, running your palm warm across the softness of new hair and quivering fontanelle, wondering at this life that you had made between you, buckling a tad at the realisation of your responsibility and unfathomable love for your child. As I saw my husband’s feet, not usually one of the parts of him that make me go weak at the knees, I was knocked sideways by love and sadness. My husband, kind and hard-working, clean-living and previously healthy and strong, now lying poorly and scared, breathing oxygen through a mask and being pumped full of drugs and fluids. I have never known fear nor love like it. 

Following his second seizure he had asked the nurses to ring for me. I came immediately, driving through the dark back to the hospital that I had left only two hours earlier, whilst he awaited his lumbar puncture. The sight of him in that bed and the shock of the seizures was another punch with which we had to roll. The conversation that followed, as he gripped my hand and told me that he would die that night, was beyond any physical or emotional blow that I could previously have imagined. I cry as I type. He asked me to look after our little girls, and I reassured him and I grasped that hand and I stroked his hair and I wondered how on earth it had come to this: minor day surgery, kidney failure, seizures, biopsies and lumbar punctures and MRIs and poking and prodding – and no diagnosis, not a thing, except a random new one of epilepsy, yet here we were, and here we are, for the still the hospital have no answers.

My darling feels a little better now in himself, a week on. He is far more alert and less drowsy, his appetite is returning. He is still sick at least once a day, but his kidneys are improving ‘hand over fist’, as the consultant likes to say. This is the same consultant who assured my husband that he would not suffer another seizure following the first, the erroneousness of which (and therefore false reassurance) rather makes me wish to pummel his chops ‘hand over fist’, but unless I find a step-ladder in order to reach the tall bugger and am prepared to be escorted from the hospital grounds by the security guards then I shall of course refrain.

And either way of course, it does not change the status of my husband from ‘poorly’ to ‘well’. He is not well. We need to know why. The fear of which punch will be issued next, and in which direction we must prepare to roll, is constant. Fear and love. They are inextricably linked.