Because I must write. Life right now. Just because…

IMG_0119I’ve had this blog post brewing in the back of my mind for the last week or so. Every time I have sat down to type or thought about it I’ve been hit by overwhelming tiredness, distractions of the internet and the hole of planning we need to do for our epic road trip this summer. Turns out life on the open road is less about romantic getting out there and more about spreadsheets and figuring out where would be a good place to stop every few days to make sure we can see some cool stuff and have enough of that outdoors fun we crave. (well it is with kids and a prohibition on wild camping in most of the UK) It’s about looking at amazing places to stay only to discover that they are booked already because the rest of the country is well aware it will be August and have planned way earlier than us. Except Northumberland. Northumberland we salute you.

Argh. I can feel the fog descending again and I am determined to push through. I want to write. Writing is about sitting down and doing it. I was going to put this post in an amusing conversation piece with myself style. That requires more effort than I seem to be able to muster now. Blog posts are amazing in my head as I run and run around this bowl of green. Later once bedtime is done I crumble, crawl into bed and watch endless Parks and Recreation (we are SO late to the party on this one but oh my word. So funny. So much better for our heads than 13 Reasons Why)

It was mental health week last week. I was going to write about my mental health and maybe the mental health of my broken wonderful husbandface. I even went to an evening about it. Share Your Story, where I listened to three different stories of brokenness, pain and some redemption. For me it raised the questions of what on earth is good mental health?, and, Where is the line between helpful diagnosis and unhelpful labels? It was an evening that confirmed how flipping non linear the line to good mental health is.  It’s a process which may never end and we really need to think through our perception of what ‘normal’ we are striving to achieve.

Last week was a week that started amazingly as I led some sessions on authenticity at our church’s women’s retreat. I loved the time away. I loved reading huge chunks of Romans 12 and seeing it blow my and others minds. I loved starting the conversation, providing space for people to contemplate life with God again.  I loved a room to myself and a whole nights sleep. A whole nights sleep without a small person digging their legs into my spine or squashing my face against theirs. A whole nights sleep. I loved the time to not help out, sounds odd but I loved just existing, not having to clean up small people gunk and not having to constantly think about them. I loved driving back to Brighton and seeing a friend in her first solo show in the festival. I loved laughing, crying and being in awe of her physicality as she took us on a tour through adolescence, swimming the individual medley and life in transition from the UK to Zambia and back again.  I loved catching up with old friends of the best kind who are family and see us in need and out of their full on family life poured out love and grace on our weary souls. It was a good start to the week.

Things kind of nosedived from there into it being increasingly clear the husbandface would need to be signed off work again. This week he was the worst I’ve seen for a long time (and he’s been pretty bad for a long long time). We really want to find a better way to live for long term recovery to be possible. He’s off work thankfully and we wait and see for how long. We are aching to find a better rhythm for life that enables us to live, eat and love. Mental health is important and delicate and good mental health, which I think looks different from person to person, is worth finding. We are on the search for it.

Coherent thoughts are unbelievably hard to put together right now. I’m exhausted. I’m hopeful. I’m desperate for escape. I love our rooted house and community. I’m in despair. I’m full of faith. I have no idea what faith looks like in this landscape. I want to write about God and what on earth I think about that right now. I have no words. I have no words. I have no words.

Turns out staring at campsites on the internet is slightly more easy than this writing malarky. I think I need another cup of tea.

Maybe I should return to writing more and posting a little bit of writing each day. Maybe. Anything to kick start this muse again, anything to better help me process life and faith in this somewhat barren world we meander through at the moment. Anyway, as you were. Maybe go put the kettle on eh. 

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The last two weeks… 

Friday morning. 

We are at that farm again. The one we have passes for. Irritatingly there is a school party here as well. But we’ll see how long the boys last with their peace and quiet invaded. (Or let’s face it, how long I will last). It’s been a couple of weeks since a round up post so, well, why not. 

Not much changes around here. We are in full on spring mode which means I’m generally feeling much better than in previous months. I am fairly drunk on light, bluebells, green green grass and cherry blossom. Little has changed in the dark tunnel we find ourselves in. Husbandface is dragging himself to work each day. I’m really not sure he should be. 

The boys and I are mooching along in a generally good mannered way up and down way. Less shouting all round but the normal ups and downs of life with small people. I was ill, they were ill. I had a week off running and then a week back into it all in preparation for a 10k I have signed up for at the beginning of July. I’ve been full of faith and at times I’ve been convinced there is no God at all. 

I’ve also been preparing for our church women’s retreat this weekend where I’m doing a couple of sessions on authenticity. Something I think is only possible if you know who you are because of knowing who you belong to. It’ll be interesting having a chat about it all and enjoying some time away from the weirdos. I’m less convinced about leaving the lovely husbandface so if you are of the praying sort then please do. 

Mostly I have no inclination to think beyond the few moments in front of me. The future is entirely unknown and I still don’t know how long this tunnel is. But the mood is good in the tunnel for now. (It will have probably changed several times by the time you read this..) 

That’s enough of life right now. All my thoughts at the moment are actually taken up with motorhomes. We had such a brilliant time away and it was so good for husbandface’s mental health that we are planning an epic road trip for a month in the summer. Thanks to some amazing people we’ve hired a motorhome and from the end of July to the end of August we will be touring the country. I want to go now. The desire to hit the open road is strong. This year has been so crap I feel like we need some fun and a safe place to travel around in. The idea is that as well as seeing some cool stuff we will catch up with friends along the way. So if you fancy hanging out with us do get in touch. We would love to see you. 

Right. I am being called on to be a monster and chase small people around the soft play. Rahhhhhhhhhhh. 

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What I’ve been reading, a bumper March-April edition.

The last two months have run away in a haze of illness, coughing, holidays and more. Books were harder to pick up as life got more intense but I have read some stuff and here it is from the last two months.

we are all

We are all Completely Beside Ourselves- Joy Fowler.
It took me about 5 attempts to get into this one for some reason. When I did I found a fascinating and interesting read. The kind of twist happens early on and it’s a good unfolding story.

 

Wild – Cheryl Strayed
I confess I only read this because of the Gilmore Girls last
few episodes. I haven’t yet seen the film but the book had me hooked and determined to find time to complete the South Downs way. An interesting insight on dealing with grief and some damaging life choices. I always find it interesting to see how people do this without the God perspective. A good old walk in the wilderness seemed to work well.

funFun Science- Charlie McDonnell.
Charlie is a youtuber we’ve been following for a while, mainly because he was a sweet teenager who was engaging and fun. He grew up and wrote an intro to science book because he loves science. I read it because I felt my science knowledge could do with some refreshing. It was a fairy engaging read, funny and basic enough for me to understand and realise I knew more than I thought.

perfectPerfect- Rachel Joyce
I remember enjoying this book. But for the life of me I can’t remember what it was about. Ah yes, a book focusing on the summer of an 11 year old and flicking between that and a man struggling with OCD. A compelling read.

prayerA Praying Life- Paul Miller.
My second read through and as helpful as ever. This is the only book on prayer that has ever made me pray. He really helpfully talks realistically about prayer and cuts through my cynical heart that refuses to ask. I love this book because it is so honest about how life is hard, how good God is and how we can carry on asking in the face of life’s struggles and pain. He doesn’t duck away from the issues of prayer but leads the reader through to not giving up on praying because of those issues but praying in the midst of them. Not letting our lack of answers, or confusion about how life with God works, lead us away from God but towards him.

operatingOperating Instructions- Anne Lamott
I can’t believe I was so late to the love of Anne Lamott party but I’m here now and this was a brilliant introduction to her and her writing. I loved this book SO much. It’s the story of her first year as a single parent with her son Sam. I identified with loads of her writing and discovery of the anger and frustration revealed inside when you have to deal with a small creature crying in your face all night. And the next day when you think you might die with how much love you have for the same said small creature. It’s a brilliant read if you have a child, are about to have a child or know anyone with a new small person.

graceGrace Eventually, Thoughts on Faith- Anne Lamott.
I mainly read this for more stories of Sam but it was a fascinating, thought provoking read through some of her thoughts on life.


The Gingerbread House- Kate Beaufoy

I didn’t really get on with this one. I found it fairly annoying and although it was meant to be a sympathetic take on dementia and how it affects a family the ending was a little to contrived for my liking.

Good me, Bad me- Ali Land
Another one of those horrible thriller books you can’t quite put down. A grim story of abuse and killing from the perspective of the daughter forced to watch the mother do it all. I’m sure there are horrific stories out there like this and the psychological affects are well documented here but I really should stop reading books like this. It makes me think everyone is a serial killer out to abuse my kids. I’m sure that’s not true.

roadOn the Road with Kids- John Ahern
Technically I haven’t finished this one yet but I’m sure I will have by tonight or tomorrow. It’s the story of a family Motorhoming through Europe for a year. If you saw my last post you’ll understand the inspiration behind this one. It’s a very entertaining and informative read. Husbandface said he stopped reading it due to extreme jealousy. I haven’t quite got that far yet, it’s an enticing life but also seems crazy stressful, but also has really positive effects on their family life and relations with each other. Argh. Someone lend us a motorhome for the summer eh.

And there we go, a mixed bag. With some gems.

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13 thoughts from our first Motorhome Adventure…

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Living the dream…

This week we headed off in a motorhome (all of my heart would love to call it a camper van…but it wasn’t that cool. It was amazing but just not quite the level of cool I would have liked…) for a few days.

We’ve been dreaming crazy dreams about the open road and motorhomes. It being a good compromise between the hardcore nature of camping and the relative luxury of holiday cottages. We love the idea of the outdoors but, lets face it, camping for anymore than a weekend is hard work. Especially when it rains. Camping for a weekend is silly hard work as well but kind of feels worth it for the slow pace, the lack of creature comforts and the great outdoors. Life in a motorhome seemed to offer the best of all worlds according to the husbandface.

I was, it has to be said, unconvinced to start with but by the end of our three days I now find myself drooling over motorhomes on the internet and planning a summer tour of the UK visiting all our friends and family.  My main issue was that I didn’t really get the whole rocking up to a campsite, but then being unable to get off the campsite without taking your house with you thing. It seemed weird. I got over that soon enough. I decided being a snail is actually a Good Thing.

Here’s my list of things about the motorhome holiday that I am too lazy to put into proper prose.

  1. It was terrifying driving it for the first time. I have driven minibuses and Luton vans before but only for a short time and on fairly major roads. This was a house on wheels and not ours. The deposit on the credit card scared me but the husbandface was too sick to drive so I bravely stepped into the cab. After a very slow rattling drive to our campsite I felt proud but like I never wanted to drive it again. After realising that son2 had lost his shoes and we needed to get more then next day I began to get a bit worried about manoeuvring the beast around. Thankfully after rocking up at a Sainsburys (other supermarkets are available…) and having a gentle cuppa in the van before heading off on the road again I began to see the benefits. A twisty drive around the country, through a town and onto a seafront later and my confidence was up. We stopped at the beach for lunch, husbandface napped whilst I played on the beach with the boys. This whole taking everything with you as you drive around seemed to work well.
  2. The boys loved the playground on the campsite. Mental note. Must check the campsites we go to in the future have playgrounds. They also seemed to love the outdoor life and kicking balls around the campsite.
  3. Motorhomes are a pretty small space. Especially with small boys and a whole load of buttons to play with. It got intense but we lived through it.
  4. There is heating on these things. Did you know that? I didn’t. It’s the way to feel extremely smug in the morning, especially when looking out the window at people waking up in tents.
  5. Sleep was pretty good for most of our Team. Husbandface slept the best he has in months (reason enough to get hold of one of these beasts in my opinion), the boys slept in all three mornings (Motorhomes have blackout blinds, none of that hideous waking up at 5am camping thing for us). I slept less well but that might have been due to the epic snoring of everyone else.
  6. Curtains across the boys bed made us feel like we had some space in the evenings to sit and read.
  7. No TV for a few days was a lovely break.
  8. We were forced into more interaction with each other and the boys. Mostly this created fun and increased creativity.
  9. But shouting and bad choices still happen in a motorhome.
  10. The best bit before setting off in it was my constant pretence that we were in an aeroplane and had to prepare the cabin for takeoff. Storing all things away in lockers and restoring tables to their upright position. I am hilarious.
  11. Every time you drive off in a motorhome you have to sing, ‘On the Road again’. It’s the law.
  12. We spent the whole trip saying that somewhere on the dashboard there should be a handy sticker outlining the dimensions of the van. It was only as I drove it back to the hire place that I pulled down the sun-visor. And there it was. Ah well.
  13. It was sunny enough to eat outdoors each night. I love eating outdoors. Everything tastes better and there is NO sweeping up after. This summer we are going to eat outside every chance we can.

So there we are. We loved it. We are desperate for more adventures and five days on son2 is still longing for his camper van. All in all it was a brilliant break from the norm, we had at least 2 days of a pretty engaged husbandface before things got bad again and we all benefitted from getting out of routine and into the outdoors more.

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The first week of the holidays…

IMG_9822.JPGTechnically we are well into the second week of the holidays but nevermind. We survived the first week of the Easter ‘holidays’.  The boys coped well with the flight to Northern Ireland, the strange world of a holiday cottage, the lovely world of Auntie Katy’s house, the new world of dogs to follow around and the daily departures of their beloved Daddy to the world of bed and rest. It was a holiday in the true form of a change being as good as a rest, which the world of preschool holidays seem to be. It was lovely to be around family, it was amazing to enjoy panoramic views of the Mourne Mountains from our flat and it was good to get home and appreciate our house again. (which as I told son1 this morning is probably the point of going away).

Easter felt a little disjointed this year but it was wonderful to head to the beach on Easter Sunday with others from our church and celebrate Jesus risen. It was good to be reminded of hope in a world that frankly looks fairly bleak right now. It was good to be reminded that wherever we end up, whatever life throws at us we are promised the presence of the One who loves us most and who crashes through the bushes to find us in our pain.

I am glad of this reality right now.

I am glad because the road ahead still looks covered in fog.

The land of husbandface’s mental health is still a dark long valley.

The light punches in but the long road twists on in the gloom.

Mostly I live in the day to day survival and that is ok. Every now and again I look up scared and terrified at not knowing the future. Every other now and again I can see glimmers of light.

These past couple of weeks the light has been harder to see. Darkness is insatiable in it’s appetites and I am unsure as to when this tunnel will end.

I wrote something this morning that expresses what life with the amazingly brave husbandface is like at the moment. I share with his full permission. I share because this is a glimpse of life with complex PTSD, anxiety and depression. I share because this goes on behind the smiling pictures on facebook, because this is reality and we all need to be honest about reality. I share not for sympathy points but to help in your understanding and so that you may understand better when someone talks of anxiety and depression and what that might look like. Obviously please pray on if you do that kind of thing.

“I lie next to him in bed. He moans and twitches and shakes in his sleep. I lie still, desperate to reach out and touch and hold and comfort. I lie still, knowing that to reach out would only cause more tremors through his exhausted body. 

We sit in a room. Everyone smiles and laughs. He joins in but I can see the hand clenching the wrist stopping it shaking. I can see his face getting paler and paler and the response time slowing down. 

We sit and chat with others. Out of the corner of my eye I can see him shrink into himself, the tremors start and as I reach out a hand in comfort I sense the flinching away as his body refuses to accept my love. 

We watch TV together with no-one else around. I forget for a moment and stroke his face without warning. His body jumps as if being touched with a hot poker. We push through and I hold his hand briefly. Wanting to show somehow that I am here in this dark. 

The boys are confused again. Is Daddy not feeling well Mummy? Will chocolate make him better? Is Daddy coming out today? I wake Daddy up, yeah? Remember when Daddy used to go to work? Their small brains try and process the changes in their beloved Daddy. He reaches out, tickles them, hugs them tight, winds them up and then has to withdraw to cope with the loud. 

Friends ask him if he’s alright? What other answer is there beyond the ‘fine’, ‘ok’? How can he explain this weird shadowy terrifying land he finds himself in now? How can he know truth when his own subconscious is stamping on him, telling him lies, rejecting love and affirmation?”

Behind the smiling wonderful face I love so much lies this reality. It’s complex and hard.

I wonder if you are wondering what helps? I think that’s what I would wonder if I were you. I think it’s being normal, acknowledging that there is more going on that the surface you are presented with. I think it’s saying you care, are praying, not asking too many questions but sending texts, emails and messages of love.

So there we are. Tomorrow we head off in a Motorhome for a few days hoping for some more change and in search of some fun with the small ones. Lets see how that goes…

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Back to Friday roundups :)

Friday morning in the park. The sun shines down. For the first time all week my body is no longer hurting, aching or sore. For the first time in 3 weeks I feel like writing and pondering our life again. It’s the last Friday of term. A phrase that feels very odd in the world we inhabit right now. It’s been a pretty horrible few weeks up to now. I’ve been ill for most of it. Husbandface had a week of being vaguely awake and engaged with the world, and then went he back to work. Oof. Which has been hard on him and fairly grim whilst I’ve been ill.

This morning I woke without feeling rubbish and instantly saw the effects. The boys were happy and played well together. I was able to be more calm with them. Nothing felt overwhelming anymore, the day before I’d been crying over the arduous task of trying to work out when I could send my Dad’s birthday card so he would get it in time. Today that was an easy task. Illness and exhaustion change everything. It’s good to realise that and feel less rubbish about the way I’ve been behaving recently. 

I feel like I’ve dropped the ball many times in this parenting world, in living life well and being aware of people around me. Sometimes life is just about trudging through the fog until bedtime. There still doesn’t seem to be much clarity about the future, things changing, husbandface magically being healed or any of the other things I would like to make life feel better. 

But this morning the sun is shinning, our estate is full of luminous green grass, our garden is full of wild primroses, the sky is blue, friends are coming for an Easter egg hunt this afternoon, we are off on an aeroplane to Northern Ireland tomorrow morning, holiday is happening, the boys are being mirrors of my positive happy mood and it’s impossible to not feel hopeful today. 

Ah the changing shifts of my emotions. We ride out the waves. We ride through the dark days and the silent stares. We ride through the stressful shouting and bad choices. We ride through the weary exhaustion and sometimes the fog breaks. I think I’m glad I write when the fog breaks. I know that Psalm 88 is in the Bible for a reason. It is good to express the reality of no hope. But more often than not I write looking back from the top of whatever peak I have climbed. Able in a Psalm 77 type way to express the horrible and then to see the hope. 

Anyways. Whatever the reasons, today the sun shines and I can envision hope again. Phew. 

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In the grey light of morning…

We’re lying in bed early on a Saturday morning. Me and the smallest. He’s squirming around and vaguely swimming in and out of sleep, eyes closing as soon as he makes contact with my skin. Opening again when he fears I’ve sneaked out of bed like I did 10 minutes ago. I’m not allowed to leave this circle of snuggle. Not for a moment.

I give into it. The grey light of morning shows me his little face and I savour the small hands that stroke me and the arms that grab me tight. I look in his face and become aware of the other parent in the room. The invisible one who knows me well. I talk to him. I ask for so much for this small one. For protection, for kindness to grasp him, for him to cherish the women he meets throughout his life, for his life to be full of compassion. Softly I am reminded that he may not become the perfect man. Neither of my beautiful boys have perfection in their future. I love small broken ones who are full of self and demands. I am one of those myself.

I sigh. Imperfection haunts me here. I ruefully adjust my requests and pray for deep grace and love for these boys whatever they grow into. Through their dark nights when they won’t love as they should. Through their pain as well their joys. Through their failures as well as successes. I ask for patience with the ups and downs of seeing their anger and rage when they don’t get what they want. I ask for an environment in our house that nurtures their faith. I ask for patience when they get it wrong and for patience and grace when I get it so so wrong. I too am full of anger at times and I haven’t been given up on yet. The fears of what they might become fade and I am reminded of a story that redeemed me and is still redeeming us. Of grace on the road and new starts.

I soak up the small ones smell, gaze deep in his eyes and bop his nose. He giggles and we snuggle some more. Who knows how long this need will last but for this moment I cherish the wonder. In the grey light of morning. I cherish the wonder. 

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