Bleak midwinter

image

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

As in I’m feeling incredibly sad. I knew this was coming even thoughout the past couple of months I have been genuinely happy and at peace with my life. A friend suggested that maybe I had been burying these issues. But it didn’t feel like I was denial. More that my happiness was that bittersweet sensation of a person who knows that winter is coming but dances in the sunshine anyway.

Like Jacob Marley I’ve been visited by some familiar ghosts. The first let’s call the ghost of primordial darkness. I’ve always found this time of year difficult. And I know from speaking to others and from working with people struggling with their mental health that I’m not alone in this. As the darkness grows like ink swirling through water, as the trees stretch skeletal fingers towards the dying sun, as the earth freezes appearing so barren nothing will grow. Some primal fear catches me and I begin to worry that the light will never come back and we’ll remain in this internal twilight forever. And I always breathe a sigh of relief when we pass midwinter and the longest night and begin to move back towards the light.

The Ghost of past trauma

image

It’s fitting that the actual longest night has always been the anniversary of the darkest night in our family history. 32 years ago today, my first Christmas, my sister was knocked down in a hit and run. I haven’t written about this on the blog before. It isn’t my story and I don’t want to cause any pain by talking about it in detail. But it has always been a difficult day. There is an ambivalence between the pain of what happened to my sister, the loss of the person she could have been, and the joy at the person she has become despite the most difficult odds. My sister is the kindest person I know, a talented artist and a silly bugger. To think only about how she became disabled is to ignore the gift that is her, ‘the girl that lived’. But neither can I deny how sad it is that choices have been taken away from her.

image

Tonight in Brighton there is this pagan festival that sums up this ambivalence. During the burning of the clocks people march through the streets with paper mache clocks and sculptures which they throw in the sea. We are going as a family. Although we haven’t talked about it I think it reminds us that even in the darkest night the sun still rises eventually.

The Ghost of recent loss

I’m sad because Christmas always reminds me of Lianne. If you’ve ever experienced a loss you will know that anniversaries and special occasions are bittersweet. She loved Christmas and every year we would go drinking Christmas eve in reindeer antlers. Spending every Christmas day with a stinking hangover was a small price to pay for a night of laughing with your friends until your ribs ached. Even before she died as she got sicker and sicker and finally was unable to come out, Christmas became infused with fear. Would this be the last Christmas with her? I really miss her and have so much I want to ask her and talk to her about. So Lianne if you’re there and not a ball of energy somewhere or been reincarnated as grumpy cat: what’s heaven like? Are the angels hot? Do you miss us too?

The Ghost of future pain

image

So we’ve covered seasonal pain, old trauma, recent loss and that brings us nicely like Jacob Marley to the ghost of future pain. Another year passes and I am still not pregnant. And I’m not going to lie Internet friends, this fucking sucks. When I started trying for a baby every month I would get my period I would console myself by saying don’t worry it will happen next month or surely the next month after that. By the end of last year during a similar depressive episode I told myself dont worry it will definitely happen next year. This year that hope has burnt away to ash and I no longer make any predictions at all. I hope against all evidence that I could get pregnant next year but know it is equally likely to take years and also there is a possibility, slim but it exists, that it may never happen for us.

Do you want to know the cruelest thing about infertility? As it becomes more clear that the problem is with me I realize I can bear my pain. But I love HWSNBN so much, how can I bear the thought of being the one to prevent his dream of being a father? We talk about it and I know this is my fear not his. That he loves me more than that. But it hurts.

My period was late for a week and a half this month and even though HWSNBN and I tried not to hope we couldn’t help but imagine a different Christmas one of possibility that next year would be different. My period came last night and I wept inconsolably. Speaking to HWSNBN and my parents helped. Knowing that they will be on my side wherever this journey takes me helps. This pain is changing me, tempering me in the fire into a new person but I worry about losing who I was. I worry I might snap and break under the crushing weight of a thousand disappointments.

And so it goes
ESTRAGON: ‘I can’t go on like this.’
VLADIMIR: ‘That’s what you think.
Waiting for Godot, Beckett

image

Like many others with depression I’ve been here before. This is territory I’ve mapped too many times. And there is something almost comforting about the bleakness of the vista, the scarred rock face, the waves tumbling over my head.

There is nothing I can do about these ghosts. The more I work with trauma the more I realize how unhelpful the notion of closure is. There are some wounds that never heal, despite our best efforts we have to learn to limo along with them anyway. I can’t protect myself against past loss or from future pain. All I can do is sit and feel these feelings until they pass. The only way out is through.

Small things help. The realisation that I am not alone, that other people find this time of year difficult too. That there are people who love me even when I am not my best self. Letting go of expectations of how Christmas will be helps. If I cry then I’ll cry and if I laugh that’s OK too. Writing about how I feel here helps even if only my mum reads it.

But the thing that really helps that keeps me trudging forward when path is so dark I can barely see is the knowledge that no matter what long dark night of the soul I am experiencing this too shall pass and somehow, somewhere the light is returning.

Advertisements

Spring has sprung

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 12.05.31

After a long, wet and windy winter, spring has finally sprung and it’s glorious. Happy spring equinox! There’s something about feeling the sunshine on your skin, on seeing the bright yellow yolks of the daffodils, on the impossible blue of the sky that makes me feel alive.

Happy spring.jpg

Today I walked around campus soaking in the beauty of everything budding, flowering and unfurling. Being outside and connecting to the seasons is Prozac for my soul. I’m really excited because my dad and I are getting an allotment. Yes, I’m embracing my incipient decrepitude by wearing mumus, getting into gardening, and listening to Radio 4.

It’s been a really good month so far. Little over a week ago we landed after going on the holiday of a lifetime to Japan and Australia.

1655845_10153909349905347_41391584_n

Yes, it spanned continents but sadly not decades (niche Veronica Mars references, FTW!).  We trawled Tokyo, watched some very lovely people get hitched, saw Duffy at Disneyland, snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef, trekked in rainforest, and went on a road trip with our lovely friends down the Great Ocean Road. Even writing about this is giving me pinpricks of joy all over again.

My personal highlight was spending lots of time with my best friend and love of my life HWSNBN. Nine years ago, we travelled around Australia and it was even more magical almost a decade on.

IMAG0459

I’ve started to feel better. It’s no secret that I’ve been finding things tough. But there was something about changing my environment that’s helped me open eyes about some situations I’ve been feeling stuck about and see some solutions I’ve been missing.

Like Persephone I had to spend some time in the darkness before emerging into the light.  I know it will all be OK, even if it takes a while. I will be OK. And that’s worth celebrating.

Dispatches from a married lady

So a little over two weeks ago we got married.

First, I made the long walk on the arm of my dad. And I didn’t stumble.

HWSNBN and I made our personal vows and sealed them with a kiss.

Then we made our way outside to be showed in confetti (I think the expression on my face says it all, I loved the confetti dash.) and took some photos

We sat down for some dinner and a well deserved drink or two.

I can say that without a shadow of a doubt it was really the best day of my life (so far). We were both so unbelievably happy.

Then  a day later we flew away to Egypt.

Relaxed in the sun at our gorgeous  hotel (thanks Karen for the recommendation).

We saw some hieroglyphics.

And many temples

Took an a.m.a.z.i.n.g balloon trip

 

In short the last two weeks = the best of my life.  Fuller blog posts and many more pictures about the wedding and minimoon to come once I get my brain back.

2011: that was the year that was

I’m not sad to see the back of 2011. Although it’s been a great year for me personally, for the world in general what with the Japanese tsunami, earthquakes in NZ, London riots, the Arab Spring and the economic collapse, 2011 has kinda sucked.

I know a lot of people hate NYE’s: too crowded, too expensive, too much pressure. But I love NYE’s: the chance to dance like an idiot, hug the ones you love and make elaborate drunken resolutions that last until tea on January the first. For me NYE is the perfect blend of nostalgia and hope. So I’m here are my 2011 highlights, as well as what I’m looking forward to in 2012.

Getting in to University

More than starting Uni, which involved work and lots of it, getting into University has been one of my personal highlights. I knew the process would be competitive 250 applications for 20 places . So I was already in a such a state of nervous anticipation that I messed up the interview, stumbling through the ‘why do you want to be a counselling’ question like a blabber-mouthed fool. (Which I am, but they didn’t need to know that). Afterwards they shook me by the hand and said I’d know in a week. Three weeks passed and I starting ringing Admissions everyday. Finally the Admissions guy paused and said ‘I’m not supposed to tell you over the phone, but I can say it’s very good news.’ I walked round in an elated haze for days.  Since starting the course, I’ve felt enriched because I finally feel like I am doing what I was born to do. And come January I’ll start work with my very first client. Eek.

Planning our wedding

Technically we got engaged in the last days of 2010. But for me 2011 was the year this marriage shit got real. The year: we booked our venue, designed the engagement ringI overcame dress trauma and finally found my dress. If 2011 was the year we planned our wedding, 2012 is the year we’re getting married. Squee.

I started blogging again

After a two-year hiatus in which I did stuff (what is life if it is not documented on the interwebs I ask you?) I started blogging again, appropriately enough with a cat picture. And I soon become a little bit addicted. My most read post remains my birthday post. Awkward childhood shots for the win! As well as a chance to polish my writing skills, vent about everything and anything I’ve really enjoyed connecting with people I’ve never met before from the far reaches of this world as well as old friends. Thanks to everybody who read my blog, said they liked it, and left a comment. You guys are the best, group hug?

Going on holiday with my family

I went on holiday with my family and nobody killed anybody else! I think is a sign we are all maturing 🙂 Also I went to Disneyland, spoiler it’s still as awesome as I remembered.

2011 wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I had some ongoing health troubles (damn you foot and hip), trouble balancing work and life, and one of my best friends has been fighting a major illness. But I’m still here and so is everybody I love so I’m going to count that as a win.

Looking forward I haven’t had much of chance to think about what 2012 will bring. The plan for NYE’s was to bond with my lovely new counselling friends. However I overindulged and spent the first couple of hours of 2012 vomiting in the gutter as fireworks exploded over Brighton. BEST.NEW.YEARS.EVER! I jest, but actually despite the puking I had a really good night. To quote the late Mr Wilde, yes I may have been {vomiting}in the gutter but I was looking up at the stars fireworks. HWSNBN was amazing he stood with me in the rain for hours until we could go home, missing the party and going to club later.  The today when I was curled up on the sofa feeling sorry for myself he made a massive mince meat pie. Nom, nom, nom. So here is what I want to accomplish this year:

1. Continuing to get healthier inside and out.

2. Only connect.

3. Celebrate some big (3.0) milestones and marrying the love of my life. (I don’t know whether or not I might have mentioned this?)

So bye, bye 2011 and bring it on 2012.

You’re never too old for the magic kingdom

The January girls enter the magical kingdom

The highlight of my holiday was returning to Disneyland almost 19 years since I had last visited. Yes, it had changed. It was in a different country for a start (last time we visited the magical kingdom it was Florida, it truly is magic guys!) but what surprised me was how familiar everything felt. Disneyland still smells like candy floss and dreams. The big kid (not very carefully hidden) inside of me couldn’t wait to go on some rides.

HWSNBN, doing his best Scrooge impression, did not want to go to Disney ‘Too crowded and expensive’. Instead he would drive us there and then go into Paris for an afternoon of culture with my parents. He lasted until he saw the hot air balloon flying over Disney before he folded like wet paper.

As we had pre-booked our tickets online we strolled in, while HWSNBN queued and had his personal space invaded by an over amorous couple who mistook him for a wall. It was surreal walk down this quintessentially American Main Street and hear French, Spanish and Italian voices chattering excitedly. As my sister is disabled we queued at the information office for a carte verte, which allowed her and a certain number of carers (aka us woot!) to skip almost all of the queues and get straight on the rides.

Our first stop:

Space Mountain: Mission 2 aka the scariest ride ever when you’re an overexcitable ten year old

Terror seems to have wiped all memories of this ride from my head. But I was really surprised that my big sister was up for this. As we clambered into the seats and were strapped in, I could feel apprehension begin to build in my stomach. We were blasted up the tunnel where we hovered almost vertical before descending swirling and looping as the visuals of the stars and planet bloomed around it. It lasted 45 seconds. It felt like a lot longer. It was HWSNBN’s favourite ride. As I tried to get off my safety harness locked into place. I began to panic, visions of going round and round the ride spinning in my head. Luckily the lovely Disney employee helped me out. A little shaken we stumbled onto:

Star Wars Tours aka the one that made my little sister cry

Call it by whatever bogus name you want Disney, we all know it’s Star Wars. This is basically a flight simulation ride where strapped into a cockpit with 20 people you are jolted, twisted and dropped complete with an ultra bored French airspace hostess. Last time we were at Disneyland as soon as the doors locked my little sister had a full on meltdown. This was her chance for redemption. Except at the cabin shuddered I almost disgraced myself by throwing up everywhere. Outside in the 30 degree heat was Chewbacca posing for pictures with the kids. Sadly it was at the end of his photography session (they are only allowed out for 20 minute increments) so all HWSNBN could do was run futilely after Chewbacca as he walked away.

Pirates of the Carribbean aka the one we all loved

In terms of bang for your buck Pirates of the Caribbean delivers. Although we weren’t queuing we couldn’t help but notice the sharp contrast between the queuing time and the ride time. Thundermountain queuing time: 1hour 20 minutes, ride time: 1 minute. Pirates of the Caribbean is a loooooong ride. In boats you float through the water seeing models jerkily animate from skeleton pirates, to the sacking of a town it was brilliant. You even pass through the restaurant at one stage. All the disabled children in our boat were completely entranced.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril aka the one that made snot fly up

I hatttttttteeeeeeeeed this ride. For some reason I thought it was going to be like Thundermountain ie some ups and down but fairly tame. Wrong. Not only was it so fast, I was stuck to my seat with the force, it wasn’t until we set off that I noticed the track went upside down. As we spun upside down in a loop my nose (blocked all week) decided to choose that moment to clear itself.

Grossest.disney.moment.ever

Dumbo aka the ride where they thought I was HWSNBN’s carer

Listen, scoffers at the back you are never too old for Dumbo. Yes, we may have been the only people sans children but I am not ashamed. On the Dumbo ride you ride in twos inside a flying elephant that you control via lever to decide whether you want to soar or fall, or a sickness inducing mix of the two. Last time we went me and my little sis where in one, my mum and sister in the other. We spent the whole ride giggling as the ride made my mum sick so she refused to let my big sister press the button. Cue mega tantrum. 19 years later we were on a mission to redress the injustice. Before we got on the ride we were giving a disabled badge to hand to the attendant. I sat next to HWSNBN in the elephant as he fiddled with the seatbelt. As the Disney lady came round he held up the seatbelt with a sad face. She carefully buckled him in and talking to me all the time said ‘I hope he enjoys it’. We were in hysterics throughout the ride. As our little purple elephant soared  we had a perfect birds eye view of the magical kingdom.

Peter Pan aka the ride that used to be awesome… and still is

As a child this was my favourite ride and it did not disappoint. You swoop through the air above  lovingly rendered models from the starlit sky (‘past the first star then straight on til morning’), Peter’s shadow on the nursery wall, to the miniature volcano, and captain hook forever poised in the crocodile’s mouth. I could have stayed on this ride all day.

Thundermountain aka the one that we made my sister go on because we are evil

This was the last ride of the day and Lauren’s and my favourite. I had never been before but I knew that it was a rollercoaster but not as scary as some of the earlier rides. But by the time we got to this ride we had been at Disneyland all day and we were hot and tired. It was so popular we had to book a slot. But by the time we got to the front my big sister decided she did not want to go on the ride. Which was as problem as we could only ride with her as her carers. After a bit of wrangling and promises of food afterwards she agreed to go on the ride. (Yes we truly are the wicked sisters, deal.) It was the perfect end to the day. In Adventureland aka Wild, Wild, West-ville  you board a runaway train that jerks and careens round the track. For me this had the perfect combination of thrills and length.

As for my big sis, she hated it. She spent the whole ride looking down at her feet. Afterwards one of the staff ran up to her ‘Ca va?’ as she walked past him still in a mood. ‘Ca va bien.’ I replied and after a lolly the size of her head she was.

As an aside when we were waiting for the ride I noticed that HWSNBN wearing his customary uniform of shorts and cowboy hat blended pretty perfectly into the Thundermountain setting. As I tried to get a photo of him with the ride behind the guide was in the way so HWSNBN asked him ‘can we take a photo?’ in perfect French indicating for him to move out of shot. The guide took this to mean ‘can we take a photo with you’. So on my camera I have a couple of photos of a very confused HWSNBN and a random French guide. Awkward but very funny.

The others

Haunted forest of Snow White: if I was 10 this would have scared the hell out of me but I’m not so meh.

Pinnochio: OK but Peter Pan is miles better.

Mad hatters tea cups: My spies say (I refused to go on this) good but probably better if you have less weight to slow your cup down!

Disney tips

Play opposites

Basically you want to predict what everybody else is doing and do the opposite. Visit on a Monday when less people go (we visited on a Saturday). Most crowds travel clockwise around the park, so walk anticlockwise. The restaurants and the fast food places are hit between 12-1.30pm so take a snack to keep you going and eat after 2pm when the rush has died down. Avoid fantasyland aka kiddie-world until the evening when most of the children have gone home. When everybody is watching the evening parade, take advantage of the lull to hit some of the rides. Or if you are watching the parade be careful about your position you don’t want to be stuck at the wrong end of Main Street if you want to make a hasty exit.

Book

If you can’t get a carte vert take advantage of the Fastpass option on some rides. This allows you to pre-book a slot and skip the queues. Even with the carte vert we had to pre book some rides. My advice is when you get inside the park immediately book all your favourite rides, then do the ones that don’t have the Fastpass option in between.

Navigation dear Watson

Work zone to zone, but also keep an eye on the live screens with the wait times listed. If you try and hop from zone to zone just navigating the crowds takes a lot of time. For example, we started in Discoveryland, quickly did all the rides we wanted and did not go back there all day.

Travel and food

We drove and parked at the station, which was actually a lot closer and less crowded than the official car park. The plan was simple, we were going to buy food at the station and eat it inside the park. But to discourage you from picnicking there is very little green space to sit and eat. On the day we went it was in the 30’s. It was so hot that children threw themselves into fountains and parents skulked in the thin shadows cast by the buildings. We took frequent breaks in the air conditioned cafes. Our food was neither fast (45mins) nor reasonably priced but by this point we didn’t care.

Every adventure has to end

That evening we stayed to watch the parade as the sun begin to set behind the castle. The characters spinning and dancing on the brightly decorated floats. As we walked to the exit bobbed by the crowd like corks in water, the skies darkened. When it began to rain it was like somebody emptied a bucket, the water running down my legs in rivulets. We ran through the magical kingdom in the rain, the end to a perfect day. And if I ever want to return all I need to do is ‘borrow’ my sisters Minnie Mouse ears, click my heels together and say ‘there’s no place like home’ and I’ll be back.

Me in the purloined Minnie ears