Who am I?
Daughter, nearly a year on from the sudden death of my mother, trying to support my father as he falls away into motor neurone disease, holding on to the self they created in their parenting of me: happy, resilient, loving, amused and amusing.  This self is buffetted hard by the rain and wind of loss and sadness but she still stands up, most of the time.  Thank you Mum and Dad for that.

Wife, sharing with my husband the loss of his father and receiving his help with my own demands.  Torn by living in one place and loving in another.  Having his company on the road as the miles pile up under the wheels.  Needing to find time to focus on each other

Mother and stepmother, feeling at the moment most strongly myself when I talk to my daughter and my son, loving their deep sympathy and understanding, their practicality, watching them in their turn parenting their children and seeing how totally they are adult, responsible not only for themselves but for others.  Being with them is balm to the soul.  Cherishing the love and care of my stepchildren, different from that of my own children but no less important and no less essential to my well being.  Feeling I do not have enough time or energy for everyone.

Grandmother, suddenly moved to laughter by a grandchild, brought into the moment.  Today nearly five year old grandson was given a large model of a plane to his total delight.  "Look Grandma.  It's like a big rocket ship, full of mysterious things."  "Mysterious things", that is what we need.  The two babies in the family, smiling.

Sister, sharing the loss of our mother with my brother and sister.  Knowing that, as my sister and I struggle to find ways to support our father, we understand each other, we support each other.  Admiring the way my brother and his wife cope with their own problems arising from my brother's health.  The relationship with our siblings is a fascinating one.  It may, as our parents die, become the longest relationship in terms of time that we have, predating that with our partners and our children, part of the landscape of our lives.

Friend, not as good a friend as I would like to be, not enough present, although the warmth of my friends on my recent big birthday reminded me that they understand.  I need to find more time for them.  I tend to seize on a day with no claims upon it to take time for myself but sometimes I would get just as much nourishment in a different way from time with a friend.   It is much easier to find time for local friends than for those at a distance.  Note to self: make it happen.

Colleague?  Not any more although the contact with other people who provide accommodation for visitors or who write is important to me to keep in touch with that part of myself.

And just me?  This has been a challenging year for that.  Gardening provided the passion and even intellectual challenge as I tried to make something here which was a fit for the place.  Gardening takes time and being present.  It has been squeezed out and I almost find it easier to be totally disconnected from it than to cope with the frustrations of doing not enough and doing it badly.  I feel as if a bit of me is missing if I am not obsessing about the garden and yet that is the only thing to do just now.  There are only so many hours and days and weeks.  Yoga is something I do for me and keeps me centred in a way I could never have imagined.  Last week I joined a choir and was amazed at how energised it made me feel.  Today for the first time for weeks I picked up some knitting again.  I have of course made a total hames of it and am now busily pulling back what I have done but still, I liked the feel of the needles in my hands.  So here we are, sometimes bobbing up and down a bit, but head above water, still here, still me.  Thanks to all my lovely family coming along on the journey and buoying me up in the waves.

Comments

  1. We are many things to different people are we not? And a beautiful description of those invisible ties that keep us connected to friends and family. I often think they are like strong ropes keeping us anchored in changing tides and uncertain waters.

    Would be good to have a catch up one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that image of the anchoring ropes. I will remember that. And yes to the a catch up!

      Delete
  2. when we move back to the city, I will be more sister, more aunt, less out on a limb.
    You write with such grace and honesty.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Such an interesting post, which has made me think.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We all have our roles in others' lives, and our losses. I know you have had yours too.

      Delete
  4. Your garden will be there when you are ready to return. Right now, you're wise enough to know what you need most, and you're doing it. The rest will fall into place, but for now, being in the moment as much as possible, doing what you enjoy with people you love, and trying not to feel guilty if things aren't perfect is surely a wise plan. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Caroline. I am not entirely sure about my garden being there when I return. Some of it is gradually returning to field! but yes, it seems like the only thing to do.

      Delete
  5. Beautifully written post. I envy you your siblings having none of my own and remember when my mother died just how big that gap seemed having to deal with everything on my own since although my husband cared and helped he was not from the same gene pool! You are far more than I am since I am no longer a daughter, have never been a sister, not a grandmother and no longer a colleague though many of my ex-colleagues are now my friends being retired themselves now. I am a mother and a friend and a wife and give thanks for that at least! I hope that life will be kind to you and that there will be more time for your garden in due course - in the meantime being pulled in so many directions you need to take odd moments such as your choir and yoga to be yourself in order to be able to be all those other things to other people. Take care and as a quote I came across a long time ago said "Take a little quiet time each day for yourself"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I often think how very lucky I am to have my brother and sister to share this with. It must be very hard indeed to do it on your own. I am lucky in that I know.

      Delete
  6. I lost my dad two weeks ago yesterday. He was 92, frail, nearly deaf, almost blind, barely able to walk. We knew it was coming, but even when you think you're prepared for it, resigned to it, braced for it, you never are. My dear mum spent the morning of her 90th birthday making funeral arrangements for the love of her life. She and I were so focused on him. Now I need to refocus on her. 16 Nov would have been their 68th wedding anniversary. I think I'm still in shock. Numb. Still, I count myself lucky to have had him so long. You have my sympathy and empathy. It's hard to watch someone you love go into decline and not be able to help. It's like watching a terrible fall in excruciatingly slow motion, and being powerless to intervene. It is not selfishness to make time for yourself. Do not feel guilty about it. It's how you stay strong so you can be there when needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sorry for your loss. No matter how much you expect it there is still a void when you lose someone. Sixty eight years married! That is quite something. Hope you and your mother can spend some quiet time together.

      Delete
  7. I suppose we go through life holding multiple personalities - we are different people in our various roles and in some ways defined by those contexts, so it can be a bit unstabling when we stop to think about our inner self. I suspect for many of us, this is what sends us off on the first steps of a spiritual journey. You are being pulled in so many directions at the moment, I believe it's so important to be kind to yourself, so back-burner as much as you have to without guilt or regret and take each day gently.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautifully put Anny. I think I am not too bad at putting things on the backburner without guilt but I can't say I can do it without regret. That is good advice. The regret takes an energy of its own and that energy would be better spent elsewhere! thank you.

      Delete
  8. Dear Elizabeth,

    Words foolishly fail me in such important moments. One always thinks one understands the suffering endured and the challenges met by others. And then another mishap along the bumpy road of life hits us and one realises that a new, more empathetic understanding has been reached. My father, who will be turning 92 in a fortnight has always been in excellent health. We had a real scare, however, this September as he was rushed to hospital with pneumonia whilst still here in France. I really thought that was it. The fear and panic were so real. He's better now and I hope and pray we enjoy his company for a good few years. My siblings and I rallied round, our connection becoming stronger still. It was a dress rehearsal for what is to come and it hit us hard.

    I hope and pray life sends you those moments of peace and joy your family and garden give you. You are clearly a most special person.

    Stephanie x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How very strange. I had just been thinking about you and came here to find your comment. I am glad your father recovered. Enjoy your time with him. I know you do, you can feel it every time you write about him! And yes, those of us who have siblings are lucky to be able to share our care with them. So glad to see you here.

      Delete
  9. I was at Karen's last week when you emailed her and it was lovely to hear from you, even though it was Karen's email. I hope you don't mind that she read it out. We would have loved to have seen you, but didn't want add even more to your already massive demands on your time.

    So gad that you and Ian are finding some together time this week and I hope you have a great time.

    The great thing about true friends is that it doesn't matter how long the gap is between get togethers. I'm sure that'll be the case when at last we meet again - we'll be nattering away just like it was yesterday since we last saw each other :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right about friends and the spaces between not mattering too much. I shall remember that!

      Delete
  10. So much thought and grace in what you observe about yourself and those you love. Do you think it is in middle age that one starts to sift through the wheat and chaff of experience and search for the things that really matter, that truly make life rich and worthwhile, and that we ultimately will feel glad we made time for? I am beginning to feel the turn of an axis away from the desire to rush around trying a zillion new things to hone in on what actually resonates with me and feels important. I kreally agree that it is hard to keep a sense of who one is when a great deal of care for others is being required, but I still believe that having fun amid what life throws our way is grossly underated and avoids the dreaded burn out! We all need a bit of time for our own souls, no?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think we need time for our selves and I am interested that you call it time for our own souls. It does feel like that, like a need to nourish oneself. And yes, whether it is a stronger sense of one's own mortality I don't know, but middle age for me did bring a wish to focus on what really matters.

      Delete
  11. There has been so much for you to cope with Elizabeth, and many rays of sunshine along the way. It is so hard, to lose the ones we love and who have always been a part of our lives and an interesting observation that our siblings become the people who continue to thread through our lives. Something I sometimes remind my children of - that their brothers will always be in their lives although friends and partners come and go. I wish I were closer to my own brother and sister.

    We are in a similar state at the moment as my father-in-law's health has deteriorated rapidly and there are many challenges in sorting out the best care for him now. I hope for you that you can find the time for the things that nourish you in this turbulent time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Marianne. I hope you find the care you need for your father in law. It can be a challenging thing I know. Best of luck.

      Delete
  12. You've come through the year admirably Elizabeth and no doubt stronger. There will be time again for the garden. Take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do try to tell myself that there will be time for the garden, if only I can find it under the brambles!

      Delete
  13. You left out yet another identity: you're a talented blogger too! You've been through some rough times and I feel for you. It's good to hear that you're taking some time for yourself, as well as helping your dear ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a great thing to say, thank you Sarah. There have been times when I have almost stopped blogging but I have really wanted to carry on.

      Delete
  14. Dear Elizabeth, rough seas become smooth again. In the meantime it looks to me that you are doing wonderfully well, strong and sane and balanced in a world which is often none of the above.

    You have managed to stay in tune with those whom you love and who love you in return, there is none of that friction and disharmony which pervades many families. I think this is due in a large part to your efforts and your calm centredness.

    I admire you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you friko. That means a lot to me.

      Delete
  15. Hi Elizabeth, I came by for a visit, missing the community that I used to have in blogging. It was good to read this, and I had the same reaction I always had to your writing - it slows me down, makes me thoughtful, brings pleasure even when the subject matter is a little sad. I don't think I knew that your mother had died, and am sorry for your grief and the unexpectedness of her death. I liked what you said about the sibling relationship, and am glad you have your brother and sister for comfort and support. Keep writing - you have a lot to say. xxDeborah

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How great to hear from you! And thank you for what you say about my writing. Life changes in so many ways. Some of the changes of the last year or so have been shockingly unexpected and some have been less shocking, such as the loss of my father in law but no less sad. It's all part of life for all of us I suppose.

      Delete
  16. So much food for thought here, in your posts and in the comments. It is hard to be all the people we need to be and still be ourselves, a skill we must hone, as you have been doing.

    I do hope the coming months are kinder to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Annie. That's a great phrase for it "being all the people we need to be and still being ourselves". Working on it!

      Delete
  17. You always remain steadfast , honest and kind ... so shouldn't really be surprised when those round you are , too . As part of a loving family ... or group of loyal old friends ... we're all stronger .
    And grandchildrens' wonder at mysterious things can be very cheering .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steadfast, what a wonderful word. I hope I am.

      Delete
  18. Blessings and Bear hugs to you in all your capacities, Elizabeth!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Beautiful and thoughtful, written with care and understanding. All the best to you on your journey :}

    ReplyDelete
  20. Than k you Jayne. Just feeling our way over here.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I didn't realise your Dad had MND, I'm so sorry, a good friend of mine watched his Mum go through the same, so very hard. You are clearly part of a close and loving family, a testament, as you say, to both your parents and a legacy you are passing on. There is a kind of immortality in that. As for your garden, I too have periods when I am forced away from what is, otherwise, a passion verging on an obsession, and likewise find total abandonment easier than tinkering at the edges. Hopefully you will begin to get time to wrestle with wilderness and feed that part of yourself again soon, but in my experience the wilderness doesn't completely overwhelm, it will all still be there to uncover, re-engage with, and take on to the next stage. And hacking brambles, digging up weeds, pruning, can all be wonderfully therapeutic. The garden and gardening are like good friends, possible to neglect and then return to, where they will be everything you remember and more. Be kind to yourself, and thank you for writing so honestly and so beautifully about such a difficult period in your life. I shall picture you sneaking off to that wonderful shepherd's hut with Ian, some wine and good food, to fuel yourselves for the next phase.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your understanding of all of it really. I am sure I will get back to the garden somehow, sometime.

      Delete
  22. Great post - and glad to hear you're getting back in the swing, with gardening, with knitting, with yoga. My garden was sadly ignored this year, as well - too busy refurbishing apartments and finding tenants! Now that's all settled, the garden is going to sleep for the winter. I'm mentally gearing up for a real good hands-in-the-dirt session come spring!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes there is almost a relief in the garden going to sleep! You can stop thinking about things not done for one thing.

      Delete
  23. How beautiful this is. My mother has motor neuron disease, so I know how hard this is. I am very moved by your joy in your children; it is a lovely thing.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!

Popular Posts