Dear Diary : In the Spaces

Right now I am sat in a neurology unit. I was admitted yesterday, I arrived at 3pm, got to the actual bed for me at 9.45pm. This will typify my experience, lots of time and space ….

Time to think, or to be precise, more time to think, but now out of my space.

It will come as no surprise that I and Mr Mouse are introverts, and that with migraines as a constant issue quiet space and time are a big feature of our day. A hospital is loud, its busy, and of course it’s being a bay of four, plus staff, it is a permanent social environment. It not only drains me really quickly, there really is no chance to recharge properly and sleep is disturbed.

It is something to get through, tests, and repeating the story while really running on empty, but more, it is a week away from being able to make progress towards my goals, its a week on hold. A holiday is part of my plans, its in and it builds me up; hospital breaks me down.

This is no fun, this is not how I want to spend my time, I have almost no independence, I don’t have the comforts of my home, I don’t have my life, which goes on hold, and I slide gently, however slowly, away from my goals, while mentally this is a struggle.

However, the added dimension is external. People expect that is is a fix, like these tests will find a problem and I will get fixed, or that I am here to get fixed, they are wishing me a good outcome, when really, I have no idea what a good outcome is.

It is almost impossible to explain that, not only may the tests not find anything, even if the tests do find something, it is entirely possible that what they find may have no treatment and that there is no fixing this problem at all. The possible outcome is, while I may pick up a label or definition, that will be the sum total of what is achieved and that there will be no help, therapy, fix or even particular management strategy beyond learning to live with it.

And people say don’t be pessimistic, not realising that, this static model is one of the more optimistic outcomes, we haven’t even begun with the progressive degenerative models.

Advertisements

Monday Night Reflection: Trying Not To Get Medical

It has been a difficult time; and honestly I am still in a difficult spot. I am sat next to my hospital bed writing on my netbook hoping the rather poor wifi will let me post this. At the same time, I want to reflect in a relevant way about my life, what I have learned, and what is important to me without turning into a rather dull medical saga.

What I am in the middle of is serious. Luckily for me it is not a stroke, and not a TIA either, so my brain hasn’t been damaged by what is happening no less than 4 times a day. Which looks like a stroke, right out the text book. So it scary to be around and its down right terrifying to experience because I am fully conscious and thinking but only able to hear. Before usually slipping unconscious anytime from 5 minutes to an hour after an attack starts.

I am not going to detail the medical stuff, but I’ve been discharged from 2 hospitals being told it’s not a stroke so there is nothing wrong. That is a story that will be told offline in offices with legal people present. Which presents a challenge. Clearly, this has been the majority of my experience coming the day after my Reflection on Logan. 

I could decide to write about an epiphany experience about having my eyes opened to the value and gift of life, but that would be the very worst sort of lie. Deception is not my aim. I already knew that I was a small amount of income away from the perfect dream life, and that that distance was both small and not terribly bothersome. Perfection could wait while I enjoyed the fantastic opportunity I had. My goals have not changed, although I have had some ideas on how to bridge the income gap, they are ideas, and I have made small priority decisions, after all, I have had a lot of time to think. Not being able to move or speak does that. I have evaluated positions I held and decided that there are things I can do differently and opportunities I should not dismiss out of hand.

So I am not radically revamping my blog, I am not changing the direction of my life, in fact, I am more convinced that I am on to a good thing and the goals I have are smart enough to serve me well. My commitment to my craft and project is largely unchanged although I always knew I had to look into my time management as well as being a little more organised so I could get ideas out of my head into a secure parking space quickly and then find them again. Things that I haven’t necessarily made a priority, and I want to use better time management to work on the things I want to be working on, and measure my involvement in fun distractions. 

I will probably get an XBox One too, I always loved Forza and my eldest son plays it as well as other games, so I get a bit of mindless distraction and can get a closer to him (My children from my 1st marriage live with their mother). Which may seem to contradict my commitment to be productive with a weak excuse, but the aim is to do things I enjoy and relax me, and to manage my social media involvement. To date, I have used social media as a distraction and I want to lose that aspect and concentrate on connection and positivity, which is what I love doing.

Which may turn out to the light bulb epiphany moment in my current experience. Making explicit that I love to help others and that having a positive impact is something I find fulfilling and rewarding to the point I chase that drug with all the manic drive of an addict in withdrawal without any conscious acknowledgement that this is the case. And perhaps, even, an element of denial and a desperate maintenance of cynical observation to mask that actually that I care so much that I get hurt and used. 

I don’t want to tell my story just to tell my story, that is pointless. If I tell my story I want it to establish my credentials as someone who was not born extra-ordinary, who has no super-power like talents, and is very much a non-remarkable specimen. If I possess any attributes it would be stubbornness and stupidity. Too stupid to know when I am supposed to be beaten and too stubborn to give up even if I did. A genuinely mixed blessing. However, this is why I want to help others be everything they can be, love life and live a fulfilling life chasing goals, not dreams, goals that make them happy. Growing to be someone they would want to be friends with, want their children to be friends with, and would let their children marry and who they would happily trust to employ and look after all that they hold dear and valuable. 

I am not sure if I am really that person, but the journey to be that person, that’s the stuff of my life and I am convinced is the very best of life. 

As John Connor said, “the future is not set, there is no fate but that we make for ourselves!”

Poetry Corner: Pawns and Knights

No greeting required, no words necessary

Oldest of friends the bitterest of foes

The score in scars for eternity kept

 

Ebb and flow of battles won, casualties only one

Silent darkness of plain sight, day into night

Peaceful waging our deathly war

 

Not my pet, nor walking companion

A Ronin silent into my consciousness flows

Once more we come to blows

 

Perhaps we can earn our rest as old men

Sit together with pawns and knights

Where once we had our mortal fight

 

That is not today, not for now

Hide our hurts and conceal our pain

Eyes of blood, we meet again

Monday Night Reflection: It May Not Even Be Monday

 

I have enjoyed writing Monday Night Reflections, the writing stemmed from what I was doing anyway, gave it a structure and purpose which has made it a sometimes painful and emotional exercise, but, one of great value and constructive purpose. Oftentimes I am planning ahead, making notes and eagerly await the weekend when I can start any work on it. I like to write it wholly on a Monday, but practical considerations meant long before I published my thoughts this was something that could happen over the weekend. What I needed was space and time and a few notes to remind me of what had been coming to mind through the week, as well as, or in spite of the latest and loudest.

And here I am with nothing to say, as I wrote in my Diary the events of the weekend have blown me off course. Today we were having friends over, a massive step out of my comfort zone; which went really well, despite my inevitable anxiety, fears of disaster, imminent doom and embarrassment. However, the invasion of my space, unplanned and unannounced changed everything. My weekend, which I had planned all week, as usual, to make the most of our time as a couple, gone, my Thursday headache had already changed what I had to get done the next two days, but the aim of the time was, as always, maximum time as a couple together. Invaded, changed, suddenly we were not alone; it is not that I am not hospitable, but I need to know, to plan, to have food in, be ready. Having people into my most precious space is a big deal for me, this is my sanctuary from the world here.

I feel I am sounding melodramatic, but that is life with anxiety, the simple invasion of my home by someone I don’t really know changes how I have to be. I have to put my face on, I have to act the person the world needs to see, its my public persona and it wears me out. There are other constraints, considerations, simply put there is no private space while that person is here.

The result is lots of things undone, time spent being sociable, time not spent relaxing, time not spent as a couple, tv not watched, naps not taken. And of course, I have to pretend that its normal and okay to do this, and I don’t think its acceptable at all. My wife agrees, it was inconsiderate and out of order, son, whose friend stayed at the last minute, (as usual), doesn’t get it. He only sees my persona, of course he does, but also, he doesn’t understand he isn’t 12 and this isn’t then. That life has changed and we don’t live that way. Things are on a different calmer, relaxed but also prepared and planned pace. We are calm and relax because we don’t bounce from event, loudest, latest, drama but rather plan, prepare and am able to have choices and flexibility because we are ready. Stress is minimised by organisation, spontaneity exists only because of what we have in place to support it.

This was a spanner in the works of my life. I have come a long way, achieved a lot, but times like this you see the distance between here and really functional. The time, the space I normally carve out, gone. Today the time I wanted to free up, well life has to happen too, and it did, and hard as I worked to free up the time, it wasn’t there. Today wasn’t a disaster, another car problem with our main car not just my runabout that I don’t need, some work behind, some on track, I guess this normal life … firefighting, my nightmare.

Poetry Corner: Code

You sit there knowing, a consequence is due

The look, the touch, the phrase, you freeze

Exposed, vulnerable, out in the open

Panic, run, run with your heart pounding

Nowhere to go, no hiding place

Tell someone you would not dare

 

No one would believe you drummed in your head

Everyone knows you have the problems

People already know about you is what they said

So you breathe, an audience is safety

All too soon you will be alone, home alone

Secret shame only yourself to blame

Monday Night Reflection: Best Laid Plans

It is over halfway through February and I am still in the first week of January and I don’t just mean in terms of mental preparation. Anonymouse blogging isn’t always easy, I have given a massive hint in my reflections to who I am, however, anonymity is really about plausible denial rather than complete obscurity, and I believe that sometimes you have to share yourself to be honest and relevant to a situation. While there is that line to walk, what it does, is that it highlights how compartmentalised life can become in our minds when in reality is somewhat more of a jumbled mess.

I got myself a blog planner, and I got myself a Filofax and I was ready to be much more organised and intentional. On the one hand, my decision to be intentional at the end of last year has been a success, on the other, my planning has been somewhat lacklustre in some areas of my life. On the blogging front, I have been haphazard, on the business front I have had a train wreck with regard to planning, and in other areas, I have been on point as they say. A very mixed bag indeed. I am therefore looking for what has led to such a disjointed picture across the different hats that I wear.

I am wary and reluctant to say “I was ill”, but I was ill and that has had a massive impact on my output capabilities. I am not physically or mentally able to sustain levels of productivity and output that I was capable of before getting ill. At the same time I am transitioning from what I was doing and had trained to do while accumulating years of practical experience to something where I am learning from the very start. I know that things are always bigger than they look in terms of learning new skills and new business ventures; but holy moley it’s a steep hill, and it looked steep before I got on it. So I am facing a challenge which while super exciting is more than I thought while approaching it with a reduced capacity, and that is something I had not adequately considered at the start of the year.

However, within the context of the super exciting and difficult challenge the switch to pen and paper has completely remodelled the landscape of my planning. Electronically my todo list would be part what I had to do immediately, the get milk and post the parcel of life, the put up shelves combined with the seal the garage roof ready for next winter type projects. A hodge-podge of here and now and projects. What going to pen and paper has done is clear my diary and to-do list of everything but firm commitments. If it hasn’t got a date or a deadline, doesn’t have set parameters and a what done looks like, then chances are I am going to not write it down or give it space in my head. Now, I don’t mean a task has to have all of those but at least one. Within that tasks are moved out into their projects rather than standing alone, so unless it’s time for that project I don’t see them. The upshot is things look really empty where once they looked crammed and I am even more relaxed about what needs to be done.

Working with pen and paper has made me consider more, filter more, assess and prioritise more effectively, slowed me down and forced be to be intentional about my planning. I also spend a lot less time unproductively working on the planning task because I haven’t got software to be playing with. There are some downsides in the practicality of adjusting on the fly because I have to rewrite things, but again that repetition does embed things in my memory better.

Assuming I got as far as planning. Creatively, I have failed to plan, maybe at all and definitely in a way that I can call effective. The point of my reflection, both this one I share and my private ones, is change. Either identify a change and recognise the positive development or identify something to change and how to change it. In this case what do I need to be changing. Very practically my time management needs to take account of my reduced work capacity. I do not like doing this, not one bit, however, revising my estimate of what I can achieve per set unit of time absolutely has to happen. Secondly, part of revising my capacity expectations is recognising the time to recover from what is going on. I have had physiotherapy, it has left me sore and exhausted for 3 days, the pain has disrupted my sleep too. My output ability has been lowered, and yesterday on Sunday the afternoon became a nap time, where I dozed on and off through a whole afternoon and early evening. I had to account for, accept that I was exhausted and that my physical exhaustion was also combined with a mental exhaustion from the situation and the activity from Thursday morning onwards.

Rather than being disappointed at the things I haven’t done, I am taking pride in what I have done, what I have managed to put in place ready and how I have managed to do little parts of projects and things. I had planned to do more, I had to write more, do some painting practice and I had planned to have more blog posts, sit down and let some ideas flow for future poems or short stories. However, that didn’t happen, I did spend great family time, connect with friends and keep putting the work for my biggest life goals for 17; my priorities. The hustle and flow of life, paying bills, eating shopping, they are not hindering me, they are essential to everything I do, creatively, professionally and socially. Which why when I went out on Friday Night I wore different shoes, and it is why I am really encouraged with how intentional life is working for me.

I am accepting for myself what I tell others, perfection is not possible. I also promised myself that my last reflection was too long and that I need to shorten them down for my own good as well as for the good of anyone reading.

It is mid-February and not everything is done yet, not everything is started yet, but progress is being made and I am not using those goals and intentions as sticks to beat myself up with. They are starting points and intentions that get to be reviewed and reformulated, they are not commandments set in stone. Perhaps, this is where I have made the most progress, and I cannot take full credit for that. I live in an environment where those around me no longer look to beat me down and remind me that I am a failure, a looser and a burden. Being out of a toxic relationship is not just about the removal of the abuse, it is about how you can get space and time to be kind and loving towards yourself because you can discover what kind and loving really means.  In an abusive relationship, being unkind, putting you down and delivering consequence is what constitutes love, and you do end up being like that with yourself. You end up complicit in your own abuse and actually self-harm because that is what you think life is and how it works.

So while my best-laid plans may not be coming together quite how I would have intended. The overall goal is to be intentional, to have goals and chase them, and to flexible and adaptable to what happens on the journey. And to even revise goals if that is what needs to happen, rather than falling for the false meme stubbornness that never quits even when it’s obvious continuing has become a very bad idea (thanks to Seth Godin – the Dip for that advice). In pursuit of that bigger life goal of intentional living, I am pleased with my progress, in terms of my bigger goals, I am similarly pleased with my progress. For once I am deliberately, or intentionally, should I say, stopping to appreciate the successes and progress made and not look at what hasn’t happened yet and look for sticks to beat myself down, but to build myself up. Plans change, life happens, even with a good map the road is still unknown till you travel it and has bumps and turns you can’t see.

Poetry Corner: Late Night

My thoughts are not racing,
But I talk so fast I struggle to keep up
There is no turmoil
But I am lost and confused
A maelstrom of word and picture
But clear and peaceful too

My windmill spinning without the wind
But I am still grinding,
My kart still racing down the hill
But I am on level ground
My river still roaring by
But I stand on desert sand

I think of sleep, it comes quite easily
But never lasts,
Short burst are all it ever seems to be
But morning so quickly comes
No rest in calm harbour
But the restless sea

I try to cheat and make it last
It works sometimes and frightens me
I am one with the certainty
It will be as it always was
Now I rest in stuttering tone
And paint my art in tired brush

Poetry Corner: Made it out of bed today

Made it out of bed today
Not sure what to say
My thoughts don’t rhyme
Never arrive on time

Sure I did some stuff
Admittedly not much
Overall some success
Don’t ask, that’s best

What did I achieve
Very little but breathe
It definitely will do
Over turning blue

The best is yet to come
Nothing said or done
This my hundred percent
Wouldn’t pay my rent

I stared at nothing though
Nothing really to show
No brick in that legacy
Every thing all at sea

I put on some clothes
A week old, who knows
Its ok, I didn’t go outside
I stay cosy and hide

What will tomorrow bring
Hope the doorbell doesn’t ring
Should I cook some food
Not really in the mood

May put on some music
A soundtrack while I’m sick
An illness like the others
Except no one bothers

Its different when its your head
That stops you getting out of bed
No virus or infection
Means there is no action

I read something today
A sauce bottle you say
This too will pass
Life turned to farce

At bottom no where left fall
Says the complete fool
A long way to that place
See horror on your face

Much worse than this
Your own vein you miss
With fullest candour
I possess no anger

Somewhat emotionless
No, not another test
They come down my street
We nod as we meet

Time to go numb
Best take my Valium
It takes away anxiety
This I am yet to see

Drowsiness is no freedom
Eventually succumb
To the nightmares
No one seems to care

Expressions of sympathy
No idea about being me
It’s all right, I’ve no idea too
Like you, no clue what to do

Monday Night Reflection: Gluten Free Cookies

Christmas time is rich in reflective material, for me the week before Christmas day was one of visiting old friends and so was especially rich meaningful for me. I saw Katherine Jenkins in Concert on the Friday before just to give the week an extra special feel.

However, what seems relevant, at this moment, is not those good times, not the thoughtful gifts received or the joy I have in giving. Perhaps ancropped-cookieother day, it is not how emotional I have felt, it is not the tears of sadness and joy that mixed when I read my Christmas card from my eldest son who lives his mum. It is not how much I miss all my boys, or how grateful I am for the second chance I have been gifted.

Instead, it is the cookies that I received. I have three boys who live with their mum, an eldest and the twins who are seven. My eldest used his own money, initiative and time to make me a card by hand and buy me thoughtful and deeply humorous presents. From any thirteen year old they all would be thoughtful and heartfelt, his card so honest and emotional beyond his years too that they made me really proud of the young man my boy is becoming. From a young man with autism they are measure of his character and the hard work he puts into his life. He does the work.

They are great things to reflect on. Instead of buying presents, every year my youngest twins make them, they have an art inclined mother and so this makes sense economically and practically. This year they made cookies, they are beautifully decorated too.

Thing is, I have coeliac disease, and sadly everything has to be gluten free. The cookies arrived in time for Christmas. And on Christmas day we Skyped and I saw them open my presents and they could have watched me open mine, my eldest did, they had toys which are more interesting than Daddy. I thank my eldest for arranging the opening, and his commitment to it saying he would wait as long as was necessary for me to be able to see him open his. So I emailed, silly question, are the cookies gluten free. After all, my ex-wife was there when I got the diagnosis, she knows how ill I can get, and what happens when I eat something contaminated. The answer came, they are not. (I can see a positive in this).

Those around me are shocked, the cookies came with no note, no indication they were regular cookies from someone who knew how ill they would make me if I ate one. They came as a present to me and they thought my asking was a 1% just in case, bib and braces make sure sort of question. I was confirming what I suspected.

This has shocked them, they are wrestling with the thought that she allowed, even deliberately, let me be sent something that would cause me pain and make me sick. Years after throwing me out, years after the last open piece of warfare, indeed, in a time of distinct détente and a definitely less frosty reception, after the collaboration and successful team-work of co-ordinating Christmas presents. Would she really do this, a disbelief, that without melodrama, she did actually try to poison me.

I am struggling with their disbelief. I expected nothing else. Through this I realise that even though people have stood beside me, counselled me, and been part of this process, the fullest impact may never be apparent to anyone but me. And that this must be the case in any abusive or traumatic experience. I have had the chance and privilege of talking to survivors and we have really connected, our common experience gave us a bond and understanding. I knew I was getting an edit, I do the same, we share what is salient, what is important to us at the time, and we summarise, we connect on horrors of experience neither of us needs to relive to understand have happened. We know enough from our own life, bruises, hurts and scars to stand with those like ourselves. I never realised how much depth was left beyond that, even in my fullest disclosures something was not apparent, something did not make it across. Perhaps it is a failing of language when faced with conveying emotion, perhaps it’s the assumption that certain phrases, words and concepts have an almost universal meaning. Part of it is perhaps that unless you have lived through something, then it remains an intellectual concept. You understand that having someone trying to drive you to suicide is horrific, and intellectually you can grasp the idea of someone creating the situation where you feel trapped with no end or escape, but ultimately, you have never experienced either suicidal thoughts or had someone drive that hard to create that situation and so experience lacks immediate reality.

For anyone who has had that trauma, then they have their own reality on which to draw an understanding, but the uniqueness of individual experience leaves part of what happened to you inaccessible. And so it is with the cookies, the people around me now would cannot grasp the mind and intention it would take to make someone ill deliberately in that way, in the same way they know that she did try and drive me to  suicide but the type of thinking and personality required to do that are completely beyond their ability to access. I, in contrast, having experienced that mind, that intelligence first hand, while not being that person am keenly aware of how that mind plays out if not how it is driven or works internally. The external reality of it is all too real. The careless intentionality of simply allowing harm to occur is not alien, it was instead, how life was for the majority of my life.

The cookies are symbolic both of how things have been and of how they are. From the harm of my past to the caring of my present. This has already passed into the story of my life, a story to tell as an illustration of where I come from. I guess, it is a small piece of evidence that flies in the face of the official version of my life and who I am. An official version whose presence is felt particularly at Christmas, adding a dimension of significance to any event involving my past. A reminder that I have to be wary and aware of those access points to my life that are vulnerable because of my boys and that my love of them is seen as a weakness to be exploited.

Ultimately, the cookies say nothing about my twin boys, who have taken a lot of time and trouble to make lovely cookies for their Dad, who have been genuinely excited to open their presents, even letting me know I had unwittingly duplicated something they already had in one of their little extra’s, and they speak clearly about who she is.

Thinking Out Loud: Just in Tyne

I have been looking forward to seeing old friends in Newcastle since the day we finalised it. Sadly, they are just far enough away to preclude a practical day trip and weekends for us both are somewhat hard to co-ordinate. However, the school holidays and a little alignment from the Stars meant 2 days together.

Looking back at my time in Newcastle, hindsight is the problem. When I left, I thought a particular set of things was true, that my time had been life’s normal ebb and flow of ups and downs. Stopping at Wetherby services on the way up is similarly laced with memories. It is where I bought my Wife a soft toy to cheer up when she had gotten lost following me home after picking up a car I bought, and the smiles walking back to my car somewhat worried where she was. On the other hand, I had stood there and can remember that hours after standing in that spot my life would change forever, and overwhelmingly that would be for the worst.

Yet, I am going to see two people who stood beside me, who felt frustrated by the physical distance but who offered me a sanctuary should I need one. If I had walked away and left it all with just what I could have carried, they would have put me up and helped me back on my feet again. They knew the truth and endured until I saw it too. Because I literally had no idea that my life wasn’t normal. Marriage ran like my childhood, so it was all I ever knew. Hindsight tells me the truth. They didn’t only not believe the lies, they said they were lies. Of course one was my best man, of course, we stay in regular contact, and I miss them sorely. Travelling up reminds me of the great times I had with them, the other friend I am visiting and the supporting cast genuine caring people who made the good times.

The saving grace of the situation is that I was able to enjoy the great that I had while I had it, which maybe is why the loss hit so hard. Being a full-time parent and part-time everything else was a blessing and a privilege. An amazing gift I got to do not had to do. The downside was other people’s attitudes towards me, from the, it’s your day off/ time with assumptions, to the, you must play Xbox all day assumptions and the general feeling that I did nothing, had no job and merely grudgingly did minimal necessary babysitting duties when I had to. I was proud of how I kept my little council house, proud that the family was fed, clothed, warm and looked after even when 10 days before pay day I had 2.50p to do it with. Proud of my hustle that kept an extra income coming in without stopping me being the best Dad I could be. 9 pm to 12 pm or beyond working and up at 6 am. Our house was tidy, clean and welcoming, clothes were clean and ironed, I laugh at how I used to spray my wife’s clothes with a little fragrance, so her drawers and cupboards smelled sweet. Even if she never noticed or said, I knew. My son I spent hours together, he would watch me do the house stuff, cook meals, clean, but then we would always have our playtime, be it our soft play date every Wednesday. Or going to the park before picking mum up from work, he helped pick shopping and sort clothes, we watched the shiny show before the evening work run, and when I was at college, we sat and ate breakfast at McDonald’s before we went as his treat. Philadelphia Bagel with milk, and because we had over an hour to kill, all the time he wanted in the world to eat it or get it on his cheeks. I would learn he would play.

I was not Xbox dad, and I am still proud of that, and still treasure the times we had. Divorce has rewritten that, of course, the lies obscure, I will always hold the truth in fond regard. And so I drive on familiar roads, to show off my new life and catch up on the year.

When I sit in their lounge, my sadness is that I have not sat there more. Their boys have grown up just as mine are too. The welcome is warm and authentic, I could have been away a day or a year or ten, nothing has changed much, the bond the same. I am keen to share my happiness, and they share theirs, all along I am aware that the details have been washed away by the tide of time, the smiles and laughter of my everyday just a single jest in a story. Much of the time we sit and talk, indeed, we sit and talk until it is late. We depart, warm and full to our hotel, their house already full. The next day they joined us to see my favourite place the Baltic Mill Contemporary Art Gallery, then coffee and lunch at a little café on a street rich in memories of mornings with my eldest son when he was my only son, breakfast and motorcycle shops on Westgate Hill.

The morning goes too fast, and it is time to catch one more friend before we leave. All the while of this trip I have commentated on the places we go, putting them in the context of my life and why they are so dear to my heart, or not, of course. Our time together so short, I leave and sit in my car, small tears refusing to be held. We say nothing, departing on a familiar journey, my heart sadder each time I do. One time I left here full of optimism and hope, twenty-four hours later I would be holding my mother’s hand in ICU.

As I look at the Tyne, I have no idea what to feel, as I tour, I am talking about the great and the good times of the places I pick out. I feel the contrast with the tour of where I spent my childhood. Perhaps my friends Toon pride is infectious, but this is deeper, I want to remember Newcastle fondly. Growing up, I cannot bring myself to see it as anything but how it was, a place to escape. Yet, I was glad to leave Newcastle, I never wanted to live there, mostly, I believed, because I keenly felt the fact I was an outsider. With the life I have now, it really doesn’t matter, but then, with a son and the necessities of my life as it was, it made me restless. I was longing for a home when I was in a place where I was also feeling the most at home.

Of course, while I was and always would be an outsider, and in any place that makes you unwelcome to some, I was welcomed and accepted. People went out of their way to draw me in and include me, to prevent my isolation (which didn’t go down well). My longing to be home was not the place, I had no idea what home felt like yet, and it would be years after leaving Newcastle that I would finally feel at home on my own in a little house.

Driving home from the past, another stop, at a too familiar service station, not so fond, I got food poisoning of a sandwich from here one time, and then home. Yes, home, to reminisce about what could have been, never was, and what is. I look back and my time could have been so much more of the good, but really that is a lie. Without the circumstances that got me there, I would never have been there or met the people I did in the places I went. The good and bad happened because of each other. That hurts, I desperately wish that was not true. I want the good of that time to be cut out from the past in which it is embedded.

Sadly, this applies to so much of my life. The good times are so much clouded with the shadow of the other, the bad things. This sadness, is one I cannot escape, that looking back, so much will be seen not only in the light of hindsight which is harsh itself, but the long shadow of emotional control and abuse, and the knowledge that what made times good was ignorance as well as circumstance.