Happy Autumn Equinox

Photograph of a tree with orange autumn leaves

We’ve had an extremely busy summer, which has mainly been taken up with moving house. Things are calming down now and Autumn is one of my favourite seasons, so I’m glad to see it arrive.

I feel like I’m ‘harvesting’ quite a lot of good stuff this year. Moving has been a big achievement and we finally feel happy with our living environment. I think this will make a big difference to our general wellbeing. My own self-care has improved enormously and I’m getting better at managing my mental health.

My goal between now and Samhain is to sort out a whole bunch of life admin that’s been building up over the last couple of years. It’s a long list of small things that aren’t terribly urgent, but which need me to take action. These are the kind of things that trip you up when you least expect it, so I’ve decided to get on with it for the next two months and work through the list.

April/May life round-up

The top of a tree covered in pink cherry blossom against a bright blue sky

Obligatory spring blossom photograph

Life has continued to be hectic and stressful. I have a lot going on at work. The mice returned and we had to get pest control in to deal with them. I felt bad about it, but nothing else worked. Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a terrible toothache. Apparently, the tooth is fractured and will need a crown. That’s gonna be expensive.  

It wasn’t all bad though. There has been some nice weather. We visited the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing Exhibition and it was pretty amazing to see the drawings close up. Then we saw Thea Gilmore live and that was excellent. 

Film 

We saw Captain Marvel and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. I’m not really into the Marvel universe, but this was a good time. 

Reading 

I read a few crime thrillers. The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson is a proper literary thriller (post coming). I enjoyed The Dry by Jane Harper, but didn’t think it quite lived up to all the hype. The Old You by Louise Voss is a twisty thriller that’s probably best read on a plane, or the beach. 

The Ark by Patrick Tomlinson is quite a fun SF thriller and I really liked Una McCormack’s novella, The Undefeated. I’ve got a big pile of science fiction novels on the go at the moment. 

I’m chipping away at The Collected Poems of Philip Larkin. He’s a brilliant poet, but I am finding all the self-loathing and mid-century sexism a bit hard work. Still, he did write my absolute favourite poem set in the month of May, ‘The Trees

Television 

Of course we’re watching the superb Gentleman Jack. 

We started on The Orville, the premise of which is basically Star Trek: The Next Generation if the crew were ordinary people. I am a little surprised by the high quality of the storytelling on what appears (on the surface at least) to be quite a silly show.  It has me hooked. 

 

8 Years (Part Two)

My father died eight years ago this month. The anniversary surprises me every year. I feel restless, unable to settle to anything, abandoned and uncared for. I start to look for attention in all the wrong places. Eventually, I remember that I have been “abandoned” by the person I was closest to for most of my life, the person who made me feel seen and upon whom I could depend for a response.

I still grieve the loss of his support and the way he died. My father did not have a good death. We watched helplessly as he suffered terribly, both mentally and physically, through his last few months. I feel haunted by regrets, and sometimes guilt, even though I know he would not have wanted me to feel this way and that one of the last things he said to me was, “Enjoy your life”.

Eight years on, what do I want to say to you about grief? First, you don’t “get over” the loss of someone close. You can adapt to it and, if you’re lucky, your life expands around the loss, so that it no longer feels as all-consuming as it did at the beginning. But you always carry it with you. I remember a colleague, who lost his mother when he was five, telling me that even as a middle-aged man, he could always be pulled back into that pit of grief.

I still feel like I’m adjusting to the situation. On the one hand, it seems like my father has been gone for a long time, but on the other, if I walked into the kitchen in my parent’s house tomorrow and found him sitting there in his usual chair, it would just be a relief to discover that I had been mistaken.

I think that one of the biggest adjustments in bereavement is accepting the changes to yourself. We construct our identities in relation to other people and losing them changes us, often in ways we do not like. I feel like I did not, and would not have, consented to these changes in myself.

That’s another thing. Grief is such a bizarre and unexpected experience. It does not manifest how you think it will. I expected to feel sad and miss my father, but I did not expect to be having panic attacks almost every day for years. I’ve got the anxiety under control now, but I still have anxiety attacks whenever I’m confronted with a problem that my father would have supported me with. I’m just more able to recognise that this anxiety is actually grief.

Your relationship with the person doesn’t end with their death. It just changes. In a way, I feel like I know my father a lot better now that he’s dead and I can see the whole story of his life. I can also see that I did not address the difficulties in our relationship and never confronted him about the ways that he failed me which, if I’m honest, were as significant as the ways that he supported me. I think he knew this too, but we never talked about it because it was too dangerous. I never would have been able to think, let along say, this when he was alive.

Despite the silences and unacknowledged difficulties in our relationship, I still think about my father every day. I will always regret the way he died, miss him and feel the loss of the support he gave me.

Part One

For grief support “that doesn’t suck”, see Megan Devine, Refuge in Grief

January Life Round-Up

January has been pretty quiet.

The second week saw both the anniversary of our civil partnership in 2011 and our first proper date back in 2007, so we decided that was worth celebrating and went out for a nice dinner at a little French bistro near where we live.

We went to one gig. It was supposed to be folk legends John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy, but Martin had flu and had to pull out. John Kilpatrick  managed to get a set together at the last-minute and it was a really fun gig, with all the joy of watching a tuly consummate performer. Plus he sang one of my favourite songs by Fairport Convention, ‘Crazy Man Michael’.

Books

I finished and wrote a post about Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers.

I also read Star Nomad  the first in a series by Linda Buroker which was fun (CN for rape threat though).

Film

We went to see The Favourite and seem to be in disagreement with pretty much the rest of the universe because we didn’t like it!  I won’t get into the reasons here because it would take an entire post.

Television 

We watched Lucy Worsley’s series History of the Home which was fascinating. I love social history.

A Quiet New Year

I never really know what to do with the calendar New Year. We both find Christmas difficult and, by the time 1st January rolls around, we’re thoroughly sick of the festivities. Certainly not in any mood for partying.  But it’s one of the ways that society makes sense of time passing and it’s difficult to ignore, so we feel that we should acknowledge it in some way.

We’ve decided to redefine New Year’s Day as “banish Xmas and take care of ourselves day”.  My mother, devout Catholic that she is, always made us celebrate the full twelve days of Christmas. I enjoyed the holiday when I was growing up, but that last week, with the half-naked tree, drooping decorations and endless heavy family dinners, just made me feel like I hated everything.

This year we spent the morning cleaning our flat and getting rid of Christmas-related stuff. We changed the sheets and made everything smell nice. We had an aromatic lentil soup for lunch (which is traditional for New Year apparently) and went for a walk. The sun even came out and I saw a green woodpecker. For dinner, we had Bigos, the Polish sauerkraut and sausage strew that we love, but which takes ages to cook.

I’m quite looking forward to January. I intend to enjoy it for what it is, a time of relative quiet before the year really gets going at work. I’m planning to eat lots of wholesome, hearty meals, drink brandy toddies, and go to bed early with a hot water bottle and a book.