The Greatest Gift I Never Used

So, yesterday was Father’s Day, or Fathers’ Day, depending on where you place that apostrophe. Covering my bases here.

I’m lucky. I have a great relationship with my dad. We’ve always gotten on well, and we have similar temperaments. I understand him. Plus, he’s kept all the stuff I don’t have space for but don’t want to throw out for the past ten years now. I think that counts for a lot.

I spent much of yesterday sat in his back garden, digging through the shed which has been home to some of my childhood treasures for a decade now. I didn’t plan things that way – when I moved in with him, age 18, it was a temporary fix to the problem of trying to move my sister and I from two large bedrooms into one smaller one. My divided childhoods merged into one house which didn’t have space for them both, and although the plan was to sift and sort and compress, that kind of never happened. Boxes of books and trinkets and treasures were placed in a shed which they never came out of.

Other things took over. Health, and the spiral of trying to work out what was wrong with me, and then before I knew it, I had moved out, and was thrust into the world of motherhood. The two-part childhood, which I had never resolved into one piece, had to wait. Part of me was in that shed, or in the loft. Growing dusty and damp; coated in cobwebs.

And now I’m here. Here as an adult, somehow, looking back on boxes which I’ve held in my heart for years, but not in my hands. Things I never grew out of and let go, but were left behind nonetheless. I’ve always had an obsession with nostalgia, and the past. I’ve spent over half my life trying to make sense of who I am, and I’ve always fallen short of the answer. It came to me, yesterday, that part of the problem is how much of me doesn’t add up.

As I looked over my old things, I started to realise how disconnected they were. Two worlds which never met. I have memories which I can’t place, because there is a section of my life which doesn’t follow the linear narrative of the rest. I can draw a line in my mind, connecting all the things I did with my mum, but my life at my dad’s didn’t run parallel. Those weekends and holidays existed in a different world – one where I didn’t have to wear the mask I wore during the week. There was no school. No homework. No anxiety. It was my sanctuary – and it existed outside of the rest of my life. A little bubble which protected me, but never integrated. As I looked back at my treasures yesterday, I realised that while I can put ages and dates to most of the things I boxed up at 18, I can’t do that for the things which had been in that room at my Dad’s house all along.

They exist in a part of me which escapes time. Weekends and summers blur into one. A decade of my life which doesn’t quite fit with the rest. Ten years of a part of me remaining static, while the rest of me grew and changed and matured. Treasures and trinkets which have so many memories, yet no age.

And the reminder of when my lives started to merge again lies in an envelope. That brief, strange few months when my two lives crossed in the other direction. When I would drive, once a fortnight, to spend the weekend with my mum, and then return home. And it’s funny really, because I had forgotten those months even existed. Forgot that part of me had even been there, until a black envelope reminded me of the Christmas when I had been free, and mobile, and ready to embark on a life where I could merge those two lives into one in my own time.

The greatest gift I never used was for a day at Brand’s Hatch. Before I had a chance to go, my licence was gone. The seizures had stolen my mobility, and that future. And in a way, they stole my past, too. Because there it stayed, in boxes. Left tucked away, while life took me further and further from the girl who never let go of them.

Further, but only in time. Because the thing which struck me most of all, as I looked over my old treasures, was how much I am still that girl today. The chaotic mix of things I owned and treasured all match the loves and interests I still hold dear. Books, a telescope, a typewriter, jigsaw puzzles, cut-outs from computer game boxes. Memories of hours spent making miniature worlds. Piece by piece it slots in place. And it’s funny, really, that I spent so long trying to make sense of who I was, when I never really changed at all. I’ve spent the last twenty years in an identity crisis of one sort or another, and as I slowly surface, I think I’m finally ready to start letting go of some of those boxes.

I don’t need to keep them all, slowly rotting in a shed or in a loft. I’ve had them all along. I’ll keep my black envelope though. It’s too easy for me to forget those few months where both halves of me came together again, and allowed me to grow into my future. And who knows. Maybe one day I’ll go to Brand’s Hatch after all.

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Concussions, and other fun things

There are few things in life which I value quite as much as the ability to think clearly. Food, family, and somewhere to live are all up there, of course, but aside from the basic necessities of living, what do you actually have if you can’t think?

I don’t mean thinking as in contemplating the deeper mysteries of life and all that (although I am the sort who enjoys that too, now and then), just… thinking. Being able to sit and know where you are, know how you’re feeling. Anticipate the finer things, such as how you’re going to get up, go into the kitchen, and put that kettle on for a cuppa. And then being able to get up, and not stop and think “Um, I’m in the kitchen. What was I about to do?”

A handy mug of tea

This, Jemma. It’s called tea, and it rules your life.

Last Friday, I had a pretty bad seizure and, although I don’t really remember doing so, hit my head kinda hard. I know this, because there’s a nice, handy bruise on the back of my head to remind me every time I lie down the wrong way. Now, this is a good opportunity for me to get sidetracked and point out that this wouldn’t have happened had the people around actually known what to do when someone has a seizure, and believe me, I will, another time. But today, the focus is the aftermath. The why, as it were.

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‘Tis the Season…

…To be piling on the anxiety, it seems.

I’m like it every year – every season, really, but particularly Christmas it seems, because there’s so much to worry about. Gifts to buy, and to wrap, cards to write and send, and now school events to remember, attend, send cakes/money for, and friends to consider.

And as someone who dislikes crowds due to social anxiety, even popping to the shops for a pint of milk can become a little daunting. I get home and want to curl up on the kitchen floor with a cup of tea, reassuring myself that I don’t have to go out again. Or I would, except that I do have to go out, because if there’s one thing I can rely on at Christmas, it’s that the stress of trying to be on top of things and remember everything will lead to me in fact forgetting more than usual.

So far, I have written half of my Christmas cards and posted none. And as I type this, I realise I went shopping earlier (with the Girl in tow) and despite writing “stamps” on the list, forgot to buy any. So that will be another trip out. Tomorrow, it can be tomorrow, and I’ll suck up the price of a first class stamp, sighing with relief that due to a bit of travelling around, I only actually have to post three or four cards this year. Or five. Could be five. Either way, hooray for not having a lot of casual friends, eh?

I’m riding the adrenaline rush at the moment and hoping the seizures don’t happen at the wrong time. I had two yesterday, and both fortuitously managed to be when my children were at school/pre-school and then asleep. I gloss over the note of fear which whispers into the back of my mind that one day, surely, the law of averages will spring one on me at a bad time. It’s a chiming worry which I never listen to, apart from late on those nights when sleep eludes me, and if I were a child again I’d want to turn to the comfort of a parent to reassure me that all is well.

That’s the thing about adulthood. I have to smile and reassure my children; all the while I’m fighting the urge to call my own parents and ask them the same thing. The single-parenting aspect gives me so much freedom – I went into town today straight from school and stayed there until I wanted to come home instead of rushing back, feeling as though time were ticking away – but the counter to that freedom is the anxiety that I’m an army of one. Help is on hand, but it’s a hand several miles away, to be summoned by a phone I can’t always use.

And for every person who helps me, I feel the nagging tug of an obligation to be repaid. A debt I owe, one which mounts with each and every favour I offer to repay in kind but never quite settle to my own satisfaction. Then looms Christmas, and I settle it on myself to repay at least a little with gifts and cards. Gifts and cards which must be bought, prepared, and given. All added stresses which I balance on my scales, adding and subtracting what I can do and what I have to let go. And for the let-gos, do I rush to catch up later, or call for help? My cycle of anxiety grows and multiplies.

Yes, ‘Tis the Season. To be Merry, to be Festive, and to smile brightly, all the while I am masking wishes for it to all be over so that I can try and find some time to catch up on the things I have not done, the things I forgot, and the favours I am sure to owe in the New Year.

Wait, weren’t you talking about something completely different?

I have a dreadful memory.

There. It is said. Okay, I’ve probably said it a few times before, but I think it’s time I said it again. I have an absolutely, completely and utterly, awful short term memory. I will often think of something I need to do, walk up the stairs, and have forgotten it by the time I reach the top. I have windows 7 on my computer, and so my desktop background is plastered with notes and reminders for me, and  I still don’t remember to do many of the things. Ooh, hold on, I’ve just remembered I need to phone up for my prescription. Hold on.

Right. Done that. Also got sidetracked and forgot I was writing this blog for about twenty minutes. Honestly, I’m not trying to prove a point here. It just happens.

I’ve also managed to get less than a month away from the wedding and have made less than half of my dress. I’m hoping it will all magically come together at the last minute (and, in fairness, things often somehow work out that way for me – well, they always did at school, anyway), but the reality is that I am going to have quite a few late nights or long days sat at a sewing machine, and by the time the big day rolls around, I will probably be sick of the thing.

Still, I am getting there, and the obstacles that were holding me up (not having the shoes/supporting undergarments I needed in order to know my exact measurements for the day) are now sorted. I shall, I can exclusively reveal, be wearing ankle boots on my wedding day, on account of the fact I cannot walk in heels.

Also, I didn’t have a seizure yesterday! I can now safely cross my fingers and hope that the wedding will be another one of those lovely seizure-free days. W is worried that the stress of the day will be too much for me, and that I’ll have a seizure at the reception. While I’m of the opinion that, well, it beats having one in the registry office, I will admit that I’m just a little nervous about it all. I can handle the fact I’m getting married. I can handle standing in front of people and having to say stuff. Heck I can even (just about) handle being the centre of attention for a day. I really don’t want to handle a seizure on top of it all. I’m only going to have one wedding day. I don’t want epilepsy screwing it up. Please?

Oh yeah, I started by talking about my poor memory. Oops, I kind of segued that post a little, didn’t I. See what I mean?