Reflections

The start of a new year always makes me a little reflective. I always think that now I am in my forties I should have my shit together. When I was a teenager people in their forties all seemed to know what they were doing, were confident and self assured. Now I am in my forties I realise like everyone else my age that those forty year old’s I admired were just winging it. No one has got their shit together and we all are just making it up as we go along. All that those 40 year old’s had that I didn’t as a teenager was life experience. I don’t think there will ever be a eureka moment in my life where I feel like I have figured everything out. I think I will forever be winging it and pretending that I know what the hell I am doing.

As you get older I do think you appreciate the simpler things in life. You put home, happiness and friendships above the material things. You also start to refuse to put up with so much crap or maybe it is you finally get the courage to start putting yourself first for a change. At the end of last year I made some quite sweeping changes. I reassessed some relationships, I binned some, I reinvigorated others. I pushed myself to make an effort with those I didn’t want to lose. It is funny during the hard times you really notice who runs towards you and who runs away. And there is the third group of people those that in public or on a public forum make all the right noises but do nothing practically to help.I have noticed this a lot over the last 4 years.

 Those of you who follow the blog or know me personally know that basically over the last 4 years Mr Myasthenia Kid and I have been to hell and back. Briefly ( which is a laugh as even briefly so much has happened each event is a blog post in itself) in 2016 I developed a CSF leak which left me confined to my bed for much of the year and if not in bed lying down. It made socialising very hard, several of my friends were wonderful but one in particular would make all the right noises you know the “just let me know if you need anything” and when you did ask you were met with radio silence or a long list of excuses as to why they couldn’t help. I will never ever be able to repay Imogen for how she helped us during that year, looking after the dogs at the drop of a hat for 8 hours whilst I got treatment at a hospital an hour away. Same for my parents who when Imogen couldn’t help would come up and drive me back down to the hospital a journey of over 100 miles. 

In 2017 we lost our dear friend of over 20 years, Andrew, in a car accident, his passing made me realise I needed to make more of an effort to stay in contact with my friends as none of us are guaranteed a tomorrow let alone a next week. In this year I also lost a family friend of many years who I would have regular conversations with via Facebook Messenger and telephone calls, although we never met in person. Later that year I was to learn my Grandmother and my dear friend Pam ( my neighbour twice and the person I saw most other than my husband) had both been diagnosed with lung cancer, Willow our 11 year old Weimaraner passed away on December 15th and it broke my heart. Due to the events of the following January I don’t think we ever mourned her passing properly. Both Imogen and Heather rushed to my side that day. Another friend offered but I realised at that point that I didn’t want her there at the time I was surprised by my feelings but let it pass thinking it was grief.

In January 2018 we lost both my Grandmother and Pam, despite knowing that both their diagnosis had been terminal we had lived in a bubble that it wasn’t going to happen. I had many conversations with Pam, she moved between despair and complete denial. It was emotionally hard going for me, which probably sounds quite selfish and self absorbed but I challenge anyone to listen to your friend of over 20 years talk about the fact they are dying and walk away untouched. Pam passed away the same week Andrew had a year earlier, which I have always found quite bizarre, especially since Pam had accompanied Jay and I to Andrews funeral less than a year earlier.

 We had no idea then at the ticking time bomb that was contained within Pam’s body. Looking back now there were subtle signs that something wasn’t right, she had looked really tired all the time etc a whole heap of little symptoms that added together were something deadly. Even if we had known then I doubt much could have been done but it makes me angry that mistakes were made in her care and the people that made those mistakes have got away with it. 

When Pam passed away both H and Immie rushed to be by my side again. The other friend basically told me she was coming, despite me saying that she wasn’t needed. It was uncomfortable, for everyone as it was like there was a cuckoo in the nest.  I didn’t know why I didn’t want her there, I just knew that if I was hurting she was the last person I wanted present. I should have listened more to what I was feeling and realised that those feelings were a huge red flag. But instead I blamed myself, telling myself I was cruel and unreasonable to be feeling like that. 

Reflecting back on the situation the lesson I take away from this is don’t ignore those feelings / intuitions / gut instincts. If I hadn’t of ignored them I would have saved myself another 18 months of being treated like shit and only being visited when she thought other people may see her doing it. It was very much a keeping up appearances situation.

There are still a lot of emotions to process from the January of  that year. I haven’t stopped crying since starting to write this and the grief has come out of nowhere as I certainly wasn’t feeling sad before I started writing today.

In the July of 2018 my mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer a very rare type at the same time I had stuff going on in my life that was extremely stressful. I was already suffering from terrible anxiety and depression after losing by now 5 people from my life and one dog ( in the February I lost a school friend who I had known from the age of 11 and we used to have regular chats on social media, just last night I thought I must ask Jon what planet I can see in the nights sky currently, as Jon had bought himself a telescope not long before he passed – totally unexpectedly and I had to remind myself that he isn’t here). I struggled to get up and out of bed as the stress was doing a real number on my chronic health conditions. I was passing out frequently and had issues with ptosis. The heat of the summer didn’t help either.

My mum then had major surgery in the August, in the September we had good news that although what had been removed was cancer, it was tiny, the size of a pin head and very unlikely to return. She is currently in remission, no one is cancer free until they have been 5 years clear. She has regular checks at the hospital and will do for another 3 years.

I finally thought that we may get some peace, after all what the hell could happen to us next? Surely the universe was done toying with us now? But no, 2018 was going to end badly and 2019 wasn’t going to start any better. On 29th December 2018 we lost our beloved boy Frankie aged 12 ( a Weimaraner) and his Mum Mollie (Weimaraner) followed him over Rainbow Bridge exactly a week later on January 5th 2019 aged 14. Both had incredibly long lives for the size of dog they were but at the time it felt like my world had imploded. I had spent every day with my dogs since 1st June 2008 ( except for hospital stays ) They were a huge part of my life and most of the time the only company I had except Jay.  I didn’t know that I could be in such emotional and physical pain and yet still wake up day after day. I thought Mr Myasthenia Kid was going to drop dead from a broken heart he looked so fragile and  broken. Even with Dembe our Labrador puppy coming into our lives on January 11th 2019, we were struggling.

This was where I noticed this friends  persons absence even more, no messages checking on how I was doing. No card, no flowers, no visit. Yet again H and Immie were there by my side, along with Paul, Pam’s partner. I will be forever touched by Paul coming over on the Sunday after Frankie passed and then coming over again the following weekend when Mollie passed. He sat and shed tears with us and told us not to worry that Pam would be looking after them until we all met up again.

 I had cards and flowers from friends and cyber friends and yet no call to check how we were, beyond the initial messages of me telling you what had happened. That is when the penny finally dropped, that when I needed you, you disappeared as you had done so many times before, unless there was an opportunity for you to be seen as a “good” person. There were so many people I only knew on Facebook who came to visit to check that we were ok or who messaged me out of the blue. I have never felt love like it, so many people hugging us, looking out for us, physically being present. 

When Dembe arrived oh my goodness, so many visits. I have never known a puppy get so many toys and presents. I had baby gates offered within minutes of me asking on Facebook if I could borrow some, the same with crates etc. Nothing was too much trouble for people. It was overwhelming and it was something I have never experienced before and I am so touched by all those people. However it made this persons lack of action / concern even more painfully obvious. That hurt, even with all the pain I was in already the fact that we could all be so easily forgotten was another huge red flag.

Initially I made excuses,  maybe I hadn’t said I was struggling? Maybe you didn’t realise I was grieving? Maybe you didn’t understand the depth of my grief? But even to the village idiot it would have been glaringly obvious. Contact over the year became less and less. It felt more and more like it was one way traffic which indeed it was. I was lucky when I messaged you if I got more than a couple of sentences out of you. Again I made excuses, you were busy with your new life now. You certainly made me feel like I was interrupting you living your best life. When it got to 4 months since I had last spent any time with you and even longer since we had spent any time alone, the decision was made. I had waited a month at that point for a message to be answered. I snapped. I was faced with the prospect of you turning up on my birthday and I knew I couldn’t pretend for 5 minutes let alone several hours that everything was ok and that I was grateful for the few crumbs of attention you had thrown my way.

You would have never put up with being treated like that by anyone, yet I was just supposed to accept this? The last 2 years had passed in a haze of grief but I was starting to feel stronger. I knew that your behaviour  was now emotionally damaging to me. I couldn’t move forward if I was going to continually wound myself, wondering what I had done wrong, why I wasn’t good enough or why you felt you could take advantage of my good nature. So I ripped the band aid off and called time, reasonably amicably. I had been hesitant about hurting you when it was clear from your actions you had no concern about hurting me.

I suppose I am reflecting on all this as that is what the new year does. December and January are full of anniversaries of people and pets passing they are hard months. It’s only now on 22nd January that I feel like the weight has been lifted . That I realise that the last few years I have been operating / functioning with a low level depression going on in the background. That the anxiety has lessened enough for me to see things clearly.

 You had changed or maybe the real you had come to the surface? Perhaps I chose not to see the real you or the nasty comments you made on a regularly basis. I put those down to you being verbally clumsy despite the fact you claim to be a writer. I realised I had put up with far more than I had ever credited myself with. I was right to call time and that belief is unshakeable now. I’m not the only one that has noticed that you have changed, grown colder and more bitter than you have ever been. I feel sorry for you as your world is shrinking and you are so full of yourself you can’t see it. One day you will come crashing down to earth with a bump and you will be all alone. Maybe you want it that way, so you can perpetually be the victim?

I reflect back and realise I should have found the strength earlier. That I should have seen the pattern that I could never depend on you. That you liked to take and use, yet giving absolutely nothing in return.  You may think you have everybody fooled but truthfully more and more of us are seeing through you. I hope you find some peace because only someone who is utterly miserable with their own life finds joy in hurting others.

Dreading Christmas

Despite outward appearances, the decorations are up and I have been working on Christmas sewing projects, I am dreading Christmas. I know it is going to be hard and emotionally draining. No matter how hard I try not to make a big deal out of it, I can’t get away from the fact this will be the first year without Frankie and Mollie and will be the second without Willow ( our Weimaraners ) and it feels like a knife to the heart.

I feel guilty that I should be happy as we have Dembe and it is his first Christmas with us. Believe me I am but it doesn’t lessen the pain of knowing for the first time in 16 years our home will not have a Weimaraner in it this Christmas time. 

Travis our first Weimaraner arrived home on 13th December 2003, he was our very first dog as a couple. Although I had been brought up with dogs, budgies and Hamsters, Jay had never been allowed anything more than fish, so this was a huge deal and we loved it. Mollie arrived in January 2004 and for two years we were very happy, although Travis had been sick since he was 6 months old from an un-diagnosed illness which we now believe was Lung worm. He passed away 10 days after Willow and Frankie were born in our spare room ( now Jay’s room) in 2006. It broke our hearts and I have never got over it. There are still days I can’t say his name without breaking down and it has been 13 years. 

Although we knew that at age 14 and 12 Mollie and Frankie weren’t going to last forever. It still came as a terrible shock when the end came and to lose Frankie on 29th December followed 7 days later by Mollie passing away from a catastrophic stroke on 5th January after 16 years of having dogs we were suddenly left with nothing.  We were incredibly lucky that I found a breeder with 2 male Labrador puppies available and that could come home by 11th January. It was quick and I know some people need more time, I still wonder now if it was the right thing to do and after all the joy Dembe has brought us I have to say yes. Although it was incredibly difficult looking after a new puppy whilst in the midst of what seemed like never ending grief.

Jay and I have spoken about the fact that we don’t remember very much from this year. It isn’t until the summer that we actually start to remember things that have happened in 2019. For the first 6 to 7 months everything was a blur. I am so grateful that I started The Dembe Diaries and took so many photographs as his puppyhood was over in the blink of an eye and we have few memories about it. I actually have no idea how I have managed to survive this year. I didn’t know it was possible to survive such physical and emotional pain and still live. There were times I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up but I knew Dembe needed me and Jay would never cope with losing all of us. I am sure there were days that Jay felt the same but we were both so wrapped up in our own grief and it was just too much to attempt to put what we were feeling into words. 

Some people might not get this, they may not understand how you can have this level of grief over an animal and that’s fine. I actually feel sorry for you if you have never had an animal in your life that you have loved more than anything else in the world. My bond with the dogs was much stronger than a lot of peoples would have been because I spent nearly everyday with them ( other than hospital admissions and medical appointments and there have been a lot of both). Even writing this post has had me in tears at times.

So I just feel like Christmas this year is about going through the motions. We keep geeing each other along in the hope it gets us through. We are planning on spoiling Dembe and making it about the three of us. I am hoping a fake it until you make it approach may get me through the festive period. Jay already confessed that he is sick of Christmas already ( not brilliant when you work in retail but highly understandable)  the forced frivolity and pretending that you are going to be having the best Christmas ever has wound him up before the season of goodwill has really begun.

I am normally really organised, I would have sent out our Christmas cards already. Posted the parcels that needed sending to family today. I don’t know when it is getting done this year as neither of us really gives a shit. We have treated ourselves to a Marks & Spencer’s food order, only a very small one otherwise no Christmas food would have been bought and we would be having beans on toast on December 25th ( it actually wouldn’t be the first time as one year both of us came down with flu). Oh and by organised I mean that every Christmas present would have been bought and wrapped by now. This year I decided I would make them all….I am still making them and only some are wrapped. I just can’t whip myself into a Christmas frenzy because I just don’t give care if I am honest. Maybe later in the month I will feel it. But at the moment I am the Grinch. Christmas can go f**k itself currently.

This year we are at sixes and sevens as Jay’s job has changed. Since 2008 / 09 he has had Christmas Eve off to help prep the food / house for Christmas day. His old job meant he wasn’t needed in work, his new job means he is. So the first time in a decade I won’t have my trusty side kick with me on Christmas Eve. It is going to be strange, no Weimaraners pushing me off the sofa or leaving the back door open and no husband. It just adds to the sense of massive change this Christmas brings. I will have to find my Muppets Christmas Carol DVD and sit and watch that. 

We have changed the dresser over to our Christmas Emma Bridgewater Pottery display. Out of everything that is the one thing that gives us joy. We got the majority of our Christmas items when we took a day trip to the factory in 2017. It was a very special day, even though I did worry myself sick about leaving the dogs ( with a sitter, thank you Imogen) for that amount of time. We also got to meet our friend Emmey and her husband Mike ( and their doggies) which was a really lovely add on. This year we decided to spread some of the pottery over onto the bookcase as well. I couldn’t bring myself to take down the dogs photos to make room for our Christmas display. It probably sounds silly but it just felt wrong. I am pleased with how the lounge is looking and if anyone visits we look the epitome of Mr & Mrs Christmas…..even if we don’t feel like it.

We are trying to make it special for Dembe as a way of getting us through it. On Saturday we are taking him to meet Santa Paws and getting his photo taken. It does make me laugh a little bit as that is something we would never have managed to do with the Weimaraners unless we took them down separately as they were really badly behaved when they were outside the house. Dembe is an angel but to be fair it is much easier training one dog than trying to train 2 or 3 . Plus we have invested so much training time in Dembe, taking proper classes run by a professional rather than the rubbish we attended in the past with Mollie and Travis where we learned nothing as how can you get individual attention or help in a group of 15 dogs plus going around in circles at a village hall. We said right from the off he had to be trained and be exceptionally well behaved when working and that is exactly what we have got. But then you get back what we put in and every day is a school day with Dembe.

Believe me I am not anti Christmas, I normally like Christmas – I am not a Christmas lover as generally I find it never lives up to the hype. But I love spending time with Jay and well it used to be dogs plural but now just dog. We have always done what we wanted at Christmas . This year though its overshadowed with the sense of loss. Hopefully Christmas 2020 will be better, easier less painful. Just this one is going to hurt. It is the not knowing how much it will hurt that is bothering me, which is why I am dreading Christmas 2019.