The Best Laid Plans

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But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane [you aren’t alone]
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley, [often go awry]
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promised joy.

(To a Mouse, 1786 Robert Burns)

I was debating whether to write tonight. It’s been a rough day. Last night I did the night shift. Just me and a rookie nurse of about 55, who talked incessantly and asked more questions than the minx (my 7 year old for those who do not know).

I was relieved to head home to the minx and some family time. The further from work I got, the less irritating the questions thrown at me, the previous night, became.

I realised my tiredness and quest for peace and solitude had been the cause for irritation and not the rookie’s eager thirst for knowledge.

I had it all planned; a nice breakfast, some painting, a new bed, trip to the dump and a roast dinner; followed by some one to one time with the minx.

The best laid plans……

As I drove home there was a slight niggle behind both eyes. I could feel the brewing of a headache or worse.

By the time I got in it had exploded into a migraine, followed by nausea and light sensitivity. I made my way upstairs, one eye shut, struggling to walk upright and headed for my bed, where the minx was snuggled with fat chubs, the family cat.

I remember my head hitting the pillow and murmured a blessing for the dark blinds that guarded the darkness and allowed no light to distress my already fragile mind.

I am a single parent but I don’t live alone. My son, an adult, lives with me. He patrols the night shift when I work after dark and is my rock when my affliction rears its ugly head.

I remember the minx rising as she heard her brother head downstairs. She followed and the day alternated between troubled sleep and tortured wakefulness.

Pills were taken, reassurance from my son that all was well, darkness and the loyal fat chubs, my constant companion.

I don’t know about anyone else but for me darkness and sleep help with some of these episodes. The migraines that come on with speed pass quicker than those that creep ever so slowly around the inner spaces of my skull and grow day by day until I am incapacitated by their vengeful presence. Those defy logic or darkness and sleep.

migraine

My failed plans for today have left me guilt ridden and disappointed but I am thankful my migraine is passing.

Flashing lights recede, nausea abates and pain, a portent caress that promises compassion is fading.

I am almost whole. The day is done, the minx sleeps. I missed her day and feel cheated. But I am stronger this evening and tomorrow is another day.

sunrise

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My Bedfellows

Sleep that wonderful commodity that evades me. My nemesis, my saviour of sanity.

Every night I hope to fall into its comforting arms; most nights only briefly, grasping the threads of sleeps’ coat tails. Others I feel the bleak and hollow ambiguity of its absence like a stone weighing heavy on my heart and I wonder if I will ever feel its soft caress and strong embrace for more than a few short hours.

Most nights I get by on four maybe five hours. I rejoice, this is a good night. But the nights I do not can be soul destroying.

I have had insomnia for eleven years. It first visited me after my marriage broke down and never left. I did not invite this insidious guest into my home, yet there were times when I welcomed its presence because when I slept, I would dream and dreams bought hope. I was in a place where hope only suffocated my bitter soul.

By the time I realised insomnia was a problem it had taken hold of my nights and banished sleep from my bed.

I tried all the usual remedies but nothing worked. I would creep downstairs and read books on insomnia. The irony was not lost on me. I retained a deep dark humour but lost something on this journey.

I am not the person I was before. My relationship with sleep changed forever and insomnia stole from me something special.

Now those five hours with sleep are a blessing. My insomnia fluctuates. Some weeks its presence is minimal, others it is a constant; but I get by.

There are nights where my unwanted bedfellow frequents my bed with a determination and passion. I am left fatigued and dazed, dreading the evening and that slow walk to slumber, for fear it awaits me there.

I hear others talk of insomnia like a trophy won in a simple game. They wear it with pride. They do not understand that one night’s intermittent sleep is a treasure to those of us who creep from shadow to sunlight in agonised turmoil. Futile attempts to evade insomnia’s loathsome grasp etched on our hearts and worn in the hunch of shoulders and smokey eyes.

I never know which of these two; sleep or insomnia will share my bed. I only know that my feeble indignations are wasted on indifferent ears.

I am, once again, refused the right to choice and so it continues………

night

The Short Cut

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The wind had picked up and the pathway was receding in defeat to the sea water that swept in and out of the bay in an unrelenting rage.  My jeans soaked to the knees, my mother walking beside me, her arm wrapped in mine, fingers and knuckles clenched white. She was slowing, panic visible in her dark eyes. Fear made her tighten her grip on my arm and she paused in her passage. She spoke, her voice barely audible above the thrashing waves that seemed to crash then retreat, then surge once more in a defiant rage, hoping to sweep us away from the path and into its cold grasp. I muttered words,

 

Come on mum, we can make it, just keep moving.”

 

I could see her gaze out to sea and then to the steps in the distance that would offer us safety. Another wave crashed into my legs knocking me into my mother. She cried out and I could see her gaze fix on the metal rings placed evenly along the harbour wall. There was no hope there but in her panicked state she considered this our salvation. I dragged her on, offering words of comfort and hope, willing her to take each step. It was a difficult task for a child of ten years but I knew that if I did not get us to the other side of the harbour within the next few minutes, we would lose the fight against the raging sea.

I lost all sense of time but somehow we reached those steps. They were so many and so steep and my mother’s strength was ebbing. I could see defeat in her fine features. Her soft brown curls limp against her cheeks, which should have been rosy but were now alabaster.

How I got her up those steps is still a wonder, my mother proclaiming we would die, half dragging on her arm and scolding with all the authority a ten year old could muster; begging, cajoling and finally shouting above the wind and the rain that fell,

 

You are not going to die.”

 

Like my mother, I too was scared of death.

 

Later my experience as a nurse taught me to be impartial to death, to critique its method and accept defeat with grace. I understood that sometimes you had to let go and leave the fight, but to always offer that gentle hand and reassuring smile.

 

I remember a patient who lay dying in a side room on a late summer’s eve. The medics knew that we could do nothing for this poor soul. She lay haemorrhaging on clean white sheets in that lonely room. A doctor was called to give her something to ease her discomfort; he decided she needed a transfusion of blood because her haemoglobin was so low. We argued that any blood we transfused would prolong her battle with death. He denied her the dignity to slip away quietly. This was the measure of suffering I was to keep as my benchmark.

I recall further incidents of death, very few offered a beautiful adieu for the dying or those left behind. Patients passed through the ward and death called on many of them with little compassion or thought for the devastation it caused.  We staggered under the frailty of age and disease. We would have weeks, sometimes months where hope seemed to have left. Doctors were often fighting to prolong life, nurses begging for dignity in death. There were long dark winter days where the bleakness of death seeped into the walls of the ward and the depth of our hearts.

 

One such winter bought us a young man. He lay in a hospital beds for weeks, so small and fragile, huddled in a fetal position. His life thwarted by disease, body of a child but the mind of a man. We came to know his family well and they told us of his struggle to live. His death was certain, it was just that the hands of the clock hadn’t decided when to stop, but they were slowing down.

 

We were told his brother had died of the same wasting disease and it seemed the cruelties of fate were once again determined to steal from this family. His one request was to die in his mother’s arms. His family were a permanent fixture on the ward, coming and going in the silence of the night as much as in the bustle of day.

 

I came into work one day to find he had deteriorated over night and had been transferred to intensive care, even though staff had requested he stay on the ward. The family were upset by this futile attempt to hold onto his life. They were incensed further when told they could only visit him for a limited amount of time and were restricted to two visitors at his bedside.

 

It seemed his wishes for passing were to be denied. I heard he passed away shortly after his departure from our ward. Late one evening his mother had been asked to leave the ward so he could rest. She left but then intuition or some ethereal thread that bonded the pair urged her to return. The staff were surprised by her actions but relieved as there had been a marked deterioration in his condition.  She held him in her arms, the child she had bought forth into this world, silently slipped from it. His wish for death granted not by purpose but by luck.

 

His last wish granted, his family were still devastated and that one positive made no real difference. A heart had stopped beating, a life passed before it could begin. There was no celebration to be had over this small triumph!

 

Thirty five years after the incident with my mother I rush through traffic, blind to the other road users. I must get to my mother’s house before decisions are made that will bring regret and guilt. Faster and faster, over taking others, a horn blast and I am bought back to the here and now. Concentrating on the road ahead and easing off the accelerator. I have children at home who want for me to return to them safe. I am in the present again and close to my journeys end.

My mother’s house is full; brothers, sister, in laws and children all anxiously waiting. They look to me and it is not until later I realise that I have become the head of this family for a short while. My knowledge exceeds all other authority; for I am the expert on death. I have seen its twisted claws clutch at souls and break hearts.

The two carers that have looked after my mother these last few years stand by her bed, one stroking those very same curls that are now lack lustre and brittle with age. Tears have been shed and cheeks are damp. Mine remain dry but anger rises in my chest. These well meaning people have tried to change the path of my mother’s passing. A doctor is on the way and hope flickers in the eyes of those two women. I hear their pleas and reply,

 

My mother is not going into hospital, she is going to stay at home and die with her family.”

 

The consensus remains; my mother should be admitted to hospital for treatment. I turn to my sister who sits frail and timid in the presence of these women; defeat against their strong arguments defined in her deflated posture. She wrings her hands and shakes her head, then looks to me to take charge. I don’t think; I see only the dark eyes and soft brown curls that I used to run my fingers through.

My mother made it very clear at the beginning of her decline that this time she was not going into hospital. She would refuse all treatment and retain some of the dignity she yearned. She would not suffer another reprieve at the hands of the medics, who only prolonged her suffering.

But here stands a doctor; saviour or champion of sorrow? This is not for me to decide, my mother’s decision has been written on our hearts and I must follow through with my promise.

The doctor examines my mother then we talk alone. I am impressed by his understanding and kindness.  My mother will die as she wished; a cold comfort for those she leaves behind.

Not many days after his visit my mother passed away in my brother’s arms, in her own bed, in the home she loved. She had woken briefly to say her goodbyes to us all, one by one and then slipped from this world.

I sit and remember how I fought for my mother to live so long ago. Battling with the emotions of a child but reaching into the depths of my soul for the maturity of an adult to save her life. I remember the fear and anger I felt towards the raging sea that dared to steal her from me.

I would recall the incident with pride and wonder; amazed that a child could muster so much strength of character. I gave myself the proverbial pat on the back for being the hero of the day. As youth passed aside and I became the adult, the story of what happened faded, almost forgotten until now.

I sit and ponder both events; the comparisons are harsh and only bring forth more questions.  Was I right to fight for my mother to die, or should I have withdrawn to defeat and let modern medicine give her a few more months on this earth? Her stuttered heart beating, her movements slow, each day a torture for her intelligent soul; watching and waiting for the inevitable decline.

Time passes like a breath; sometimes slow and heavy and other times rapid or silently and without awareness of the breach between yesterday and tomorrow. Will a new day bring an understanding of what has passed? I am not so sure, for I often wonder if I fought not for my mother, but to ease my own suffering. I wonder if selfishness guided me that day and if so did I have a hand in her death. Guilt sits on my shoulders like a heavy weight and time does not ease what has been done.

 

We have many choices in life, the pathway is not always clear. For if it was I would never have dared that short cut across the harbour in such stormy weather. I would have taken the less attractive route, it would have been a longer journey but far safer.

 

I no longer have a close bond with my siblings; though my sister promised fidelity to us all, she broke it with bitter words. I could have fought to keep the fragile threads of that bond; appease my sister and salve the wounds that appeared. I chose not to, but often wonder if it is because I saw accusations reflected in their eyes or guilt in my own. Do they rage at me for their loss?

 

It is often easier to avoid the cause of pain than to acknowledge the wound that bleeds. We have to take the short cuts now and then but we cannot cheat death and it is sometimes better to give in gracefully than fight. However, it is a different story when watching those you love face the battle. In the end there are no winner’s, death defeats us all.

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Broken

broken

Tonight I sit here and I am grateful for the kind words I have received from some of you.

I wanted to make this a positive post but I am not sure I can.

I have been sitting reading the posts on Facebook (a pastime I am trying to break) and came across a post that talked about missing the ones we have lost.

I have read many of these in the past and they make me feel that I am broken.

I lost my mum a few years back and at the time chose to be strong for my family so that they could mourn and have a rock to shield them. I never mourned from that day and even now I don’t feel the emotions I am suppose to. I often wonder if I am broken in some way. I miss her but the feelings…those strong emotions of loss are fleeting.

I should have let myself mourn.

I am passionate and caring as a nurse but I walk away and those strong feelings I have for the patients, slip away with the closing of a door and I feel guilt.

Should I feel more than I do? Should I go home and rant at the injustice this world serves the frail and elderly…..

Am I a bad person for the way I feel or rather don’t?

Too many questions for a Monday evening.

This I know. I compartmentalize.

Everything that causes pain is stored in its own little box and those boxes are seldom opened. Some will never see the light of day. It has got me through some difficult times but has left me emotionless for the most part.

I do cry and I do feel but I deal with this by removing these emotions to that dark room full of dusty boxes in my soul. My grief does not allow more than a tear or two to fall before it is gone. Those tears fall so rarely.

I know I appear distant and heartless when others wail and rage at the cruelties of this world.

I am not.

My childhood was traumatic, I survived.

My childhood lies in a huge box at the back of that dark and dusty room and it stays locked……. for now.

It is not my childhood that has left me this way but that’s another box I am unwilling to open… just yet.

There is so much to say but my words are muddled. Cohesive thought has slipped from my grasp this evening.

Maybe tomorrow my thoughts will be clearer.

So I guess its goodnight folks and if you feel broken, there is one small comfort; you are not alone.

not alone

The Crossroads

index                                                                    Who am I?

Today I stood at the crossroads; well more like the entrance hall to my home where it turns to the right and the lounge, (here sanity lies for a short while) or straight ahead of me and up the stairs to sweet oblivion for a few precious hours.

I chose the lounge and here I am. This is my first post. I haven’t had the guts to write before because what I want to write is so personal and I am very much a private person. I don’t do wearing my heart on my sleeve; only those really close to me know how I truly feel and then there are parts that are so well hidden, they will never see the light of day.

Anyway I am waffling now so let’s start.

Who am I?

I am an orphan, my parents are dead.

I have siblings, but we are broken.

I am a mother.

I have some very wonderful grown up children and some not so grown up children.

My children are my life, some are well adjusted others have mental health problems and disabilities.

But they are mine and I am there for them whenever they need me.

They are my inspiration and have my heart and soul for all eternity.

I have 2 cats; they bring me solace when I am low of mood, they seem to know when I need their company and seek me out.

It isn’t enough.

I have a passion for words.

I wanted to write as a child but as time has gone by and life has bled my pen dry, I realise I am mediocre.

I will not earn my fortune as an author and I don’t think that was ever my intention.

I just wanted to move people with my words.

But no more.

I am a nurse.

I work hard for little pay and even less respect or gratitude, from those who know my job but have lost touch with their own compassion and humanity.

This is me and this is my life.

Today I overslept.

I was up at 5.30 am for a 7 o’clock start the day before.

My shift finished at 22:30 but as any nurse knows I still had work to do.

I got home a little before midnight called. The house was a mess; gingham dress and frilly socks littered the sofa. Sighing, I picked them up and made my way through to the dining room. I stopped; the minx had been eating on the sofa again. It looked like she had forgone the ritual of using a plate. I spied chocolate stains; obviously she still hadn’t managed to devour the remnants of her Easter chocolate. My heart broke for no other reason than I was not there to offer her a bowl or plate. I was elsewhere and not nurturing my youngest child. It is my greatest sadness.

The dining room was reasonably clean but it was clear that the minx had made yet another mess of the dining table. My son was in the kitchen trying to desperately clean the dishes and put them away, before my untimely arrival.

He knew I would be upset.

I am tired and ratty and grab bowl, detergent and sponge then work my way through to the lounge to scrub the sofa. I scrub and clean until the sofa is soaked and my heart is empty, or so I think.

Next the dining table and then the kitchen counters, the cooker, the tiles. My son follows silent, trying to help where possible but I ignore him. I am in melt down mode. He has no chance of redeeming me from this path and lets me clean and rant.

And cry silent tears.

I do this often; I feel so weak but cannot help myself.

Once this episode of insanity releases me I hug him and head to my bed.

I did not sleep, 4 hours is bliss and 5 is heaven.

This night I sleep for 2 hours before the alarm raises me from my troubled dreams.

The snooze button is my enemy; our relationship is fraught with mixed emotions.

There are days when I embrace his call and more where I dread it.

Today we snooze.

Many minutes later I drag myself from my bed, where I spy the sleeping form of the minx. I reluctantly wake her, she turns and snuggles deeper into the covers but I persist.

She wakes and we start a routine that changes very little when I am home on a school day. I do not panic or rise swiftly encouraging the minx to speed her routine. I feel I am wading through rushing water.

I leave the house in old t shirt that is last night’s sleeping partner and slip jeans over well worn pyjama bottoms. I plan to return and take to my bed with a vengeance born out of exhaustion.

I have a single cup flask of strong coffee, my drug of choice. I drive through the morning traffic with little patience for the ineptitude of other drivers.  I never think that at times I could be at fault.

Not today.

We arrive to an empty playground and I take the small hand that is offered and stop to stare at how fragile and soft it feels within my own hand. I tell her I love her and take her into the reception area. A kiss goodbye and she heads through to the hall and assembly. Her day has begun.

I return to my car. There is a text message from my bank;

you have exceeded your overdraft limit

I check the banks app on my mobile and can see why. My wages have not gone into my account. I remember the bank holiday email stating I would receive them a day late and sit staring out of the window.

crying heart

I sit and sob; the news plays in the background on the radio, Theresa May…elections.

I am crying no howling like a lost child.

I do not sob because I have no money, I sob because I feel so alone.

Because I have kissed my angel and I have to find food in an empty cupboard to feed her tonight.

Because I work so hard, for so little.

Because life took me down a path that twisted and turned with shadows, where sunshine has been brief and never lingers long.

Because I should have remembered that I was being paid late this week.

I sob because if I do not I will break.

crying eye

First blog post

My first post was not planned. I just write from the heart.

I write about feelings.

I have been depressed, I have been happy.

I like to write, I once aspired to be an author but know my limitations, so I write here.

I am a single parent with five, yes five children. Four grown and one not so grown minx.

I live in Kent in the UK and I am a nurse.

I have lived in so many ways but these days I feel I am not living.

I want to feel and experience life again so I am trying to do this through words.

Be kind to me.

Please