It was all going so well…..


You know when you have one of those days where everything seemed to be going so well and then you are hit by a mental hurricane and you wonder how the hell you didn’t see that coming until it hit you in the face? Well, that. I feel like every step I worked so hard to build has crumbled to dust and I am scrambling through the rubble to seeing what I can salvage. I feel pathetic again, I feel unworthy but I remember that there was a spark of my old self just a short time ago and I must find it, it mustn’t be lost, it MUST be here somewhere……

So, a couple of nights ago, after resigning myself to the fact that I would never know how he is doing, panicking that he had been sent to a hunting family that would use him as a terrier dog, I got a message from Ripley’s new Mummy. I couldn’t believe it, before I opened the message I cried, I was nervous and happy and didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I opened that message, it was brief because they are lacking internet at the moment but I thanked her for the message and began to wonder about what sort of person she was, I had a million questions, I wanted to send her a friend request but thought she might think I was a maniac that was stalking her for her dog so I waited. Just getting a message from her put me on high, I was so excited, I would know how he was getting on, I even dared hope that maybe she might share a photo with me. I felt elevated that day. I threw myself into some new work, I worked on miniatures for Phoebe’s dolls house and always there inside my head was Ripley, I wondered when his new Mum would be able to message again.

That evening I got another message, in fact we just chatted until after midnight, we clicked. I was so relieved, the more one of us mentioned something of ourselves the other said “me too”. This was perfect! She was arty, anti-hunting, loves a bit of tree-hugging. I began to wonder for a moment if I had made all this up, was I really just talking to myself because this was the best outcome I could have imagined for the dog we loved so much? No, this was real, she was great! I felt like I had known her for years, she told me all about Ripley, she told me she had to change his name and I suddenly felt so sad, though I ever expected that his new family would have the same taste as us……… it turns out they do, they are Alien fans too but sadly they lost their old Tom cat who was named Ripley, not so long ago. Now the name change felt absolutely fine, Spike, I could get used to that. We talked and talked and she showed me photos, it was amazing and I couldn’t have been happier. If I had had the option to choose where our boy had gone then this would have been it, it couldn’t be more perfect. If she never contacted me again I would still be over the moon knowing where Spike was, cloud 9 and I can tell you, it has been a while since I felt like that.

So, I go to bed smiling, delighted at the thought of sharing all of this new, scrummy information with the children in the morning. I did, they were over the moon too, Phoebe is planning a holiday to go and see him, I have to gently remind her that actually no holidays were mentioned last night and it is considered impolite to just turn up and shout “let me cuddle your dog!” We are so happy, I feel like I don’t need to build steps right now, I’m floating upwards, I feel lighter than I have done for weeks.

Why couldn’t it have lasted?

Yesterday I was feeling incredibly wobbly. I had had a lovely time visiting my Mum and Glenn the day before but the reality of what was happening, seeing Glenn bedbound saddened me so much. We all do what we need to do, we have a bit of a cry, we put on our bravest face and we get on with it but it doesn’t make it any less hard when you know you cannot save the people that you love, you try as best you can to ease the burden, even if that means dressing as a squirrel and prancing around the garden……. That’s a story for another day………

I felt wobbly and anxious and full of panic, I knew Ray was going out to meet some friends in town that day. In my head, as a safety net I begin thinking of the time he would usually be out, usually home shortly after dinner time. I could do this couldn’t I? Sure I felt like a bag of nerves, the kids were misbehaving but I’ll be ok. Ray tells me before he leaves that I should just imagine he’s gone to get the shopping so in my head, maybe he’ll be home earlier, shopping doesn’t take long does it? He asks me if I am ok, I say not really, he kisses me on the head and off he goes. It’s 3pm. The kids argue and fight and I find myself constantly telling them off, my nerves are shot. By dinner time I have not heard from Ray to see if he will be home so I make some food for me and the children and text him to say I’ve not fed him. He says “sorry I didn’t realise the time, no worries”. I think he won’t be long, he’ll want dinner and he’s not usually much longer, he’ll text me soon to see how I’m doing, he knows I’m wobbly. It’s 5.30pm. The kids finish their dinner, I can’t eat all of mine because the panic is rising and I feel sick. It’s 6pm…… he’ll be home soon, he’ll be home soon, he’ll ring, he’ll definitely ring and I can tell him I am panicking, I can tell him “help me”. He doesn’t ring. Its 7pm, I send the kids to bed and text him a narky message to say I’ll say goodnight to the kids for him. I leave them with their lights on to play for a bit, he’ll ring soon, if he’s not here for bedtime he will ring. It’s 7.30, he doesn’t ring. They ask and I say I am sorry but Daddy isn’t home for bedtime tonight, he must be having a really nice time and not realised what the time is. I sing Leaving on a Jetplane for Elliot and True Colours for Phoebe and we kiss goodnight. It’s 7.45pm. I turn their lights out and lay down in the dark in my room, I need to calm down, I can feel the storm brewing inside my chest, my heart is pounding and I feel like I am going to explode. 8pm the key goes in the door, I panic, I want to be left along, if anybody talks to me I will cry and cry, leave me alone, let me build some strength to put on my ‘happy face’ and ask all the usual question of “did you have a good time?, Everyone ok? What games did you play and did you win any?” I can’t do that right now. I feel scared and anxious and cold.

Ray comes into the bedroom and asks “you ok?” I say no and I cry, I already feel pathetic. We begin to argue, he tell me he needs to go out, that this is the first time he has been out in weeks and I want to remind him that he goes to football each week and stays for a drink with the guys, I want to remind him that he goes to band practise. I want to explain to him how I feel, I begin and then the words don’t come because he shouts that he’s “not allowed out!” I panic, he’s going to leave me, he’s fed up with my bullshit, he’s had enough, this is not what he signed up for, I’m keeping him captive, he hates me. I open my mouth and I cannot breathe, there are no words, I feel like I am drowning. I had panic attacks as a teenager and know what is happening. I gasp for breath, I know I must not panic but that’s all I can do. I grip tight onto the headboard and my whole body begins to tingle with loss of sensation, lack of breath. I feel a warm little hand on my knee and become aware for a second that Phoebe is there, I don’t want her to see this and then everything goes black. I suddenly feel a blockage in my throat, I retch and I am choking on my own saliva, I retch again and it pours into my waiting hand, somebody puts a wad of tissue into my hand. I cannot feel my body, I can barely open my eyes but I breathe, deeply and slowly, my lungs desperate and thirsty. I vaguely hear Phoebe telling Ray that he should have been here for Mummy, I vaguely hear them argue, I reach a hand to her to intervene, I don’t want things to be like this, I don’t want her to see her Mummy like this. I tell her I am sorry, I tell Ray I am sorry. Phoebe talks to me, she’s wise beyond her years and tells me I have nothing to be sorry for. She talks to me about all the things she loves about me, we talk about The Little Prince, I make a Tolkien quote because that is always appropriate in times of need. We hug, she holds me, she’s wonderful, how lucky I am. Gradually, to the melody of Phoebe’s words I sit myself up in bed and I smile, we talk and we talk, we pull faces and we laugh. It’s 9pm, Ray and I put Phoebe to bed, I kiss her and thank you, I love her so much.

I come down the stairs and have a mooch on Facebook, I spot that one of my favourite artists will be at a local event the next day but I am so tired, I am so worn out and it seems impossible that I will be able to go, it makes me sad, how did I become this person? I know that when I wake up tomorrow my eyes will be the size of golf balls from the crying and I will have little strength, it will likely be an opportunity I will have to miss and I feel angry at myself. I’ve built these walls and I feel myself shrinking within them, the steps in the wall have disappeared and I wonder where I put them.

So today is that morning. My eyes are indeed the size of golf balls and I am not brave enough to go out today it makes me sad but I can’t risk another meltdown until I am at least a little recovered. I am sure there will be more opportunities anyway. Today I will build Lego creations with the kids, I will water the garden, pick the ripest plums and count my blessings. I will tell myself that’s it’s ok to have blips, I will reprimand myself for not wanting Ray to leave me, I will remember his freedom. It’s not all about me. Today I will work on some beautiful pieces that I feel lucky enough to be able to burn. Today me and the children will lie on the grass and look for cloud shapes in the sky. Today we will frog hunt in the garden and see who can find the biggest little frog. Today we will play Pikmin and Lego City and we will share jokes. Today I will remember how important it is to look for reasons to smile, to remember that the time is always now.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”