This and that.

Haven’t written for a while. Life’s been trickling on steadily. Settling into the flat ok, Alfie and Eric my Yorkies are happy. It’s a difficult week this week, it should have been Mum’s Birthday a few days ago and it should be Paula my sisters birthday on Sunday… these few days I have missed John so much, yesterday I pined for him so much I thought I was going to end up in heap sobbing unable to move but it never actually materialised. Days like that are difficult cause it appears random and yet my Therapist tells me all grief is related to each other so I guess it’s not surprising given all the grief birthdays stir up. Something that has taken me by surprise is my enthusiastic engagement with Christmas this year. Since John died I have absolutely avoided all things Christmas completely. This year I have kind of just gone with the flow. I think it helps that I am not surrounded by a house that I know John would have wanted to be decorated to the hilt the moment December hit, and me not being to able to face the enormity of him not being there. Also, something that has really helped was I have been put on the serving rota for Midnight Mass and I absolutely cannot wait for that, I love Midnight Mass and so being able to serve at that is awesome. Another thing that is helping me not dread this time of year so much is I have moved my New Year to be in line with the Liturgical New Year which begins on December 1st. Although December 1st should be Paula’s Birthday and so will be a hard day, by celebrating new year on that day it takes the anxiety and emotion right out of Dec 31st and January 1st, which is a huge weight lifted as I simply couldn’t bear thinking of going into another new year without John and Paula at the traditional times with all countdowns and events. This is a much gentler way to transition. One thing I did want to mention is how much I love being a Deputy Church Warden. I find it an incredible privilege, to see the full breadth of the life of a church with all the ins and outs, people, groups, services, baptisms, funerals, events, conversations, friendships and squabbles(!), joys and sorrows. My church in one way is just a normal Anglican church if there is such a thing, but on the other had it holds a wonderful sense of God’s presence and beautiful theology. It does do liturgy incredibly well too, I am extremely grateful that God led me to find it. So let me wish you a Happy New Year as I begin mine in the next few days 🙂

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Ruined but onward.

Yesterday, as I was in Warwickshire visiting my sister, I made a trip to Coventry Cathedral. I absolutely love that place, I always have done since I was a kid. One of the highlights of my life was working (and living) there. I know it’s true of many things in our lives that we don’t really appreciate them at the time, even though I loved working at the Cathedral I realise now I never truly appreciated many things about it. Since John passed away (and now my sister) I understand the significance of it better. The ruins of the old cathedral I can relate to because my whole life was burned down when John died. Everything I had built, carved, moulded, formed, and was immensely proud of, gone. In an instance, no longer. I always knew you could still see bits of the shattered glass in the windowsills in the ruins but I never actually paid attention to them, but yesterday I did.

I stood and wept. These windows will never be restored, never be fixed, they are broken forever. That’s exactly how parts of my life feel. And I just have to accept that. John’s death smashed and broke parts of me forever, irrevocably so. It threw everything into the air. I cannot go back and mend things. It stripped me bare, all the things that I had all neat and tidy and boxed off have been exposed, and I’m sorting through all the damages piece by piece. It has swirled all things from the past up and that’s what drew me to the Cathedral yesterday, I had wrote to someone that there was something in me that I needed to reconcile, and with Coventry Cathedral being the centre for Peace and Reconciliation (if you don’t know the story, google it) I knew that was the time and place to try. I got to this statue, that I have stood and looked at so many times through out the years…

And I forgave the people I needed to forgive. I forgave myself too, they, like myself, were only doing the best that they could with what they knew and had. Then I knew it was time to go into the new Cathedral. I stood looking from the Old ruined Cathedral through the West Screen Glass into the New Cathedral. “Is it time Lord?” I asked. “Time for the new?” No answer. I made my way down the steps and in. As I walked in the unique familiar smell of the building filled my senses, and made me feel a warmth inside. I knew where I was heading, the chapel of the garden of Gethsemane. I have always come and sat in it, at prominent times in my life. When I was made redundant from the Cathedral, when my mum died, when her house was sold and I went to pick up the inheritance. When I was getting married. When John died, when Paula died and now when I myself needed some healing and reconciliation.

I sat and told God how much I love Him and want to serve Him, and how I give everything over into His hands. I felt a comfort come. I lingered first a while and then moved on. I walked around and then stood in the nave gazing into Jesus’ eyes in the tapestry of Christ in Glory. I thought about what I needed reconciling. It irked me. Then I realised. I can not reconcile this, as there is only one reconciler. Jesus Christ. So I prayed, Lord in your mercy, here my prayer. I want to be authentic in everything I do and everything I am. Lord have mercy. Then I turned and left it all in His hands. What a beautiful God we serve. 💕💕💕.

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Ramblings of authenticity.

Firstly let me apologise for the length of this post. Please don’t read it if it’s too long for you. I know I look at some blog post and think, “ain’t got time for that”.  I totally ramble on and on, but I’m leaving it how it is, cause it shows my processing, and how I get to where I (eventually) end up.

I was aware when I became widowed that this would throw my life into the air and it was destined to lead to me inevitably pouring over and investigating every part of my shattered life that remained. I also suspected that I was being dropped in a minefield (figuratively speaking). Imagine all the things you potentially could discover when you think through the different parts and things that have happened in your life when you have gone out of your way not to do that at every stage. It’s not an easy process but it felt inevitable given everything that happened with John and my sister Paula. I was pretty scared if I’m honest, but I’ve learnt that if something causes me to fear then I should look it square in the face. That is a new development. I used to bury my head in the sand, I still do with many things but I am much better than I was, it might take me a while but I will face up to things eventually now. I have stepped on a few landmines this year or so along the way.  And yet part of me knows that the impulsion behind those mistakes came from a desire to be honest with myself and to find a real authenticity that I have always felt I don’t have. What the people I admire the most hold in common is that they are authentic, and whenever I see a certain level of authenticity in someone it’s like my heart comes alive and I yearn for it for me. I wish I could not be so ambiguous as I feel I am being and totally contradicting exactly what I am saying. On one hand, I say I want total authenticity and integrity and on the other, I write ambiguous posts on my blog and social media. Yeah still got a long way to go then. I have always maintained since the moment John passed away how conflicted I feel, about so so so many things. Clearly, that hasn’t changed. Or has it? Many things have changed for me, and in me too, not least the way I think and feel about the world and theology, but what I am realising as I type that hasn’t changed is my pride. I am prideful, I always have been. I haven’t figured out why. It was pride that held me back from God as I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had never really felt loved other than by my Gran when I was a child, and it took years of being a Christian for me to finally acknowledge that. Then my pride held me back for years from admitting that I never felt loved by God, and when my pride finally let me admit that a tangible, visible and I think measurable healing began to take place. I had and still have pride that I was married, and I’m not saying that is a bad thing necessarily, of course I love that I was married and I loved John with every ounce of my being, however, the level of my pride about my marriage is inflated beyond maybe what it should be, and that is me being totally honest. Marriage to me may have been an idol. There I said it. I can’t believe I have said that and my pride is kicking off. All I ever wanted to do was be married. From the moment I realised that marriage didn’t have to be like what I had witnessed from growing up I wanted it. I wanted to feel close to someone, to love and cherish someone, for someone to love and cherish me back. And when I became a Christian that was my prayer, week in and week out. I have witnesses to this. The only answer to my longings I believed was marriage. Do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that my marriage was a mistake, no not at all. It most definitely was one of the best things ever, truly it was and I loved it, even the really hard bits. We didn’t have the perfect marriage, is there such a thing? But we had an amazing life together and we both totally adored each other and I am not taking anything away from that. But I was proud, beyond proud that I was married and our marriage wasn’t like what I had seen growing up, proud that here I was a married woman and my marriage was strong, proud that I was married and happy, blissfully so. And this may be an overshare or a little on the edge but I know I would have done anything, anything at all to stay married. It may be unfair to say this but it also may be absolutely on the nose that I used being married as an easy route to know who I was. I was a married lady, who was gonna follow her husband wherever he went. Please know I dont think that’s necessarily a bad thing, there are people who that is right for some people and thats honourable. What is not honourable which is what I am trying to articulate is using marriage as a tool to avoid having to think about who you are and what you want to do and be. John and our marriage provided all the answers I could ever need. Who was I? John’s wife. What was I gonna do? Whatever John was doing. What was I gonna believe? Whatever John believed. What was I gonna think? Mostly what John thought. (There was the odd occasion I didn’t think like him but it was fairly rare… he would totally 100 per cent disagree with this statement! Ha!) but he was such a kind, tender generous soul, why would I not want to think like he did? I put all my identity into our marriage and I knew it and I was relieved when we got married that I had found a way to not have to know what I was about and who I was and what I wanted cause now I could have it all handed to me on a plate by someone else. So when John dies guess what? My whole identity is lost. I think you can see me realising and acknowledging this throughout my various blog posts. A question that bothers me is, how come other people seem to have this identity thing more on lockdown, why has it taken me until I’m 37 to do this? I have looked over my life and I think its not just one thing. I think maybe my childhood was too turbulent and I didn’t get the chance with all the stuff that went on with my mum and dad fighting and their alcoholism. All my focus was on just getting through one day after the next as a balanced human being. After that, I guess at every opportunity I had to work this stuff out I sidestepped. Why? Always comes down to one thing: Fear. I was (still am if I’m honest…) frightened that there is no good in me and I will never come to anything good. I am useless and have nothing to offer. I’m just weak and can do nothing right and everything I think or do is a mistake. It haunts me all the time, it wakes me in the middle of the night, it lurks throughout the day… and I worry this is false humility… wow, complicated.  What I have been learning the past year or so is in direct competition with my fears, when I have looked back honestly over my life I haven’t found someone who is weak, I also haven’t found someone who has made terribly awful decisions, yes, of course, I have made some and some absolutely massive ones, but haven’t we all? But not as many as my inner narrative wishes to tell me. And I have realised the decisions where I have had no option other than to trust my own decision have 9 times out of ten been absolutely the right and the best outcomes have happened because of them. Woah, Woah, what about the Lord? I hear you say. What about Him in the decision-making process?. Yes, of course, He was there in it, as He is with everything, right beside me in the good decisions and the bad ones. Sometimes He doesn’t say anything though, and in the times he hasn’t, looking back I still made the right call. This is somewhat of a relief, but then I skirt with not wanting to become puffed up and proud at myself…  vicious cycles all round. Where is this all heading? I think it’s fair to say I can look back on my life and recognise which were the good decisions and which were not because they were made out of fear. I am currently reevaluating a decision I made totally out of fear many many years ago and looking at what some of the consequences of that decision are. Since I have looked this thing square in the face and not been afraid it is akin to a part of me that has been silenced, bound and kept in a far distant corner being rescued and cared for. I know ambiguity is reigning again now and, to be honest, it has to as I am still processing and evaluating all that I am discovering about who I am and how I operate. So, for now, you shall just have to accept my authentic ambiguity. 

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And….relax… (or at least try)

My third week since moving. People keep asking me if I have settled in, which seems like a strange question to be asked so early. Can you settle into somewhere straight away after living somewhere else for 10 years? Not to even mention the emotional and physical upheaval of leaving the other place? The first two weeks I missed John like crazy and almost felt like I was having a second wind of bereavement, which I guess is only natural. Psychologically not being in the same place must bring on a grieving of sorts as the unfamiliar and places where John has never been and never will be, and that hold no shared memories become a reality. One thing that is to note however is how much better I feel. I say that because I need to keep reminding myself that I’m ok, as it’s such an unfamiliar feeling. Ever since my Sister passed away suddenly when I was just starting to lift my head out of the grief of John, anytime I feel okish I feel like I’m on unsteady ground that will give way at any moment. This is exactly how I currently feel. I am ok, I am going to be ok but I feel unsteady cause of awful things happening when life started to feel ok, so to now feel like being in a good place makes me unconsciously anticipate something bad is about to happen. I hate this. I really hate this and it’s something I am going to have to talk to my therapist about. Cause even though I am definitely the most relaxed I have been since John died, there’s part of me that won’t let me relax completely. Since moving though I have slept more than I have since John died, and have to have an alarm to wake me up, the first time in 2 years and 7 months. Having a bath (John and I’s house has a wet room) I have found to be a great relaxant, but again there’s a part of me holding back. Often I wonder if I will ever be able to fully relax ever again, or I wonder what it is that would final be the thing to get me to fully relax. I’ll keep trying though.

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Stealing a moment for reflection

This is genuinely the first moment I have had to reflect and write in the last week (When I haven’t been too tired). What a week. It’s felt like a whole year has past by. Packing up the house required much more emotionally from me than I could ever articulate. It actually was a huge thing to do and I definitely haven’t processed any of that yet. I have stumbled my way through it but thank God I did it, and it all went through and I am in my new flat that I have waited and prayed for, for such a long time. On the moving day John’s mum and sister were the last people in the house and they left and went ahead to the new place so that I could have a moment in it by myself. I howled the place down in heart wrenching grief. Ironically I was the first person in the house when John and I first brought it when there was no furniture, and there I was, the last person in the house again with no furniture. I prayed and thanked God for his goodness to me (and John) and for giving us a wonderful home and blessing us while we were there, and for the many people who lived with us throughout the years. It’s such a surreal experience. My new place is lovely and I genuinely love it, but letting go of my house with John was difficult. I know I am not letting John go, I know I am not leaving him there but my heart is still breaking for me even having to go through this. Now I sit in the car park of the University of Wolverhampton campus in Telford snatching a few minutes to try and give my brain some space to be able take in all that I will learn this week on my Theology Degree Residential. I’m so grateful for this course. I’m so grateful that I have carried on doing it despite everything. I’m grateful for the staff and faculty, and for the institution itself. I maybe emotionally and physically exhausted but I wouldn’t miss this for the world. (Plus it’s a welcome distraction from Br*xit and all the nonsense happening in the country at the moment!)

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Moving forward, not moving on.

So the week I move has finally arrived. My gosh. I cannot tell you how difficult it has been. The day I found out the completion date I cried all day long. I was a wreck, the limbo I have faced is nearly over, the relief of that was massive but then came the sadness of leaving our martial home. I went to work in a state. A manager worked with me for the last hour of my shift as I was in such a bad way. Yesterday I faced my nemesis… John’s wardrobes. I cried so much at one point I actually thought I was going to pass out. I called a good friend and they came round and sat downstairs while I continued going through the wardrobes. I have to remember that I am not leaving John behind but it is so hard to know that, as it feels like I’m erasing every part of him 😭. Today our dining table was taken away, that was the heart of our home and I was so sad to see it leave, I very nearly had a panic attack but managed to swerve it somehow. It’s all so surreal if I’m honest. It’s bittersweet. I am desperate to get out the house and not have the weight of it on me and to move forward with my life, but I’m so sad that John is not here and we are not packing up together and moving on to the next stage of our life together.  I’ll write more soon, I can’t process much more at the moment, still a lot of packing to do.

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This and that…

Gone back and forth whether it is wise to write my blog at this current moment… juries still out and I’m not waiting for them to come back in so… I recognise it is a highly turbulent week ahead with my Sisters first year anniversary of her passing coming up and it is totally throwing me. I know that a lot of it is part of the process but I recognise equally that some of it is that I am not as far on in my grieving process, because of my ongoing grieving process for John, which too is coming thick and fast. I miss him so so much at the minute, I miss the simplicity we had together. As my blog is always honest, I have been grieving the loss of our marriage this week so badly… I genuinely adored being married, and one of the hardest things to accept is that I am not any more, and it was honestly all my dreams come true. I’ve been reflecting on how I was when I met John and what was happening and how when I met him it changed EVERYTHING… it really did. He totally and utterly swept me off my feet and I LOVED it. The fear that is too real currently is his death changes EVERYTHING again and where does it leave me? I literally don’t know what to do without him. “Woah Vickster, come on now, you are making him sound like an idol, remember the Lord!” And I do remember the Lord as the Lord was very much involved in it all, totally, I have so many stories about God’s obvious involvement and that’s partly why John’s passing is such a fucker, for want of a better word, as it screws me up completely, and I do mean that. What am I meant to do without him? With him, I knew what we were doing, and what we were about and what we were heading to, and I knew who we were. I literally now do not know any of those things and the storm it has created in me is like the worst kind ever cause its all those things at once. I can see a point of view that says, “Well you should have had that all sorted out before you were married, you should have been secure in who you were.” And the thing is I believe I thought I was secure in all those areas… the thing is John changed EVERYTHING, maybe even those things?? I don’t know but I do know I have no idea whatsoever what I am meant to do, go, be without him. Believe me, I am trying so hard to find out, I’m literally doing everything I can think of to try and get a hold of myself. When John first died I wrote in one of my blogs, can’t remember which one, that I knew John’s death was something so big there’s no way I could deal with it on my own and hence why I found a therapist as soon as I could, and I know that was 100% the right thing to do, and why I have continued going to see her despite the financial cost of it all. She has literally been a lifeline for me, cause I have so much to work through and part of my problem is on days like this I feel like I am no further along than when John first passed away. I have such a lot to talk about in this weeks session that is physically impossible to get it all into an hour even if I talked non stop. My poor therapist. Anyway must be off to work, which I totally and utterly cannot face. 😦

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