Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Finally, the Penny Drops


You may wonder why I have put a picture of my coffee maker in my blog. Read on and all will be revealed.

The past few days have gone really well. I’ve been really busy but most things have fallen into place even better than I could have hoped. I had my best run outside ever with my personal trainer on Monday, my Pilates class on Tuesday was really challenging and I did well, I’ve started to get the house and kitchen more organised, and various bits of paperwork and business have come together beautifully. The only really negative thing that has happened is that I have developed a cold, one that seems to keep getting worse and kind of borders on flu.

I don’t “do” colds or flu anymore. You see, several years ago I had several repeated doses of colds and flu – including a very nagging cough that kept coming back. Various visits to the doctor revealed nothing untoward, just a predisposition – or so it seemed – to lots of colds. The words “run down” kept popping up in his diagnosis. In desperation I tried reflexology and did some reading about mind and body connections – how we influence our own health. The benefits of the reflexology, combined with this new knowledge, were quite amazing. The colds disappeared completely. Since then I have managed to really stay on top of my health and I really have not had a proper cold in ages. Even through the worst of our stresses this last year, I never actually succumbed to a cold. A few colds made some rather valiant attempts to catch me, but they never succeeded.

Until now that is. I’ve been fighting this cold with all my arsenal of techniques, including some over the counter medication and some more traditional remedies, but it has left me coughing, sneezing, congested and feeling like crap. Today is the worst it has been. I am totally exhausted and want nothing more than to lie down and go to sleep. This is not me at all, and anyway, I can’t go to sleep as there is a chap here fixing the ceiling in the kitchen – which was slightly damaged when we had a mild leak in one of our pipes about a month ago. Aside from which, I don’t “do” naps either – except in emergencies.

Last night, in an incident that seemed unrelated at the time, I was talking to Guy and expressing my frustration with myself. I told him how I cannot understand why I am having such a hard time moving on and getting on with life post Mom and Dad’s deaths. They had both been ill for some time, and their deaths were hardly a shock, but coming so close together, and seeing them suffer so horribly has just thrown me way beyond what I thought anything ever could.

Guy reminded me that it has only been four months since my Mom died, and five since my Dad died. He also reminded me that the last nine months – since our lovely cat Elwood died on my birthday in June last year, have been a bit of a blur of stress really. First there was Woody dying, then my Aunt – who was also my Godmother – died, and then our other lovely cat boy Jake died. Just after that Guy was offered his wonderful new job but it meant moving 150 miles – but not straight away as first we had to sell our house and find somewhere to buy – and then there would be three months of countless trips up and down the motorway, living between Derby and Reading until our new house was finished. In the middle of that time my Dad died in my arms after I had taken the doctor’s recommendation that there was absolutely nothing more could be done and we needed to stop supporting his life artificially. Even though that is what Dad would have wanted – indeed what he made me promise to do on many occasions – it has haunted me ever since. The doctor said it was not my decision at all, it was Dad’s body making the decision, but I still feel very responsible. I also cannot get over the shock of finding out that dying is not always the peaceful experience we would have it be for our loved ones. Dad’s end was peaceful, but his journey to the end was not.

Three weeks after Dad’s memorial service we moved into our wonderful new house – a home for which I am so grateful and feel blessed to have. But on the night of our move we had an accident in Guy’s car . The car ended up impaled on a spike that someone had left to stop people parking in their space near our flat in Reading – but it was too dark to see it when we attempted to turn round in a dead end street and our car ended up impaled on it. Bit of a stressful moving day that was! Less than two weeks after that, we went back to Canada for Christmas. Thank goodness we did as we had a lovely Christmas with Mom, but following that there was the stress of trying to get her settled in a new wing where she could get more care – and the slowly dawning realisation that she really did not want to be alive without my Dad and that that she would do everything she could to make sure she was not. I chose to ignore it, but in retrospect, it was absolutely obvious – in the two weeks before our arrival in Canada Mom had lost eight kilos, and aside from Christmas day she ate virtually nothing – despite constant encouragement – the whole time we were there. Three days after we got back home from Canada – which was three weeks after we had moved into our new home and a day we spent sorting out the emptying of the Reading flat - my Mom died. Mom had not appeared to be near death when we left, and there was no way I could get back in time, but I still feel horrendous guilt that I was not with her. If I’m honest, I think she wanted to spare me that, and made sure I could not be there by working so hard to present the illusion of being okay when we left, but I feel guilty nonetheless. There is nothing worse than having to call the Emergency Room of the hospital and say “My Mom has just died in Emergency” and I’m 3,500 miles away”. However nice folks are to you in that situation, you do wonder what they are thinking. Then there was the agony of Mom’s memorial service – which for me was really like a funeral for both my parents - and having to sort everything out in Canada (thank goodness I had help with that!). Since we got home there has been a lot of stress and worry about trying to get everything sorted out in Canada from a distance of 3,500 miles away and there is unpacking still to be done in the house. Not to mention the stress of five trans-Atlantic flights in five months. Oh and Alex – who has is in the middle of exams - has been having problems with a rather nasty bully and his cohorts (referred to as scissor boy in previous blog entries) and we are all trying to deal with a huge amount of grief. So while I protest that I am feeling settled, I think I maybe am not quite so settled as I thought.

Then this morning another seemingly unrelated thing happened. We have a wonderful programmable coffee maker which I can set to come on automatically every morning. I love how this device enables me to come down to the smell of freshly brewed coffee every morning. It means that when I wake up I am only minutes away from a lovely hot cup of coffee. I set it up to run last night in my usual flurry of activity before bed. This morning I came downstairs only to discover that there was a flood of coffee all over the worktop. I had forgotten to put the urn in the coffee maker. I was so cross with myself I could hardly see straight.

It was not until about an hour ago that I realised that the java flood, and my cold, are God telling me to just slow down and be a bit more patient with myself. If I don’t, I’m going to start to make mistakes much more serious than forgetting to put the urn in the coffee maker. If I thought I was coping completely, forgetting something as simple as putting the coffee urn in place has certainly reminded me that I am firing on slightly fewer than all my cylinders. And as I was refusing to slow down voluntarily, this cold has kind of forced me to – particularly today. It is at the stage where no one wants you around - a sneezing, coughing, runny nosed person is the modern day equivalent of Typhoid Mary. Still, I’m struggling to keep going, tidying and cleaning for all I’m worth. Yet as I sit here writing, coughing and spluttering all the while, I realise that something has to give. In her book, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay says that colds are often a reaction to too much going on at once. I think I could safely say that is certainly the case with me.

I think it is possible I may be trying to get the house perfect in order to hang on to some illusion of control – it’s almost like I’m thinking that if I can control that I can control my grief. A bit like I tried to control the confusion of growing up by developing anorexia nervosa in my late teens, and just about as sensible. I have to accept that I can slow down, stop rushing round trying to make the house perfect and lose the cold, or keep struggling on and be sick for weeks. That’s not my style at all, so as soon as the chap in the kitchen is finished, I’m going to curl up on the sofa and have a nap. The house can wait. A lovely lady told me once to “be patient with yourself in your grief.” Advice I am finally going to take. As for this cold, it’s hours are numbered!

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