Storms blow


If I respond to the intensity and immediacy of my emotional state
am I doomed to repeat every mistake I have ever regretted making
might I find that regret itself becomes a perpetual state of being
so much so that I become unable to distinguish worth from worthless
for such is the worthlessness of regret that it comes full circle
masquerading as stepping stones along the path towards wisdom

Instead I might rage against the idiocy that resides inside my own mind
unleashing upon it the scorn of a knowledge hard won but fragile still
in that the things we know are not synonymous with the things we feel
and into that apparent paradox comes the thorny question of will
will I do what I want in the moment or what I want in the longer term
can I build up my resistance to the former in favour of the latter

In the process of doing so do I not run the risk of losing all spontaneity
as if this were a characteristic I have ever been capable of hitherto
risk taking is not of my nature but neither is courage and yet I want
oh yes I want, but I do not want that which what I want means
in a world without consequences freedom itself becomes meaningless
but then so too does responding to the immediacy of what I feel

Instead shall I wait it out, letting these things pass in the way
that all such things however intense and demanding eventually do
shall I instead seek some solace in the diversions of doing
there are other things besides doing but I know not how they work
and in trying to work out how they work all I succeed in doing
is reminding myself of the futility of a rage otherwise unexpressed

All storms blow themselves out if you give them enough time
the trick is to understand that we are always and without fail
far more resilient than we ever give ourselves credit for
at times it can feel like failure just to feel the way that we feel
to weep at nothing more consequential than an inability
to work out that there are some things I just can't work out.

... in what?



I am a "look before you leap" sort of girl. When people tell me to "have faith" or worse still tell me that "it'll all work out to God's plan" I have to grit my teeth so that I don't come out with an expletive to fully express my doubts and to some extent my derision of such an approach. For a notionally open minded person I am becoming increasingly aware of my close-mindedness. No bad thing. In my life personal growth has not been linear but these days it is a constant nonetheless. I don't so much take strides as inch my way forward in increments so small as to be almost infinitesimal.

I do not have faith.

I have hope. I have wishes and dreams, wants and desires. I have goals and plans. I have love and friendship. I have all these, but I do not have faith.

I used to try to believe in a Creator God in the Judeo-Christian mould but many years ago my questioning of the framework within which this 'almost-faith' resided brought the whole shebang tumbling down. My faith was of the kind that the apostle Thomas would have understood well. It was riddled with doubts and questions. Inevitably and inexorably I lost what I never really had because my faith, such as it was, was not sustainable. It could not withstand even my own scrutiny.

Living a faithless life is not without wonder or awe as some might imagine, but I do miss the comfort of having faith.

Wind forward to today. I am endeavouring to find a framework within which I can honestly and with integrity hold fast to a Higher Power ... a "God of my understanding" no less. This is no academic exercise. And it's hard to explain the necessity of this except to say that it is a necessary part of the 12 Step approach to "recovery."

The "God of my understanding" needs to be substantial enough to withstand scrutiny but it need only make sense to me. It needn't be perfect but it needs to be real enough to enable me to say "thy will not mine" and mean it.

One of the things I am learning about at the moment is honesty. For me this means saying "I don't know" a hell of a lot more of the time than I used to because I'm trying not to just say what I think the other person wants to hear.

A lot of the time I don't really know what I think or how I feel. When I say that personal growth has been a constant feature of my life lately it would seem self evident that there is still some way to go. It's a strange place I find myself in just now ... it's like I don't really know who I am. And yet at the same time it's kind of nice too because I might even get to find out.

Things are not what they seem


If I could change anything
right now
I would swap what is
for what could be
if only ...

We talk about acceptance
don't we?
But what do we mean?
Do we mean accepting what is
what we think is
what we hope is
which version of being
shall I be today?

I shall be the me
of the moment
and try to hold on to the fact
that even if tomorrow
this feels unreal
today it didn't.

Tenses are what we make them.

Life's moments are so fleeting
so why do I find it so difficult
to appreciate what I have?

Is it because I spend too much time
staring at this false reflection
and wishing my pointless wishes
for a completeness that exists
only in the unreality of my imaginings
a place where I thought to transform
myself in a way that can never be

Or is it because I need only turn my face
and look out the window
to see an altogether different reality
beckoning me onwards.

Sign-posts


You never really know do you. Nothing in life is certain except that all things change. People do too, although the process might be too slow for it to be immediately apparent from the outside. People promise to change all the time, and their motivations for doing so are as myriad as the problems they're seeking to address through the process of change.


Change is hard. So is honesty.

To an honest person, honesty might be as natural as breathing itself, but for someone with a history of compulsive self-destructive behaviours honesty is a frightening process of coming face to face with a succession of uncomfortable truths that must each be addressed in order for change to be even contemplated ... never mind implemented.

It's slow going and it's painful. But it's good ... and it's worth doing.

It's a process of re-connecting the internal parts of ourselves that have come adrift so that we in turn can connect more fully with the world around us. Isolation and/or hiding away has merits in terms of feelings of safety, security and comfort, but it does not engage us in real life. Life is out there to be lived and that can only happen through accepting that all things change and we must adapt right along with it.

To cling to the known is understandable. It is a child-like response to the uncertainty we experience in all aspects of our lives. In an adult this fear can cause a paralysis of indecision ... and in some cases a clinging to of behaviours that might soothe us, but do not otherwise constructively move us forward in our lives.

Drinking creates above all things a feeling of "stuck-ness" ... a sense that life is going on "out there" and is only for others either more courageous or far more deserving than us to partake in. So instead we sit in our gloriously painful self-induced isolation on the sidelines of it all bemoaning our fate ... little comprehending the role we've played in our own predicament.

How does one break the cycle of these deep seated fears holding us back and thus leaving us with such feelings of lack of worth? One doesn't. Not directly anyway. No-one can rescue us just as we cannot rescue anyone else ... neither can anyone install ready-made self esteem or courage in another. However much we might long to do so, it is entirely dis-empowering to treat an adult as anything other than someone intelligent enough to come to their own conclusions given time.

Instead we do what we can by providing the clearest sign-posts possible ... arrows pointing in directions either we ourselves have taken and found beneficial ... or those born of the wisdom of others already walking paths we ourselves aspire to. And then we just have to wait. People can want to change for an awfully long time before finding the wherewithal within themselves to start the process. If it's frustrating for us from within, how much more so to those already well, who want nothing more than to see us well too?

I've come to know some truly amazing people through blogging. And whether you know it or not I have listened to the words you've spoken. I have read as many of the sign-posts as I've been able to discern and tried to walk in the direction indicated ... embracing change and trying to engage more fully with life despite my fears.

And I am one year sober this coming weekend. The funny thing is that you probably don't even realise how instrumental you've been in my journey to this point. Nor how your help and guidance shows me the way forward even now. How just by reading and commenting as you've done you've helped me to find my voice ... and with it some measure of courage. If I were to write a list of all the people who've helped to point the way forwards I would be here for a very long time.

But your name would be there.

Thank you.

And if I in turn can point the way forwards for any of you I couldn't do better than repeat the words sent to me by one of my wisest friends. She said "first accept what is ... fully and without reservation. It is what it is .... now, what are you going to do about it?" The things we do as a result of self-hatred can only ever be overturned when we learn to love ourselves. Truly, we are not fully able to love one another unless we first learn to love ourselves ... even the wonky bits.

Life is good



I am walking more quietly these days. Life has taken on a different hue and I have been adjusting to the new pace of things. Trev is recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia but has residual complications that have resulted in much to-ing and fro-ing to the hospital for tests, overnight stays and whatnot. Worrying as my usually hale and hearty gentle man has turned in the last 6 weeks into a shadow of his normal self. Weakened physically, which is all too apparent, but also his mental acuity has deteriorated which is more worrying in a way. He draws strength from my presence and I from his. We have one another and somehow the difficult times emphasise this to us both.

When things are bad with one or other of us we have taken to a simple way of offering support. We have bought a few joke books. I sit beside him whilst he is resting and read the very worst jokes I can find. He is not allowed to smile or groan. Those are the rules. I made them up and they are good rules. We talk about our fears as well, but intersperse them with jokes so that neither of us descends into that awful anxious silence that does neither of us any good. I have never been more thankful for Trev's ability to read and re-read guitar magazines than of late. I have stocked up on all the current issues and am drip feeding them to him on a weekly basis. All in all we are getting by.

John is making his way back to us in fits and starts. More and more I see his humour even as he struggles to accept the new status quo. What strength we show when we can smile in our hardships. He too is adjusting to the new texture and pace of life. After work today I am taking him for a drive. Hopefully he will be well enough for us to stop off at our house for coffee and a quick look at our bees. An apiarist of many decades experience, he has an insight that is totally invaluable to me in my novice bee-keeping endeavours. Some days he is well enough in himself to take about 50 steps without resting which is a massive improvement on a month ago. I have made a chart so he can see improvement in a more concrete way. The day to day variations can blind us to what is happening overall.

Sometimes I lose sight of myself. It's easier somehow to care for others and demonstrate that care in simple ways. My instinct seems to naturally run that way. But self care is not something I find easy and lately I have become aware of the consequences of that. The warning signs are there and I will heed them. I have so much to be grateful for. It's funny that what has been happening in my life has made me more sharply aware of that fact than ever. Normally I'd be whinging and bitching about how hard I'm finding it all. And it is quite hard, but not so very hard. Life is good.

Mending



Once a week I sit in a room for a couple of hours with some of the bravest people I know. They wouldn't characterise themselves thus but I don't know how else to describe them. It took me a long time to work up the courage to start going to these group meetings. Each week as Tuesday evening rolls around I go through a mental tussle with my cowardly side which would prefer that I stay at home rather than venture forth to sit face to face with other people who know exactly how it feels to both want and not want to be there.

Kindness abounds, but not necessarily softness because one thing these guys do in full measure is honesty. Sometimes I get frightened by the things that are said. People revealing some of their deepest vulnerabilities to one another is quite awe inspiring to witness. Listening is a healing experience in itself and yet not one person speaks in order to burden another with the task of fixing them. Their only request is to be heard.

Every once in a while I speak too. I don't say much because I find it hard to hold myself together in places where it isn't necessary to pretend that all is well with me. Even so I say what I can when I can. I like the fact that these people are in no rush. They don't want to mend me although they're happy to keep me company whilst I try to put the pieces back together myself ... just as I keep them company whilst they do their own mending. I like that they are working through their own issues and feel vulnerable in much the same way that I do.

In life we can sometimes feel very alone in our individual battles and yet all around us are these quietly desperate wars raging on behind the seemingly serene visages we like to present to one another. When I walk into the rooms I know that there will be people there who are willing and able to talk about the difficult stuff that hardly anyone wants to discuss. Such brave folk.

Heaven can wait.



Yesterday John laughed.

It's not much to report is it?

Well you mightn't think so but for me laughter is a good sign on so many fronts. A sign that he is listening ... and to listen one must be present which is in itself a good sign don't you think? But more than that laughter is a sign that John is slowly making his way back to us ... trying ... doing his level best and that's all one can ever ask.

Love is powerful medicine that's for sure ... as is laughter.

Absense


When my step-father married my mother he did not become my step-father, rather he became my mother's husband. I had already left home by the time they married although I was there through some of the two years of courtship leading up to their marriage. I liked John well enough but we weren't close. I wasn't one to trust easily and he wasn't one to impose himself on anyone. We rubbed along and I was glad to see my mother happy.

I got to know John better when my workplace was forced by the economic downturn of the early 80's to start working a 4 day week. I was an apprentice at the time and had little enough money to support myself so this was an unwelcome development. John offered to take me on to do "bits and bobs" on a Friday ... no pay but travel and lunch included. I figured it was better than sitting about in my bedsit so we agreed terms.

John is one of those people with a natural gift for teaching. His knack is to make any task seem quite straightforward, thus instilling you with such confidence that even when he wanders off to do something else you feel able to carry on with the task at hand. This wandering off was itself a teaching technique much employed to further engender confidence. You learn more by doing than you can ever hope to learn by watching or listening to someone else.

Under his tutelage I learnt how to lay down carpets, upholster a chair, paint a sign, hang a picture, put up a shelf, patch an oil painting, repair a chip in a gilt frame, build a partition wall ... all these things and more. But what I learnt most of all is that I am capable. What a gift he gave me in that knowledge. It was during this period that John and I developed our enduring friendship .... a friendship that has lasted for 30 years so far, and I hope for it to last much longer yet.

A month ago John had a serious stroke. He lost his sight, much of his power of speech, and he completely lost strength down one side. A stroke seems such a gentle word to use when describing such devastation. And he is devastated. We are all working hard at staying positive, at being supportive and lending a hand. It is hard for John to accept our help. He has always been the helper rather than the helped and it's a terrible blow to his pride.

Last year John started talking to me about his fear of death. He hates the idea of leaving us all, hates the idea of getting weak and feeble ... and ill. Helplessness appalls him and I can tell that he is utterly appalled at finding himself so in need of our help. Beneath this is his palpable fear that this is the beginning of the end ... death awaits and indeed is rushing towards him ... coming faster than he is ready for or feels able to accept.

In the wake of recent events I have been spending more time with John and far less time online than I envisaged previously. I love blogging and I miss it ... miss visiting you and reading your news. I will get back to it when I can.

Truth




Some truths are hard ... hard to say and sometimes even harder to accept.

I have started to recover. I am still sober and I'm pleased about that (at least on some days) but that is only the starting point. Just over 8 months ago I made what might well turn out to be the best decision I've made in my life so far. I decided to re-commit myself to trying to recover my life from the general whirl and re-establish some form of order in what was becoming an increasingly chaotic existence.

Anyone who has not needed to do this cannot hope to understand. I say this not to exclude anyone but to excuse myself from having to explain the inexplicable. How otherwise bright articulate caring people slip into addiction only goes to illustrate how insidious it is once a toehold has been established.

One of the hardest things about addiction is the lies we tell ... to ourselves ... to others. Not least of these lies is that we are in control of our drinking. The alternative seems unthinkable, shameful.

Sometimes the truth is so hard to accept that the alternative ... despite being untrue ... is so much more palatable that we find it easier all round to ignore that part of us that knows the truth and focus instead on distorting our reality in order to accommodate the untruth.

We internalise these lies and attempt to give them the status of truth.

To do this we must become adept at ignoring the very obvious evidence that mounts up despite our best efforts to carry on a relatively "normal" existence. Risk taking, deceptive behaviour, spiralling consumption, health consequences, financial consequences, relationship breakdowns, work performance deterioration .... on and on the list goes. It takes quite some doing to become so adept at either ignoring these factors or attributing them to other causes.

All of this in turn leads to dissonance .. a discomfort of the conscience so profound that it's effects can be felt throughout all aspects of our lives. Slowly and almost imperceptively we start to lose a sense of ourselves. This is what happens when we lie to ourselves ... when we attempt to force an untruth upon our consciences.

Drinking and other addictive behaviours are a salve. They ease internal conflict by dulling our senses down entirely. In the long term this becomes a semi-permanent state. Akin to depression this dulled down state becomes entrenched to the point where we see little point in living our lives. Almost every recovering addict can point to a time during the active phase of their addiction when they considered ending their lives.

It's funny because I never thought that alcohol affected me when I wasn't actively drinking. It seemed so self evident as to be laughable and yet I'd failed to take into account the difference between intoxication and the all-pervading toxic affect that addiction has on our lives.

And I failed to take into account that recovery is about more than stopping drinking. It's about recovering me and a sense of myself. My place in the world. This here and now world ... not some convoluted fantasy made up in my mind. It's about accepting that I am who I am, and I've done what I've done. I don't really know this woman that I am any more. It scares me to feel so intently this dis-location as I move from unreality towards a more permanent reality. I know it's good ... and I know it's progress. Some truths are just hard.

I will be mostly offline now until mid-August. I hope to get around to more regular blogging after that. xx Jos

Half a century



I remember a time
before I was scared of you
a time when I was
just your little girl
and you were my daddy
and that's what I choose
to remember today
I get to choose you see
now I'm almost a grown up

(Father's Day today)
__________________________________

Onto happier things ... 


My gentle man is 50 years old today. Half a century. All is prepared for a special day. I have made blueberries in maple syrup. Ha! I say made, all I've done is cooked the berries in the syrup until lovely and gloopy. Job done. I have made pancake batter, I have bought maple cure streaky bacon ....

For later on sis & I will prepare 3 curries, dahl, rice and naan. We will all sit down together tonight for a family celebration, a joint birthday meal for Trev and Father's Day meal for my brother-in-law.

Over our years together my favourite breakfast of all time (maple sweetened blueberries, thick american style pancakes and crispy streaky bacon) has become his too. How lucky does that make me? Sometimes I forget to appreciate my good fortune. I am lucky that Trev's birthday coincides with Fathers Day this year because it gives me a good reason to focus on the good things in my life without dwelling on the past like I usually do.

Because it's the big five-oh I have been scrimping wherever possible and putting aside some money each week for the last few years. Saving up for an extra special gift. A Nikon D7000 digital SLR. It was either that or a telecaster guitar but really ... we have more than enough guitars.

I am practising patience today. Normally on Trev's birthday I wake him up at the crack of dawn because I love the gift opening bit ... then the playing with what he's (we've) got bit.

I am still somewhat over-awed by the fact that we are "allowed" to do whatever we choose to.

I have decided to wait for him to wake up naturally ... even to the point of not making unnecessary noise (despite the fact Trev could sleep through a riot happening right next to his ear). Don't you think that's pretty mature of me?

Being an almost-grown-up totally rocks some days.

Thankful



Surgeons are amazing aren't they? Like super-duper people mechanics they opened my father-in-law up, swapped some bits and bobs around to make space for his ICD (pacemaker defib thingameewhatsit) which they've placed with surgical precision before sewing him back up good as new ... well almost ... after all, he wasn't exactly new to start with! It all went well though. The next few days will be spent in the hospital and then home and on to the process of recuperation.

Lots to be thankful for today.

The not-so-secret formula



Every once in a while I hit the jackpot. Know what I mean?

I was thinking about Oliver the other day. No actually I was fretting about what to get him for his birthday. I have something of a reputation to live up to in the gift giving department. It's my secret formula that gives me the edge. I can't take credit for the formula itself ... only in my enthusiastic application of it.

I was absolutely thrilled a while ago when my eldest niece (now 23 y.o) told her littlest brother that he shouldn't worry about giving me his present wish-list because Auntie Jos always buys the coolest pressies anyhow. Now that is an accolade and a half.

Auntie-hood is an area of my life that provides many blessings. I need no other reason for my general non-grown-up-ness than it makes me an all right kind of auntie. I like worms ... and mud ... and tree climbing, kite flying, snot flicking, ice-cream licking, kicking balls around, jumping in puddles, lying on the ground, and running around for no good reason other than it feels good.

I am shockingly bad at playing Barbie though. Not too good at tea parties or playing fairy princesses either. And I hate playing house although it's OK if I can be the cat. The last Barbie-doll I played with was immediately seconded into a commando parachute regiment and promptly dropped from a 3rd storey window weighted down with plasticine boots for ballast. I'm not sure my youngest niece has fully forgiven me for the green marker pen camouflage which I honestly thought would wash off her Barbie's face .... no honestly I did!

Back to present buying ... and the not-so-secret formula.

  1. Go to any good toy shop on a day when you have plenty of time to spare. Ideally on a day when it will be filled with kids (you can take some of your own if need be but swear them to utmost-secrecy-on-pain-of-gruesome-horribleness first)
  2. Look around for ages and ages making notes of all the things that you think are cool along with location and price. Have a good look at stuff that is attracting a lot of interest amongst kids of a similar age to your young friend.
  3. Now for the fun bit.
  4.  Beyond budgetary considerations which are allowed don't think about practicalities! Don't don't don't!!!
  5.  Instead imagine you are the age of your young friend ... it helps if you pretend to have similar interests too. Hmmm .... actually this is pretty crucial to the formula's success.
  6. Buy the thing that you want to play with most of all.

OK, well I admit it. There have been times when I've been a more popular auntie than sister. I blame step 4 for this. I find it better to blame step 4 than myself. It works out better that way because who am I to argue with the secret formula?

So Oliver is eight years old tomorrow. He will be getting a Make You Own Dinosaur Movie kit from me. It's well cool. I say he is getting this present but the reality is that we are both getting it because that's the other thing about the secret formula ... I get to play with it too! Yay!!!! I can't wait.

We are away from home at the moment because my Father-in-law is not at all well and is in the ITU in hospital. As a way of passing the inevitable hours spent in the waiting room I have been learning how to write text docs onto a Kindle. Wonderful gadget it is, very kindly loaned to me by my sister-in-law who doesn't like the clunkiness of the page turns ... very odd woman. What's not to like? Kindles are well cool.

Not good internet access here as it's dial-up. So I'll press send and then leave the PC on whilst we go visiting. Might work ....

Sorry what was the question?



that i will end up alone
even more alone than now
and that i'll deserve to be
because after all this
it turns out that it's true
what i thought all along

and that is that i am
just
not
worth
loving

that's the answer
there
that wasn't so hard was it?

if i have to start with the answer
and work backwards from there
towards accepting it
do i get to re-define
the question
so i like the answer better
next time around

I mean ....
what sort of half-assed
question was that anyway?

in the unsaid lies the malady
valiantly defied by words
spoken into the void
in an attempt to avoid
the unsaid

shall we start again
and actually say this time
i am utterly fed up
with unsaying
with being always too afraid

between the pauses
of these empty words
lies heartache and tears
made all the worse
for lapping against this dam

i'd smash it down entirely
were it not for this fear
that what would emerge
might flow in directions
i cannot afford to go

instead i keep taking it down
one small brick at a time
as my courage allows
expending my remaining efforts
in dealing with the seepage

i would coral it still
building further fortifications
as does a child on the beach
digging fast and furiously in a bid
to contain the sea itself

for i want what i don't want
and in that contradiction lies a key
to the door of something
i can only guess at as i sit
looking at these empty words

ABC




Shamelessly copied this idea from KJ's blog

A is for Age: 48 years old. Sometimes I look in the mirror and am so shocked by what I see. This woman looks much older than I feel on an emotional level, but is I'm afraid pretty accurate in physical terms. The me inside myself is about 30 I think.

B is for Beer of choice: I don’t drink. Not any more anyway. When I did I drank far too much and when I tried to stop I couldn't ... which meant I really had to stop and stay stopped. Pretty much any beer was fine with me but most of all I liked Hoegaarden and Geuze.

C is for Career: I'm an industrial systems engineer. Currently I work as a quality/production engineer in a hydraulics company but my background is more electro-mechanical. In my next life I'm going to be a watch mender or a car mechanic ... or maybe a carpenter.

D is for favourite drink: Tea. Without my bucket-sized mug of tea in the morning I grump grump grump all day long. I'm lucky that I like all kinds of tea. My favourite is Lady Grey which is extra citrussy compared to Earl Grey but similar. At work the guys like builders tea which is strong stuff ... I like that a lot too.

E is for Essential item(s) you use everyday: Umm the shower? Toothbrush? No, OK a personal item then. Some time ago a lovely friend of mine gave me a stone. It's a special stone with a 'significant-to-me' history attached to it. It sits on my bedside table and some days I carry it in my purse. I touch it every morning when I wake up. It's there to remind me to be present in the day. It works pretty well most of the time.

F is for Favorite song at the moment: Sweet Sir Galahad - Joan Baez. If I can't be a car mechanic in my next life I want to sing like her ... shit I want to sing like her anyway!

H is for How About Whatever Favorite I Choose: Okee dokee. Lemon meringue pie. I'm not much of a dessert eater but I could eat a good lemon meringue pie all day long. (Can I have a Thai green chicken curry first though?)

G is for favorite Game: I don't like games of chance and am woeful at games involving any element of bluff. My poker face is atrocious ... even playing Snap with little boys taxes my abilities in this regard. I like chess, but generally I'm not much of a game player.

I is for Instruments played: I fumble along more than play. I can't make my mind up which to focus on and so I play a few instruments very badly indeed. Listening to my fiddle playing has been likened to torture ... and with good reason!! I like bashing the drums for stress busting, I also like playing the guitar for it's lyrical qualities. I have been learning the bass guitar as it is way cool ... I like the mandolin because if you play the fiddle they're the same fingering except with frets and you finger pick instead of sawing away with a bow ... I like the piano and am learning Gymnopédieso 3 by Satie ... I like the harmonica because it fits in my pocket but I get confused about the breathing sometimes ... and I like the clarinet which I am learning with my nephew to keep him company. He's already better than me though.

J is for favorite Juice: Breakfast blend (orange and grapefruit) .

K is for Kids: Nope, but I am an auntie, and a godmother, and a sort-of friend.

L is for Last kiss: William (my youngest nephew) this morning on my way out the door. Normally it would be my husband but I was over at my sisters place last night.

M is for Marriage: 16 years co-habitting and not far off 3 years married. I'm not one to rush into things!

N is for full Name: Jocelyn.

O is for Overnight hospital stays: When I was 19 I had a virus which kept me in hospital for a few nights. When they tell you it's a virus what they mean is "we don't know what's wrong with you". I got better regardless.

P is for Phobias: Dogs ... and loads of other 4 legged creatures. I so want to not be a scare-dee-cat namby-pamby but it's hard-wired. When I hear a dog barking nearby or suddenly come upon one unexpectantly when I'm out and about I get really frightened and often have to stand still for ages to recover. It's not a logical thing but is based on a childhood experience which left an indelible mark.

Q is for favourite Quote: Too twoo (true) oh wise one. It's something my mum says ... and it's the highest form of praise when said in response to ripostes on issues under debate between us.

R is for biggest Regret: The death of Charlotte.

S is for Sports: I love swimming, hill walking, body boarding, snorkeling, badminton. Despite this I am an Olympic sofa surfer because I love reading more than anything else.

T is for Time you wake up: Around 5am usually

U is for color Underwear: Yeah right ... like I'm going to notice what colour I'm putting on at that time of the morning! We bought a load of silk underwear when we were in Hong Kong many years ago. My fave combo is bright red with orange zigzagged through it ... I wear them on days when I think I'm going to need super-powers to face whatever is daunting me.

V is for Vegetable you love: I love asparagus, sweet potato, red onions, purple sprouting broccoli and corn-on-the-cob best. I can't say which I like best best because it depends.

W is for Worst Habit: Procrastination ... that and indecisiveness.

X is for X-rays you’ve had: there are other words that begin with X surely! Xenophobia for example. I am quite scared of people generally. Not specifically foreigners or strangers ... just people. So people and 4 legged creatures ... other than that I'm fine!

Y is for Yummy food you make: I make pretty good curries, I'm OK at cooking except desserts and baking. My best dish is Thai Green Chicken Curry which is my all time fave main course.

Z is for Zodiac sign: Pisces. I don't read my horoscope but I did once read what the typical characteristics of a Piscean were. I was quite amazed at how these traits aligned with my character. I was born about 6 weeks premature so would have been an Aries or perhaps a Taurus I can't remember which. Would my character have changed the further on I developed in the womb? I don't think so.

A coldish day at the office















This prolonged adolescence is coming to an end
thankfully I need not adjust my many abnormalities
as I am segueing quite nicely and without interruption
into what we euphemistically like to call 'the change'
which might be considered a bit of a blessing really
coming hard on the heels of baby steps into adulthood
so perhaps once I'm through this I might eventually
settle into something resembling normal grown up-ness

In the meantime I now have carte blanche to misbehave!

Isn't getting older fun? No, not today it sodding well isn't
can we open the darn window please it's too hot in here
all the men around me jump to it, overly eager to oblige
which tells you not so much that they are well trained
although I permit myself some small satisfaction on that score
clearly though I have been a less than a cheery manager of late
to such an extent that even the more moronic outer fringes
have become aware of this now not so secret alteration

This strange inner altercation with outward ramifications
soothed only by an endless stream of earl grey tea
and kind words regarding the minor gale blowing
through the office orifices or is it orifi I wonder
I can't seem to keep a straight thought in my head today
and don't get me started about the trips to the loo
I am thinking of setting up a second office in there
which would be wholeheartedly seconded by my team

Oh well I suppose we all have to grow up sometime
it's such a shame we have to grow old on the outside though
wouldn't it be more sensible if we just turned inside out instead
which would save all that ferreting about in the darker corners
of our psyche in search of our much vaunted inner child
but then I've come to believe that this prolonged adolescence
may well be due to an overly active inner child in the first place
how else to explain the various idiosyncrasies of this mid-life woman?

Over you



You think you're over it
but on picking up the phone
hearing that voice
and opening your mouth
to say something, anything

your mouth dries

So what did I say?
banalities that's what
I listened in horror
to the shake in my voice
meaningless words tumbling out

and I knew

Time is elastic that way
snapping me back
to re-living events I'd thought
gone if not forgotten
but of course my heart

is nowhere near over you.

200 Days


What's different this time? I have been asked this question a few times now. I mull over the possible answers.

Nothing.
Everything.
Me I guess. I am different ... or becoming different anyway.
Growth.

Years of dallying with drugs, then more years of heavy drinking followed by 3 or 4 years of efforts to cut down interspersed with spells of sobriety. What has changed? What is working now that didn't before?

... and will it keep working if I stop trying so hard?

The sunny days are sunnier that's for sure. A clear mind is better able to distinguish between the wood and the trees. Life feels simpler and less out of control. But the hard days seem just as hard as ever they were ...

... except they're not. Even the hard days don't seem to be filled with the darkness of despair that I experienced in my drinking days. I don't miss that. The rehashing of difficult memories and emotions, constantly trying to find a way to make the past better than it was. The inability to see beyond pain to the futility of these efforts. The inability to see the cost. To others. To myself.

I do miss the release.

I miss the anticipation of release too. The planning, the deviousness, rebelliousness even ... the feeling that I was doing something a bit deviant ... something just for myself and nobody else ... for no better reason than to make me feel good. I miss the ease of transition from one mental state to another that one finds with drugs and drink. Basically I miss getting wasted. How pathetic is that?

I guess part of the difference is that I do now see that as being pretty pathetic. Not so much the urge itself ... after all ... having experienced chemically enhanced euphoria you can't "unknow" how that feels ... how it suspends reality ... how it reconnects the disconnected feelings inside a person. It's just that it isn't real. Or sustainable. And eventually it blinds you to virtually everything else. To the point where nothing seems to matter much any more.

Addiction bequeaths nothing more than an impoverished life at best. But to see that one must first look from a perspective freer of the effects of the addiction itself. And how does that happen? How long does it take? How does one know to what degree addiction is still working on our own thought processes?

I guess by looking for inconsistencies. And that strange semi-logic that so typifies addictive thinking. Wishing is far far easier than doing. Such logic would appear on the face of it to be perfectly straightforward. Intuitive even. Somewhere in the addictive psyche that message seems to get muddled though.

It feels like wishing should be enough. It feels unfair that it isn't sufficient. We might spend years wishing our lives were different without ever lifting a finger to make it so because the addictive mind is in some ways addicted to what feels like stasis but is in fact decline. We don't see this decline ... or if we do we deny it ... or when it becomes undeniable we add it to the list of things we wish were different.

The problem with growth is you can't pinpoint single factors in subsequent changes that take place. A series of decisions made a long time ago started the process but at the time it didn't feel like the start of recovery at all.

It's tempting to focus on the slowness of the growth rather than the fact of it happening at all. Some habits are hard to break and if at the root is a fundamental lack of self belief then much inner work has to be done before outward changes are even the tiniest bit noticeable.

Despite the low feelings of late I am grateful to see 200 days sober. It is not a long time. I know that. Even so I am thankful to see outward manifestations of inner changes. To be on this journey of discovery and on a path that leads away from the dark days of my past.

Nature laughs



Nature will have it's way
whether through our neglect
or in it's thwarting of our futile
attempts to tame it
glorying as it does
in it's own abundance
unmindful of consequence
it has the complete abandon
of that which has no conscience
oh such freedom it has

Is good synonymous with natural
that which comes from nature
or is good an outmoded notion
clung to by the overly meek
or those of us whose narrow focus
blinds us to all but the blindingly obvious
even with my dim vision I can see
that the trees adorn themselves
with no thought towards vanity
and are all the more beautiful for it

It can be tempting to think
that underlying nature is no structure
but that is not the case at all
although to describe the systems at play
takes us on a journey of discovery
whose boundaries lie on the outskirts
of knowledge, or in my case far beyond
a lack of understanding however
is not the same as insufficient evidence
it evinces solely my own limitations

What then does nature have to say
on the thorny subject of morality
except that it seems an irrelevance
in the wide sweep of the universe
so can we now ignore it altogether
learn lessons from the vast bulk of creation
or is this to deny something singular to us
for whom morality is more than minutiae
are we thus in danger of thwarting
our own intrinsic nature

It seems that there are times
when hope triumphs over experience
or faith leaps over empirical evidence
but what if this is in fact just nature
interweaving itself with what's already there
to gradually pull us towards
what would be there if only
we were to let go of our preconceptions
about pretty much everything really
nature enjoys a good joke it seems

6 Month Blues

6 months on Saturday just gone. Personal best territory ... at least for the last 15 years or so, which has got to be good news hasn't it? So why don't I feel better? Why do I want to drink so much right now? To celebrate? To commiserate? Since when does a drinker need a reason to drink?

There is nothing more insidious than addiction I guess. It's like an internal bit of me that shouldn't be there but refuses to leave. However many times I turn my back on her still I hear her carping away at the back of my mind. If you invite a monster into your home how can you do anything other than blame yourself for the mess and other less than savoury consequences that result from such rank stupidity?

It's not like I didn't know. Oh I knew all right. Liquid drugs, how brilliant is that? And it's legal. Expected even. Just get around the taste problem by trying this and that. Forget about those earlier experiences because I'm older now right? Wiser ... right? So just work on developing a palate. Ha! Yeah cuz it's all about the taste right?

There's a huge risk with milestones. I've seen it so many times in the last few years. Every reason under the sun is given as to why it's OK now ... every justification explored, turned inside out an upside down ... intellectualised even, and for what? So that we can feel OK about going to get smashed. We don't call it that though do we? We call it choice. But we know how it's going to end up.

Denial is always easier than facing the truth head on. As an addict I can never drink again. And I am one. I know it. I hate this particular truth more than I can say but that doesn't mean it isn't true. Ah poor Jos deprived of her fun.

Fun? Well yes there was some fun ... about maybe 20% of the time if that. And the rest? Shall I remind myself again about the other 80%? At the heart of it what is it that drives this desire for oblivion? I wish I bloody knew the answer to that one. I could make a mint.

Earlier I was thinking about those pills I stashed away. Wondering how many it would take to float off for a while. Seems my desire for oblivion is far from dead. Shit. I thought I was getting better at this sobriety lark. Must go and flush those tablets away. It's not safe for me to have them here. I'd forgotten how sneaky that part of my mind is. Stashed them away against recurrence of back pain but I can always go to the doctor to get more if the need arises. This isn't need, this is want. Big difference.

Self pity is sooo unattractive don't you find? (shrug) Yeah well, me too. Funny day in my head. Got the 6 month blues I guess. Most days I can work up some gratitude ... some days it even happens spontaneously. Springs from a good place within. It feels real and right in a way that drugs never did. I love those days. That's the way it goes. Up and down. Hey ho ... one day at a time as they say.

This faded facsimile

When I was in my early twenties I had to re-invent my whole life. At the time I was living in a religious community. My life revolved around the people and activities within this community apart from my work as an engineer which brought in a useful income. Tithing was practised by all working members of the community to help support those whose service was full time but otherwise unpaid.

Volunteering was expected and I gladly played my part in helping at the local school for kids with both cerebral palsy and behavioural problems, taught at the Sunday school, was a youth leader/counsellor, using my holidays to take underprivileged kids away to the seaside, and various other things. Life was full and busy. I was mostly happy in this time.

Living in a community involves an unusually high level of external awareness. You have to anticipate likely problems and deal with them before they become big, otherwise disharmony takes root and small issues become huge bones of contention. Sometimes this causes you to loose focus on yourself. This was always encouraged as self absorption was seen as an entirely negative thing. Questioning the basis of the ideology/theology practised was also largely discouraged. It was this aspect of group living that I struggled with the most.

Oh I wanted to believe what I was being told. Really I did. But the lack of evidence and logic gradually whittled away my confidence/faith until I was no longer sure that there was a good foundation for anything I was being told. Even so since I was mostly happy there I quelled my pedantic and inquisitive nature as best I could for the sake of harmony. I liked living there and feeling so accepted in this group. I've never felt that in my life since that time.

I was engaged to a lovely man who had felt the call to work alongside those distributing bibles in eastern block communist led countries. He was to be away for 2 - 3 years and we had planned to marry on his return. Whilst away he met his true soul mate and wrote to tell me of this change in his circumstances. I was not heartbroken. We had already been apart for nearly a year by this time and I'd grown used to his absense. It's funny really that I knew then what I struggle to know now ... that two people must be fully committed for a relationship to flourish.

When my now ex-fiance next wrote it was to ask me to provide accommodation for his girlfriend. She was on the run from an abusive husband who had been physically violent towards her. She needed a safe place to stay whilst she filed for divorce ... away from friends and family. He trusted me and I honoured that trust.

Being part of a community means you have to conform to the conventions of behaviour within the group. On becoming aware that I was housing a fugitive, and more ... a married woman on the run from her husband, I was told in no uncertain terms that I must desist immediately and force this woman to return to her husband. On the face of it this might sound heartless but the aim was that they might be able to work out their problems with the help of a christian minister/counsellor. I refused to send her back to that man. Instead I gave her the option of staying as long as she needed to. Things escalated from there until one afternoon when I was called before the elders. I was given the stark choice of complying or leaving. I was condoning sin and that was not to be tolerated.

So I left. I arranged for my new friend to stay with my ex-fiances family. They welcomed her and kept her safe. All told she's only stayed with me for about 4 months or so.

And from there my life changed forever.

Only two people from the community would be brave enough to defy convention and stay in touch with me. Ultimately both left some time later of their own accord. In a matter of hours I lost my home, my friends, my already teetering faith. At the time it felt like the end of the world. In reality it forced me to live in the world in a way I'd never have had the chance to if I'd carried on living in the community. Until you spread your wings you've no idea whether you have the strength to fly or not.

When I think about radically changing my life now I look at the woman I was back then with a kind of awe. She was so determined to do what she thought was right regardless of the consequences or personal cost. Where has that woman gone? I can't seem to find any trace of her in this faded facsimile.

Regret


















When I gave my heart to you
I never thought I'd take it back
I always assumed in my usual way
that this was the very nature
of the promise we made together

and it was, and I don't regret it

My heart has been in safe hands
but never in perfect hands
where in the world do we find
what we never knew we needed
because we thought we needed safety

and we did, and I don't regret it

Time, why do we always end up different
with the passage of time
and yet assume that nothing changes
having built a place of such safety
we've been able to flourish and grow

so we have, and I don't regret it

Except I do, I do regret a lot of things
the distance that's grown between us
the distance my heart has wandered
making me wonder it's got to that time
when I should hand your heart back to you

and if I do, will I regret it

I feel that your heart is no longer safe
as it always used to be in my keeping
and whilst I still honour the gift of it
I have not done all I could have
to honour the spirit in which it was given

I could have, and I do regret this

From here the way forward is unclear
the temptation to tarry is so strong
this fear of putting another foot wrong
and most of all that one more step
might take me beyond the point of no return

from there there'll be no point in regrets

The courage it takes to look into your heart
is of little use if you lack the wherewithal
to accept what it is telling you
in turn what point is there in knowledge
if not that it calls out to be acted upon

and if not, what sorry tales of regret await the teller

The short necked giraffe



If a leopard does not notice her own spots
then is it not possible that she might
take herself for another creature entirely
she might for example think herself to be
an exceptionally short necked giraffe
with perhaps unusually short legs as well
whose tastebuds have gone a little wonky
so that she doesn't really like eating leaves
the youngest tenderest twigs hold little appeal
but still she doesn't think it in the least bit odd
as she looks with a more than passing interest
at some passing herd of antelope or zebra

Our leopard can see some differences though
she is not altogether as dull witted as it seems
she notices that the other giraffes like to hang out
whereas she is more of the solitary kind
the stay up all night on the prowl kind
not inclined to gather round tall trees for a chat
nor walk in stately fashion under the midday sun
instead our short-necked short-legged giraffe
likes to loll about in the half light of shade
surveying the savanna in what one might say
was not in the least in a giraffe-like way

How does one arrive at self awareness
what sort of event must befall our non-giraffe
before she awakens to the facts of her hitherto
unsuspected but undeniably true inherent nature
and supposing our non-giraffe doesn't want
to be a spotted non-herbivore one, what then?
to have to re-invent yourself is not any easier
just because you are what you have been all along
especially if you didn't know you are what you are
and always thought you were what you weren't
leopards might shrug it off but can a would-have-been giraffe?

Your words


Your words are like the air
seemingly insubstantial
there in the moment
and then gone
dissipated
without words though
how would we give flight
to our thoughts

Here your words are written down
and not just here
for I re-write them
in my heart
I horde them
garner them
use them to fill my small dinghy
so I can set sail once more

Your words help to keep me afloat
in the choppy seas
that surround the coastline
of my life
they give me courage
to set a course
beyond the safe harbour
outside of the inland waters

Your words are like an extra hand
helping me to steady the tiller
lending strength and more
they help me to fashion a purpose
your re-assuring presence
is a source of warmth
when colder winds blow
a voice in the silent void

Your words are like laughter
in the fine times
filling the sails
spinning us around
so that we can set off
in joyful pursuit
of the moon
shining low on the horizon

Your words are soaked in compassion
they undo an essential tightness in me
causing this sense of unravelling
and release
however often it feels
that I am alone in my thoughts
you come alongside me
with your words

Rules





Mutual exclusivity is at the heart of some of the most difficult choices we face in life. Or so it seems to me. And why? Because of rules. Apparently we can't have our cake and eat it too. That's the rule.

Up until a couple of years ago I never questioned the direction in which my moral compass pointed. I trusted that I would know right from wrong and mostly do right as a result of this knowledge.

Mostly. No one is perfect.

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew you were doing wrong even when it felt completely right? It's like being turned inside out. Stuff you barely knew you were suppressing inside yourself becomes visible. By demanding consideration this has the potential to be life changing. If you let it.

But it doesn't have to be. It can be that I know these things and yet still choose not to act upon them. I could follow the rules. Like I usually do (mostly).

Rules are important. Without them we have chaos. Chaos is bad. Right? Maybe it's only some kinds of chaos that are bad. Maybe I think it's bad because of my past. I haven't re-evaluated my assumptions about chaos since they were first formed. Maybe bad is meaningless. A simple construct formed for simple minds like mine. Or maybe chaos is good.

Chaotic behaviour scares me. Especially my own.

Rules have helped keep me safe. If I can just work out what they are then I can follow them. If I follow them well enough then I steer clear of the worst kinds of trouble. Right? I can see how infantile that thought process is. I recognise the girl who thought that ... who thinks that still.

Rules are my magnetic north pole. Everything makes at least some kind of sense to me if I know enough about the rules. Without them I am not sure ... of anything.

The funny thing about breaking things down so you can think about them in isolation is that in so doing you take at least some of the rules out of the equation altogether. It's not like I don't understand that. But putting the pieces back together involves seeing them in context ... as a whole. How do you do that without rules? Is there meaning without rules?

If I break the rules ...

It's like this brick wall in my mind slams against that thought. Almost everything in me wants to stick to the rules.

Except my heart.

Unless we re-evaluate things then we will carry on thinking of them in the same way we always did.

Enough thinking for today I think.

Except to say this. I am richly blessed in my blogging friends. It is clear to me that individually you have wisdom beyond my imagining. Taken collectively it is quite extraordinary. I so appreciate those of you who take the time to read and comment. The help this has given me defies description.

Thank you. xx Jos

More ponderings

What is real and what unreal. How do you tell the difference. How do you trust what your heart is telling you if your head is yelling a different message entirely. And what if a large part of your heart wants to believe what your head is telling you anyway? Because it's easier. Simpler.

But is it truthful?

Can a heart be in two minds?

To put these questions seems like an academic exercise and yet the answers have much bearing on my current state of mind. I am feeling increasingly unsettled in my life just now. Unhappy and I'm trying to work out why ... but in typical fashion I am doing so whilst trying to maintain the status quo at home which feels deceitful in the most fundamental way.

And yet if I don't know what I truly want then how can I do otherwise.

It's like I keep creeping towards the edge of this enormous chasm knowing that I may have to find my way across but without the faintest idea what lies either within it or beyond it. Which seems totally ridiculous really. Even to me.

Why don't I just shut these thoughts down and concentrate on what's at hand. Living my life in much the same was as ever before. With Trev none the wiser and mostly unscathed by the vagaries of my heart.

I could do that.

Even sitting down and discussing our present "difficulties" over the weekend resulted in the most horrendous scenes. Screaming at me "What do you want? What do I want? Christ alive can't we just get on with it without all this carry on about feelings and all that shit?" Slam dunk. Back to the books. Silence. Simmering silence followed by an absense of some two weeks now. Time to re-group.

I can hardly imagine what would occur if I were to ponder aloud as I am able to do here though. I think it would be fair to say that it's not something to be entered into lightly. So I don't.

I feel the need to explore these feelings but I'm not sure how to do so without causing harm or deceit. Squaring the circle ... is life ever easy? It's as easy as you want to make it. I know the sense in that point of view.

My heart is telling me that the reason I can't suppress these other feelings is because they are real. Valid. That even though they started from events that happened in a state of unreality they have solidified over time rather than vapourised as they should have done with a more distant perspective. That if they weren't real I wouldn't keep returning to them, turning them over in my mind as if hoping to find a new way to diminish them. Put the lid back on this Pandora's box.

My head is telling me that experiences gone through whilst in the fug of drinking are unreal and therefore attaching the weight of reality to them is an exercise in self-delusion. That my own inexperience is at the root of why I am still ... over two years on ... giving this a weight it really should never have had. I think this may well be true but how can I be sure? Inexperience is self-limiting in it's effect.

One way to test this hypothesis is to repeat the experience but with a clear head. Which I can't do so even thinking about it is pointless.

Why can't I?

There are so many reasons. Even putting aside the question of right and wrong ... of re-crossing the boundary of loving faithfulness within marriage (which I'm not for one second going to attempt to justify) am I the kind of person that can use another without having regard for them?

No, I don't believe I am.

But doesn't that pre-suppose that the other has much the same set of core values as I do? How likely is that? How relevant is that? To go against my own core values pre-supposes that I think it's worth it to find out something I probably already know. And that is that life is not simple. That decisions are an active choice of cutting off one possibility in favour of another.

Funny thing is I thought I'd already settled this decision some while ago. Shut off from one possibility in favour of the other. My heart refuses to let my mind have it's way on this. It demands it's right of appeal.

I want

I want a drink
not a skinful
but a wine rack full
and I've walked up to it
looked at my old foes
rows of shiny bottles
of liquid magic carpet
that could fly me away
from everything here

I want an escape
from this moment
to a whole new lifetime
so I can relearn
what it means to be me
and how to accept it
perhaps I can walk there
or wade in and swim
down this river of tears

I want to know
where there is
what there looks like
whether I will be happier
in the land of there
altered reality
seems far preferable
to having to bear
not believing in there

I want something more
without a clue
what it looks like
and so how
can I describe it to you
and how can I hope
for your understanding
when I don't understand
any of this either

Shall we instead
sit on the magic carpet
and hold one another
in a last bid
to reach inside the other
to find what was once
more than enough
or shall I hold your hand
and then let it go

I want to tear myself in two
that's what I want
so I can have it all
except then
I would only be part
of the whole
there seems little point
in crying
over half measures

Risks ... why is it always about risks?

This weekend my gentle man and I are going to have a talk. The kind where we are both adult and have some decisions to make about ... crikey well about everything really. Things have never been quite this bad I guess . Or more accurately, we've never been in a place where we both acknowledge this fact.

Two weeks ago Trevor told me that he thought "everything" was falling apart. My initial response was not helpful. I said "Jeezusssss, you only just noticed?" ... or words to that effect. I'm not proud of my reaction. It's characteristic of what happens when I feel suddenly and unexpectedly under threat when already feeling up to my eyeballs stress-wise. I snap out an attacking phrase instead of pausing for thought.

After months and months of hardly talking about anything at all, here at last was an opening. I wasted that chance. But having said what he did, he couldn't unsay it. Sometimes that works to our advantage don't you find?

He didn't want to talk about it at that point and to be honest neither did I. I was shaken by him finally coming out with something I guess we've both been feeling for quite some time now. Not only that but he'd been drinking quite a bit so things said from that point on would not necessarily reflect the truth of his feelings.

Drinking magnifies the bad stuff and can often end up escalating small grievances into major meltdowns. Something about drinking frees the inner drama queen in us all I guess.

Why don't we talk more? Sometimes I think it's that we feel secure enough that we don't need to so much. A complacency sets in. I could prevaricate as an olympic sport, really I could.

We get scared. Both of us. Mostly the reason we don't talk is because of this. I used to think that it was solely my fear and that I was projecting it onto Trev. Years on I can see that really we are both quite child-like in the emotional sphere. It comforts me in some ways that I am not alone in this.

It's seems strange because in so many ways I trust Trev, and yet in some fundamental way I don't feel safe with him. This is not because of any failing on his part and I know this.

Neither wants to be the one to hurt the other and yet we are neither of us happy.

What to do.

Talk, that's what we have to do.

We put it off for a couple of weeks as he was on the cusp of a trip away. He's home later on today and then will be away again for the next couple of weeks. We have two days together this weekend before his next trip. Once this trip is out of the way he will be home again for the foreseeable future.

Sometimes we have to do the things we are most scared of. For me it is breaking out from this self-imposed protective shell of mine to tell the truth. In order to do that I have to find out what the truth is. This itself scares me.

I am scared of saying the wrong thing. Of causing needless damage and hurt by being careless ... saying things when I'm not entirely sure of my own feelings. Saying things is hard because it's irretrievable. It's a risk.

And there's this. Sometimes I only say things in response to what's said to me. In this way I abdicate my responsibility to be an equal partner in our relationship. I find it hard to put myself and my needs equal to his.

I find it hard to recognise what my own needs are for that matter.

I know at the root of this is a feeling of un-deservedness. And I know that recognising this is only the start point for addressing it. Another process to be gotten under way at some point.

I'm scared of discovering the source of my unhappiness. The nature of it. What if I can do something about it? You see, I can live with this unhappiness ... I'm used to it. I've had a lot of practice. It's safe in a funny sort of way. The status quo. But change, even change for the better is more than a little unsettling.

What if I have to go through a phase of enormous upheaval .... possibly causing deep hurt to someone I love more than I can describe. And what if it doesn't work? Is it worth the risk I wonder.

How many times have we started to break these barriers down only to revert to silence again when it gets too hard? How many false dawns do we endure before concluding that the effort is more than we can bear.

Maybe he's right. That it is all falling apart. That we have spent all these years simply building a house of cards. All facade and no substance. No weight. No depth or ballast to keep us stable. Happy.

Can we build something more sustainable? Does he want to? Do I? If not, what then?

Sometimes we build things up too much. We carry a weight of expectation that far exceeds anything that can be achieved by simply talking.

But we have to anyway.

Remembering Renée



I recollect your last words to me
I wonder if in timelessness
you have time to remember too
to miss those still missing you
to ponder on such earthly concerns
do peaceful hearts gone to rest
feel the faintest echo of an ache

Some days eternity seems so near
separated by only the sheerest
and flimsiest of partitions
a light curtain lifting in the breeze
as if heaven lies not beyond
but just here
the merest step away

I wonder what it's like
how it feels
whether you can see us
each one remembering you
storing your story in our hearts
an ever widening ripple
of being together strong

I re-visit your words sometimes
a trail of treasures leading me on
to an ever deeper understanding
and with it a greater thirst
to know more, break free
take to the air and fly
leave this heavy heart to lie

I am keeping to our promise
holding fast where faith falters
trusting when belief stumbles
that when time ceases for all time
my hopeful heart will have courage
enough to take flight
with my own set of wings

Just today

I wonder if it is true that when we think back on things we've done ... things we find hard to comprehend in terms of our own behaviour, we fall prey to the temptation to re-invent history.

We re-cast ourselves as victims in scenarios where perhaps we were far more complicit than we'd like to admit ... and re-cast ourselves as heroes in scenarios where our behaviour fell very short of that mark ... and then if all that feels more comfortable we decide that that is what actually happened after all.

Am I the only one that does this? I hope so ... or maybe I hope not because then I'll know that it's not so unusual. Just another human failing. Ho hum.

If we can't undo what's done we can at least learn to be more honest with ourselves over what's gone on. Not with the intention of re-hashing old ground, nor with the intention of giving ourselves unnecessary grief over mistakes made, but to see if there are lessons to be learnt.

I guess it's part of taking ownership ... a phrase I've come to hate because of it's over-use in my workplace. Task ownership is the latest greatest buzz word bandied about at work ... our new corporate cult demanding of us all that we sing from it's hymn sheet. I sing off key at the best of times and never more so than when subjected to coercion.

Sometimes I feel deeply uncomfortable about things I've said and done. I am glad that my moral compass appears to be re-aligning itself towards values I recognise as being sustainable. I wish it were easier to forgive myself for letting it become so badly mis-aligned. I always knew better even when I didn't do better.

Recovery is an exhausting process, particularly in the early stages. It's a roller coaster of emotions, feeling kind of OK one day and then totally not OK the next. Some days I can't believe how hard it is. At times like this I recognise all over again how prone I am to turning and running away rather than face difficult truths. It's easy to forget to rationalise your thought processes when your brain is screaming nonsense at you.

And then I remember. Just today. I only have to do the work of one day today. Thank goodness for that!

OK as a boy.

William is 5 years and 65 days old today. He told me so on the phone this morning. He is learning how to use a calender at school. He loves to tell me about the stuff he's been learning. He knows a willing listener when he sees one. Smart boy. I am one of his greatest fans. He wants me to come over after work to play trains.

We are master train track builders we two. William has a huge love of anything related to trains and has amassed quite some collection of tracks and locomotives over his short years.

Every week we spend a happy couple of hours working on our elaborate layouts ... double switch backs, reverse direction signal points, long span bridges ... William loves using these technical words indicating that he ... we ... are in the know. A club of two. Secret railway passwords are tossed between us as a form of code. It's his way of signalling to the others and particularly to his brother that this is William & Jos time ... no trespassers please.

Trains are set in motion in precise timings so as to facilitate a crash or derailment. Then we deploy our emergency vehicles and follow a pre-set protocol of who gets rescued first and with what. It's the familiarity and repetition that William loves. He can recite exactly what is supposed to happen next and wants it to be the same as last time ... down to the very last detail.

I know how comforting the familiar is and mostly I oblige ... except I sometimes introduce some very slight variation. Not always on purpose either. Switching the signals out of sequence or neglecting to swap the points over and suddenly the trains are in different places, arriving unexpectedly at stations before the road guard gates have been lowered. Coal trains are unaccountably shunted on to the passenger line and before you know it we have total chaos.

I love to watch Williams face as these unexpected events unfold. He is the picture of concentration as he strives to bring order back onto his railway network. He issues orders and expects me to carry out my tasks promptly and without complaint. One day he is going to be an awesome manager. He juggles things mentally incredibly well for a boy of his age.

What really astounds me though is his emotional control. William is a boy of extreme emotions and is given to expressing himself fully in this regard. His tantrums are legendary even in our somewhat explosive family. But in his role as captain of the railways William becomes an altogether different boy. Calm, deliberate and incisive.

Still he is a 5 year old boy. When I arrive after work I hear him behind the door as I fumble around for my keys. He chants ... "Jos is here Jos is here Jos is here" over and over. Oliver is becoming more sophisticated in his greetings these days but William is still at the launching himself full pelt at me stage. We are all one another's number one fans.

Sometimes one or other boy asks me which one of them I love the best. "That's simple" I say ... " I love you both beyond measure". "What's measure?" Ha! You can never ask too many questions can you?

William says I'd be OK as a boy. It is the highest compliment I've ever had from him. He looks over to see if I am pleased. I am. Very.

100 days of living

Have you ever had to teach someone how to do something that you always thought was quite straight forward ... at least until you had to show someone else how to do said thing?

The approach I take is to break down the task into incremental steps, thus defining sub-tasks. I break these down in turn into sub-sub-tasks and keep doing that until we reach the comfort zone of the person being trained ... and ... eureka!

I just love to see mental cogs turn and then engage as the light dawns in their faces. It's great when they realise that far from being a complex task beyond their capabilities, it is in fact just a long sequence of relatively simple tasks that build one on the next one. If carried out in the correct way and in the right sequence the results are almost assured. That's the beauty of engineering.

Yesterday I was 100 days sober.

100 days is not a long time and in my own experience it is still very early days in what I hope will at long last be a lifetime of abstinence rather than something I play around at ...

... hoping it will right itself by itself ...

... by which I mean allowing myself to drink from time to time thinking that it's simply a matter of allowing an allocated number of days to elapse and I will have magically gained a better handle on all this. Forlorn hope and how stupid must a person be to think that? As stupid as I've been I guess. Such thinking has invariably led to my many lapses and relapses.

It's strange to find myself back in the kindergarten classes of recovery once again. Somehow even through the lapses and relapses of the last few years I thought I was further along on this journey than I turned out to be. That's OK, I am glad to be here ... especially given the alternatives on offer.

Dealing with an addiction is both simple and not. Life seems quite chaotic and unpredictable when we're held tightly in it's grip. Given time we start to see that whilst life itself is unpredictable addiction is so predictable as to be tediously so.

Simple is not the same as easy ... it never was. So why do I equate the two? Some thoughts are hard to dislodge.

Addiction is a bit like having a toddler living in your brain trying to dictate your life on it's terms ... whenever it doesn't get it's own way it throws all it's toys out of the pram and you end up fighting this thing within yourself. Some days all you can hear is the screaming.

It feels like a form of madness at the time and even in those times when you win through ... well even then you can end up feeling depleted and like a fool all at the same time. And yet I've rarely met another addict who really was a fool, except perhaps in regard to managing their own addiction.

I sometimes think about how I could have been so stupid as to have allowed myself to get in so deep. Well ... I think perhaps it's time to let go of that question. I allowed it and I can't undo that. I didn't mean for it to happen and that has to be enough of an answer for now.

Each day is simply a sub-sub-sub task in my process of recovery. I am grateful for today.