Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Wanna play?

"Can I play?" *shrug* "Yeah!"

BFFs, done.  When you're small it's easy to make friends.  Share your toys.  Show an interest in somebody else's toys.  Smile at somebody, give them a little wave.  Chase somebody.  "You're it!" and run away- sorted!

Try those things as an adult- I dare you!

Making friends gets a bit harder as you get older.  I have some lovely ones.  Ones from way back and some new ones too- I still get lonely.  I love my time with Crazy and Pip but I'll be honest, I find the conversation somewhat lacking.  By the time Mr T makes it home at the end of a long working day we catch up on the children's antics, his day, discuss what's for dinner (we never know and if I don't prepare something by the time we're ready for bed it will be a microwave meal for poor neglected Mr T and a packet of crisps for me.  I'm not even sorry- judge away!) there's precious little time or energy for anything more.  Sometimes Mr T will try.  He will ask what I think of whatever has been in the news that day, or my opinion on an article he has sent me, or what would I like to do at the weekend but I'll be honest- unless you're asking me to name an engine from 'Thomas and Friends' the answer is usually 'I don't know'.  That's my specialist subject for Mastermind alright, I could give Crazy a run for his money and that boy knows his trains!  So inevitably we drag ourselves upstairs to bed, ready to begin another day before the lack of sleep drives us out of our tiny minds.  Some of my friends are at home like me, with young children.  Some for other reasons.  Some are working, with or without children.  Rarely do our schedules match up that we find ourselves bored and/or lonely at the same time.  When that happens to me, I usually head out to the park.  Crazy is happy to oblige and occasionally even Pip will happily go along with this plan and have a well timed snooze.

So there we are at the park, Crazy completing his twentieth circuit- climb, slide, run, repeat.  Pip happily tucked up asleep in her buggy.  Other children playing happily in little groups, parents gathered in cliques, watching over their charges- or not, which really riles me but I digress.  I spot another Mum.  Her son looks about the same age as Crazy and I can hear a crying baby.  The baby sounds very young, the sound is very similar to Pip's cry and I feel the tension as she tries to divide her time and attention between the two.  I want to call out, "I know! I know how hard it is! You're doing so well! Don't feel bad, babies cry!" but of course I don't.  That would be weird.  As I follow Crazy around the park, wishing I'd made a bit more of an effort, chosen a nicer top, at least washed my hair, we find ourselves side by side next to the climbing frame.  Our boys are jostling for first turn on the slide as we both chastise them and tell them to wait their turn.  We share a moment- we have similar parenting styles! Hoorah- what a relief.  Maybe we could be friends.  I'm feeling brave, I strike up a conversation...

"How old are your two?"

*facepalm* I've just asked the equivalent of the dating line 'Do you come here often?', now I seem needy.  However, she politely replies and confirms my suspicion that our children are of similar ages.

"Do you come here often?"

Oh no.  Oh I said it.  I must absolutely reek of desperation.  But wait- I'm saved! Her son approaches a very angry cat which makes a grab for his sleeve and she rushes to the rescue!  I've never been so pleased to see an animal attack- apart from my obvious concern for the small boy, I'm not a monster!  I watch helplessly as she chases the boy, who chases the cat, who chases a duck. Her baby cries.  In her haste to rescue her son she left her baby right beside me- her tiny, round face turning scarlet as she searches for her escapee dummy.  Do I plug her back in?  Do I try and soothe the baby and risk being looked at as a child snatcher?  Do I ignore the screaming baby? I think about what I would want.  My precious first born- don't you dare, nobody touches my child!  My second?  Please- please make it stop.  Cuddle her, feed her, bounce her just please make the crying stop for a minute, my son needs me and I can't stand the guilt of either of them being upset!  I go for it- I plug her dummy back in, sing her a merry little tune and bounce the buggy along with Pip's while watching Crazy revelling in the glee to have sole custody of the slide.

She returns, enthusiastically reminding her son just how fun the slide is compared to a silly old, grumpy cat.  She looks over panicked, remembering the baby (I've forgotten too in the past- just for a moment, when she's quiet- it's so rare an occurrence) and she smiles, a smile of relief if ever I've seen one.  The baby is snoozing, just like Pip.  She returns for her buggy and thanks me- good call.  We did it!  We helped, we reached out and helped.

Our sons part ways, we both glance in each other's directions.  It's clear we both want to talk more but our fast moving males have other ideas.  Pip stirs, it's time for us to leave.  As we're leaving the park I take one last glance over my shoulder, toward the other Mum.  She is waving, I feel happy.

Maybe next time I'll ask for a phone number- I'd better think up some better pick up lines first though.  That or start travelling with a very angry cat in case the need for future distraction arises.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Behind closed doors

I always try to find the humour in situations, particularly when writing my blog.  I'll warn you now that I'm struggling to see the funny side of this one- feel free to just resume the fun next time if this makes for uncomfortable reading- I promise not to be offended!

Today, an app showed me some pictures of a time long ago.  A night out with friends- my best friend's hen do, in fact.  I was surprised to find that the feelings associated with these pictures were very much bittersweet.  There I was having a great night out, with the very best company for an unbelievably joyous occasion- but there it is, the fear in my eyes.  Despite some serious levels of inebriation I can remember those photos being taken.  I can remember because I knew the problems they would cause when I returned to reality.  I knew what would follow when I left the safety of my friends and returned 'home'.

I know now that 'home' is sanctuary.  Home is my absolutely favourite place to be- with Mr T and the small people, its where I belong.  The time we're discussing here is before the time of Mr T.  It feels very much as though I'm looking in on someone else's life.  I was trapped in a very unhealthy relationship, I just couldn't see it.

I can remember the day I received the phone call from my bestie.  "I'm getting marriiiiiiiiiiiiieeeed!!" followed by much squealing and excitement. 

"Will you be my bridesmaid?" "Of course!!! EEEEEEeeeeeekkk!", grins all round.  Then I hung up and turned around to an icy stare.  My (then) boyfriend (and I hate that term but he was very much just a boy and in no way my 'partner' so its all I've got to work with!) was not so elated.  The conversation went something along the lines of

"So are you even going to ask me if it's ok?  You're going to stand up in a room and be leered at in a tight dress and I'm supposed to be alright with that?"
"Wait, what?  I'll be wearing a nice bridesmaids dress and it will be a room full of family and friends that I've known forever, not a nightclub!"
"Oh, so you're laughing at me now?  You know how I get, I can't believe you'd do this to me, its like you don't even care.  I feel sick at the thought of you all done up like that being looked at and what about me? Where will I be, just sitting there by myself? Cheers! I can see how much I mean to you..."

And that was just the start.  That was before things got really bad.  When I think of an abusive relationship I think of bruises and broken bones.  Let me tell you- this relationship caused me so much harm, but very little of it could be seen on the surface.  I always used to think 'how and why do these people stay in such an awful relationship? Why don't they just walk away?', but now I know.  In the beginning it was little things, a snappy comment about something I was wearing or assuming I was flirting with other men but swiftly followed by an apology and then an explanation as to how past girlfriends had always let him down and nobody had ever been faithful or stuck by him.  I wanted to be different, I wanted to heal those wounds and be the one that he could trust- so I tried harder.  I made an effort not to talk to other men alone and to dress a bit more conservatively so I didn't cause him undue worry.  He was everyone's friend, a real nice guy so nobody ever suspected a thing.  The thing with closed doors is, you never really know what's happening behind them.  By the time things got serious it felt too late.  I couldn't leave him after saying I loved him and be like all the others, he needed me.  He didn't mean the things he was saying, he was just afraid of losing me.  When friends and family tried to raise their concerns I grew defensive- he had told me they wouldn't understand and would try to tell me to leave him and he was right,  nobody understood.

Whilst he never openly hit me, I felt tortured nevertheless.  Little digs about my weight and how my clothes were all too tight.  Knock after knock to my already fragile self confidence.  He would keep me awake night after night with endless questions about whether or not I was going to let him down like the others, questioning me over and over about my day and conversations I'd had and people I'd seen, trying to catch me out and if I dared try to sleep anyway I was most definitely hiding something and lying and he would speak of harming himself.  So I stayed awake and reassured him, hour after hour, day after day.  I became run down and very ill but that just served to keep me indoors and away from everybody else and his hold over me grew more and more intense.  There are so many things I could tell you but I still don't believe you would understand unless you too have experienced an unhealthy relationship.  I truly believe that you cannot help or persuade someone to leave a relationship like this until they are ready, until they can see it for what it is.  But you can be there, waiting for when that time comes.

What made me get out?  I'm sad to say I actually decided to move in with this man, further isolated and away from the safety of my family.  When things finally got physical and I came to harm, however minor- I could see where it was headed.  I could see what lay ahead and I knew I couldn't be that person.  At its very worst, I sat alone in a kitchen after the worst 'outburst' yet, believing I'd had a very narrow escape.  I contemplated hurting myself to make it all stop and what a wake up call.  I thought about my family, my parents- what would they think and feel if they could see me at this minute?  I'd long since cut all ties with my friends and wasn't even 'allowed' to use the internet or my own mobile, but my parents would be ashamed of who I had become and that hurt more than any pain he could ever inflict.  That was my turning point, that was the moment he lost power and I could see what was really going on.  I stopped cowering from threats and even provoked an outburst at inopportune moments, where he couldn't manipulate me the way he had.  I could finally see the emotional blackmail for what it was and the change was dramatic.  I'll admit I was scared to tell him it was over- but he knew.  He knew he had lost control of me and didn't even put up a fight.

It was at this point I sent out an apology to all of my friends for being so rubbish and hoped that some would come back.  I soon found that the real ones, they hadn't actually gone anywhere- they were just waiting, where they had always been, with open arms.  This is the point where Mr T entered my life as so much more than just a friend and helped me rebuild myself- but with a difference.  He helped me be who I was supposed to be, who I am, not who he wanted me to be- but that's a whole blog in its own right! 

My dearest friends, my L's, welcomed me back into the circle without a second thought.  The good times really were good again and we managed to make up for a lot of lost time.  They never judged me or punished me for being so crap, they just picked me up.  I'm sad to say I let my dearest friend down on her wedding day all those years ago and I wasn't a bridesmaid and I'm so very sorry.  I was there, in the room, wishing them all the happiness in the world but I will always be sorry that I didn't figure things out sooner and be there for the people who deserved me.  I hope this goes some way to explaining all those times when I let people down without much explanation- but I'm here now and I can promise that I always will be, all the more stronger- whenever you need me.