Acceptance

After completing Mastin Kipp’s 40 day ‘Claim Your Power’, I wondered if I would feel enlightened with my “Creator”, ecstatic in the my “action steps” approach to following my goals and dreams; and quit my day job. Was I excited that my relationships with my partner and family were about to elevate to the next level?
I felt the anti-climax of when an acting tour finishes and you know you’re going back to reality, the next acting job hasn’t come along yet and you have to go back to those faces in your regular job which either you dislike or the job is soul crushing.

Do I listen or read these self-development, self-empowering books because I want to find the answer to what I’m not doing right, seeking the reasons why I have not moved further along in life, to listen/read to another person tell me if I’m not “working to my goals once a week, it’s a dead dream”. Is it about my dreams?

I figured through this process it’s about my approach to everything and just like juggling human nature and the personalities of friends or the dynamics of work colleagues; it’s my approach to life.

My dad was diagnosed with dementia earlier this year, I looked at the research to prove to myself I understood the levels, the stages, the ways in which this debilitating condition can take over. It’s a slow burn of fire dying out on a summer’s day, at its height it’s beautiful, powerful and sometimes uncontainable and at it’s low it’s ash blowing in the wind returning to the motherland. What am I doing about it? I’m trying to control it, the doctor is trying to control it and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel unhappy and alone. Is that strange? The support from the NHS has been great, the support from my partner has been incredible.

I’m able to take my Dad to acting classes, memory cafes, dance and fitness classes (with the help of another reluctant family member). We have got him a diary so he can write things in to remind himself of what he’s doing daily and who he’s spending time with.
The biggest impact and stress for me is knowing which are the important parts, hospital/doctor appointments etc. Since my Dad came home from Mauritius in 2014, the last four years have been applying to the council for a home, sorting his pension out, him being diagnosed with prostate cancer and then this year dementia. I wonder if life has it in for me but it’s not me it’s happening to, it’s him. I cry and want to scream and shout at the world “why is it all on me?” and it’s because somewhere along the journey, I have become the responsible adult in all situations, and the roles have reversed.  I wonder how I can put yourself first, stay on top of my health and deal with anymore? I can’t and I have to get on and find the time when I can. It’s not about complaining, it’s allowing yourself to feel frustrated and not beating yourself up for the guilt that is totally out of your control, and out of your hands.

So, back to the book, what has it taught me in isolation to this area of my life, “Acceptance”. A really difficult area to understand in it’s full limited, restrictive layers unless you understand yourself to a degree. “Acceptance” is the most enlightening area of my life right now. I find it difficult because it brings its friends “control” and “judgement” to back itself up every time but it’s my fears of this that has been difficult to acknowledge. Accepting, what I cannot change, the future. But I can change the here and now by looking at it through a different lens. I never thought I’d be talking to my Dad about his “After Care Plan”, they are ask questions, you’ve never been prepared to ask your parents before, “How do you want to receive NHS treatment, do you want to be resuscitated, do you want the doctors to give you all the medications available” and so on. About his Will and what he wants to leave to people, about all sorts, and i am glad to say thank gawd I found out about the Death cafe, because it helps to talk about death openly.

All my Dad can hear when I ask him about his personal life and history is suspicion, and he asks “why? Why is it difficult to see loved ones suffer, it’s because the conflict starts with ourselves, our views, opinions, judgements, influences. The reality is he cannot change, he’s not a man that understands how to to talk about his emotions and never really understood others. He’s complicated and has a limited view of the world because he doesn’t really engage in conversation to know who people are or understand the world around him.  So, if anyone had to change, it was down to me, I don’t want to be the dutiful daughter anymore, I don’t want to pat myself on the back and say “I was there when he really needed me”. I want to be more than this, so I realised it was time to create new memories, however short lived they might be.

I am creating new memories of fun. I never thought of my Dad as a scared, frightened, and stressed man knowing that life is coming to a close. Maybe we never really think about the time when our bodies will start to close down, and stop working in the way we hope it always will. How do you admit, you can’t remember people, places, things? How do you talk about death when you’ve never really discussed it with family?

I am really lucky to still have my Dad, he isn’t an extreme case at the moment, he still remembers, still gets about, still cognitive. I have to find ways in which he can answer questions that are too much for him all at once. I sat with him yesterday whilst putting on a TENS machine for his achy muscles and played some music from different periods of our lives and showed him old photographs. A simple action but really worth putting the time in. I recalled that all through my life at home, two of the most prominent memories I grew up with was music and photo albums. Dad had created those memories for us and now it was time to remind him of those memories and create new ones for him. It is time to have fun with him whilst I still can and because whatever time I have left, I don’t want it to be about appointments, doctors, medication and duty.

If I only had today…

Today I came home crying, I’ve been here before, losing one parent was difficult enough, not knowing how long it would take, the journey it would take and how Cancer would play out. This selfish all consuming, all devouring disease with no inhibitions or care in the world just an egotistical swipe left ghost of a figure.

Why did I cry? The next part of the journey is a different equally challenging one, Dementia. A debilitating, short term memory swiping not quite disease. Still a condition that is labelled with stages from mild to essentially “no hope”. Still not answering the question, “why did I cry?”.

Gratitude – that  I had this moment today? Grateful that I had a day with my Dad?
Self-congratulatory – pat myself on the back because I’ve done my duty and spent some “quality” time with my Dad?
Guilt – that I didn’t spend enough time with my Dad?
Relief – that if anything happened between now and tomorrow, “at least I had today”
Sadness – that I wish I could have seen the signs earlier and spent less time frustrated and angry and more time patient and understanding?
Fear – that I won’t have anyone who will love and care for me in the same way if anything befalls me?

Did I cry because every time I’m there for my Dad, he says “sorry” for taking up my time, “sorry to disturb you”. I never make my Dad feel guilty and boundaries have to be made clear, but it makes me sad and angry to think why he has to say “sorry” and if others have made him feel like a burden or a bother.

The real reason is, I don’t know why, maybe because of all of the above things, maybe because I hate this fucking life with all it’s unfair, injustice shit it places on us. Maybe I’ve had too much wine (two glasses), “maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner and I love London town…”

I chose today, I chose to spend “quality time” with my Dad because in recent years, “quality time” has meant council visits to get him a home and benefits, hospital visits to find out he has Prostate Cancer.  It has meant finding out accidentally that I have a half-brother but with so many questions that will be left unanswered for my entire lift-time. And more hospital/clinic visits to find out that he has dementia and this is the next step.

Did I choose this life? Did I choose to have these challenges in my life to make my soul a more experienced, wiser being in the next life?  To develop to a Nirvana level in this life? How could I have chosen the pain, the suffering, the guilt, the worry, the stress; how? Because I am sure I would have wanted to be in the ice-cream guilt free zone of wealth, wisdom and ignorance, no?

I know I have this immense capacity to love, to give, to care and energy to encourage, but when I walk away, I am sometimes inconsolable with an undeniable outcome. Why was I never prepared for death or just the pain and endurance that one has to go through with life’s incurable toxins. These are not triggers from my childhood, these are not previous experiences before a certain age, this is fucking real life adulthood and it’s shit.

Do I sound ungrateful? Maybe? I sound fucked off with the cards I have been dealt with and I want to throw my toys out of the pram and rant and rave at how unfair it all is. But as most people I know say “it is what it is”. Fuck those words, it seems cold and calculating, a slap in the face of no mercy or prisoners to be found here. Take it or leave it? And I have to accept the inevitable, fate of destiny.

But fate doesn’t have to be a waiting game, I look to do everything possible to enable, to give advice, to make sure my Dad can do everything in his power, while he is capable to slow the inevitable down. While doing this, I have missed on two years of living life with him, having fun with him, day trips out with him, drinking with him.

Have I been selfish in thinking “Well, I was doing my duty as a daughter, at least I was there when he needed me the most, all the appointments”. Have I let my ego get in the way to think, “I’ve said all I can”, given him opportunities and now I can get on my horse and ride off with the knowledge that “there was nothing more I could have done”. I’m an absolute idiot if I think that.

I love my Dad and I don’t want our last months or years of memories to be sat down explaining to him that he has to think now about his funeral arrangements, his Will and whatever “end of life” endeavours he needs to consider. I want to have fun with my Dad, I want him to have fun with me. I don’t want him to get all stressed with me because I’m always talking about the seriousness of every situation.

Today I took him to three of my favourite special places in North London, spaces that make me feel like home never did, peaceful, a space to think and feel/be creative EZ and Moss. A place that always makes me feel like I’m part of the family Mento, Coffee and Flowers and a place “where everybody knows your name” Oak N4

The roles in life have now reversed, it’s my turn to look after, take responsibility of my Dad.  I’m glad I had today and I need to make sure there are more days like today.

‘The Good Enough Mother’

With a background in acting everything I write has music to it, or rather in my head as I write. Cancion De La Noche

I love reading and I don’t ever read enough but there always comes a time when perusing a book from someone you know can make reading that bit more special.  ‘The Good Enough Mother’  was certainly a piece I was looking forward to reading as I hadn’t spoken to the writer, Anoushka Beazley for some years; and was just genuinely excited to see someone who I had crossed paths with doing extremely well!  I think sometimes, the worry is that someone will read/see your creative output and dislike it. But we put ourselves out there, sometimes with our hearts on our sleeves and not only take risks but hope to connect with the reader in some aspect.

The story opens with Drea who becomes a single, non biological parent to Ava over night due to her Teacher boyfriend who runs off with his Research Assistant to live in France. Drea’s character is funny, dark, sarcastic and shows the sad complexities of humanity that reside in all of us. Why did I love this novel, well firstly I could hear Anoushka’s voice, and even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Anoushka, it was great to hear her voice in Drea. Secondly, the story of Drea has so much heart and made me seriously think of ‘Motherhood’.

I lost my Mum several years ago and it’s still difficult to know she is not here anymore, that I can’t take her shopping, meet up in a coffee shop, have family get togethers, or simply share my life with her. I contemplate whether I will be a ‘Mum’, ‘Mummy’ or ‘Mother one day, to my kids or someone else’s. Do I want to be a Mum? I ask myself “why this has not physicalised?” I blame the notion of not meeting the man who has wanted to have this “lifestyle” with me, but is this fair?  Did I meet him but not clarify my needs? I always said “never say never to kids” when someone asked me, but then some how the cycle of men in my life that I attracted were the guys who could never commit, disliked children maybe because they hadn’t grown up themselves or possess the required emotional maturity,  or had kids already and didn’t want anymore.

As with Drea’s story I could associate with other issues that perhaps prevent us as in ‘I’ from making those clear decisions. Maybe it was never high up on my priority list, maybe I thought it would happen naturally, maybe I didn’t think I would be a good Mum  or be any good at being tied down and didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my parents. So, “fear” prevented me? Maybe because my parents were so adamant on me having a career and in doing so gravitated towards people who wanted to take rather than share. Maybe my needs became second to their needs?

With main characters in novels, conversations happen in their head which only the audience can hear and identify with. When I started this post I was debating on whether to call it “Conversations in my Head” partly because we all have them and I do try to stem the demonic ones; but this is about how “The Good Enough Mother” stirred emotions and thoughts I have had all of my life. Maybe because my biological clock is ticking, maybe it has ticked? Oh look, there’s one more thing I cannot add to the bucket list but if I could, would I? Probably yes, most definitely yes if there was someone who wanted this with me. But unwittingly I chose and choose the men who do not and that is one of the most painful decisions I live with daily.

Drea’s internal dialogue is utterly insightful, I guess this is why I connect with her. There are reflective moments that made me feel completely broken, the way we compartmentalise so much until we are forced to confront our issues. The mirrored moment is never necessarily with a person or situation but pages in a book, a scene in a film, even down to the most boring of chores can have you crying because something you read in a novel made you think. Denying how we truly feel about our circumstances and who we are, and whom with we can be ourselves. Sometimes, being alone is preferable than being around people who constantly judge you, analyse you or your situation, who offer advice when it’s not needed or asked for – “The fixers”.

Drea deals with her problems internally, and I wonder if this is a symptom of modern life. We feel guilty for sharing our problems, we consider it “dumping”.  We feel a failure if a relationship has broken down, there’s always blame. We feel shame for not being what Society says we should be, in a relationship that leads to marriage, children, financial and domestic security. There’s nothing wrong with wanting them but there’s equally nothing wrong without having them.

The fear is not loneliness or am I settling for second best or wondering if I had made different choices would I be somewhere else? The thoughts are what if there is someone out there who wants to live the life I want to live, should I keep searching? Maybe I do want to be a Mum? Maybe I just want security because I never had it as a child or growing up? Maybe being a Mum will fill the loss of not having one? Maybe I still don’t know and it’s okay to not know especially if you’ve been through the “I thought I’d met the one” phase and they turn out not to be.

Drea wants to be provide for Ava and though there are lots of ways she doesn’t see, in so many ways she does. She’s responsible, she cares, she admits to not being the ‘typical’ parent that gets stuck in with PTA or makes friends with other mothers for the sake of school. But there is something in Ava’s need to belong and be part of something that also resonates with me. Maybe it’s being a Mother, maybe it’s to say I did well, maybe because there is nothing left of me after I have gone and maybe that’s they way it is and should be. Why does their need to be a legacy of Maria Thomas? There doesn’t.

‘The Good Enough Mother’ is definitely about the human condition and the complexities of how our minds work. The trauma of childhood, the confusion within ourselves by not really knowing sometimes who we really are and we come from, our parents/families influence on our lives or non-existent parents/families in our lives. It all seems to boil down to who am I? Who I am can be anything I want it to be, how I live and whom I live it with is my choice as long as I am happy why should it matter? Who put the time clock in my body and do I have to listen to them? Listening to the conversations in my head can be harmful or amazing, and everyday I have to consciously choose to listen to the voice that keeps me going.

Thank you Anoushka, if ever I do become a Mum, I hope I remember like Drea, it’s okay  to fall as long as I remember to pick myself up and carry on.