Bunny who?

Why? Who? What's this blog about? It's about MEEEE!

Being a Widow

My experience of dealing with grief as a widow

Astrocytoma

About Jane's brain tumour journey: Astrocytoma.co.uk
 

Someone's missing at the Christmas table

26 December 2012

So Christmas has come around again. Last year was horrible without Jane and yet great with my friends in New Mexico. I thought: I am going to have to face a 'normal' Christmas without Jane next year and it will be HORRIBLE.

And here it was: Christmas Day. I spent it with my family in Holland. And I was sad to be there without the person I love.

But it wasn't Jane I was sad about. It was Girlfriend. The love that I did not expect to meet this year. (Or any other year because what are the chances of meeting someone as compatible again so soon. Or ever?)

Today I spent time on and off on Skype with Girlfriend, who stayed in England to spend Christmas with her own family. We pathetically opened a Skype video call and simply left the connection open 24/7 and just popped in and out of the rooms with our respective laptops and sometimes we were at the laptops at the same time and had a short little chat. We both did not want to be away from our families too much because it seemed rude.

Jane was not mentioned at Christmas today. I am sure we will talk about her over the remaining 2 days of my visit. Maybe my folks did not want to bring her in to the conversation since things were going so well and it was nice to have a relaxing Christmas once again. After all, the past 4 Christmases have all been pretty shitty.

In 2008, we were upset and scared about the imminent radiotherapy. In 2009 we were upset that the radiotherapy was not working. In 2010 we were grateful that Jane was still alive to have a Christmas with us and in 2011, I ran away to the USA because I could not face my first Christmas without her.

Does that mean I dodged the bullet of Horrible Christmas for Those Left Behind? If so, then I shall breathe a sigh of relief and count myself lucky.

It is not that I don't think about Jane these days. I did think about her today. But I just expected to feel very sad about my first 'proper' Christmas without her. And I didn't. Although, now that I am writing about it, it makes me feel sad. (Note to self: Write blog post about how weird it is that I don't get sad when thinking fleetingly about Jane but that I can get utterly distraught on moments where I actively make time to think about missing Jane and the pain she and I went through. And does that mean I SHOULD actively make that time to evoke such feelings and what purpose would that serve? Are they emotions that need to come out or are they emotions I am conjuring up in an artificial kind of way?)

I feel strange for not having been sad about Jane this Christmas. Is that callous? Does it make me a cold-hearted bitch that instead of being distraught about my first real family Christmas since her death, I am talking about how much I miss Girlfriend? And reveling in my little nieces asking me constantly why Girlfriend did not come from England to celebrate Christmas with us and can she please come next year?

How long is the 'right length of time' before it is OK to not think about your dead spouse and get all sad about the time you *could* have had together if only they had been present at a particular occasion?

I guess nobody knows what the right or wrong thing is.

In a REALLY weird way, I sometimes wish this was all much harder than it has been so far. Because I seem to have picked my life up again fairly quickly. And I worry sometimes that this only helps to keep the myth alive that losing your partner is not as gut-wrenching, soul-destroying and all-encompassing as people make it out to be. I worry that it will strengthen the thought that many people have that after a few months, people really should pick their lives up again and be able to move forward and get on with things and stop dwelling on the sadness of their loss.

I now know that the speed at which widows 'move on' is in no way related to the amount of love they had and the amount of pain their loss has caused them. The pain was deep. It was raw. It was frightening. It was worse than I ever imagined it would be. And yet, picking my life up has been much easier than I imagined it would be. Actually, I did not have any imagination of a life beyond Jane. I thought I would just be dragging myself from day to day in an eternal hell of loneliness and dullness.

But it isn't. Life is beautiful again for me right now. I am loved by someone with an incredible understanding and acceptance. I love someone with the same total abandon that I felt for Jane. That is not to compare the two. It merely to say that losing Jane has not in any way made me afraid to love someone else. Nor has it made me feel I should hold something back for fear of losing it again. I wouldn't even know how to do that anyway. It is all or nothing.

And I feel that this Christmas, it is clear that my life has shifted from Nothing to All again. Yay.

Merry Christmas.

*PS: This long ramble may or may not have been fueled by Bordeaux, Limoncello, Port, Bacardi Oak Spiced & Pepsi.
Keep Reading: "Someone's missing at the Christmas table"

29

02 December 2012

Dear Jane,


You would have been 29 today. Nearly back in the same decade as me. We used to joke about it. When we started seeing each other, you were 19 and I was 27. When you turned 20, I told you I was happy that at least we were now in the same decade (at least until I turned 30) so the age difference no longer looked so big. You told me that once every 8 years, we would get to celebrate the event of you catching up with me, at least for a few years. We only got to be in the same decade once. You never made it to your thirties.

Would you be happy for me if you were able to know how things are going for me now? I would like to think you would be. You were always a generous woman. I seem to remember you once told me to grieve short and hard for you but then just get on with life and be happy again.

As life is settling down, I am thinking of you a fair bit again. Not in the sense that I am unhappy without you. I am happy with my life as it is. Girlfriend is wonderful. You would have liked her a lot. She looks after me extremely well and is the most understanding person I could ever have hoped to meet. You probably would have gotten pissed in The Racehorse together and laughed at the idiotic things I do. You would have asked her if I still interrupt people all the time. You would have laughed at Girlfriend rolling her eyes at that one.

At university, I learn more and more about bodies, health and dying. This obviously means I think about you a lot. How you were not healthy; how you died. How your body worked. How it did not work. What the medication and chemo did to you. I try not to think too much about how learning more makes me feel I should be able to apply that knowledge retrospectively to what happened to you. I did not know any better.

Did I treat you with enough respect when you could no longer make your own choices? Did you understand when I said: No more chemo? Did you want to shout: BUT I WANT MORE CHEMO, YOU ARE KILLING ME? Did you realise you were not drinking and eating? Did I understand you enough? Did I have enough patience to wait for you to form an answer in your head when asked if you wanted to die at home or in the hospice? You said hospice. Then home. Then hospice. Then home. Basically, did I listen enough when you were trying to tell me something? Out of all the things that happened, that question will forever haunt me. I know you were going to die. I think you knew it too. But did I treat you with respect. Did you feel I abandoned you and just sent you to a quick death? I know you would never have thought that I wanted you dead. But I hate the thought that you might have been angry or desperate to tell me not to give up on you.

Dammit. I was jut going to write you for your birthday. Because I never talk to you anymore. I did a lot just after you died. But I stopped feeling the need to do that.

I guess I just wish I could somehow tell you that I am happy. That I am doing fine. That somebody loves me. And that I can love somebody again with all my heart. But that none of that means I don't think about you anymore.

Today I am working with R. She looked after you when you were still home. Seems fitting that on your birthday I am working with the people who helped me to look after you and who helped me to be sure I wanted to go to university.

I went to the Birmingham Christmas Market today with Girlfriend. I remember when we went for the last time in 2010 when we were grateful you even made it to celebrate another Christmas with you. And last year I met Rachael and your mother there. I should speak to them more.

My folks came over from Holland last week. My dad said it was wonderful for both of them to see me happy again. Because all their previous visits in the last 4 years have been when there was a reason for them to worry about you or, after your death, about me. It made them happy that this time they visited me and found me my chatty self again. That this time there was nothing sad about the visit. That they could see I am happy. And this in turn made them happy.

I wish I could let you know not to worry about me. I guess that is as good a birthday present to you as anything.

X
m
Keep Reading: "29"

BBC Newsnight discusses the Liverpool Care Pathway. And I cry.

27 November 2012

Tonight the BBC's Newsnight has a discussion on the Liverpool Care Pathway. The Liverpool Care Pathway is highly criticized by shitty news papers such as the Daily Mail who have no clue what they are talking about and yet still feel they have a right to send wrong and dangerous information in to the world that is untrue and misrepresents the fact. The Jobbing Doctor describes quite accurately how I feel about the Daily Rag and their 'journalism' in relation to the Liverpool Care Pathway: "The Daily Mail, in its own unique way, is a bilious hate-filled rag full of sensationalism and bias. Similar to the Sun, but for those with GCSEs, with slightly fewer pictures." But I digress.

The Liverpool Care pathway is a protocol that helps medical staff when patients are actively dying. It provides space for all active treatment to be revoked and focus ONLY of patient comfort and symptom control. This may (notice: MAY) include withdrawing artificial hydration. it does NOT say people should not be given drinks if they can still swallow. Nor does it say people should be dehydrated to death.

The main problem is not the Liverpool Care Pathway itself but the implementation of it. So communication is vital. But also, people are not supposed to be on the Liverpool Care pathway for weeks. So normally you will not be on it for weeks. But mostly just for days or even hours sometimes. It is for people who are ACTIVELY dying. Not just terminally ill. But when the body is physically shutting up shop. So if you don't give someone food and drink for days or weeks, it is not a good thing. But if they only have hours or a couple of days left, then it is not their main cause of death. It should be reviewed every few hours......

We could argue Jane was on it too long. She took about 12 days to die once in the hospice. By the time she went in to the hospice, she already was dehydrated for about 5 days due to no longer being able to swallow. So yes, Jane died of dehydration whilst on the Liverpool Care Pathway. In her case, the Liverpool Care Pathway hastened her death. And maybe she could have been given IV fluids. Maybe the Liverpool Care Pathway was not applied appropriately in her case. Because the fact that she took so long to die proves her body was not yet actively dying from the brain tumour. So the lack of fluids killed her. In a way, you could say she died because of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Which was wrong. I did not know this at the time and I had the impression Jane was pain-free.

But this may sound callous and harsh, she was going to die soon. I could have prolonged her life for weeks by giving her fluids and food through a tube. She would have slipped in to a coma eventually. But that might not have been for weeks. Or months. And she might have been able to communicate with me during that time. But most likely she would not have been able to make much sense of the world, hydrated or not. So we would have had a few more weeks but there is no way to measure what kind of quality of life that would have been for a young woman, fully incontinent, bed-bound, unable to understand the world around here or hold conversations of any kind.

I still think about it. Did I do the right thing? Probably not. I should probably have fought harder for getting her hydration sooner. The thing that is upsetting me more and more is the idea that I did not talk to Jane about it enough. I very quickly assumed the role of carer and probably very soon took over the decision making. I perhaps took away her right to decide too soon and did not put enough effort in trying to find out if she was still able to have thoughts about it.

But it was the way it was. She lasted longer than the doctors anticipated once she came to the hospice. And the problem with dehydration is that you can not, after a week of absolutely no fluids, suddenly decide to give loads of fluids again and say: oh, maybe this patient is not actually dying just yet, let's re-commence fluids. By then, someone may already be in organ failure so you are kind of on a path of no return.

No point in revisiting things. It wasn't as if she died unnecessarily from a curable disease. I think the best I can say is that she died earlier than she should have due to implementation of the Liverpool Care Pathway. However, the Pathway protocol itself ensured that her death was painless.

But then again, that is what thought then, and still think now, when I knew nothing about these things. The more I learn at university, the more angry I get. I did not know better. But doctors back then did, and did they do the right thing? Did I ask them enough questions?

I am afraid that learning more at university will make me re-visit and re-think the whole thing. And I am so scared that because of knowing more, I will have some belated trauma about Jane's death. I don't want that. I have accepted it and, mostly the way it went. If gaining knowledge about it means I am going to doubt every decision that was made back then, I prefer to remain ignorant.

PS: For those who are really interested in what the LCP *really* says, you can read the entire LCP document guidelines here. You will see that there is nothing wrong with the pathway itself and that the problems are its implementation.
Keep Reading: "BBC Newsnight discusses the Liverpool Care Pathway. And I cry."

Music Review by Truly Indie: Corinne Lucy - Black

25 November 2012

I just need to mention this for a minute. Because I like this very much. My friend Corinne got a lovely review  for her song Black.

"It seems more and more common these days for young female singers to either "over sing" and lose sight of melody, or put on some kind of fake accent in a blatant parody of the popular singer of the day.

Every now and then something comes along and takes you completely by surprise. Someone with the imagination and talent to buck the trend... Enter Northampton's own Corinne Lucy..."

Read the rest here: Truly Indie: Corinne Lucy - Black

Now I might be biased because I think Corinne is pretty amazing, especially because she records all her songs in her own home studio, but it is nice to see other people agree. Here is the finished production of the song Black:

.

And here is an older acoustic version of the same song.



Like what you hear? Check out Corinne's website at corinnelucy.com. Or her Facebook page. For more videos, there is also her YouTube Channel.

Keep Reading: "Music Review by Truly Indie: Corinne Lucy - Black"

On working. Kind of.

08 November 2012

So I have been at university for over a month now. So far the lectures have all been interesting and I really am enjoying learning stuff about how people communicate on different levels, how the body works and how disease impacts on the body. How a problem with your breathing can lead to heart failure. That kind of stuff. And some philosophical things too.

Ask yourself this: What is a definition of Healthy? Is it being free of disease? What about mental illness then? Is it being happy? What if you have diabetes that is fully under control so it does not have any impact on your life (think Steve Redgrave who won a bunch of gold medals as a diabetic)? You would say you were healthy eventhough you have a disease.

That kind of thing fascinates me.

On the down side, I still have not finished the assignments we were given a month ago. I now have only 2 weeks left to finish them and I am properly freaking out. I am struggling greatly with not knowing exactly what is expected of me. I am not the only one it seems so that is some kind of relief. Discussing it with others only makes it more confusing because people all seem to have a different idea of what is being asked of us. It appears that, as usual, I am thinking about this far too deeply, with others spending only a couple of hours on writing theirs and me spending hours and hours and hours reading interesting articles, only to then feel I have so much information that I can not longer make sense of it.

One of the biggest problems I have is not knowing what is expected of me. My course places a big emphasis on reflective learning, research and deciding for myself where the gaps in my knowledge are. This is an extremely confusing way of learning for me as I have no idea what is asked of me. It makes is nearly impossible for me to plan my time because if I come across a gap in my knowledge that needs more time, I have not planned for this and my schedule goes out the window. The fear of this is paralysing and makes it very difficult to concentrate on other work that I could be doing.

Furthermore, at the start of modules, we are told what the assessment will be but we are not (yet) told what exactly we are supposed to do for that. So they might tell us: a 3000 word essay to be handed in in 3 months on Topic XXX. I assume that we will be given more information later on in the module. But for me, this causes great panic. I need to know what I am supposed to do right away so I can give it a place in my head. Again, I panic and can hardly focus on the tasks at hand, due to fear of missing vital information about work that lies months ahead. This causes me great distress and makes me feel I am unable to handle the course even though I am perfectly able to reach the required standards.

I would benefit greatly from a tutor or study skills tutor who would help me by explaining exactly what is asked of me, right from the start of the module. So that I can relax in the knowledge that I have made a plan and that things are under control and that I am not missing anything vital.

I have bitten the bullet and have applied for Disabled Student Allowance. I don't know what this can do for me but apparently they might give me money (yay) from which the university can pay a personal tutor who can sit with me and help me organise things. It was very depressing to have to go to an interview and say: I have a learning disability, please help me. I am afraid that I will now have a sticker on my head that says: DISABLED STUDENT. I have never really seen my ADHD as a disability. It is just a part of me that I hate very much but hey-ho, there you have it. I guess I might as well ask for all the hep I can get and then see what is useful to me eventually. I might find things easier in the second year. No idea.

So here I am at 6pm in the university library, trying to do work. Instead I procrastinated and wrote this blog instead. Duh.

On a positive note: I went to Poole last week to see Girlfriend play a lovely little gig. Poole is a mere 3 hours driving from here. Luckily I did not have to drive. It was very lovely and of course Girlfriend was great. As usual. We have booked ourselves in to a lovely little old pub/B&B for New Year's Eve. Just the two of us, in front of a log fire in the old pub, totally ignoring time, probably falling asleep before midnight. It is in the middle of the Yorkshire Dales, almost in the middle of nowhere. Gorgeous. I can not wait.

Trois Vallees 2006 with Caz, Jane, me and Claire.
This morning, as I was watching The Gadget Show on Dave, I got a bit sad. They were snowboarding and testing gadgets. I felt a pang of sadness. I won't be snowboarding this year. I guess I could go if I really really wanted to but I don't want to go alone. Also, I am lazy. There is no driving force behind organising it so I am not doing it. And I won't have time. And I won't have money. And if I get injured when at university, I will have to drop out of the course until I can attend lectures again. I don't want to take that risk. It made me really sad. I fucking LOVE snowboarding. I would be extremely sad if I never did it again. Maybe I can sneak in to Milton Keynes indoor ski slope some time over the Christmas period and touch some snow. Ugh, totally unexpectedly just teared up. Friend walked in and said: what are you doing? I said: Looking through my pictures to find a nice one of me in the snow to go with this blog post. And suddenly I was all weepy...

Now I have procrastinated long enough to write this blog post. I must do some actual work.
Keep Reading: "On working. Kind of."

Making a start

08 October 2012

So then, here I am in the library of the university. My second week of lectures has started and it is quite full on. Not so much with lectures but with homework. We are expected to write a Reflective Learning Essay of around 3 hand written pages for EVERY lecture we go to this module. Topics are different per lecture so I am expected to write individual essays about Hygiene, Aseptic Technique, First Aid, Basic Life Support etc. Eleven in total. And they need to reflect what I have learned as well as prove that I have done more reading on the subject. So it all needs to be referenced etc. To be handed in by the end of November. And that is just for the first module. A 'light load', we have been told.

I am finding this all a bit confusing. Unlike in school, they don't actually tell you what you are expected to know. You have a lecture and they give you recommended reading. Then in the Reflective thingy, I need to show what else I have learned. Surely this means all students learn different things? So how do I know I have learned the thing they want me to learn? This is a case of Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense:

"There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know."

So how do I know that there is something I don't know, if I don't know I should know about it? I guess I will have to accept that this is the way university works: You find your own learning.


Now for someone with Attention Deficit Disorder, this lack of clarity is extremely confusing. I need structure. I need to know what is expected of me. But the modern nursing degrees are all about self-reflection, finding your own way, discovering what you need to know.

Which is a pain in the backside. For example, here are some tips for lecturers on how to teach ADD-students:

It is helpful to give students written and oral information about their assignments; to be very clear regarding expectations; to provide examples of good and poor quality products; to be willing to discuss the assignments and look over drafts (class size permitting); and to offer choices whenever possible (e.g. oral presentations, essays, group format, etc.).

So basically the opposite of the approach my course is taking. And so for the first time ever, I have made an appointment with the disability student support people. I am not struggling too much just yet. But if I start struggling in the future, I can not longer say: But I have ADD, as they will assume I am using it as an excuse. So reluctantly, I am basically asking them to classify me as having a learning disability. I am pretty upset about that. Because surely if I can't study to be a nurse, then I can't actually BE a nurse either, right? It makes me feel like a fraud, that really I am just lazy and should get on with it like everyone else.

But then again, it turns out many of my course mates have not even started looking at the Reflective essays yet .Not put pen to paper at all. And I have. So maybe I am not behind at all. Maybe I am ahead. Maybe I am making too high a demand on myself. Maybe, therefore, the ADD is not a problem at all. Maybe, therefore, I am just setting myself up with an excuse if I fail. A nice and handy bit of protection. That kind of makes me callous and lazy. Right? And so we get back to the start: Just get on with it. It seems I have maneuvered myself in a position where I just can not win. Where my conclusion about myself is always going to be: not good enough.

Take today. I have spent the whole day at the computer. And maybe only done 60 minutes of actual work. Last week, I spent 4 hours on these essays. And maybe only did 2 hours of actual work. But if my output in those hours is higher than the output of other students, then surely this is not a problem? I guess not. But the way I see it, is that if I was able to use ALL these hours constructively, I would nearly be done already!

I have been looking for strategies that help me work. So far, it appears I can not work at home. I am too distracted and I get nothing done. So I have sat in pubs, bars & libraries. Not much better but at least SOME work gets done. Girlfriend is very helpful in listening to me discuss my lectures. I talk to her, she asks questions. She is helpful with strategies and ideas on how I could work more efficiently. I think in the end, I am glad I did not go to Plymouth, or even Coventry. I would have felt utterly lonely without friends and Girlfriend to fall back on for relief.

Oh dear, this is all a bit navel gazing, isn't it? That is the risk of writing as the thoughts come to my mind. Of having no structure or defined topic before starting to write these blog posts. Tough shit for you, dear reader. I suspect it will only get worse in the next few years.





Keep Reading: "Making a start"

A new start. Again.

25 September 2012

Today was the start of yet another new beginning. My first day at university.

I am able to do this course because of the money Jane left me. I am only doing the course because Jane died and I want to turn the tragedy in to something good. Jane always encouraged me to do it and we agreed I would start once she completed her PhD. I am finally doing the course I have been wanting to do since I was 18. I am scared I won't be able to do the course (what with having ADHD and all). I am scared I won't make any friends and that people will find me a pain in the arse. I am incredibly worried about not being organised enough and having missed something vitally important like enrolling for modules, time tables, whatever. So I am panicky. I am scared that Girlfriend will find me boring if I can only talk about my course.

All those things culminated last night in a highly emotional evening. I cried (and cried and cried and cried and cried, as the Invocal song goes). Thankfully Girlfriend was with me and all was well with the world by the time we went to bed.

I guess I underestimated the emotional impact of the whole thing. I am still not sure how to marry up missing Jane and crying over that kind of thing on important life events, and being utterly in love with Girlfriend. Most of all, I am still not sure how I can tell her that all my love is hers. That I am not holding some back for Jane in some way. But that it still means I cry about the whole thing at times. I don't even know exactly what the crying is about when it happens. I can only marvel at Girlfriend's ability to understand me. She is a bit awesome.

So, what happened on my first day?
  • Students kept talking whilst lecturers were talking,making it hard for me to concentrate and I nearly snapped at them.
  • I got impatient when some people were holding up the discussion by asking very detailed questions about their individual enrollment and Student Finance situation. With 150 students in the room, that is NOT THE TIME & PLACE.
  • The university intranet did not reflect our time table correctly and staff are so far unable to tell us where we are supposed to go for our lectures, which groups we are in and where the lectures will be.
  • Some people think it is perfectly acceptable to arrive 30 minutes late. (The girl got told she was not allowed in. GO TEACHER!)
  • Car travel to campus is discouraged so they charge £5 for the car park. FOR 3 YEARS! So I bought a pass right away.
  • I am going to lose SO MUCH WEIGHT due to cycling to university every day. I shall be thin & gorgeous once more.

So all in all not a bad day. Another introduction day on Thursday and hopefully on Monday, all niggles will be sorted out and things can begin in earnest.
Keep Reading: "A new start. Again."

Double Take

01 September 2012

Dear Jane,

I am pretty much used to the fact that you are dead.

In fact, I think I might even go as far as saying that I am over it.

Bold statement, isn't it.

What does it even mean?

Being over it is not the same as no longer feeling pangs of sadness. It does not mean no longer feeling sad when I think of you. It does not mean I have forgotten about you. It does not mean I have stopped wishing all of this never happened. It does not mean I don't think about you every day. Heck, writing this blog post is already making me cry.

Random picture of you and your sister at the 2008 V Festival
And still, I think I am over it. Not done with it. Over it.

I can live my life without you. I am happy without you. I am extremely sad about my past during the years that you were ill. But I am very hopeful and happy about the future. Whatever it may bring. I am happy with Girlfriend. I reckon you would have liked her. I admit that without Girlfriend I would be a lot less happy. (Right away a new blogpost springs to mind: What if I am only happy because I am with Girlfriend? Will I fall back into despair and missing you loads again if, God forbid, Girlfriend and I ever split up?? That is a scary thought)

I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me to go to University and do the thing you always told me I should do. If it wasn't for you, I would have had neither the courage or the money. So whatever I achieve at University, you made it possible. And for that reason alone, I will always remember what you gave me. Because everything I will do with my work, until the day I retire, will be a reminder of you. In a way, it will be in honour of you.

I remember one day, when we were watching the London Marathon, you turned to me and said: "Don't ever be stupid and run a marathon in my honour or memory. It is a ridiculous thing to do." Thank God for that. Mind you, not because you did not respect others who do that. Just the idea that someone as lazy as me would run a marathon in memory of someone who hated running with such a passion as you did made you laugh. I think becoming a nurse is a much better thing to do in honour and memory of you.

One again, this blog post started out as one thing and has become something else completely. SO let's get back to what I set out to say.

I think I am over your absence. Maybe not your death. Maybe not your illness. Maybe not the injustice. Maybe not the sadness. But my life without you is a good life. And reading back through some of the stuff I wrote right after you died, that is more than ever dared to hope.

But some days, I forget that you are dead. And I automatically think: I want to tell Jane. Or something happens to someone and I want to tell someone about it. Only to realise that the only person who would understand the meaning of it, is you. So no point in telling it to anyone else. They would listen and nod, but not quite be able to share the understanding. Simply because they weren't there.

Like today. With work, we have moved offices. We now work from the same office as the Out of Hours GPs. You and I both had the same GP so I have seen him a few times since you died. He is a friendly chap. But this morning when I walked in to the new office, who but Dr A. was sitting there, doing his weekend shift. We had a nice chat, but as professionals this time. I explained what we do for terminally ill patients, how we support the GPs and District Nurses and how I came to work for the very same people that he had referred you to for palliative care. And I felt such pride. For the things I have achieved. And I wanted to tell someone. I wanted to tell you. I could tell Girlfriend. I could tell other friends. But to them, it would just be a simple: "I work with my own GP now, isn't that funny."

They would, by virtue of being lucky enough to never having been to an appointment with you, not quite understand what it felt like. To talk to the man who saw me trying to get you to talk to him in his consultation room. They don't remember what it was like when I sat next to you and you did not understand his questions. What it was like when he ended up speaking to me instead of you because you were confused. And how that was painful for all three of us in that room.

He was part of your story. Of our story. And now he is becoming part of just my story.

So it made me do a double take. Because I could not share it with the only person who would really understand. Because my first thought was: I must tell Jane. Even if it was a split-second thought that I did not even articulate properly in my head. It was a fleeting thought. An incomplete impulse. Like thoughtlessly reaching for a cigarette and realising halfway that you gave up smoking weeks ago.

I think times like that are the times when I miss you most. Not so much when I am out shopping for food. Or when I am in the pub. Or when I am doing fun stuff. Because those are things I can do with other people; 'generic things' if you like. But there is nobody to share the exact understanding of those particular things with. Just like there are other things I share with other people that you would never have understood.

I guess I am saying that the things I did with you that I now do with other people are fine. I don't specifically need you for those things. I can do those things, be happy doing those things and even be happy thinking about how we did those things. Like going to the cinema. Meeting up for coffee at lunch time. Sharing drinks in the pub with friends. But the things I did or discussed or experienced ONLY with you; when I come across stuff like that, I can still get very sad. Because it reminds me of what I have lost. And of how awesome you were.

Geez, what a long and rambling post is this. Maybe I should employ an editor. Although, it is my blog. My letter to you. I can write whatever the fuck I want.

You're never going to read it any way.

Marieke
x

Keep Reading: "Double Take"

Olympic Fever

03 August 2012

A couple of days ago, I went to London to sniff up some of the Olympic atmosphere. I did not want to miss the opportunity to see something of the Olympics, the biggest show on earth. But having not put in any preparation or money, the only option to see any sports was the road cycling as this is free to watch for everyone who can find a spot along the route.

I went with Girlfriend and another friend. Girlfriend is not really in to sport so I was worried she might get bored. There was a lot of travel involved in getting to Hampton Court where we would be watching the cycling's Time Trial. We found a brilliant spot to base ourselves, got the Magners out and waited. The crowds were doing Mexican waves and chanting. It was great fun because the weather was brilliant.

We saw Bradley Wiggins win a gold medal! Wuhoo..completely underwhelming Hyde Park BT London Live experience. The place was as good as abandoned when we were expecting huge crowds, a party atmosphere and people watching big screens in their thousands. After a quick pee (no queue for the toilets, this should tell you how quiet it was), we left Hyde Park and made our way to the Piece the Resistance of the day: The Holland Heineken House. The HHH is THE place to be for Dutch fans during the Olympics. First introduced in Barcelona in 1992, the HHH is an awesome place. Every night, they have any Dutch medal winners on stage and we Dutch cheer them on. Usually it is a massive tent complex, but this year, the house is in the splendid Alexandra Palace.

Lucky for us, Netherlands had just won a bronze and a gold so there were 2 athletes to cheer on. Warmed up with some ridiculous Dutch music, the crowd was going wild. Girlfriend and our other friend looked highly bemused. I tried to explain about Andre Hazes but they did not seem to appreciate it. But the thousands of other Dutch people certainly did.




It was a brilliant night. I was so happy to have finally been to a Holland Heineken House. And so close to home. In reality, we did not catch much of the Olympic fever. This could have been a regular day out in London with a bit of cycling in the middle. Lots of my friends seem to be snapping up tickets to the Games at the moment. If I had more time off, I would definitely go back this week and try to catch some actual sport.
Keep Reading: "Olympic Fever"

Olympic fever (It started out so well)

28 July 2012

When London got the Games, we were going to volunteer.

When you got ill, we were going to get tickets for the fencing.

When I was watching last night, I thought: You would have laughed your head off at the opening ceremony.

You missed it. I feel angry on your behalf. We were cheated out of some awesome sporty times together. We went to London to see the time trial at the start of the Tour de France. I lost all of the pictures we took that day. I'm off to London on Wednesday to see the Olympic time trial. I did not plan it that way. I was always going to go and see something of London during the Games, I mean as if I would ever stay away from such an awesome event. I'd go on my own if needed. Luckily I don't have to.I got tickets to get in to the Holland Heineken House and Hyde Park.

For years, your favourite hat was the Holland Heineken House slouch hat from the Sydney Olympics. Obviously I shall wear it when I go to London on Wednesday. Because when you were still alive, I never got the chance to wear it: you always nicked it before I could touch it! Ha! Finally it is mine again!

BTW, the probate solicitor finally returned all the documents to me. A pile of copies of our Civil Partnership certificate and your death certificate. Together with your Birth Certificate. Probate is now officially done and dusted. I guess that means I no longer have any legal ties to you. Don't know why that makes me sad. I miss you.

I am looking after a relatively young man with a brain tumour and his wife. I am far too involved. I know where he will end up. I know the road he has ahead of him. He is talking about getting better. About walking around the block. About maybe going on a last holiday.  About coming off the steroids. Of starting his 3rd different chemotherapy drugs to try and do what the first 2 could not achieve. I know that none of these things will happen. His tumour will slowly rob him of everything he ever was and his wife of everything she ever wanted to be.

And once again, there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Oh fuck. Now I'm crying. Great. Not quite the post I had intended to write.
Keep Reading: "Olympic fever (It started out so well)"

Generic update

17 July 2012

I am struggling to think of things to write here at the moment. It feels like my life is in a bit of limbo. I'm just passing time until I start my university training for Adult Nursing at the University of Northampton in September.

Things with Girlfriend are going very well indeed. We went to The Netherlands together where she spent more time with my parents, my sister and her kids. It was lovely to see them getting on quite well. it was also very lovely to hear Girlfriend speak Dutch. She really is quite amazing at picking up this new language. It is a matter of keeping things moving now, because she improved dramatically in the week we were in Holland. It would be a shame if that progress was lost.

Girlfriend has not been abroad much, other than Belgium so I made a point of driving instead of flying, thus giving us the opportunity to spend some time walking around Dunkirk in France. Also important was the experience of the French hypermarche such as Super U, Intermarche or, in this case, an E. Leclerc. I love spending time in those. No idea why but they epitomise the concept of a holiday in France for me. We bought cheese and Croc'Sec.  I can not wait to go back to France next year and do some proper camping there.

A new relationship is very exciting. It is new, it is full of hope, it is scary.  All of that is great. It is part of building something lasting with someone. You have to go through that phase. I enjoy it immensely. But sometimes it is also exhausting. And sometimes I find myself wishing that we were a year further on. When we have hopefully reached the kind of unspoken understanding between us that allows us to relax, to know, to trust, to not worry so much. But on the other hand, there is so much joy in building something new that I don't actually want to skip this phase, really.

I mean, why would I want to skip the butterflies in my stomach when Girlfriend opens her front door, even when it has been only a couple of hours since I last saw her. Why would I want to skip the phase where I think it is perfectly normal to leave my house at 11.30pm, just to bring her some roses and then go home again. It is fun, wanting to do that kind of stuff for someone.

We have some great stuff planned over the summer. We are going to the Edinburgh Fringe for 5 days, and then we go to Wales to work at the Green Man Festival in exchange for free camping, food & tickets. I am incredibly excited about this. So far, the trips we have made together have been great fun. It is a joy to be with someone and do things, share the joy of seeing new things, or the joy of showing Girlfriend something I *love* and finding that she likes it too.

And Jane, I hear you ask? She's still here. With me. Less prominent now, obviously, as time goes on. But still here. In fact, she pops up in my thoughts a bit more at the moment, now that this relationship with Girlfriend is getting more and more established. Not that I think about Jane when I am with Girlfriend and wish I was with Jane instead. But we are now doing more things as a 'proper couple'. And for almost a decade, I have only been a 'proper couple' with Jane. So it feels strange and yet exciting, to feel like that with someone else, to do those things with someone else. Like that wedding invitation for both of us. Or that night out with mutual friends. It feels positive. But inevitably perhaps, I think back of the things I did with Jane and I miss my friend. I no longer miss my wife or my partner. I have a new partner now. But I sure miss my friend Jane.  However, the most frequent thought I have about Jane is not so much that I miss her, but anger and sadness about the loss of such a bright person, the injustice of all the things she will never get to do, the pain of thinking: I wish I could show this to Jane, she would love it.

Jane Daniel Memorial Prize for mathematics
Early in July, I went to Malvern to attend the annual prize giving ceremony of Malvern St James (previously known as Malvern Girls' College), Jane's old school. I have donated a prize in Jane's memory: The Jane Daniel Memorial Prize for Mathematics. The inaugural prize was awarded to Daisy Zhan, a smart young person who is going to study Engineering at Cambridge. She was chosen by Jane's old teacher. I attended the ceremony with Jane's mother. They put us on the front row. The Deputy Headmistress, Jane's old Maths teacher, announced the award with a moving little introduction. I was determined not to cry but when Daisy walked on to the stage to pick up her prize, I burst in to tears. Not sure why, but perhaps it was the reality of this being a memorial prize. A prize to commemorate a dead person. A young woman who lost her future. And here was this other young woman with her future ahead of her.  This prize should not even exist. Jane should not have been reduced to a memorial prize, no matter how fitting and touching. I felt awful sitting on the front row and crying for everyone to see. 

I also went to see the roses that Jane's old classmates had planted in the memorial garden back in May. It was very touching to know Jane is the first person to be commemorated with her own roses in the garden. All in all, the afternoon was lovely. Many teachers came up to me and Jane's mother, for a chat, to see how we were doing, to say something nice about Jane. It felt strange to be in this place that is so closely related to Jane. I could almost feel her presence all around me. I felt quite comforted by that thought. As long as there are people in that school that remember Jane, she will be there.
Keep Reading: "Generic update"

Sarah Bettens and other obsolete cds

28 June 2012

Listening to Sarah Bettens (K's Choice singer) on YouTube. Then I remembered Jane had bought her solo album years ago so I went to find it from a box of Jane's crappy cds.  I have 4 boxes of her cds. There was no space inmy own cd rack so they live somewhere separate.

I don't understand why seeing the pile of cds made me cry. Counting Crows, Crowded House, Matchbox 20, REM. None of the stuff that I really like. But it made me so incredibly sad. Such a reminder that they don't get played anymore. I wasn't even crying over Jane as such. It just made me feel so angry and sad about a life lost.

So I cried. Over a bunch of unused cds.

Actually, it is Sarah's rendition of this song, Leef, that made me sad to start with. She sings it so beautifully.  So I was already sad when I opened the box of cds.

Keep Reading: "Sarah Bettens and other obsolete cds"

Making music again

21 June 2012

Girlfriend is pretty good at making music. I am okayish at singing other people's songs. I am in awe of people who write their own songs. Maybe even jealous. Girlfriend had said a few times that it would be cool if I could sing some harmonies on some of her songs.

Now I am ok singing covers of other people's songs. But to sing harmonies with the person who has written the songs seemed nerve wrecking to me. Especially since I did not want her to think I was stupid and destroying her pretty song.

Last night there was an Open Mic night in a pub down the road from my house. I kind of said: I could join you on one of your songs. STUPID ME! So then an hour of frantic and somewhat reluctant practicing followed. At first I mumbled along a bit, pretending to not really knowing what I was doing. What I was really doing was finding out how shit Girlfriend thought I was. Turns out she did not think I was crap at all. She was wonderfully patient with me whilst I sang the wrong words and wrong lines. Eventually we got to a point where I felt comfortable enough to say: OK then, let's do it.

So off to the pub we went. I played a short set of 4 songs first. (Dolly Parton's "To Daddy", Melissa Etheridge's "Like the way I do", Joan Armatrading's "Weakness in me") Girlfriend joined me on the last song where we sang Crowded House's "Weather With you". We were awesome.  Then Girlfriend played her set and I joined her on her last song. It wasn't brilliant from my part but the massive grin on Girlfriend's face was just wonderful.  She was ecstatic that someone was singing her songs and her harmonies with her. And it did not even sound crap.

I really really enjoyed it. Having broken though that barrier of embarrassment of singing with someone I consider to be a much better musician, I think I might be more comfortable in the future. I did not realise until recently how much I have missed making music in the past 9 years. Actually, it is longer than that. I just let it all slide for years. But making music with someone is brilliant fun and stimulating.

We might do that again some day.
Keep Reading: "Making music again"

It's complicated

11 June 2012

I am not sure I should blog about this. As I have said before, I always feel like this blog is an open channel for my emotions. It did not used to be but it became an important emotional outlet for me when Jane was no longer able to talk to me about emotions. It was easy to write about how I felt here because Jane would not read it and feel upset about it. So I could be honest and open. I never slagged Jane off. Or anyone else. But I knew Jane was not reading my blog.

But it is different now. Girlfriend reads my blog. Once of the reasons we are together IS this blog. She read it months and months ago and felt she wanted to get to know me better. And throughout all this, things between us have been easier (according to her) because she has a good idea of how I have dealt with losing Jane, through reading my blog. And it is true that often she seems to understand me without me having to explain anything. We talk a lot about things. About emotions, about how we feel, whatever.

We have been together for over 2 months. I could not possibly love her more than I do right now. I am never the kind of person that holds back. It is all or nothing. I tend to tell my partner how I feel just about everything all the time. But I am starting to think in this case that may actually a detrimental thing for this relationship.

I think about Jane a lot. Not in a sad kind of way but simply in the things that happen in my daily life. I am only in this country because of Jane. Everywhere I have been in this country has been with Jane. Every item of clothing I have, I probably bought when shopping with Jane. Every book I own, I bought whilst with Jane, Jane would have read it and told me her opinion on the plot. We used to have the same size so a lot of my clothes are Jane's. After she died, I went through all our clothes and I just kept the stuff I liked best, regardless of whose it was originally. So more than half the time, I wear Jane's clothes. Half of the CDs I own are Jane's. A lot of the music I now like, I discovered with Jane.

None of this has any emotional significance to me on a daily basis. And so I'll 'carelessly' mention it in a conversation when a thought crosses my mind. The fact that Jane is part of that thought does not stop me from mentioning it. Because surely if it has no emotional significance to me, but merely a factual, anecdotal one, then it is not a problem for Girlfriend either, right? I mean, it does not mean I am still pining for Jane.

But it seems this is not the case. First and foremost, this is my fault. I could be wearing a T-shirt that Jane used to wear and of which I posted a picture on Facebook when Jane was ill. So Girlfriend has seen that picture. So when I wear that same t-shirt, it reminds her of Jane. Even when for me, that link is not in any way an emotional one. In fact, I am often not even aware of the fact that it might have significance for other people. To Girlfriend, this means that Jane is always there. She is always in something I wear, something I say or some music I listen to. When she looks at me, she can always find Jane in something.

I had not realised this. Because this is not how it feels to me. Because I will just mention something as a plain fact. Remarks like that are only a split second passing thought without much significance. Of course there are moments when I feel sad. Moment where I actually mention Jane in a significant way, rather than as a passing comment.

But if I mention Jane all the time when it doesn't really matter, how will Girlfriend know when it DOES matter? To her, all it might feel like is me talking about Jane yet again.

The past 2 weeks have been full of Jane. The memories of her last days, the stress about the charity gig, the sadness of June 3rd being our wedding anniversary and on June 8th, it was a year since her funeral. I have not actually cried other than a few tears at the gig. Which was unexpected. Girlfriend has been fantastic for me. She never once complained, has been there to hug me and has been nothing but understanding. Of course there are things she worries about. It would be weird if she did not feel some insecurities and feeling she is competing with a saint. As I discussed in a previous blog post, it is important we keep talking about this.

But when is it simply too much? Is it fair to just assume Girlfriend will understand when I am really sad and when I am merely just mentioning Jane as a passing thought as part of a story that could be told just as well without mentioning her? Is it solely up to Girlfriend to accept me talking about Jane all the time or do I have a responsibility to perhaps think twice about mentioning Jane in conversations where in fact she does not play a part at all? 

I mean, when for example I talk about where I bought my favourite pair of shoes, is it vital to mention that when I bought them, it was a very hot day and Jane was complaining about the heat, hence we went into a shoe shop with aircon? Would the story be any less interesting (assuming it is interesting in the first place) if I take a second and decided if mentioning Jane is a vital part of this story or that it does not weigh up against making Girlfriend uncomfortable?

A relationship is give and take. Just because losing my wife is a massive fucking thing does not mean it is a carte blanche to be insensitive to Girlfriend's feelings. I am not erasing Jane from my life. I just think I might need to be more selective in mentioning her. Because if I mention her all the time, how will Girlfriend know when I am actually sad and need a hug? It seems perfectly understandable that it would make her a little bit irritable. "Jane.....again".

 We went away to the Peak District after the difficult 2 weeks around the anniversary of Jane's death. I needed a break. Girlfriend also needed a break. I failed to understand that she needed a break from Jane. That it would be nice for her if for a few days, there would be only 2 people in this relationship. And not 3. That for a few days, SHE would feel the centre of my attention. That for a few days, she would not feel like competing with a dead person. That for a few days, I would NOT be wearing any of the clothes I shared with Jane but maybe I could consciously wear some of the clothes I have bought after Jane's death.

Also, all the places I have been in this country, I have been with Jane. Some of these places were awesome and I would like to take Girlfriend there. Not because of my memories, but because that place was just really nice. I did not realise that I may well not get emotional about Jane in those places, but that for Girlfriend, we are once again in a place with ties to Jane. And so instead of going to Buxton, we changed our plans and went to a different town instead. One that I had never been to. One that had no memories. No chance of me insensitively pointing out how at this particular bridge, Jane and I fed some nice ducks (or something equally trivial). I made an effort and found it did not feel like betrayal. I did not feel upset or angry. I did not have to spend most of my day suppressing memories. In fact, I actually found it quite a relief. Which was a surprise to me too.

If any of that sounds unreasonable to you, if you feel Girlfriend should be a complete saint and never mention her feelings about this, then you don't understand how I feel about Jane, relationships or Girlfriend.

I think Girlfriend deserves to feel like she is the only person I want to be with right now. Because she is. And if I make this difficult for her to understand because I keep mentioning Jane in unrelated, trivial throw-away comments that could easily be avoided, then I feel it is up to me to make the effort to try and be more careful about what I say.

It is about finding a middle ground. Girlfriend will have to accept that I miss Jane (and she does). Not as a lover but as a person I love deeply. That certain significant dates will be difficult. Or that certain things I did with Jane and now do with Girlfriend will be difficult. (We are going to Edinburgh Fringe this year. In 2010, our trip to the Fringe signaled the return of Jane's tumour and the trip was an emotional disaster).  I will have to accept that if I want to be in this relationship, I might have to think twice about sharing every single thought I have about anything.

If I talk about Jane too much when it doesn't matter, I run the risk of Girlfriend getting tired of it and not being able to be there for me when it DOES matter. She wants to be there for me. But she is not my crutch. She does not want to be and she should not be. She deserves to be in a relationship with me. Not with me and Jane. I should not take her understanding for granted. Because it is pretty rare to find someone so patient.

I am already feeling myself being more wary of mentioning Jane altogether, even when I am sad. Last night, for some reason I don't want to discuss, I got really sad and cried a bit. I did not miss Jane as such. I was just so sad about what has happened to a lovely young woman. My first thought was to call girlfriend and hear her reassuring & caring voice that always makes me feel better. But I did not want to talk to her about Jane again. So I cried alone for a few minutes. Then I texted a friend for a hug but she was out in a nightclub.

This is a worry. Because it should not become something that I can not discuss with girlfriend. I guess this is a tricky phase in our relationship. The initial excitement is making way for a more stable thing. (Although..... I have seen Girlfriend every day for the past 2 months. Every day. And still, every time I see her, even if it is only for a cup of tea during my lunch break, my heart soars.) We will need to find our own way with this. I have no advice for her. I have not done this before. She has not done this before. We are making our own history as we go along. But I want this to work. Because she makes me feel happy again.

And frankly *flippant comment alert*, Jane would hate to think she would be wrecking my relationships AFTER her death.

Keep Reading: "It's complicated"

That was cool!

09 June 2012

Last Saturday was awesome. The gig I put on to mark the first anniversary of Jane's death raised almost £400 for the Cynthia Spencer Hospice.

There were a lot of nice people. And there was a lot of nice music. 

Who was there I hear you ask? Well, there was Corinne Lucy:
Corinne Lucy

She played some lovely tunes of her own making and a couple of covers. If you haven't yet, you should check out her YouTube Page which has a whole load of lovely videos.

Life of Pie
Then there was Life of Pie. Well, 2/3 of Life of Pie as their pianist was unfortunately unwell. The boys performed admirably and played a bunch of covers that got people humming along. They also played a nice version of Crowded House's Fall at your Feet. They did not know this song was played at Jane's funeral service so that was a nice touch.



And to finish off the night, there was the lovely King's Gambit. They played stomping folk music. You should check them out on their website.

It was a nice evening. My parents and my sister had come over from Holland especially. Jane's mother and sister were there too. And a whole bunch of our friends. And some friends of mine who never knew Jane but came to support me. Afterwards, the musicians all said: we doing this again next year? And you know what? I might just do that.

Keep Reading: "That was cool!"

On new love

31 May 2012

These past few days have been very much filled with thoughts of both Jane and New Girlfriend. Girlfriend is brilliant and understanding about my baggage. She gives me space to cry when I need it. She laughs at my flippant jokes about death. But no matter how great she is, there is always an underlying issue.

She never knew Jane. So she will always feel like an outsider to whatever I do in relation to Jane. She is there for me but I am very much aware that in effect, none of it means anything to her, beyond the fact that she wants to be there for me. Like when I went to Malvern to mark the anniversary of Jane's death. I wanted Girlfriend with me because it would be nice not to be alone. But then again, she would be acutely aware of the fact that I only went there specifically to think about the love I used to feel for another woman. Or what about this Saturday, when I have organised a charity gig in Jane's memory. How will that be for her? To be there to support me and yet be surrounded by people who will be talking about Jane and how lovely we were together.

Is that fair? To drag someone along to something that is so personal and deeply upsetting? To bring someone along on a journey that is all about the sadness of losing someone she never knew, someone she feels she can never compete with, even if in her mind she knows it is not a competition. (And even if it was, since her opponent is dead, I would say Girlfriend is already the winner by default!)

We had a long talk about this. She admitted to having mixed feelings about Jane. We all have feelings about our lover's ex partner. Nobody likes hearing how we loved doing things with previous lovers. Nobody likes hearing how certain things were great and how we wish we could still do some of those things. But at least if it is a relationship that broke up, our new lovers have the consolation of knowing that despite all those great things, the relationship failed so it can't have been *that* perfect.

But if your lover's partner has died, where does that leave you? If they never intended to leave their partners, had it not been for death? How can you not feel somewhat jealous? How can you not feel in some way resentful towards this person who is making the woman you love so sad? How annoying must it be when so many people keep talking about how wonderful her previous lover was? How can you ever feel anything else but second best?

There are things I did with Jane that I will not be doing with Girlfriend. She doesn't like sport. So the part of my relationship where I would sit at the side of a rugby pitch, cheering on my mates, or where I go to Twickenham with my girlfriend to watch England in the Six Nations, that part will be lost to me. As will the part where I go to the pub with my Girlfriend to watch the football. Or F1 on tv. Those things will forever bring up memories of Jane.

But in return, there are things about Girlfriend that I never really had with Jane. Music, which has always been important to me, never played a big role in my relationship with Jane. It quietly vanished. But now, with Girlfriend, it is back. And I love it. I did not realise how much I had missed it. It is very much part of this New Thing.

For Girlfriend, it must be hard not to be afraid that I will decide I miss too many things and that what she brings to this relationship is simply not enough to keep me happy. This is complicated because if Jane was still alive, her fear might be that I wanted to go back to Jane. There would be a focus for her fear. A reason to be jealous and dislike Jane. But Jane is dead. So the things I miss about Jane and me are gone forever. There is nothing to go back to. And yet, the same emotions surface. And it makes her feel bad. But to me, it is perfectly understandable.

I can see why some widows find it difficult to date a non-widow. Because I feel I can not find the right words to explain to Girlfriend that she is not Second Best. And I fret that no matter what I say, she won't believe me. Because if I mean it, then why do I still have a picture of Jane in my room? But this may well be MY issue and not hers. Maybe I am projecting my own insecurities, thinking of how I would feel in the same situation. And god knows I would be much more insecure than she is.




Keep Reading: "On new love"

A year without you

30 May 2012

Liefie,

I went to Malvern yesterday. In the glorious sunshine, I walked up British Camp and then up to the top of The Beacon. You are always everywhere in Malvern. Even if I don't think about you specifically, you are always with me in that place. It is the place where you became You. Or maybe it is much more relevant for me than it ever was for you. Would that matter?

I don't feel a need to tell you what has happened this year. Either you already know or you have no way of knowing. In both cases, I would be wasting my time. Of course I know you have no way of knowing. You can't know. You no longer exist. It is a weird concept to wrap my hear around. All that is left of our hopes and dreams, all our plans, all our love, all our shared history; all that is left is a green plastic pot with a kilo of ashes.

I guess I should write a coherent post about how I feel a year after your death. Truth is, this day is only significant in a sense of: Time flies. I don't feel more sad today. I felt sad yesterday. When I thought about your last 24 hours.

As time goes on, my love for you changes. How can it not? You no longer love me back. I guess I miss you as my best friend now. I miss you a lot. I miss your friendship, I miss our shared history, I miss the things we used to do and talk about.

Some of those things I now do with Girlfriend because that's what people do in relationships. Other things I clearly only did with you. These things I still miss very much. Because I will never do them with someone else in the same way as I did them with you. Because they were specifically our things.

I have found my way back to life and to love. In 2005, you wrote me a letter before your surgery. You instructed me to be happy again if something were to go wrong. It took 6 more years for things to go very wrong. But I think your words were as valid then as they were when you first wrote them down. I am happy again. But I am no longer as careless and carefree about love and about life. Nothing is taken for granted. Your death has left my life covered with a thin veil of grey. It used to be a thick wooly blanket of grey. Now it is a thin veil. I think that will be as good as it gets. It is thin enough to let love and happiness through. It doesn't stop me from feeling, from laughing, from loving. But I will always know it's there.

I miss you. I wish you were still here to see what I am doing with my life. You would be proud of me. And you would be happy for me. I wouldn't be what I am becoming had it not been for you. (And yes, you would admonish me for the bad grammar of that sentence.)

m
Keep Reading: "A year without you"

How should I feel?

27 May 2012

I have been struggling to find words to explain how I am feeling right now. On Wednesday May 30th, it will be a year since Jane died.

How am I supposed to feel? I just don't know. People are asking me how I am. I have received emails & messages from people telling me they are thinking of me at this difficult time. But I don't know how much more difficult it is right now than it was last week. Or the week before.

I expected to be sad. And I am. But I had thought I was going to be sad about specific memories. I expected to think of Jane and feel sad. Instead, it seems to manifest itself as a more general feeling of sadness. I am generally feeling a bit down. I cry quickly over things that have nothing to do with Jane. I feel insecure and needy. I find myself clinging to my girlfriend a lot more at the moment. And all of that without specifically thinking of Jane. And this makes me feel bad and confused.

What does that mean? That I don't feel sad about Jane specifically? Or that I do? I guess that in the past year, I have felt all there is to feel on an 'individual memory' kind of basis. There is not a sad thought that involves Jane that I have not already had. So re-thinking these things does not make me sad like they used to. I have already been sad about losing my wife. I have been sad about my future not being what I once thought it was. I have been sad about being alone in a tiny room instead of in a nice place of my own with the woman I thought I was going to spend my life with.

But my life now also has so many happy things. I actually am not alone. I am rarely without my girlfriend. She makes me happy. We do a lot of fun stuff together. I am looking forward to starting my nursing degree in September. I love my job. I have great friends.

I guess I am no longer missing Jane as much as I used to. Love can not exist in a vacuum. You can not love someone in the same way you used to if there is no love coming back. I guess the best way to describe it is that I am no longer in love with Jane. I feel like that part of me has died but instead of seeing a large black hole in that space, I just see a friend that I have lost. I don't feel like an incomplete person anymore. I am me again. I don't get sad when I see pictures of Jane or pictures of us together. Well, I get sad in a kind of: It is such a shame that this lovely person is no longer alive and part of my life. Yes, that is sad. But it doesn't make me cry anymore. The thing that still makes me cry though is when I think of the pain and suffering both Jane & I went through. I don't think that will ever go away. It is odd that I get more sad when thinking of someone else's pain (Jane's pain) than when I think of my own pain. Maybe it is because I can still change my own pain. I can deal with it, grieve my way through it and come out the other end.

Jane did not have that opportunity. And that makes me very sad. The idea that she was unable to express how she felt, that she was locked inside her own head with all her fear and pain. That is still so upsetting. Thinking about how scared she must have been and not able to put that in to words, maybe not even understanding what the hell was making her feel so scared. What is still incredibly sad is the feeling that I will never know what she was feeling when she wet the bed. When she had a nurse put her in a hoist to get her in to the living room. How she felt when people were crying at her bedside to say goodbye to her. Did she know? Did she accept it? Did she cry? Was she scared Did I do enough to help her understand? Should I have hidden things from her instead of trying to explain? The thing that is still devastatingly sad is that I simply don't know if there was ANYTHING I could have done that could have made things even a tiny bit better for her. I did all I could with the knowledge I had. I am not saying I failed. I am saying that I wish I was certain there was nothing MORE I could have done to make things better for Jane. Because she could not tell me. Or, worse, what if she tried to tell me but I did not understand her communication?

I guess I have no idea how I feel. Or how I should feel. And this confuses me. And this in turn makes me sad. And when I am sad, all kinds of non-Jane related things get thrown in to the mix and I just become generally more sad.

Maybe that will be the legacy of all this: that eventhough I will be, and already am, happy again, my life will always have an underlying sadness that is caused by what has happened but which may manifest itself in all kinds of unrelated ways. I might be more needy in personal relationships. Or less patient with people about unimportant things. Or have a bigger fear of not making someone happy. A bigger need to ask my girlfriend how she feels and if there is anything I can do to make her happier. Or a bigger need to tell people I love them, to the point where it sounds desperate, which in turn makes me feel like a needy twat.... And so the spiral goes on.

If someone knows how I should be feeling, please send your answers on a postcard to the usual address.
Keep Reading: "How should I feel?"

Reminder: Gig for Cynthia Spencer Hospice

21 May 2012

Time is flying by at the moment. It is nearly June 2nd. Which means it is nearly time for the first ever gig I have ever oganised. It is a small gig to mark the first anniversary of Jane's death. But it is also an opportunity to raise a bit of money for the Cynthia Spencer Hospice that cared for Jane so brilliantly in her last few weeks.

Anyone is welcome, even if you never met Jane because the aim is to have a great night with excellent music and good fun. Please bring as many people as you want. It is only £3 to get in.

If you don't come, then I will take you off my Christmas list!

Who is playing, I hear you ask? Well, how about these lovely people:

Life of Pie



Corinne Lucy



King's Gambit




More information can be found on the Facebook Event page:  http://www.facebook.com/events/286577701427795/

Saturday 2nd June
8.30pm
The Romany
Trinity Avenue
Northampton
NN2 6JN



Keep Reading: "Reminder: Gig for Cynthia Spencer Hospice"

Northampton University it is then

17 May 2012

Loyal readers may remember that I have spent months on deciding where to go to university.

I applied for Edinburgh, York, Plymouth, Coventry and Northampton. My opinion of Northampton is very low and I only put that on the list in case all the others would reject me as I was confident I would get an unconditional offer from Northampton.

At first, I was absolutely sure I wanted to go to Plymouth. I mean, what is not to like: stunning country side, Cornwall and Devon on my doorstep. Sea, moors, nice towns and a great university with a vibrant student scene for both young and mature students.

I also got offers from Coventry and Northampton.

But as I went to accept my offer for Plymouth, I suddenly got scared of being so far away from everything and everyone I know. I was worried that going away from here would mean leaving Jane behind. She would no longer be part of anyone's life but mine. She would be nothing more than a story I would tell my new friends. She would no longer be kept alive by other people's memories. How could I know in March how I would be feeling in September? So I declined the offer and decided to go to Coventry instead. I accepted Northampton's unconditional offer as a back-up choice. So little by little, my world became smaller again.

And then I spoke to my boss and a pile of other nurses I work with. They asked me why I wanted to move away from Northampton. I said: It is nice to start something new in a new place. And also, Coventry University is much more a 'real university' than Northampton, which is frankly nothing more than a polytechnic in a small town. It does not feel like a place of learning and the type of courses they teach there (fashion, design, graphic design etc) somehow feel less inspiring than things like Aeronautical Engineering etc. which they teach at Coventry. So Coventry is the better educational choice.

But then she pointed out that I would still be starting from scratch. Sure, my Northampton friends would be only 45 minutes away but it would still mean seeing them virtually never. And I would also lose the support network from the nurses at my current job. And the network for a possible job at the end of the course. And both courses lead to a registration with the Royal College of Nursing so in the end there would be very little difference in quality. She asked me why I felt the need to make changes just for the sake of making changes. And I did not have an answer.

So then I got confused again. Because surely taking the easy choice was cheating. Should you not always take the biggest challenge if you have the choice to do so? Surely I was not going to end up with the university I had initially rejected out of hand and only put on the list in case nobody else wanted me?

The choice was between a better uni in a place I did not want to live in, or a uni I felt less happy with in a place where I would prefer to be, with my friends, in my current home.

I could not decide. There was nothing to help me decide what mattered more.

And then I met her. We have been going out for only 6 weeks and who knows where this is going. And it would be silly to make a life changing decision based solely on something so new. But if I can not make a choice between two things because there is nothing that tips the scales one way or another, why not throw this in and see what happens? Why would I move away from someone I love spending time with? Why would I choose to turn something great in to a long distance relationship when I don't have to? Why would I choose to remove myself from the emotional support she gives me? And if the choices are so close together, why should I not use a brand new relationship to tip the balance in favour of one or the other? I had already noticed over the past few weeks that I was less than motivated for the Biology GCSE that Coventry University wanted me to get. Surely the fact I had started to neglect that course meant that I had already somewhat decided I did not want to go to Coventry after all? It is always intriguing to see in retrospect what our behaviour tells us, before we are even really aware of what we are doing.

And so I am staying put. After a year of telling myself that going to Northampton University would be the same as compromising my personal integrity and educational ambitions, I have CHOSEN to stay here. I called Coventry this morning and told them I was withdrawing my application and that I wanted to reject their offer. The lady asked me if I was absolutely sure of this as there was no way back. My heart was actually pounding in my chest when I said: Yes, do it.

This also conveniently means I no longer have to score a C for my biology GCSE.  But the exam is next week. So I might as well revise for it and see if I can get a decent grade after all.

So Northampton, I am sorry but you will have to live with me for a little bit longer.
Keep Reading: "Northampton University it is then"

Coming up to the Year Mark

03 May 2012

On Monday it was 11 months since Jane died. I spent it with my new girlfriend and only thought of the significance of the date when I went to bed.  I felt guilty about that and I cried.

And this morning I woke up with a strange feeling of dread.  This month is the last month that I can say that Jane was still alive this time last year. Many widows dread the date of the First Year. And I am no different.

My life has had so many positive turns recently that to many people it may look like I am 'over' Jane and that I am only looking forward.

I'm not. I am extremely worried about this month. I worry that I will think of nothing else. That it turns out I am going to fall in to a deep dark hole and it turns out I am not doing as well as I thought I was. That the truth will be revealed and that this past year has been merely an apetiser and that I will be hit in the face with a sledgehammer and sink in to a deep depression and not be able to go to university.

This month is the last time that I can think of last year and know Jane was still alive.  The more I think about this, the more I cry. What the fuck happened? How can it be a year already? Why did a bright young woman have to die in such a horrible way? Of course the answer is simple: There is no reason. There is no god. There is no bartering or explanation.

I have not thought much about how I have felt about the whole care-process but looking back, all I can think of was that it was just so incredibly hard. So soul destroying to see someone you love die. So impossible to make all those decisions. And mostly, how terribly lonely it was. Despite all the friends who visited. Despite all the good wishes. Despite all the love from my own family. Despite all the advice from nurses and carers.

It was excruciatingly lonely.

I worry that this new relationship I am in will not be strong enough to go through The First Year Mark. I know how I feel about her. She is nothing like Jane so I know I am not trying to replace Jane. And yet, I worry that I can not make her see that what I feel for Jane has no relation to how I feel about her. I mean, who would want to be supporting a relatively new girlfriend through a month of crying for a love that is lost? Seems like it is too much to ask of someone so early on in a relationship.

Of course this is only happening in my head. Because she has been reading this blog since last year already and says she totally understands what is going on in my head because I have explained it all so well. I think I am lucky to have someone who is not concerned about this. Who is not trying to compete with Jane. Who does not feel she needs to fill a hole that is clearly Jane-shaped. The hole will cover itself over after a while. Or it will get less deep. So it will be less of a dangerous presence in my life. In our lives?

Basically, this month I will worry a lot. And be sad a lot. With lots of tears. It has already started this evening when I remembered that on  this day last year, I wrote an angry blog post about friends not coming to visit


Keep Reading: "Coming up to the Year Mark"

Life is good again

25 April 2012

Right. After a deafening silence of a month, I return. I can hear everyone cheer with joy about this news. I know, I know, you have all missed me dreadfully.

 Why have I been away so long, I hear you ask? Well... strangely enough, because nothing much has happened in my life. I am still very happy at my job, my university applications are all sorted, I passed my Maths GCSE with the C I needed. The only thing that has changed is that I seem to have acquired a girlfriend.

See how I tried to just sneak that in there as if it is really no biggie? Also: Girlfriend? Really? I hate that word. It makes me sound like a teenager. Lover is too casual. Partner is a bit soon. But then again, I am behaving like a teenager at the moment so I guess girlfriend is the best description.

 It is a long story and I won't bore you with the details. But let's just say it was a difficult path we walked before we finally realised we really did like each other a lot and that it was worth a chance. Hence my silence for a month as it was more or less the only thing I was thinking about and I did not want the world to know about something that wasn't really anything. But regular readers may remember I alluded to something as far back as early March. Yes. Sometimes it takes 2 people a while to realise they really should just get on with it... :-)

 Anyway, the point is: I am happy. Very happy. I have no idea where this is going to end up but it makes me happy for now and that is enough. She is very sweet and funny. She understands that sometimes I get sad about Jane. She understands that this has nothing to do with my feelings for her; that these things can live side by side. We do fun stuff together. Science Museum, beach, play Scrabble in the pub etc. Just fun stuff that makes us laugh. She is a musician so as an added extra, I get to sit and watch her play and sing whilst I stare at her from across the room. At some point in the future, I will post some of her music videos here so you can see why I think she is AWESOME.

She is also very pretty. Seriously, people have come up to me and said: Is she your girlfriend? And then CONGRATULATED me on having such a pretty girlfriend. I never know if I should be offended because they are treating her as an object that I have acquired, offended because they are suggesting it is surprising that someone like me has managed to hook up with someone as pretty as her, or should I be proud that people think she's pretty? At the moment, I am all of those, depending on how people say it to me :-)

 I expected to feel a sense of guilt about meeting someone new for the first time after Jane's death. But I have no guilt. None. Maybe that is because she is so different from Jane. If they had been similar, I would have been worried about my real reasons to like her. But that is simply not an issue. And so I am just enjoying the feeling of wanting to be with someone. The feeling of someone wanting to be with me. This week, I was in Oxford with her and decided to meet up with Jane's younger sister, who studies in Oxford. It was really rather touching that they seemed to get on really well. Afterwards, Jane's sister gave her the Stamp of Approval. Which for some odd reason means a lot to me. Maybe because she is very similar to Jane and her approval is the closest I will ever come to Jane saying: It's OK. Not that I would actually need that. Jane would have liked her I reckon.

 Funny how unhappiness inspires no end of blog posts but happiness just makes me feel content and uninspired when it comes to writing. Maybe because all I want to do is sit with a stupid grin on my face all day.
Keep Reading: "Life is good again"

Coming together: A charity night for Cynthia Spencer

23 March 2012

As you will of course know by now, I am organising a charity gig on June 2nd to mark the first anniversary of Jane's death. (What do you mean you don't know? Geez, I have mentioned it plenty of times now so really you have no excuse. And I shall be mentioning it plenty more times before June 2!)

It is also a time to celebrate all the fabulous things I have achieved since that horrible day and basically it is an evening where you can all come and congratulate me on my awesomeness and strength during the year that has gone by.

I am charging a small amount of money to get in and that money will go to the Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton. See, so it is totally worth it.

To make the evening more fun, I have managed to line up some of Northampton's finest musicians. I am very grateful to all of them for sacrificing their time and effort.

First, there is my friend Corinne Lucy. Awesome songwriter, awesome singer and all-round Good Egg.



Further more, the nice folks from Life of Pie (well, 2 of them) are playing some tunes. Unfortunately they will be without piano but it will be super nonetheless.



And finally, Northampton's latest folk sensation King's Gambit, with my darling friend Helen Turton on cello, will perform. They have no video on YouTube yet but I plan to rectify this this weekend!

So, you should totally come. Even if you have no idea who Jane was. Or who I am. You can always come along for the music. Or to support the Cynthia Spencer Hospice.

2nd June
The Romany Pub
Northampton
20.30
Keep Reading: "Coming together: A charity night for Cynthia Spencer"