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


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


02 December 2013

You would have been 30 today. Quite a milestone. You never made it in to the same decade as me.

It is weird. 2 1/2 years after your death and it still seems unreal at times. It seem to me that my life will forever be running on two tracks. Along all the happiness I will have, I will always see things in terms of Before your Death and After your Death.

Or maybe it is because I simply do not have a lot of history with Girlfriend, or with life without you yet? So every time people talk about something in the recent past, I do a quick calculation: was JD still alive then? Was JD still healthy enough? Did JD still catch this News Fact about Some Celebrity or was she already too ill? It may sound horrible but sometimes that really pisses me off. I don't want to always always always think about you being dead. Sometimes I would like to think about you. Just you. I guess what I really want is for there to be more time passed since you died. Which sounds weird but I guess having you in the more distant past means I no longer think:was this before JD died or after? Because the more time passes, the more things will clearly be After you Died. If I no longer have to think about when exactly in 2011 something happened, I will no longer have to think of the exact date you died. Or things in 2010; were they before or after you had to go in to the hospice for a few days? Or 2009; did this Thing happen before or after your radiotherapy that year?

I don't want to forget about you. I never will. I never can. And I never want to. And thinking these things doesn't necessarily make me sad. It is just an automated response to the mention of a year or date.

But sometimes I just wish I could live my life in the here and now. Without constantly linking things that happen to a time frame of something that happened in the past.

I once wrote a blog post about feeling that my life was on two separate tracks. One that includes you and one that doesn't. I explained how I can be perfectly happy in my new life without you; that's one track. And then something happens and I am reminded of the other track in my life. The one that runs parallel. The one that makes me incredibly sad.

For example: remember how we used to sing along to The Indigo Girls? And how I always tried to teach you the harmonies? Shortly after your death I wrote how sad it made me that I would never sing harmonies with you in the car again.  Girlfriend has recently started to listen to the Indigo Girls too. And she sings along. And I love the Indigo Girls. And I love singing along and sing harmonies. But I cannot do it without thinking of you. And it made me sad. Because I had so linked singing along together with YOU, that doing it with Girlfriend felt weird. I wanted to tell her but how could I tell her that this music she really likes makes me think of you and makes me sad? But I had to. I guess I made it hard for her now to sing along with me. And this makes me sad again.

I wish your illness and your death wouldn't be the yardstick for everything that came before and everything that will come after.

Ugh. What am I trying to say? That I wish your memory would leave me alone? I don't think that is it. But I do think that it would be nice if some days, maybe just for a few days, I would not think about you whenever someone mentions a date. Any kind of date. Or any kind of event from the recent past. Just so that for a few days, I would think of my life as MINE and not as a reflection of the life I might have had, had you not died. A life that is valid on its own merits, rather than a life that is supposedly incomplete since you died, no matter how happy I am with my new life.

Do you think you could give me that? Just for a few days over Christmas? Or is that a harsh thing to ask on your birthday?

Keep Reading: "30"

Avastin and other JD-related sadness

25 October 2013

The other day I read a story about a cancer patient who was given Avastin. It made me remember the day the neuro-oncologist told us that JD's chemotherapy was no longer working and that the only option left was to try Avastin, a new type of anti-cancer drugs. She sounded less than enthusiastic about this and she more or less said: "Everything you think of when you think of chemotherapy applies to Avastin." I pictured JD on an IV chemotherapy drug:

- JD hooked up to a drip
- JD being sick
- JD being in pain
- JD vomiting
- JD begging for the treatment to stop
- JD crying in agony
- JD not completely understanding what was happening
- JD not having the ability to express her feelings

 It took me about 3 seconds to decide I wasn't going to put JD through it. And with that, I signed her death warrant. At least, that is what it feels like sometimes. Of course I know the tumour signed her death warrant. It's just..... there seemed no point in prolonging her life when she was already confused, mentally altered and clearly not going to survive the cancer. Maybe if it had been an option when she was still able to decide for herself, she would have done it. But then at least she would have fully understood what she was getting in to, the pain, the sickness, the hairloss.

So I decided I would not put Jane through it. I never bothered to look in to Avastin any further. Until I read this article. So I looked up Avastin and its side-effects.

Black, tarry stools
bleeding gums
body aches or pain
burning, tingling, numbness, or pain in the hands, arms, feet, or legs
chest pain or discomfort
cloudy urine
cracks in the skin
decreased urine output
difficult or labored breathing
dilated neck veins
dizziness, faintness, or lightheadedness when getting up suddenly from a lying or sitting position
ear congestion
extreme fatigue
high blood pressure
irregular breathing
irregular heartbeat
lack or loss of strength
loss of appetite
loss of heat from the body
loss of voice
mood changes
nasal congestion
pain, redness, or swelling in the arm or leg
painful or difficult urination
pinpoint red spots on the skin
pounding in the ears
rapid breathing
runny nose
sensation of pins and needles
shortness of breath
slow or fast heartbeat
sore throat
sores on the skin
sores, ulcers, or white spots on the lips or in the mouth
stabbing pain
sunken eyes
swelling of the face, fingers, feet, or lower legs
swelling or inflammation of the mouth
swollen glands
tightness in the chest
trouble with breathing
unusual bleeding or bruising
unusual tiredness or weakness
vomiting of blood or material that looks like coffee grounds
watery or bloody diarrhea
weight gain
wrinkled skin
yellow skin

Imagine being of completely sound mind and experiencing these side effects. And then imagine being confused and unable to express how you feel and where the pain or discomfort is whilst having this treatment; looking at you with questioning eyes, asking you to make them feel better and explain why this is happening to them.

That is exactly what I did. And then I had a little cry. Because I did the right thing. Again the image of JD hooked up to an IV, feeling sick and in pain came to mind. I am SO glad I decided not to do it. Maybe it meant she died weeks or even months earlier than she might otherwise have. But I am willing to take that responsibility and live with it.

For some reason, this week has been a difficult one. Actually I know the reason. I met a young woman who is looking after her father who is dying from a brain tumour. She is me. All her fears. All her anger about doctors being unclear about prognosis and treatment. The fear of not doing things right. The anger at her father for not getting better. The fear of losing him. The guilt of snapping at him when he does not swallow his medication. I had to leave the room when she was talking to my mentor. I had a little cry and came back in. After that I was fine and able to share my knowledge and experience without having to cry or disclose my personal history. I have met brain tumour patients before, since JD died. It is never a problem. But this time, this woman....she was me. And it hurt. It sparked off a week of me feeling depressed.

I have come out the other end of it now I think. I am just always taken aback when I get his with sadness. it is 2.5 years ago now since JD died. In December, she would have been 30. I am somehow expecting my next bit of depression right around that time. I guess I will just have to learn to live with it and not draw any further life-conclusions from it. The annoying thing about it is that the depression is never clearly JD-related. I just start feeling grey and disinterested in everything and everyone and just want to be left alone. I start wondering if I am unhappy with my life and what not. Then after a few days I will suddenly start to cry over a JD-related memory. And then it is over.

It sucks.
Keep Reading: "Avastin and other JD-related sadness"

I lost my nan and I ran

05 October 2013

I am back at university for Year 2 of my nursing degree. So far it is not that much harder than year 1 but I am sure this remark will come back to bite me in the arse.

In the past few weeks, My dad turned 65 and I lost my nan. Actually, that all happened in the same weekend. Girlfriend and I had booked a surprise trip to join my family at my dad's 65th birthday party. I had previously told him I would be too busy with university to fly to Holland for the weekend. But I booked anyway and didn't tell him.  Unfortunately, the day before we were supposed to go, my mother called to say that they had given my grandmother only a few more days to live. So they had cancelled my dad's birthday party. Instead of a weekend of celebration, I went to say goodbye to my nan on Saturday and flew home the next day. By the time I opened my front door on Sunday night, my grandmother had died. I am glad I got to see her one last time. How lucky that I had planned that trip already. But how sad for my dad that his grand party was cancelled.

I did not go to my nan's funeral on the Friday after she died. I had important lectures and, to be honest, I had not seen nan is such a long time that I did not feel a big emotional need to be present. I thought about the funeral as I was at uni all day. My brother in laws posted a picture of it on facebook: all the grand children and great-grand children had written on nan's coffin. As you can see from the picture, it all seemed very relaxed. Just like nan would have wanted. I had thought about the idea of giving people pens to write on Jane's coffin way back when but I then chose a cool coffin with a picture on it so it didn't happen. But I like that idea a lot. So Girlfriend pay attention to this.

Today I ran in one of those weirdly fun mud race things that have taken the UK by storm. 10k in mud and water and it was great fun. I did it for fun but also wanted to raise some money for the Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton. My awesome dad had asked all the family to give him money instead of presents so that he could sponsor me. In the end, I got to give the Hospice about £500 which is AWESOME. I am very pleased with that. he weather this morning was great so the run was nice and gentle. Although as I am sitting on the sofa typing this, I can feel all my muscles going stiffer by the minute.

Time for a shower methinks. See if there are any crevices left where the mud has hidden itself.

Keep Reading: "I lost my nan and I ran"

Pastures new...

04 September 2013

Dear Jane,

I can not remember the last time I addressed a blog post to you. I don't know why I am addressing this one in particular to you either. Maybe this will become clear as my writing continues.

In the last few weeks/months, it seems things are really reaching a point of total closure. Is that bad? It is not about forgetting you. That would be silly. But it is about confirmation that the past is moving further and further away from me and less and less present in my day-to-day life. I think about you every day. You are woven in to the fabric of my personality. But I don't miss you every day. I don't even miss you every week, I think. I guess that means closure.

Adding to the feeling of time moving on, is the fact that Vicki has left the UK. She has gone to Abu Dhabi. Her school and apartment look fabulous. I am quite sure had you been alive still we would have visited her some day and crashing on her floor. Secondly, Munchkin has retired from MGC. As have a few other teachers who shared the classrooms with you. So it won't be long until nobody at MGC/MSJ remembers you from when you were there. So returning there will different for me. Because no longer will it make me feel close to you. Because nobody from your past will be there. Another place where it is just memories. Another place where even the most fleeting of traces of you has gone. Actually, that thought DOES make me sad. Which is odd as I don't really feel a need to be close to you anymore. To find a place where you are 'still alive'. But I guess the idea that if I wanted, I couldn't is enough to make me a bit sad.

Bear lives on the bookshelf
After scattering your ashes in May, I kept some behind and hid them in Bear's belly. I don't like having a little urn with ashes but I also worried that one day I might feel a sudden regret for not having kept any at all. I don't know, not yet, but you know me, I need to plan for every eventuality.

To be perfectly honest, I put them in Bear and Girlfriend, who is a wizz with needle and thread, stitched him up again. Then I put Bear back on the shelf where he always is. So you are still here and yet nobody knows. And when I look at Bear, I don't think: That's Jane's ashes there. I just think of Bear. Which is nice. A good compromise I feel.

As I expected, I don't really have any contact with your mother anymore. I do however speak to your little sister on a regular basis. In fact, she is hopefully visiting Girlfriend and me soon for a night on the tiles. I love that girlfriend and R. get on so well. Somehow this makes me feel as if you approve of Girlfriend.

Speaking of Girlfriend, I should refer to her as Fiancee from now on. Yes, she asked me (in Paris) and I said yes.  There is a kind of touching/weird/serendipitous similarity to this. When you and I first decided to get married, we had to wait for the UK to finally introduce Civil Partnerships. This time, Girlfriend and I will have to wait until the UK finally opens marriage to same sex couples. So although we are engaged, we won't get married until next year. There seems little point in getting a CP now when we could be Married next year.

Fig tree in Italy in 2007
Fiancee and I have just come back from holiday in Italy. We went to Harry's house. They had unfortunately cut down the fig tree. So no more fig eating from the balcony. In another bit of proof of life moving on, I did not have a single moment of sadness being there. Usually when I return to a place we visited together, I feel sad and flooded with memories. But this time, I did not. In fact, it almost felt like I remembered nothing much from that holiday. Which is weird. I know we were there. I have the pictures. And yet, only things related to the pictures spring to my mind. You know what I mean? usually when you see pictures, you also remember other things that happened. But this time...nothing. I guess it is all part of moving on and giving the past a place? I did like it, that I could be somewhere we have been and not be upset. Given the fact that we went to so many places together, it made me feel bad for Fiancee that she had to be prepared for possible tears everywhere we went.

I bumped in to one of the nurses from the hospice in Sainsbury's the other week. They had heard I am training to be a nurse and it had all touched them deeply. She said that they felt if anyone was suitable to be a nurse, it was me and that they were impressed and touched by the way you and I had interacted with each other and how I cared for you and for all the friends and family who visited you in your last days. She even had tears in her eyes. So of course so did I... I really hope I can work at that place at some point. But they are cutting funding.....

Which brings me to the awesome thing that my dad has asked the family not to give him money or presents for his upcoming 65th birthday. Instead he has asked for donations to the Cynthia Spencer Hospice. How awesome is that. I love my folks dearly.

That's it, really. Next week I am starting my second year as a Student Nurse. One of the modules will focus on Palliative Care. I am expecting to find that very difficult. A bit close to the bone. But I'll get through it. I hope.
Keep Reading: "Pastures new..."

Honfleur: In your FACE!

09 August 2013

When you are rebuilding your life after losing your partner, the days are filled with Firsts: First time shopping for one, first time home alone, first time in town alone, first time on holiday alone, first time you are in a place where you used to go together etc.

These first times include the first time you see pictures from things in your gloriously happy past. Holiday photos in particular were hard. Attentive readers may remember the drama of my first return to St Yves in Cornwall, when I rounded a corner and came face to face with the memory of flying kites with Jane.

In another post, I mulled over the thought that maybe every place I have been with Jane needs to be 'put to rest' in some way. Maybe by revisiting it or by looking at pictures of my time there with Jane.

I have often looked at pictures of our trip to France in 2009. Jane had finished her grueling radiotherapy in February and was seriously damaged by the experience. We did not know it yet but the results would show the tumour had changed from benign to malignant and the radiation had left substantial damage to the healthy parts of her brain. But we knew we needed a holiday.

So I packed up the tent and the bikes and we went to France for 2 weeks. My parents, who live in the Netherlands, had not seen Jane since the start of the radiotherapy and decided they REALLY wanted to see us. So they decided the best thing would be for them to drive down to France from Holland on a Saturday morning, meet us for lunch, stay for the night and return the next morning.

Dad, Jane, Me and Mum in Etretat, August 2009.
And so they did. They drove 300 miles and met us at the campsite at 1pm. Looking back, it was such a gesture of love. For both of us. They stayed in a B&B in Etretat in Normandy and the next morning, we drive to Honfleur for lunch before they made their way back to Holland, a 4-hour trip. Yes, my parents are AWESOME.

Jane wrote of that day in our Holiday Diary:

"Lunch was a salad with Camembert sans noix. We wandered around town, checking the menu of almost every restaurant it felt like, until we decided that lunch at a harbour-side restaurant wouldn't be too pricey after all. And so the salad came to be. And the ice cream afterwards. Sorbet really. I was feeling very strong in the willpower department today. Must limit calories!"

What does this have to do with the point of having to revisit places to be able to 'put them to rest'? Well, during our day in Honfleur, I did not take any pictures. So although it was part of our holiday, I had not seen images of the place since we were there in 2009. I had not yet cried over the memory of lunch at the harbour-side.  Until today.

A mutual friend of Jane & me posted on Facebook that she was in Honfleur. And she posted a few pictures of the harbour.

And it slapped me in the face.

And so, as Girlfriend was in the kitchen baking me a birthday cake, and minutes after she had given me some pre-birthday presents, I was crying my eyes out. Awkward. Painful. I felt a bit ashamed.

How does one deal with that dichotomy? Well, I simply emailed my dad and asked him if maybe they had taken any pictures of our time in Honfleur so that I could add them to my memory bank of Places I Have Put To Rest. Practical, right?

Although I am thinking that it won't be so easy. Foreign places tend to have holiday memories of happiness. Not the day-to-day memories that you have of shopping in Tesco. You don't get used to the image of having lunch outside on the quay in Honfleur. That will always be special.
Keep Reading: "Honfleur: In your FACE!"

This is madness: The Major Series

05 August 2013

I signed up for something stupid. But it looks awesome! And I am so scared.

Why am I doing this? for fun. But also, it is a good way to remind you all again of the important work of the Cynthia Spencer Hospice in Northampton. Their budget is under threat with cuts of up to 50% being considered! They were fantastic for Jane, they are fantastic for others and one they, they might be fantastic for you. So please support me and donate some money. And in return, I will publish pictures of me covered in mud, looking exhausted but happy with broken ankles at A&E.

Keep Reading: "This is madness: The Major Series"

Happy times

22 July 2013

Quick blog. I am alive. I am happy. That kind of means there is not a lot to tell you. Well, I mean, there is stuff to tell you. Like, I passed my first year of Nursing School. Hurrah. And I passed with good grades. Hurrah again. I am still living with girlfriend who has not yet kicked me out for not putting the lid back on the toothpaste tube. Thrice Hurrah!

I am going on holiday in August. To Italy. Where a friend of my parents has a house with a swimming pool. And Girlfriend is coming with me.

Life is pretty good right now.

If only I could lose that extra stone I have put on in the past year....
Keep Reading: "Happy times"

How soon can a widow love again?

03 June 2013

In today's Daily Mail, a widow writes that she started dating a new man 6 months after her husband died, that he moved in a year after her husband died and that they now have a baby daughter. She poses the question: how soon is too soon?

Unsurprising perhaps that the comments are strongly divided. Those in support point out that life is there to be lived and good for her that she is happy again. Amongst the supporters a few widows and people with experience of losing a loved one. Those who oppose the woman are frequently quite insulting. They claim she clearly did not love her husband very much, that she is only after sex, that if THEY lost their partner, they would have more respect and grieve for much longer. Blah blah blah.

I left a comment on the article because I was getting a bit sick of people with no experience claiming the moral high ground.

As a widow myself, I never fail to be disgusted by other widows who claim moral superiority because they have decided never to marry again. For them, being a widow is a way of life and anyone who falls in love with a new person clearly is not a 'real' widow and did not love their deceased partner as much as they loved theirs.

Well, that is just poppycock.

Frequently when I think of the past, it feels like it is an alternate universe, a parallel world, rather than a linear progression from my past up till the present day.

Rose Tyler sees The Doctor at Bad Wolf Bay
Often when I am in a place that meant a lot to JD and me, I feel like I am trying to *find* JD in there. (Girlfriend came up with this comparison for Dr Who fans: remember when Rose Tyler got stuck in a parallel universe but found a place where the wall between her universe and The Doctor's was so thin, she could feel his presence).
I am just wondering if that makes some kind of sense. JD is not in this world. And in this world, I am happy, very happy, with my new love. But I feel sad that I lost my "old world".

What I mean is that I struggle at times with the thought that I obviously wish JD had not died. But that would mean I would not be with my new love.

I guess it is a bit similar when a woman has kids with a man she ends up hating and divorcing. If you wish you never met this man, does that mean you wish you never had kids? I guess it doesn't. So how do you square being happy with something with wishing the thing that made the happiness possible had never happened?

I must add that Girlfriend is fabulous. As far as she is concerned, this is not an issue. Her idea is that if I am as happy with her, in the relationship, as I was with JD, then that is all she could ever ask. She does not ask me to be happy with my entire life as if JD and her death never happened. She understands that my life has a permanent 'stain' of sadness on it but that this does not relate to how I feel about her now.

So when are you ready for New Love? Of course there is no set time. And circumstances differ. JD was ill for so long that our relationship had completely changed. In the end I was more a parent than a partner. I think it is important not to think that you can only open yourself up to love again once you stop grieving for the one you lost. Because that will never happen. You will always miss the one you lost. You will always wish they had not died. Because if nothing else, their death brought you great sadness. And who would wish for sadness?

You should never look at things in the sense of 'replacing' your lost love. Merely adding a new love to your life.

I think the only thing you need in order to be ready for a new relationship is the ability to take the new person for who they are, not for a copy of who you lost. If you can do that, and your new love understands your sadness is related to the loss of your partner, not to the quality of your new relationship, then you are a long way towards happiness again.

Of course if you are with someone new and you keep thinking that it is a shame they are not the one you lost, you should not be in a relationship.

I miss JD every day and I wish she had not died. But not once have wished my new partner *was* JD. Because Girlfriend is a beautiful person in her own right. And she deserves that I see and treat her that way.
Keep Reading: "How soon can a widow love again?"

Coming up to two years

28 May 2013

I have been moody for the past few weeks. Nothing in particular seems to bother me but I am just moody. And it seems that even though I can not point a direct finger at Jane, it is because it is That Week, That Month. In 2 days, it will be two years since Jane died.  And like last year, I am struck with a general moodiness. Low-level depression perhaps?

It is annoying to say the least. Because this is of course the time when I should be studying for my exams. But the past 3 weeks have been basically a waste of time with my concentration hitting a level I never knew I could sink to. And for someone with ADHD, that is saying something.

It is not that I am distracted by thoughts of Jane all the time. Just that everything seems gray at the moment. I moved in with Girlfriend last month and it is lovely, but I am constantly finding fault with the place we live in. Mostly it feels too small for us. Or rather, for me. So this irritates me. The fact that there is not a lot of day light in the flat irritates me. The fact that we have to dry the laundry in the living room irritates me. The fact that the street is messy irritates me. The fact that the sun comes up in the morning irritates me.

Two years.

Jane in her fencing gear in 2008.
Sometimes I still can not grasp the idea that Jane is really never coming back. Of course I know this, I am not delusional. But perhaps this thought has been popping up more recently because my life is kind of back on track. I am living with a lovely, lovely lady with whom I hope to stay for years to come. I am working towards my degree. I have nice friends. And when I complete official forms, I no longer know for sure if I should be ticking the box for Widow when I am completing official documents (for the record, I do tick Widow because the other option is Single which I am most certainly not and apparently the law says you are a widow until you remarry).

Basically, after years of being a carer and then being a widow, I am now Me again: a totally unremarkable person with a totally unremarkable life. And yet I have had so much happen to me that nobody knows unless I specifically bring it up. None of the people I meet in this new life will know how it felt. How I felt. Who Jane was. She is just a story to many people in my 'new' life.

Until recently, when I thought about Jane, I would mostly think about the time she was ill and needed my care. I thought of the sadness of her illness, the heart-breaking times when she soiled herself in public and needed her wife to clean her up, both with tears in our eyes. Or the sadness I feel about not being able to ask her what she wanted in her last few days. The jealousy at other brain tumour patients who are more or less lucid until very shortly before their death. Basically, I have been dealing with the trauma of Jane's illness and her death.

Jane showing off her dry-land swimming skills in 2010.
I am not sure I have dealt with the loss of the Jane I married back in 2006. Not that it is a case of me missing Jane all the time with everything I do. But there is now space for missing the Jane she was, not the Jane she became. It is just that I have time to think about Jane and the things we did and that I will never hear her voice again. Or see her smile. Or laugh at her jokes. Or meet her university friends. Or berate her for procrastinating at university. Or ask her for help with my homework. I guess I am now sad about the loss of my best friend; the funny, witty, promising, sporty, deadpan, smart friend. The idea of Never Again is taking hold.

Never is a long time.

Jane with Bear asleep in the hospice.
This week, on the anniversary of her death, I will scatter Jane's ashes. I am keeping some of them, tucked away inside Bear, the teddy that was with Jane since she first went in to hospital in 2005. Unobtrusive, Bear will sit on a shelf somewhere. And I will set the rest of Jane free in a place that meant most to her. The place she credits with making her who she was. It will be only me and a couple of friends.

And when I come back home, Girlfriend will be waiting for me. We probably won't say much but she will hold me and I will cry. Cry for Jane, cry for my loss and cry because I am so lucky to have someone who understands that none of this in any way diminishes what she is to me: Friend, Partner... Future.
Keep Reading: "Coming up to two years"

My life is hard

02 May 2013

OK, this is in Dutch and will be lost on most people. But after yesterday's blog post full of self-pity, I have been playing this song a lot to make me feel better. We all know people like this; people who constantly complain their life is soooo much harder than yours. Everything they do is difficult and a drama. I translated the lyrics but most of the fun lies in her performance. When she sings "Ik heb een heel zwaaaar leveeeen" it means: I have a life that is veeeerrrryyyy haaaard".

I have a very hard life
Yes, really very hard
Everything is very difficult for me

It is truly a very hard life for me
No, no, really, very hard
Life is simply incredibly hard for me

For me, nothing is ever just easy
So I am often tired
So many things are so difficult
That I just don't do them
And when I do do something
It is often not appreciated
And because of that
Many other things automatically go wrong too

I can often not help other people
Because I have some kind of pain somewhere
Which upsets me of course
Because I would love to be there
Of course I would prefer
To always be there for others
But they will just have to understand
That my life is really hard

I have a very hard life
Yes, really very hard
Difficult, difficult, difficult, difficult, difficult

It is truly a very hard life for me
No, no, really, very hard
Life is simply incredibly hard for me

I am quite often forced to cancel
Appointments at the last minute
When people have already made dinner
But hey, I am just suddenly very tired
I feel they should just understand
That I have a very hard life
In their life, the tide is always high
And for me it is mostly low

Sometimes I am at the check-out
Where everything is "quick, quick, quick"
When I realise I have forgotten something
And I have to go all the way back
People have to wait, which they don't like
But at least it gives them the opportunity to see
How hard it is to be me

I have a very hard life
Yes, really very hard
Difficult, difficult, difficult, difficult, difficult

It is truly a very hard life for me
No, no, really, very hard
Life is simply incredibly hard for me

I really do take life as it comes
But quite often it simply does not come at all
And I just sit there waiting, which makes me really sad
Happiness comes free and easy to some people
I don't understand why God has distributed it so unevenly

And later, when I am on my death bed, and when I am in my grave
Then I'll think: It was so hard, I am glad it is over
And people will say in their eulogies: It is true
Life for that poor woman was incredibly hard
Keep Reading: "My life is hard"

Nearly two years

01 May 2013

May is here. The month JD died. By the end of this month, it will be two years. I have heard many times that the second year is harder than the first one. That in the second year, you are no longer numb and that the real emptiness strikes, the real loss, the realisation that whatever you had planned for the future with your partner is really not going to happen.

My second year was not like that at all. I started (and struggled) through my university course, I worked, I loved, I reminisced, I cried, I missed and I celebrated. I keep waiting for the Real Grief to knock me out with a sledgehammer. I am not saying life has been easy but in some ways I expected this to be different. Harder perhaps? maybe it feels easier because at no point in the first year did I stop myself from crying. Anywhere. If I felt tears, I cried them. No matter where I was at the time. In Tesco, on the street, in the delicatessen down the road, on the train, in my car. There has never been any bottling up of emotions.

Sleepy JD on ski trip in 2006
Maybe that is why I did not have the Second Year Hit. I have however lately noticed a general low-level sadness creeping back in about things. Where I have been listening to Matchbox 20 and Crowded House, JD's favourite music. Not sure why or what it is supposed to make me feel. maybe it is one of those things that helps me feel that my past is still part of the present. Because nothing is the same. Girlfriend is a fair bit younger than me and likes different music than JD used to. So not much 90s music around my house. Mostly 80s (strangely enough). This is not a problem but it is....I don't know. I am just used to having 90s music around, even if I don't care much for it. I don't know how to explain it. MB20 played in Manchester last month and 2 of JD's friends went. I had wanted to go too but in reality, I only wanted to go because it would have reminded me of doing something I might have done with JD and her friends. I mean, I like MB20 enough but it would not normally be something I would pay lots of money for. I would have spent the entire time crying for JD, rather than actually listening to the music. So why did I want to go?

Maybe it is searching for something familiar around me. Because everything has changed.

Girlfriend and I have moved in together this week. That feels a bit weird. I am utterly sure about my feelings for Girlfriend and it is wonderful to live together; she makes me very happy indeed. But it feels weird to do things like that with someone who is not JD. I had to get used to that feeling. Settling down with someone who is not JD.

I wish there was a script that widows follow so I know that I am within the 'normal range'. Is it normal to want to keep some things that belonged to JD? or photos? I mean, everyone has pictures from their past, right? Or letters from friends they keep. Or souvenirs. So why does it feel weird to want to keep those things from my time with JD? Maybe the music is important to me because, due to having moved house a few times since JD's death, I have not go many physical things left. No ornaments in the house, no photos on the wall, no clothes. And nobody really to share memories with.

Last year I organised a fundraising gig for the hospice where JD died. This year, I have decided I am going to scatter the rest of her ashes on the day she died (some were scattered at Warwick University already).  I will scatter them in a place that was meaningful to her (and therefore to me).

At home a month before her death
One last thing... I wish that I could feel more sad when thinking of JD as she was before she was ill. Whenever I see pictures of healthy JD, I feel as if I am looking at my best friend who died, as opposed to someone I loved. I mean, I think of how sad it is that she is dead but I do not generally feel tears welling up. But when I think of JD when she was ill, I cry. Without fail. The thought of someone so young having gone through all that. Remembering how she was helpless. How that made her feel...It makes me incredibly sad, still. Physically sad. With tears and the lot. Does that mean I am over the actual loss of my wife and friend and am now just crying about the sadness of the illness process? Somehow I feel that that sadness will never diminish.

Anyway, this is yet another directionless post. Which shows that I just don't know how this works. I guess I am just having a whole bunch of unguided thoughts about JD tumbling around my head at random moments.

Should I tell my university tutor? I struggle to concentrate at the moment and I know this is partly to blame but it feels like an excuse to use...

In her soft wind I will whisper
In her warm sun I will glisten
'till we see her once again
In a world without end

In her soft wind I will whisper
In her warm sun I will glisten
And I always will remember
In a world without end
She goes on
Keep Reading: "Nearly two years"

A widow's dilemma

24 April 2013

When JD died, many people did not know what to say. Many people were very kind but many people kind of faded away. But everyone I knew at least got in touch and, for a while anyway, did their best to let me know that they were thinking of me or of JD and that they too were missing her. I understand that I was always gong to lose some friends and gain some unexpected new ones. I know that I may not have been as supportive as I could have been to some of my friends.


Pretty soon I will be in the same place as a person who used to be a friend of JD and me but from who I have not heard a SINGLE WORD since the day JD died. Nothing. Apart from a Facebook message on the day of JD's death. But nothing since then. I don't even think this person came to JD's funeral.  If they did, I did not notice them. I genuinely can not remember seeing them.

Either way, it made me angry at the time. And it is making me a bit angry again now. Should I have contacted this person? I was not very close friends but still, we went on holiday together a few times.

How should I behave when I see this person again? Pretend all is well? Let them know I was/am very angry? Should I let it go after nearly 2 years? I do not care to re-kindle a friendship with this person so I am not looking to repair relationships. I am simply looking for suggestions as to how to approach this person.

Keep Reading: "A widow's dilemma"

Gay Paris

University is very stressful. So what can a girl do to relax? Indeed, a girl can take her lady to Paris. To celebrate our 1 year anniversary and her birthday, Girlfriend and I jetted off to the French capital for a well deserved break.

The weather was predicted to be a mixed bag so Girlfriend brought a pile of dresses and I brought my shorts. We managed to pack light so we only had hand luggage. A masterstroke from Girlfriend as it turned out. We sailed through customs and baggage collection (what with having no baggage to collect) and hopped on the train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Montmartre where our hotel was. I had warned Girlfriend about the tiny Parisian hotel rooms and that it might not be as clean as she might like, with French cleanliness standards not always being the same as hers (or mine. or any other clean person, frankly). So we were very happy with our tiny but perfectly clean hotel room in Hotel Montmartre Jean Gabriel. I'd totally go there again. It was clean, cheap, close to the Metro on Place de Clichy.

Safely sheltered from the rain on the Rue Lepic.
On the first evening we walked through Montmarte towards the Sacre Coeur and Place du Tertre. It RAINED. It rained really hard so after 15 minutes, we were forced to have our first break and sit down safely at a Brasserie to shelter from the rain. It turned out to be the first of many, many glasses of wine that we consumed over 4 days. I think it is safe to say we were moderately pickled most of the time. We walked along the Rue Lepic, which I had read about on my handy TripAdviser app. It was supposed to be foodie heaven. And it certainly looked it. Fromagerie after Fromagerie. Fresh fish from all over France. A superb selection of meat at a variety of butchers and wine shops and brasseries galore. It made me wish I had rented a self-catering apartment so we could take it ALL home and just spend our time in Paris eating.

You can just make out the occipital bone
Anyway, it was all lovely. The next day we went underground to discover Les Catacombes. When the cemeteries in Paris ran out of space, they were cleared of 6 million bones. These bones were stored underground. And we can visit these vaults. AWESOME. Bones, bones, bones. Lots of skulls. I am sure I actually learned something about anatomy by staring at someone's skull or the neck of their femur. It was very educational. Right. And spooky.

We had a picnic int he park where we ate far too much cheese and drank far too much wine. And it was awesome. We saw the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, we saw the Eiffel Tower. In fact, we went to the top of the Eiffel Tower. I will tell you more about that on another day. We saw the Notre Dame and we hung a padlock on the Pont des Arts. Padlock? Yes.

There is a nice new tradition of locking a padlock to a bridge to symbolise your love and then throwing the keys in to the river. Only when you can find the key to your padlock can your love be broken. Being the ultimate romantic that I am, I prepared and bought two padlocks whilst still at home. I had our names engraved in them.  There are two bridges leading to the Ile de la Cite where you can attach your padlocks. The Pont de l’ArchevĂȘchĂ© is where the padlocks go for your passionate love. The Pont des Arts is where you put yours if it is for your committed love. When we got to the Pont des Arts (with the help of my satnav and even then I fucked it up a few times...) we attached the padlocks to the bridge and had a nice snog. We are so cheesy. Two American gay guys minced up to us and offered to take our picture. They had seen us kiss and clearly felt a gay-kinship. They told us they were on their honeymoon so there were hugs all-round and we left feeling very happy. about the world and love in general.

Of course there was much more that happened. Girlfriend ate snails for the first time. We went to the Louvre (but only to shelter from the rain), we visited Pere Lachaise Cemetery, we walked, we walked, we walked and we had a cheese & wine picnic in a random park. Yes, there was a lot of wine.

Keep Reading: "Gay Paris"

Margaret Thatcher is dead.

10 April 2013

Apparently we are only allowed to say nice things about the most hated politician in British history. When Glenda Jackson tries to add a note of discontent, she is met with howls of indignation. Go Glenda Jackson.

I am sock of people saying Thatcher was great for women. Yes she was the first female prime minister. But she hated feminism. And she did women a massive disservice. I agree something needed to be done about the power of the trade unions, but what she did still reverberates around the country now. Poverty, despair and heartache. I am not dancing on her grave but the outpouring of "she was great and to say anything else is disrespectful" makes me sick.

Keep Reading: "Margaret Thatcher is dead."

Medicalising Grief

01 April 2013

This weekend, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a 30-minute programme about grieving. Or, more accurately, about using medication to 'treat' grief. The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ( DSM), written by the American Psychiatric Organisation now includes grieving as an abnormal mental state. This opens the door to pharmaceutical companies saying people need to be given medication to help them with their grieving.

In this world where we no longer accept anything other than perfect happiness, everything that stands in its way must be treated as soon as possible. Take a pill and it will all be better. And if an important medical text says that you have a DISORDER, then the threshold for prescribing that pill is severely lowered. The pharmaceutical industry stands to gain millions if all those grieving people were put on anti-depressants.

Grief makes you sad. Death makes you sad. That is not an illness. You have lost a person you loved. The sadness you feel about that is not depression. It is grief. Numbing that pain with medication that is designed for treating an illness, in my opinion, is wrong. You do not have an illness. Depression is often caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. It is an illness. It often has no particular event that causes it. People with a seemingly perfect life can be very depressed. Grief is caused by an event. It is caused by a loss. YOU WILL BE FEELING SAD! Duh. Apparently, according to this broadcast, people who experience a loss could fit the criteria for depression if they display symptoms of depression (sleeplessness, lack of appetite, poor concentration prolonged sadness) more than 2 months after the loss....2 MONTHS? Try a year.

My point is that profound sadness is not depression. If you treat your sadness with medication, you will not be able to fully 'go through the grief'. It will merely numb it for a while and hit you when you come off the pills. Because it is not an illness. It can not be cured. It is a reality you need to accept. You can not medicate it away. You can help yourself with grief therapy. And for some people, the grief is so all-consuming that they stop functioning as humans. In that case, medication might help. But that is not medication to 'cure' the grief. That is medication to help people function. Function so that they can address their loss and deal with the grief. If medication becomes the standard treatment for grief, people will never actually come to terms with their loss.

And in a completely unscientific opinion, I believe that if you do not come to terms with the loss, you will not be able to rebuild your life. It will hit you later on. And by then, you might think you are perfectly happy again and then it might actually lead to full-blown depression.

I grieved REALLY HARD for months. I cried whenever and wherever I wanted. In public, alone, in front of strangers, in front of friends. I did not hold back. I did not feel ashamed. I felt an all consuming sadness. Like a depressed person, I wasted hours, days, week in bed, staring at the wall, going through DVD box set after DVD box set. The difference? I knew WHY this was happening. There was a very clear reason. I had lost my wife. My life. My focus. Everything I thought my future was going to be was in tatters in front of me. I had 2 sessions of counselling and we decided that really, I just needed to do the grieving and that things would get better in time. And she was right. I strongly believe that diving head-first in to my grief, but with my eyes firmly on wanting to build a new life after I as done grieving, has made the pain much easier to live with.

I am not saying people should never use medication. Or that those who do are weak. My issue is with the premise that, as a starting point, grief should be treated as a mental disorder. This opens the door to pharmaceutical companies pressuring doctors to prescribe pills to people who really just need a shoulder to cry on. And it gives people false hope. That life will be better with pills, even though everything they loved has gone. That is simply not true.

Thankfully I am not the only one who thinks this is a dangerous direction. The Lancet, the world's foremost medical periodical, agrees with me and says it much more succinct that I ever can:

Medicalising grief, so that treatment is legitimized routinely with antidepressants, for example, is not only dangerously simplistic, but also flawed. The evidence base for treating recently bereaved people with standard antidepressant regimens is absent. In many people, grief may be a necessary response to bereavement that should not be suppressed or eliminated.

Building a life without the loved person who died cannot be expected to be quick, easy, or straightforward. Life cannot, nor should not, continue as normal. In a sense, a new life has to be created, and lived with.

For those who are grieving, doctors would do better to offer time, compassion, remembrance, and empathy, than pills.

The editorial is very much worth a read.

You can listen to the show here on BBC iPlayer until April 6th 2013: Medicalising Grief
Keep Reading: "Medicalising Grief"

A holiday of sorts!

31 March 2013

My first practice placement for university has finished. I think I passed. I think I did well. I have found it all very educational and I have learned loads. About the human body of course but also about myself.

I need to amend my communication style. I talk too much. I talk too much about myself and I don't always listen enough. Not that I like talking about myself but I was under the impression that sharing personal anecdotes with patients improves the rapport you are building. I have learned that this is true (many patients have praised my communication style and genuine interest in them) but I need to learn better when to apply it and when to just listen. Very common experiences do not need me sharing mine. (e.g. when they have a broken leg, I do not need to tell them about my broken leg, but when they talk about losing their partner it can be very useful for them to know their nurse has had a similar experience)

The next hurdle is studying for my anatomy & physiology exam. There is a ridiculous amount of work involved in this. So much that I find myself paralysed as soon as I open the book. I am convinced I will never remember what is in the book and my brain says: Don't even bother. I am trying to find a way around this but I have not found it yet. I live in hope.

Flying above the clouds is always spectacular.
I have just returned from a trip to see The Family in Holland. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go. I completely forgot I had 2 weeks 'holiday' from university so I thought it best to visit my grandmothers who are both poorly. Girlfriend came along as I can not imagine spending a whole week without her. Yes, I am admit that was indeed the main reason for her coming along. It was Girlfriend's first time on an aeroplane and the look on her face was worth every penny of the ticket price. I loved it. Shame it was only on a cheap EasyJet flight and not the nice AirFrance flight we have planned for next month.
Dad made filled squid
and seafood pasta.

I had made it clear I would be mostly visiting family during the 4 days we were there so she organised herself a couple of gigs in Amsterdam! Brilliant, now she is officially an international performer. We had a lovely time with my family. We were extremely well-fed by my mum & dad; had a lovely day with my sister and her kids and a most wonderful night in Amsterdam. I even caught up with a friend I had not seen for the best part of 15 years!

Now it is back to work. But good times are ahead. Girlfriend and are going to Paris in 2 weeks. And when we return, we will start looking for a place for us to live together. Neither of us is finding living in different houses much fun anymore. Nice as our respective housemates may be, we just really want our own place, with our own stuff and our own future to build. I am all giddy and excited about this. I have been gathering all the things I own from my current house. More and more things are vanishing from the shared kitchen in to a box that has my stuff in it. When I have left, the girls here will realise that just about half of the things in the house actually belonged to me!!

There are some Jane-related things happening in my brain right now that are fodder for another blog post. But I think it is only fair that I discuss them with girlfriend first...
Keep Reading: "A holiday of sorts!"

This is ridiculous: Love is threatening my future.

06 March 2013

I have been with Girlfriend for nearly a year now. Just writing that makes me giddy.

Love is the result of a difficult chemical reaction that happens in your brain. it affects your entire body. Everyone knows the problems of being in love:

Lack of concentration
Obsessing about the other person
Loss of appetite
Feeling sick
Bad sleep

First, here is a mini chemistry lesson.

New relationships go through three stages: Lust, Attraction and Attachment. Each of these stages have their own hormones that wreak havoc with your normal emotions.  Lust is driven by Testosterone and Oestrogens. Attraction is fueled by Adrenaline, Dopamine and Serotonin. And when you move in to the Attachment phase, it is mostly Oxytocin and Vasopressin.

The Attraction phase is when you can not think of anything else but the other person. Not surprising since high levels of Dopamine are associated with heightened attention, short-term memory, hyperactivity, sleeplessness and goal-oriented behavior. Does that sound like AD(H)D to anyone???? But recently, scientists have discovered that people in the Attachment phase have the same low levels of Seratonin in their blood as those with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

So it makes perfect sense that all I can think of is HER. I can not concentrate on university work. I can not think of ANYTHING else than of how many hours before I see her again. And if there is the remotest chance of not seeing her at all during a day, I will just go to her house and steal a kiss on the doorstep and go home again (we do live on the same street so this is easy).

But seriously people, I would really like to move on from this. I have a university degree to think of. It is hard enough to make that work with having AD(H)D killing my concentration. But having something else on top of that to distract me even more is just impossible. I sacrifice work time to be with HER. I can not stop checking my phone if there is a message during my shifts at the hospital. I am unable to sleep unless I have seen HER. I can not look at HER with my brain going funny. It physically hurts when I think of the fact that we do not yet live together and that it won't be for a few months until we can be together on a permanent basis.

I am researching, I stray on the the DFS and IKEA websites and pretend I am looking at furniture for our new house. I spend hours looking at houses online that we *could* rent. Every stupid, trite love song suddenly has become deep and meaningful.

Don't get me wrong: I am not saying this love is better than anyone else's. I know everyone feels like this when they are in love. Or at least, they SHOULD feel like this. For a while anyway. But I just can not move away from it. I would like to be able to say: I am going to work for a few hours and then see HER. It is hard enough when I am not in love but having the promise of seeing HER ahead of me makes it impossible to get anything done.

So, here is a request to my hormones: I get it. my feelings for Girlfriend are SERIOUS. I am properly attracted to her. So can I now please move on to the Attachment phase. The one that releases Oxytocin, aka the cuddle hormone. Ironically, Oxytocin is released after orgasms and strengthens the bond between two people. So perhaps the best way to get to the Attachment phase as soon as possible is to have a lot of sex and release a lot of Oxytocin; the hormone that makes it possible to just sit next to her and do homework, instead of sitting next to her and just wanting to melt into one entity, one body and be closer than humanly possible.

Thank you very much on behalf of all the future patients who would really like for me to have concentrated harder at University.

Finally, if you think I am just moaning and should get on with things, watch this fascinating film about people in love, who are put in an MRI scanner whilst thinking about the person they love. Just thinking of their lovers changes their brain function and hormone balance.

PS: Yes, this entire blog post was just another excuse to think about HER for an hour and still feel like I have done something productive.
Keep Reading: "This is ridiculous: Love is threatening my future."

Ticking along

13 February 2013

I am currently on my first placement of my nursing education. I am not allowed to say much (read: anything) about it in public due to university rules and confidentiality stuff. University is shit-hot on people talking about university, be it negative or positive (but mostly when they say negative things of course) and I have already been told off for telling the world I was struggling with a f*cking assignment.

So I will keep it simple and say that I am learning lots and still struggling with the theoretical side of it all and the assignments and constant writing, reflecting and what have you. I am however ace when I am on the ward with patients.

In other parts of my life, things are going very well indeed. After 10 months together, I am still very happy with Girlfriend. I pinch myself every day that I have been so lucky to find such a wonderful person. We see each other every day (we live on the same street) and some people think that is weird. We think it is great. Living only a few doors away from each other means we can pop in for a cup of tea, even on days when we are both busy. So often I just drop by for a kiss and a cup of tea and then go back home to do some work or to go to bed early.

We are discussing our future together, too. We both feel pretty strongly that this relationship is really great and has loads of potential for the future. I like dreaming about the future. I like thinking of all the things we might be doing together in the future. It is wonderful to think of happiness in terms of being with someone and sharing hopes and dreams.

I am beyond excited about the trip we have booked to Paris to celebrate our anniversary and Girlfriend's birthday. It is not until April but we can not stop thinking about it. I have not been in Paris for more than 10 years and I very much look forward to going back there and doing all the cliche things such as walking hand in hand with Girlfriend, looking out over Paris from the Eiffel Tower and sitting on the steps of the Sacre Coeur. Yay.

All in all, things are pretty good. If only i could finish the next f*cking assignment....
Keep Reading: "Ticking along"

Aaron Freeman on planning your funeral

26 January 2013

Sometimes things happen simultaneously that make me cry.

After a day of hard, hard working on my assignment, I suddenly burst in to a small flood of tears when a song by the Counting Crows came on iTunes. This was one of JD's favourite bands. No idea why this suddenly made me cry. I mentioned my crying on Facebook and tagged JD in my status update. This then lead me to go to her page where a friend had posted something very beautiful that I had not noticed before. My random crying lead me to JD's page for the first time in months and months. Normally I would have looked and read this thing my friend posted and not cried. I would have found it beautiful. But now that I was already sad, it just made me cry more. For about 5 minutes. And then it was over.

In the early days, this kind of crying would have lasted for hours. Funny how time heals.

Anyway.....what this friend posted on JD's Facebook page was a quote from Aaron Freeman. On a radio show in 2005, he discussed how you should have a physicist speak at your funeral. You can hear the segment here:

Below is the full text. I think it is beautiful. It feels spiritual and yet it is pure science. JD would have loved a physicist say something like this at her funeral.

"You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

"And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell them that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

"And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

"And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly.


Aaron Freeman
Keep Reading: "Aaron Freeman on planning your funeral"

How to concentrate, ADD-style

24 January 2013

I have cracked it. I have cracked how I work best and how to get myself to concentrate on my wok for an hour or so and write my essays.

Unfortunately it is a very time-consuming method and it makes no sense to most people. Here is my feeble attempt at explaining it.

First of all: I can not concentrate very well. I am easily distracted and getting started on something is almost impossible. I have tried sitting in a pub, in my bedroom, in the university library...you name it, I've tried it. No success. Basically: Having Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD or ADHD) sucks. A lot.

So what works for me?
First of all: sitting at my desk does not work. That is a shame as I have a nice desk. But it is not happening. I spend hours at my desk doing everything but work.

Sitting on my sofa in my bedroom does not work. The sofa is simply not comfortable enough and I am constantly distracted by being uncomfortable.

What *does* work is sitting on the sofa in the lounge, alone, with the TV on. I sit myself down, have dinner & a cup of tea. Then I tell myself to start working. Which I don't. I open all the relevant documents and the links in my browser to articles that I need to read. But no work gets done. Because there is TV to watch. And news to read about. And Facebook to check. And links to follow.

So for about 2 hours, I tell myself to work but find myself unable to do actual work. The half-hearted concentration means I re-visit the stuff I have done so far and usually (because I can not concentrate and think straight) I think it is all rubbish and I start re-writing. But the re-writing is not very good because, remember, I am not concentrating very well.

Eventually I get so annoyed that I am being prevented from working by all those distraction things that I no longer find them a distraction. They are now starting to irritate me. Because I feel I have WORK TO DO and the TV is IRRITATING ME because I can not CONCENTRATE with the TV on.

When that moment is reached, I turn the TV off and think: FINALLY I am allowed to get on with the work I need to do. Finally I have managed to shut that stupid TV off.

It feels as if I have had a battle with the TV and the internet and after a couple of hours, I have defeated them! I am victorious.

And then, providing nobody else is in the room and talks to me, I can work. I can concentrate. For about an hour. I still am able to check Facebook every so many minutes. But I am able to check, and then get back to work. In that hour, I work like a demon and write pretty darn good stuff.

Last night I had *just* reached 30 minutes of good working when my drunk housemates came in and started talking to me. Although they wanted to tell me how great they think I am, I was very annoyed but I could hardly tell them to leave the room as it is their living room too.

So, to get an hour of work done, I need a lead-up that can sometimes stretch to a couple of hours. And I need the living room to be empty and no housemates to talk to me. And what are the chances of all those factors coming together all the time, every day? When do I have 3-4 hours to spare to sit on the sofa in the house alone?

Very rarely. So I get stressed. Because what if these spurts of concentration do not come to me? What if there is not enough time before the deadline?

Keep Reading: "How to concentrate, ADD-style"

Snow makes me happy.

21 January 2013

So after my little self indulgent moan about how hard my life is, I decided to give Captain Morgan another chance. So on Saturday, I drank a lot of Captain Morgan again, this time with Girlfriend. And to my surprise, it wasn't Captain Morgan who was to blame for my Friday blues. It was my own self-indulgence. Because on Saturday, with Girlfriend, Captain Morgan actually made me happy & tipsy.

Spent a lovely evening with girlfriend, had a nice sleep and on Sunday, WE PLAYED IN THE SNOW!!!

I love snow. Did I mention this? I LOVE SNOW. I get happy just watching it. I cheer up walking around in it. I adore the cold, white stuff. It makes me as happy as the arrival of summer does.

Girlfriend and I went to the park with my brand new sledge. We flew down a little hill, walked around and we made a snow child. We called it Humphrey. But it refused to float on the sledge. So we drowned it in the pond.

Then we went home and ate curry that Girlfriend's dad had made.

Not much more to say about this: Sunday was a happy day. A very happy day indeed.

All because of Girlfriend and I frolicking in the snow.
Keep Reading: "Snow makes me happy."

Captain Morgan made me write this

18 January 2013

I wrote this post below earlier this evening. And then girlfriend made me see I am a sad, self-indulgent fucker who needs a kick up the arse (although in fairness those are not the words she used). So I'm off to bed now and plan to begin a new life tomorrow. For the umpteenth time I am telling myself that I will be organised and concentrated from tomorrow onward and that everything will be different.


I should be thinking of doing my assignment.

I worry that I am giving up on this degree already. Like, in my mind, I don't really feel any pressure to meet the deadline because I feel I am going to fail it any way.

Even the practice module, my placement, has so much paperwork involved that I don't see how I am going to complete it all. I need testimonials from patients, I need other nurses to sign off on things they saw me do, I need my mentor to see me do things but I am her first ever mentoring student and she is not very forthcoming and a bit shy so the responsibility falls all on to me to make ANYTHING happen, I need to complete action plans, write goals that are SMART, write reflections and write a reflective diary and read up on things I have learned during the day.

And that is just for my placement. Let alone the assignments I also have to do for other modules.

I am thinking I should maybe just give up and work as a health care assistant.

I am not cut out for working alone without supervision and support. And university is clearly unable to give me any. I need someone to bounce ideas of. A fellow student or a mentor who understands how I work. Even when I don't know how I work.
I always think in abstract concepts

I have thought about pros and cons of certain techniques. I have read about them. I understand the research. Why can I not have a verbal exam on it? Where I can TALK to someone and explain what I know and understand. Instead of having to write it down?

It is so frustrating to KNOW that I know these things and yet nothing comes out of my fingers on to the screen.

For every paragraph I write, I think it is rubbish, I need to start all over again. And I re-write what I have already written. And I get stuck and can not move forward.

or I suddenly have a bit of inspiration and I write a whole bunch of stuff. And then nothing for days. So then i start worrying about what happens if the next bit of inspiration does not arrive in time for me to meet the deadline? Well I might as well not bother.

Ugh. Enough moaning.

Captain Morgan made me feel this way. I hate Captain Morgan. (I love it, really).

Maybe I will feel better tomorrow, after playing in the snow. Which of course is no procrastination at all. Nope.
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Happy New Year

06 January 2013

Let me be the first to wish all my (5) readers a happy new year....oh wait...what?

Well, how different this was from what I imagined it would be. Last year I escaped to New Mexico and I knew that this year I would have to face the holiday season without Jane for the first time. I was convinced it was going to be horrible. After all, on January 1st 2013, I would no longer able to say: My wife died last year. It would be 2 years by then. Two years. That sounds so long ago that I surely would start to forget about Jane.

But of course in hindsight that is not what happened at all. I have not forgotten about Jane. But mostly, what I did not know back then, what I could not have imagined back then, is that I would be happy with someone who has lit up my world and brought me back to life.

One of the things grief counselors tell people is that the hardest thing after losing your partner is finding yourself again. Having been part of a Couple for so long, you are no longer sure of your own role in life, in the world, when that partnership suddenly stops.  Who are you? What are your hopes and dreams? How do you interact with people? How do people see you? Those things you stopped doing, was that because you no longer liked them or because your partner did not like them so they were sacrificed on the altar of your relationship?

It is that uncertainty that I have found hardest. I was myself with Jane. Or at least, I was someone I was very happy to be. How in the world was I ever to find a happy me again? I don't like doing things on my own. So doing stuff alone is no fun. Doing it with someone you love is great. So how the hell was I supposed to find out which things I really loved doing if I had nobody to find that out with?

I am one of those people who is just better in a relationship. Not because I am needy but because I thrive on sharing. I get ultimate happiness from doing something that makes someone else happy. I like thinking of others. I like being thoughtful. I like looking after someone. I like playing a part in someone's happiness. I guess I am to love what evangelists are to Christianity: I just want to share, share, share, share. Because sharing happiness is the most wonderful thing.

You know how many women say that it wasn't until they became a mother that they felt they were fulfilling their true purpose in life? Well, I know that MY true purpose is to be in a relationship that makes two people happy. It just is. I have accepted that does not make me needy or dependent or that it means I ignore my own needs just to make someone happy. Being myself, for me, means making someone happy in a way that matches my own feelings, opinions, beliefs, loves, hatreds and interests (just in case you were thinking I put someone else's happiness way way before my own).

Well, there she was. And the rest is history.

Aaaaaaaaaaanyway........ I was going to actually write about the awesome New Year I spent with Girlfriend. The whole "who'd a thunk" thing was only supposed to be a sideways remark. Oh well. As always, these blogs never are about the thing I thought I was going to write about.

However, I can understand you are now desperate for some pictures of my holiday. So, I'll keep it brief.

We went to Yorkshire. Stayed in a most wonderful place in Sedbergh, near Wensleydale, called The Moorcock Inn. If you like your landladies no-nonsense and typical Yorkshire, then there is no better place. In fact, I had such a great time that for the first time ever, I felt the need to write a review on Trip Advisor.

We had nice food, fun watching people get stuck in knee-deep floods, saw Wensleydale Cheese being made, visited a fabulous waterfall and had a most relaxing new year's eve. And all that whilst staying in a place that made us feel at home, rather than in a hotel. Niiiiiice. In fact, we liked it so much, we are probably going back there this year (which has nothing to do with the landladies inviting Girlfriend and me back so that Girlfriend could play a gig there....)

Yorkshire roads are pretty.

The Moorcock Inn is pretty.

Yorkshire waterfalls are pretty.
Our next trip is already in the planning. We are thinking Paris in April. If only I can find the time in my busy university schedule. Oh yes, university. Did  mention that I am shitting myself with worry about passing this year?

Happy New Year everyone.
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To Anonymous (You know who you are)

02 January 2013

Just to let you know: There is no point in leaving abusive comments about the Liverpool Care Pathway all over this website, even on old posts not related to it in any way. They will be not be published and marked as spam.

They don't upset me, I am just worried that you are wasting precious moments of your life leaving uninformed, rude comments when you could be doing fun stuff, like walking on the beach or help the homeless or visit a sick neighbour.

Happy new year.
Keep Reading: "To Anonymous (You know who you are)"