With A Little Help From My Friends

“I’ll get by with a little help from my friends” ~ The Beatles

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Friendship (n): the state of being a friend, a friendly relation or intimacy

 

Man. What a few weeks it has been. I don’t know if it’s been Mercury being retrograde, the apocalyptic weather, or the near on nuclear war (possibly due to Mercury being retrograde?) but since mid August life has been scary, intense, hard, and at times overwhelming.

There have been some difficult conversations. There have been more than a few tears. And not everyone has made it through to the other side.

But as I sit here, strangely in sounder mind and body than I have been in a long time, I know why I’ve made it through. The running helps, as do the weights; the time spent cooking a nice meal for myself; the sitting down at my laptop to bleed (thanks, Hemingway). But really I’m here because of my friends.

It’s such a strange thing, friendship;  how some people just move in to your heart and never leave. And, inexplicably, how you seem to do the same with them. We might never know how much space we may take up in someone else’s heart but what they say to us, how they treat us, that tells us all we need to know.

Sometimes it is the little things that remind you of the importance of you in the world. The pretty blonde with the excellent lipstick getting you a beer, the cool AF online friend being excited about the prospect of meeting for a drink, being high-fived at a dinner party for saying something so wrong but also so very right. All these friendly acts, gestures, that say ‘yes, there people in the world who actually like you’.

And then there’s the big stuff too. The friend who calls you whilst driving home from a late shift because life is too damn hard and you can’t stop crying. The one who hugs you and then knows not to let you go because you’re not ok and all you need in that moment is to be held. The ones who you hardly ever see but when it matters, when it really deeply matters, they always step up the plate.

We all need people. To laugh with, to cry with, to share thoughts and ideas and feelings. To hear the truths of our heart,  and to listen, to be open, to care, when we are trusted with the heart truths from another.

May you always have friends to celebrate with you in your triumphs and laugh with you in your disasters. And to my friends all I can say is thank you.

 

Princess

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A Letter To My Best Friend

“You’re my best friend” ~ Queen

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Best Friend (n): someone with whom one shares the strongest possible friendship, an especially close and trusted friend

 

I was asked what I’d do if I got together with someone who couldn’t handle that you were my best friend.

Well.

1/ You are. So anyone in my life has to accept that. And I’m not saying my taste is impeccable *cough* but not accepting you is non-negotiable. I’ve already altered relationships, friendships, because of how people have reacted to you being dead. You are still dead, btw, I’m not happy about that and I don’t imagine you’re thrilled either.

And

2/ Since when did love have boundaries? If you love you love. The heart expands, it doesn’t contract. Ok, so maybe it does contract a bit, like a puppy being kicked, when you’re rejected, when someone is cruel… But love…love is capable of being beyond that. It’s not saying I’m always here to be kicked by someone but I am capable of love even beyond kicking. I just won’t love the kicker any more, as it were. But I will not allow them to drive love out of me. The same way anyone in my life has to accept you are my best friend and you always will be. Because loving people? That’s friends, that’s family, that’s lovers, that’s life. You can’t parcel that out in so many miles. You can’t put a boundary on love “I’ll love you as far as Reading but that’s it” or, my personal favourite, “I don’t love south of the river this time of night.”

COME ON!

It’s love. I love you, loved you, you’re my best friend. Why would I let anyone in who doesn’t know to raise a glass to you, wouldn’t drink at least one respectful pint of John Smith’s in your name, and always understand that to deal with your inconsiderate deadness I often call you an idiot.

Not much change to you being alive at times, really.

I miss you, mate. I miss you so much.

 

Stef

 

Best Friend’s Note: Dave died on the 28th August 2014 following a massive brain haemorrhage. This is the post I wrote the following day and then the ones in the subsequent years

https://princessofvp.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/best-friend/

https://princessofvp.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/i-never-could-get-the-hang-of-thursdays-a-letter-to-my-best-friend/

https://princessofvp.wordpress.com/2016/08/28/1233/

Born To Run

“Baby, we born born to run” ~ Bruce Springsteen

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Run (vb): to move on foot at a rapid pace

 

Baby, I was not to born to run.

Sure, when I was a skinny teenager, all legs up to my armpits, I loved it and would run easily anywhere. But these days I am a 3 stone overweight, practically middle-aged woman. I have pulled muscles and lingering foot issues and running does not come easily to me. Yet, strangely I enjoy it and having not done it for so long I found myself regularly lacing up my trainers and getting out there. I knew it got serious when I downloaded the Runkeeper app.

There are 3 people I credit with me getting my running mojo back – @AlmostSenseless @Twohungrymen and @The_Lady_Sybil, two of whom I love dearly and the third I hope to share a gin with one day. As, when I was feeling in a rut and needing to do more, there each of them were on Twitter, on Instagram, going out, getting rained on, sweating, and showing that it can be done. And it was more than a little bit of “if they can do it so can I” I booted myself back out of the door.

There are great health benefits to it. I can already feel how my breathing is better, my movements are less laboured. Some days I run well, some days it just isn’t happening. On those days I walk more then play on the outdoor gym for a bit. Because I genuinely love exercise, I love the testing and pushing, feeling my body move and work.

But I don’t just run for the health, I run because I’m vain. Because I’m overweight and I hate it. Because I have this horrible voice inside me that says awful things about how I look. When I run I feel lumbering, blubbery; when I am home and I see my naked self in the mirror I don’t see my body as pleasing. I see my lines and curves making a mocking face (work it out, I ain’t posting you a picture), the sheer breadth of me makes me want to cry, especially my stomach sideways on. Though I will admit that the curve of my arse is actually uplifting. But I don’t like my body and it makes me sad that I feel that way. I have this horrible disconnect with my body as thing of beauty, of great strength and functionality. I should love all these things about myself, I should embrace them. But that voice has been doing this to me for years and is strangely hard to silence.

But I have found another voice when running; a voice that encourages me, that tells me how well I’m doing, that cheers me on to the next tree or bin or park bench. The first time I realised I was speaking to myself in a way that was positive and good I nearly fell over. I can only imagine this is what being on really good drugs must be like (just say no, kids). The idea that I could be nice to myself is the most revelatory thing that has come from running. And it may not have silenced that other voice but it has certainly given it some competition and that’s got to be a good thing.

I still can’t actually run as far as any of the people who inspired me to start running again. I haven’t ground out a 5k yet, never mind smashed one. But I’m still going and that’s what counts.

So no, maybe I wasn’t born to run, but I was definitely born to keep trying.

 

Princess

Touch

“Well I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body” ~ George Michael

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Touch (n): the act or state of touching; state or fact of being touched

 

Recently my mum was in hospital. She’s in her late 70s, has severe MS, and was suffering due to other illness. And there’s only so much you can do in that position, as a visitor, as a daughter, as there are only so many crossword clues or conversations you can have about the outcome of the General Election.

But on being tasked with removing her nail polish, I decided to focus on the physical. I cleansed and moisturised her face as best I knew how, using massage techniques gleaned from Caroline Hirons YouTube videos, I brushed and detangled her hair, and I spent time rubbing in hand cream, each finger, each fingernail, along her forearms. Anything that could help form a different connection, anything that might detract from the grim awfulness of being ill and debilitated in a hospital ward.

Because touch is such a very special thing. The physical closeness of one body next to another. I live on my own and I cherish the hugs I get from my friends, as the warmth of another person in your presence is so hard to go without.

And so, with all these thoughts of caring for my mother, of physical closeness, of human compassion, swirling in my head, I went to my first yoga class in about 15 years.

It was a tiny class, just the 4 of us including the instructor. It felt a safe space, a warm and caring space. And as I tried to work through my Downward Dogs and my Warrior poses there was a moment when the instructor, in her soft and direct voice, asked if she could touch me. I have been touched plenty of times in my life where my consent was not considered relevant and this gentle respectful approach moved me. And of course I said yes, I was in her yoga class after all.

What followed was the softest yet insistent touch that moved my body into a much better position, aligning my head, my spine, my hips, my feet. Unlike a privileged man passing me on the pavement, this touch demanded nothing of my body. Rather, it was supporting me, supporting my body, helping me move and be the best me I could be. I don’t think I have been touched liked that since perhaps when I was learning to walk or learning to swim.

Plato said that at the touch of a love everyone becomes a poet. I think at the touch of a yoga teacher I have realised I am more loved, more supported, than ever I knew.

Such a simple thing, to touch another person, yet I doubt many of us ever realise the impact we have on one another.

If you want to talk I’m curious about what touch moves you? Contactable, as always, on a comment box-shaped postcard.

 

Princess

Who’s Sorry Now

Who’s sorry now? ~ Connie Francis

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Sorry (adj): feeling or expressing regret, compunction, sympathy, for an action

 

When I was was 13 my brother had a terrible cycling accident and was taken to hospital. I remember the police arriving at home, I remember going to the hospital with my mum, and afterwards I remember her saying the first thing he said to her when she want in to see him was “Sorry, mum”

Fast forward. I’m 41  I’m going to the same hospital to see my mum and the first thing she says to me when I get to her bed and she knows I am there is “I’m sorry”

My brother had been sorry for damaging his bike, for upsetting mum, for causing worry. Now my mum is concerned about causing upset, fearing worry, taking up our time.

Yet, as I sit there, sometimes with friends or with siblings, sometimes alone, mum talks. She talks about her funeral, she talks about what hymns she might like and what she wants us to do, and she talks her own mother and when she died. And she says the most extraordinary thing, “It’s life, we just don’t have time, we’re all so busy…. I came home, I cooked you all tea. And I got a call from the care home to say that she’d died”

My mum was apologising to me, to all of us, for taking up our time, causing worry, yet also thinking to a time when she was sorry, when she gave all the time she could, to her elderly mother but also to her family.

No, mum, I’m sorry. We’re sorry. You no more chose to have an incurable degenerative disease than my brother chose to have a bicycle accident, or grandmother chose to get old.

I’m lucky, I know. My mum be in an awful place with her MS and that is never getting better. It’s not news. She was diagnosed 32 years and it’s been a slow insidious creep that has ended up here. But she is still here. I’m poignantly heartbeakingly aware of those who don’t have that, those whose parents have died, those whose children have died, friends gone too soon. And the awful inevitability of time.

So I’m sorry. For all those times I wasn’t around, for when I didn’t think, for when I could’ve been better. Yet at the same time I’m not sorry because like mum said it’s life. There is never enough time. All we can do is choose how we spend it and who we spend it with.

 

Princess