Tenderness

“Try a little tenderness” ~ Otis Redding

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Tenderness (n): gentleness and kindness; kindliness

 

I came home from a couple of nights away to find a box of Bloom & Wild flowers waiting in my hall. If you don’t know Bloom & Wild then let me explain that they send their blooms in a box in nets, it’s a manner designed to keep them fresh. They had been sent to me by, let’s call them a society, who knew about the time I had been having and wanted to send me a hug.

I didn’t even wait to take my coat off before I carefully unwrapped each bloom, trimmed their stems, and arranged them in water so they could perk up after their time in my hallway. Such a beautiful and caring gesture, they are brightening my mood every time I look at them.

Like the flowers needing to be freed from their nets and put in the water, we all need the right environment in order to thrive. And that is why I took myself away to Budapest. If my trip had not have been booked and paid for I would’ve travelled back to Derbyshire to spend time with Mum in hospital. But I was assured by my siblings that things were in hand and to go and take the break while I could.

So I walked and I drank and I took plenty of photos. I switched off from checking social media and I allowed myself to have time that wasn’t posting hospital updates, that wasn’t about the negatives. I gave myself that time to remember that even in hard times it is still ok to laugh, it is allowed and indeed necessary to enjoy the good things in life. And as I eventually ended up in an outdoor rooftop spa in almost freezing temperatures, I felt something in me unfurl, just like the flowers I was later sent, I, too, had needed a change in my environment.

As I have been writing this, I have been told that my family are breaking Mum out  the hospital again. She is being signed out, we aren’t indulging in Mother-rustling, but it is just so much easier for us to take her home than to rely on the hospital transport system.

Mum has been in a hospital a lot this year. There have been strong medical changes in how her MS is being managed and they have been hard on her and all of us. But her time there recently has also been eased by some of her regular carers coming in; showering her, sitting with her, spending time doing the crossword and the newspaper quizzes. The little elements of care that make it easier on Mum and by extension the family, the care that nurses understandably cannot provide, but that make her time there so much more bearable.

Hopefully these latest adjustments, this latest change to her environment, will mean she can be home for longer, that she spends Christmas with her family, that she has time to enjoy, in as much as can be, life as the new normal.

It’s her birthday soon. Presents will be focused on things with a pleasing scent, something soft to touch, audiobooks she will enjoy hearing. It’s the smallest of care but it’s what we can do. That, and time. Time spent with Mum, enjoying every moment there is.

And so I turn to you, dear reader, to return to theme of this blog; tenderness. Life in so many ways, for so many people, is hard right now. Maybe you are one of those people. And so I urge you to treat yourself with the tenderness you would show to a dear friend, to an adored lover. What ever gestures of kindness you can show yourself please do it. You are too important to neglect.

And if perhaps you are doing ok, perhaps you could call a friend, send a message, write a letter. We all need our friends, our loves, our support networks; sometimes to lean on and sometimes be leant on.

Either way, the world needs more tenderness right now. I believe Nayirah Waheed says it best with these lines:

 

With love,

Princess

 

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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

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/

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

Love, actively

“It must be love, love, love” ~ Madness

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Love (vb): To have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for

 

Consider love as a verb not a noun. It’s a doing word. An action. That means our love is expressed not simply in words but what words we use, how we use them, and, most importantly, how we act.

If you claim to love someone madly yet you never ask how they are, never throw them a tender smile or proffer a gentle hug; can that then truly be said to be love?

And, conversely, even if you would never dream to say “I love you” to someone yet you send them messages of encouragement, take photos to make them smile, pause in your busy schedule to check in with them; is that love?

It can be all too easy to say we care, to say someone matters, but unthinkingly neglect them. To get caught up in our lives, our own cares, and not pause to say “how are you?” to someone and really listen to their answer. Listening, letting someone speak the truths of their heart, that is a form of love. Making time in your life for someone else and their life might only take a few minutes of your time but for that person it could make their day. 

So love actively. Choose words that express how you care and make your actions fit those words. There can never been enough love in this world; it’s what makes it go round, after all.

 

Princess