Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Endings. And beginnings.

I'm writing this at 5am on the last day of the most difficult year of my life so far. I wanted to go away somewhere quiet, somewhere peaceful. A place with no distractions, where I could look back at everything that's happened. Try and package it all up somehow, the good and bad, and try and find a touchstone - some sort of marker for where I've been, where I'm at and where I'm hoping to end up.

In March, when the life I knew, and loved, came to an abrupt end, I fell apart. Piece by agonizing piece. I groped through the darkness, searching for answers, trying to fight off the panic, trying to breathe through the next five seconds, five minutes. My sense of self completely obliterated, my place in the world just...gone. A black hole. I slammed face first into a wall of grief, and terror. I floundered. My friends and family were there for me, as much as they could be. But the truth is, I was alone. I had to figure out a way forward, one slow stumbling step at a time. I felt like I was looking at the world through a pane of glass - part of it, but completely removed from it.

I thought - mistakenly - that grief was like running a marathon. I'd lace up my shoes, and put one foot in front of the other, and eventually I'd make it to the finish line. Break through the ribbon, and come out stronger, braver, kinder on the other side. Of course, it's nothing like that. It's an ebb and flow, a single grey thread of sorrow woven through the tapestry of my days. An undercurrent, always there. It's been almost 10 months, and I still cry all the time. For the life I've lost, and the dreams I took for granted. For how the very foundation of everything I believed in, every thing I thought to be true and real and safe, was snatched away in an instant. The regrets that follow me, always pulling at me from the shadows. Could I have done something different? If I'd been better, kinder, smarter, more compassionate, could I have saved this life I loved? For Immy, and the dreams I had for her that won't come true. For the memories that surface at the most unexpected times, because sixteen years and a life built with someone doesn't magically vanish when the end comes.

But time brings perspective, and life limps on. I've learned to notice the small things that can bring disproportionate happiness. The light and open spaces in our new home. The way colour finds its way into my soul every single time I hear Immy laugh. Exploring new places with her. That first perfect cup of coffee when I get to work in the morning. The list is endless, really.

I've learned so many things about myself too. Good things, and bad. Each one a small step towards becoming the person I'd like to be at the end of all of this. Most importantly, time has given me the courage to see the role I played in how things turned out. To take responsibility for my part in all of this, as hard as it is to face.

And finally, to hold onto the simple truths that get me through each day. Just do the next small thing. Breathe. This will be ok, I will be ok, Immy will be ok. Pain can't actually swallow me whole. Hold it, feel it, let it go.

I am glad this year is drawing to a close.One foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Of the many many things I've learned this year, this one has, oddly, brought me the most peace: we don't get to choose our tomorrows. Just live through them as best we can, and hold on to the hope that they will be better than our todays.

Happy New Year.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas

It's hard to believe that this is the third Christmas on the blog, since Rob gave me my camera and essentially changed the way I see the world. It would be untrue to say that this Christmas wasn't hard. It was. Our first Christmas as a separated family, with all the heartbreak and regret that comes along with that. But I really wanted to get through this, for my sake and Immy's, with grace, and love, and gratitude. I AM grateful. Grateful that she has a dad who adores her, who came over late on Christmas Eve to lay down snowy Father Christmas footprints, who spent the night here so that he could be here when she woke up to her filled stocking and presents on Christmas morning. We exchanged gifts (a lump in my throat at Rob's incredible generosity of spirit) and laughed at how her favourite thing this year was the 'snow' off Santa's boots (gifts forgotten) and it all meant that I could almost forget the shadows at the edges of our celebrations.

It's tradition, from when I was a kid, to have a beautiful meal on Christmas Eve. My brother flew in from Cape Town, and we celebrated as we always do. A pretty table, a wonderful meal (prepared by my mom lest anyone mistakenly think I actually cooked), Christmas music and a mountain of gifts under a twinkling tree. We read 'The night before Christmas' by the light of the Christmas tree, after Immy insisted that all the lights be turned off. And then I hung her stocking, and tucked her in, and took a moment to be thankful for family, for love, for a child's unbridled excitement the night before Christmas. 




Jeremy, the Christmas tortoise.



Every year, she gets her own ornament for the tree. This year, ahem, it was this one.


And every year, I order the Swarovski annual snowflake ornament from Amazon. I always order it at the last minute and I'm always amazed when it gets here on time. I don't collect things, and I'm not very sentimental, but I love these. They are beautiful, and simple, and timeless.I think the 2014 one is my favourite so far.
















On Christmas morning, we opened our gifts, drank cappuccinos, ate mince pies and shortbread. Our day was spent in that comfortable, lazy way that family brings. Immy and I got to spend some long overdue quality time with her uncles, laughing and swimming and playing with her new toys. And for the rest of the day, I could truly put aside the sadness, and enjoy each moment for the gift of joy it held.







I've already taken the tree down. Wrapped up the ornaments, and carefully put each bauble back in it's box. Sorted out the endless tangles of lights, and taken all the Christmas books down off the shelf, to be taken out next year again. And as I placed each thing carefully in our huge box labelled Xmas, I couldn't help wondering where I would be this time next year. Thinking about how much can change in one single, short year. How we leapfrog from event to event - birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas - those celebrations that roll around once a year, but in between the milestones our days and hours and minutes are crammed full of life, love, loss, adventure, tears, laughter. How the scales can tip in an instant, for better or for worse.

As I closed up the box, and sealed it, a line from a movie drifted quietly into my mind, in the way that all perfectly timed thoughts do.

We must face tomorrow, and whatever it may hold, with determination, joy and bravery.

I'm off tomorrow for two whole days by myself. A retreat to reflect on the year gone by, the year that lies ahead, reading and writing and contemplating the stars. An in-room spa treatment can't hurt either, so I may have booked one of those.

Merry Christmas. See you in 2015.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Five

On Monday Immy turned five. I'm not sure what it was about this birthday that hit me so hard. Five already? Sweet memories and pictures of her day, edged with the sadness that comes with knowing that five short years ago this beautiful girl came into the world, and her dad and I had stars in our eyes. And now we're carrying on as best we can, and it's hard. But we keep showing up, and smiling, and trying to show our girl that no matter what she is beautiful and loved and we are the luckiest parents on earth to have her.

She spent her day playing, and swimming, and napping with her daddy in preparation for her party. We decided to keep it small - family, and one or two friends. She wore her Elsa dress, and she looked like a princess. Of course the theme was Frozen, because honestly - what else would it be?







Pimms punch, and pinwheel straws.



This photo of her and her grandpa. My heart.



The cutest Happy Birthday candles. Which I've been saving all year for this, and then forgot to actually light.







Joss and Rourke, the boys next door. Her favourite people currently in this world.



A special guest appearance by Jeremy.



Her gentle smile.





And her crazy smile.



Candles, and snowflakes, and a sparkly 5. Of course I didn't bake this cake.





Since she loves to sing and perform, we bought her a microphone as one of her birthday gifts. We were rewarded with a show on the morning following her birthday, complete with hippie hairband, rolled up skinny jeans and bare feet.







Sometimes, being a single parent means that the routine things just get so darn tedious and I find myself rushing through them just to get them done. Supper, bathing, brushing teeth, bedtime stories. But tonight, I let her play in the bath longer. I listened to her non-stop chatter, and instead of hurrying her along, I let it be. I soaked it in, and my mind clicked over into a single thought: one of these days, sooner than I know it, she'll be all grown up. No more Polly Pocket, no more endless chattering, no more 5-year old jokes (two bananas went to the doctor because they weren't peeling well), no more loud made-up songs, no more endless rounds of shopping trolley kisses, no more tickle tickle and no more begging for just one more story before bed. I lay next to her, her hand curled in mine and I felt so grateful for the time I've had with her, and the time still to come. For her warmth, her affection, her easy laugh and the light she brings into my darkest days.

When she turned two, I bought her this book. We read it every year on her birthday. She is fairly unimpressed with it, truth be told. But I love it, and as long as I can, I will read this to her in the hopes that she will understand someday the way she changed the face of the world for so many people.

Heaven blew every trumpet
And played every horn
On the wonderful, marvellous
Night you were born.

Happy birthday, my darling Immy. You are so very loved.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Summer daze...

I love this time of year. The milestones that get ticked off one by one as Christmas gets closer. Finding the perfect gift, and much more importantly, the perfect gift wrap. Last day of school, and the traffic all of a sudden disappearing. Space to breathe, and slow down. Online shopping! And planning my Christmas table: table lace, candles, table name popups, Santa hats for wine glasses. The list goes on.

But I digress. Because really this post is not about Christmas at all, but rather a window into a day Immy and I spent a while back with lifelong friends. It was the first time in ages that I'd actually picked up my camera, and I had such fun taking photos of all things farmy and summery. At the end of a photo-friendly day, I always feel like I've had a huge dose of retail therapy, just without the broken bank balance. It's a win-win.





























I love spending time here. The way the setting sun hits the trees. The self-sustainability of the farm: we picked our salad ingredients from the garden, and ate apricots from the tree by the pool. I never leave here empty-handed: a jar of honey harvested from the hives, a dozen eggs of various shapes and sizes, collected from the hen house. For Immy, it's an endless adventure supplemented with giggly conversations. And for me? Well, theirs is a friendship that spans decades and there are few places in this world where I feel as welcome, peaceful, loved, accepted, embraced. These people are mine and I love them.

Oh! And look who we found.



All is right with the world once more.

~ m

Sunday, 7 December 2014

37 seconds

It's that time of year. End-of-year school concerts, ballet recitals, class parties, Santa visits, report cards, gifts for teachers, Christmas and birthday shopping. Today I climbed off the treadmill for a bit and took a time out. I slept late, read, baked chocolate cupcakes, edited some photos and watched TV for the first time in forever.

Oh. And of course, I blogged.

Some pictures of recently enjoyed things.

She graduated. And so ends her pre-school chapter, as we stand on the brink of the next adventure. I have no idea where the time went.



Best friends, reunited. The sheer delight on their faces.



Her ballet recital. She yawned through the whole thing. We're thinking that prima ballerina is not at the top of the list of things I'd like to be when I grow up.







Meet Jeremy. He is an angel, and we are smitten. We fight over who gets to hold him, and we were all full of kisses for him until my dad reminded me that if he gets hold of a lip he won't let go and we'll have to cut his head off to dislodge him.  So many unpleasant things to contemplate in that one sentence, so we've stopped with the kissing.

Post edit: Jeremy seems to have misplaced himself somewhere in the garden. Since he's only about 3cm from end to end, trying to find him is proving impossible. But we haven't given up hope.









New piles. Holiday reads for me, and a new book to add to her Christmas book collection.





And, of course, things are getting Christmassy around here.





















Lastly:  my favourite quote of this week, this year, and potentially of all time.

Mr. Edward Magorium: 37 seconds.

Molly Mahoney: Great. Well done. Now we wait.

Mr Edward Magorium: No. We breathe. We pulse. We regenerate. Our hearts beat. Our minds create. Our souls ingest.  

37 seconds, well used, is a lifetime.

Celebrating twinkly trees, and gorgeous books and all things Christmas. Have a merry week.

~ m