Not allowing myself to wallow

This blog is very different to my usual tone. I wanted to write about something that affects many of us.
In advance I want to apologise if what I write may cause offence to members of my family. It certainly isn’t intended but part of this blog will touch on personal issues.

Recently I’ve been unwell, a slight stroke highlighted some other problems, which hopefully are now being addressed. However the exhaustion & threat of losing my personal care has causes quite a bit of worry and stress.
Generally I’m still upbeat and positive but my mood is definitely slipping.

I live alone and because of previous life problems, including a 17 year bout of agoraphobia, the plight of those facing loneliness is always on my mind. I am doing all that I can to highlight the problem. I write a column in the local paper trying to address this serious issue. The difficulty that I have is that I literally feel their pain. When I see or hear someone who is alone or feel unloved, it actually hurts me. If I could, I’d wrap my arms around every lonely person, even the difficult and unlikeable and welcome them into my home. No one should have nobody.

I guess because of the time of year, the whole family thing is going round and round in my head, everyone is chattering about how many visitors they will be having and so on. Unlike many, I am fortunate, I do have family, however we are no longer very close and I have in fact lost contact with two of my sons and their children. I find this really hard. Because of the family situation, I spend most Christmases totally alone. I receive very few presents & only one or two cards from my family. I try to act as if I don’t mind, but really I do! It’s not the being on my own for Christmas Day that’s the problem, after all, it’s just another day. I don’t mind my own company. I have a good social life with lots of friends and lead a very full life. But Christmas highlights the separation between us. I don’t complain, you can’t force someone to like/ love you, even your own flesh and blood.

Everywhere you hear of families driving miles to be with or fetch their distant families, people will be getting together, maybe having a great time, maybe not, but at least they are together. I will be alone, like many, many other elderly people. Through my voluntary work in a charity shop I have spoken to many people in a similar boat. Several tell me that they have family that rarely contact them. I wonder why it happens?

Years ago it was accepted that families stuck together. Now through people relocating all over the country, even world, families are not as close knit as the were. Divorce/ remarriages have added to the problem. It is such a dreadful pity. Youngsters no longer have the security of the family elders ( often grumpy or difficult) but usually a source of love and comfort as well as knowledge. It taught older generations how to tolerate and accept the ‘batty’ great aunt or uncle with peculiar habits. Children were taught how to handle these situations, how to accept the differences between the generations. We played family games, knowing that certain elders would insist on winning, equally we learnt who could be relied on and who would help us cheat ( playfully) at times. A bit like Christmas Cracker jokes, memories of past Christmases can often be remembered with a groan, but we understood our place in the family, our role.

How will young children learn to accept and help older relatives if they are kept away from them? One day, they too will be the elders.

Of course there are a huge majority of families who take their responsibilities seriously and include the older family members, whether they are very fond of them, or not. In some families the elders are very much loved, important figures who are totally involved with everything. The children from these families will undoubtedly be more rounded in their attitudes to others.

Since the split up of families has become so widespread, many children will grow up without knowing their grandparents or Great aunts and uncles, maybe even their cousins. This is such a shame. It is a relationship that cannot be found again. Although there are many extremely successful step families, in most cases, somewhere in the background are the now unwanted relatives.

I’ve been as guilty as many others, having been short sighted about my children keeping in contact with blood relatives, when divorce caused separations. I believed, ( wrongly) that consistency, being only with my side of the family was less painful and less harmful for my children. I know realise how badly I got it wrong. Inadvertently I was teaching them that relatives could be dispensed with, or forgotten about. That was such a bad lesson to show them. It’s understandable that I have now become dispensable.

With my generation, we were taught to accept our responsibilities and would travel regularly to make visits, topping up with at least weekly calls. It wasn’t always convenient or easy, at times the cheerful, chatty banter had to be forced, especially as the years went by. Now that all of my elders are gone, my brother and myself are the new elders. He is fortunate that his family is extremely close knit, I’m sure that the family dynamic doesn’t always run smoothly but they get over difficulties and remain very close. I am blessed to be quite close to this side of the family and love seeing how the younger members are growing. My own relationship with my parents wasn’t always easy, in fact at times it was dreadfully strained but now I can look back over those times spent together and feel so grateful that I have those memories, good and bad.

In years to come, there is a real risk of family unity bepreaking down totally. What stories will the children hear from their rambling grandfather or funny memories of their fussy grandmother? Children are richer for having grandparents. The relationship is very different from the one with their parents.

Times have changed, I understand that, the clock can’t be turned back but I really believe that the younger generation will be losing out.
In many countries the elders are revered, known as a source of wisdom which undoubtedly can only be attained by age and has nothing to do with educational knowledge. Here we are frequently treated with indifference.

Most of us have past memories of times spent with our elders, doing things that our parents didn’t have the time or money to do with us. I am so glad that I have mine. I pity the children that won’t have that because their parents are too tied up with their own lives to include the nuisance older relatives.

I will spend this weekend alone, if I’m lucky I’ll get a few fleeting phone calls. I’ll sound happy enough and I won’t complain. I can’t alter their mindset, but deep down there will be a heartfelt sadness, not just for what I’m missing, more for what memories are being lost from the younger generations. Not just in my own family but in those homes up and down the country who have decided not to bother about the irritating oldies.

I will not allow myself to wallow in sadness, I will keep myself busy with one of my many interests, but not everyone will feel the same. I wonder how many tears will be shed? How many pensioners will be dreading the coming few days?
How many will only have a carers company for an hour or so?

Remember, one day, you too will be that oldie and without having anything to follow,there is every chance that you too will be left alone.
As I said at the beginning – No one should have nobody. None of us are islands.
We all need company, some more than others.

I hope that this gives food for thought. Make that unexpected phone call or trip, it may be an inconvenience but think of the joy that you could be bringing.

I wish you all love and happiness and hope that the coming year will b good to you.

Rosie x

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Christmas illusion.

As someone who spends Christmas alone, I am saddened by the amount of people who tell me how much they dread the enforced jollity.

There are a couple of points here.
First of all, although I agree that family get together are rarely ideal, at least they are fortunate enough to be invited. However if it really is such a trial, why don’t they decline the invitation? Getting along with your fellow man can be tricky at any time of the year but when expectations are running so high, it’s so easy for arguments to flare up.

The other side is how false it all is. This whole Christmas thing has become a huge obstacle to sanity!

People inviting people that they don’t like or want to be with, others accepting invites that they don’t want to go to.

Giving gifts is the same – surely presents should be given for the right reasons, not because ‘it’ll do!’

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get this right?

Many people dread the idea of being alone at Christmas, others are horrified with the thought of their family sitting alone, so people are shipped across the miles so that they can sit there, uncomfortable, like a spare part.

In an ideal world families would be closer, always caring about their elderly or single members but this isn’t an ideal world.

Being alone at Christmas isn’t really any different from any other day – it’s our expectations that make it so.

I find it so false when Granny or Grandad or Great Aunt are invited & then treated as an incombance. What we need is more honesty and a more caring society.

Are people so short sighted to believe that most elderly people want to sit in a room full of screaming, overly excited children, fed totally unsuitable food, then are delivered back home once the family need to get down to some serious drinking. Why are there not more centres where older people can actually enjoy themselves at Christmas? Company needs to be good and interesting, for it to be enjoyable. Not for pensioners to be marginalised or patronised, but to actually offer the form of entertainment that they would actually enjoy.
No one should be forced to be alone at this time of year, but neither should they be coerced to go where they feel uncomfortable.

There will be a lot of people who disagree with this post but I feel it needs to be said. When our Children are young, Christmas is a wonderful, magical time, even when money is tight, the wonder on their faces as they spy the wrapped gifts and all of the glitter and glitz is what it’s all about. A good Christmas with family games, laughter and few treats is what we all aspire to, yet in reality it’s rarely like that. Alcohol, stress, arguments get in the way. Too much emphasis is put onto the achievement of the ‘perfect ‘ day.

So what would be perfect? Surely it all depends on the person involved?
Different ages will usually see things differently. Nowadays it’s all about money, buying the biggest, most expensive gifts. Is that really right?
What about Granny or Grandad? Do they just get chocolates or toiletries or some other thoughtless gift? I bet for many this is true.

Can’t we have a rethink? Putting the Christian aspect to one side, the social & economic drudgery that can be caused is a travesty.
I would willingly help out at a lively, cheerful alternative get together.yet there are so few available. I have previously volunteered at a homeless shelter on the big day ( & a great day it was) but why aren’t there more options? Eating out at Christmas as a single person is virtually impossible. I don’t want to be an imposition on my family but I would actually like to have fun too. Holidays at this time of year are beyond the reach of many pensioners so what choices do we have?
I’ve done the tearful holiday period, now thankfully I’ve come to accept how things are. I’m used to living alone and actually enjoy it, but not everyone feels like me. I’m fortunate enough to have a great social circle so although I won’t have company on the day, I have plenty of events both before and after.

There will be many who are loved and cherished who will be warmly welcomed by their loved ones, they are very fortunate.
With everything shut, too many pensioners will be totally alone, totally uncared about. This is so wrong.
Everyone who believes in the season of goodwill, wherever you may be, bear a thought for others less fortunate and maybe think of something positive that you can instigate for future years. It isn’t charity or pity that most pensioners want, it’s just a bit of genuine consideration.

Let’s put the ‘Happy’ back into happy Christmas.

I wish you all a lovely time.

Rosie x

Day of awareness

My post today is very different. I had a choice of subjects that I wanted to write about, however the following subject grabbed me by the throat & refused to be silenced, so here goes ……….

For the umpteenth time recently, I’m sitting in a pub just a few doors away from my home, simply because I have absolutely no energy to cook myself a meal, so am eating here. I had my day mapped out. I intended to do some housework,a little weeding in the communal garden, clean my goldfish tank & catch up with paperwork, as well as making myself a healthy meal. Things went awry after a friend called & suggested that we go out for a walk as it was such a glorious day. Although I’ve been struggling to stay on my feet as they are dreadfully painful, I decided to ignore the pain & take in the sights & smells of the Jewel in Wells’ crown – the Bishops Palace gardens. It is a fabulous place. I was fortunate enough to be given a membership for my birthday, so am able to visit freely, but typically I don’t go often enough. Today however, I forced myself & am so glad that I did. As my friend is elderly, he was happy to walk slowly, so we strolled around in the sunshine, sitting when needed, enjoyed a cup of tea overlooking the croquet lawn & had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Walking back towards home was less fun, as I was beginning to doubt if I could make it home & of course then I would need to make myself a meal. With the pub in sight, I decided to rest awhile & eat in the hostelry.

As today is part of the bank holiday weekend, as well as such a glorious day, the place was heaving!
I pop in sometimes for a cup of tea, especially if I need a breather before I get home. Usually, because I avoid evenings, it tends to be fairly quiet, but today the noise was at a very high volume. The doors into the garden/ smoking area were open, so there was a cool breeze, which was lovely. I sat by the open door, enjoying the fresh air ( well, tobacco enhanced, but air never the less.)

After ordering my meal, I returned to my table, clutching a diet cola, which is an occasional treat & did as I usually do – I took out my notebook & began to write. Although I have plenty of subjects on he go, I like to use cafes / pubs as a space for observational writing. Noticing the people around me, their behaviour, language, snippets of conversation etc is very interesting & gives me a lot of subject matter, as well as food for thought. Today was no exception.
I find that when I am writing, I’m in a near sound- proofed bubble, although I am aware of the volume, it hardly disturbs me at all.
What does affect me, although not as much as in time gone by, is the smell of alcohol. Drunken people cause me worry, but I think that’s because of my past. I am very conscious of them & give them a wide berth. It’s ironic really, as years ago, I too used to frequently drink far too much & at times could be as drunk as those that I now avoid! This made me think about my own behaviour at that time – did people avoid me too? I dare say that they did, as I have no reason to believe that I was any less obnoxious!
The smell of alcohol, especially beer has the ability to transport me back to those very bleak days, or should I say years? Like so many other people, I didn’t realise what a life destroyer & family breaker it was. Of course I knew the down side, but didn’t really understand until I lived with an alcoholic. No, I’m not a party pooper, most things in moderation are alright, but why have we allowed our society to become so dependant on drinking? A social drink can be undoubtedly pleasurable, but how many people know when they have crossed the line? I was sure that I knew, yet I drank far, far more than was healthy, even worse, I allowed it to destroy much more than my health! Being married to an alcoholic made it easy to excuse my own failings. Between us we allowed our family & finances to suffer. Having one or two drinks inside can make us loosen up & be fun, more than that……?
From a personal point of view, seeing someone that I dearly loved being transformed from a witty, clever man, into a bumbling violent wreck was heartbreaking. His life was being eaten away, simply because he was unable to resist drinking. He was not able to draw a line at which to stop, oblivion was his stopping point! He admitted that he no longer enjoyed the flavour, but would do literally anything to feed his habit. Thankfully My drinking wasn’t an addiction, so when I made the decision to stop, it was incredibly easy for me, but I was very, very fortunate! But for many people, how would they know if they were addicted, unless they tried to stop? Ask most drinkers & they will say that they could easily stop if they wanted to, yet they won’t try.

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With this train of thought, I began to notice the behaviour of some of the people sitting nearby. I’m sure that they would hate to read my observations of them – I would have!
Sitting next to me, by the open door into the garden area, there was a group of young women, (maybe in their 20s). They had obviously been enjoying their day & had presumably been drinking for several hours. They were excruciatingly loud & embarrasing – tomorrow they will probably have major hangovers. I can’t tell you how clearly I remember those!!! Their pounding heads & upset stomachs will likely affect their bank holiday plans, so why do they do it? Why did I?
One girl in particular, a very neatly dressed blonde with a beautiful figure was especially mouthy, shouting, swearing & being obstructive when it was time to catch their bus. Screeching, with elegant long legs going everywhere except in a straight line, she was last heard threatening to be sick on the pavement! Classy! Her friends were laughing at her, just as I’m sure mine did to me! One ‘friend’ was even capturing the image on her phone, no doubt sharing it on social media for the world to see. Thank goodness that wasn’t available during my drinking days! I wonder if she has considered the side effect of alcohol on her wonderful complexion & slim figure? I certainly didn’t!

At the table in front of me there was a couple, possibly in their 30s. Already there when I arrived, they seemed to be having a pleasant meal. Over a very short time, aided by several glasses of wine, the woman got progressively louder & louder. Without trying, I overheard many personal things that I’m sure she wouldn’t have wanted to share! I learnt where they met, how long they had been together & how much she hates his sister. I even know what her favourite sexual activity is – believe me, I really didn’t want to overhear that! As he went to the bar to top up their drinks, she began the ‘I love you’ phase. I’m sure that most people know how it goes : ‘I really, really love you, do you love me?’ ‘I love you too’ he responds, ‘but I really, really love you, much more than you love me – do you love me?’ “Yes, you know that I do” came the reply. Tearfully now,”Do you love me? Promise? Tell me you love me?” He grumpily responds & walks to the bar. She begins to sob uncontrollably. He returns & their drinks are wasted as he escorts her out of the pub. Their day probably now spoilt too. I remember that conversation myself. I wonder why alcohol brings out our insecurities?

To one side of me was an older couple, grimacing at the chaos a party of young men near to them was causing. They were having a great time, with no consideration of the upset they were causing. Eventually the older couple left, their part eaten meal, a sign that their day was spoilt through no fault of their own.

As I was gathering my belongings, ready to leave, another couple came & sat nearby. She was hanging around his neck, calling him ‘ babe’ every few seconds, alternating with criticising & swearing at him for how he was treating her. His response was to let out a very unbecoming belch! She didn’t seem to notice & was draping herself all over him. A couple of men, presumably his mates began to jeer & egg him on to ‘go for it!’ I was glad to leave! This may be normal behaviour late on a Friday or Saturday night, but this was at 6pm on a Sunday! At a time when there were several families around, it didn’t seem right!

Although now in my 60s I’m not at all straight laced & enjoy a joke & laugh as much as anyone, but I did find the pub visit an eye opener. Not just because of the behaviour of those so obviously inebriated, the main realisation was that although I can say that I was never that bad, I’ve no real way of being sure. Drink numbs us & helps us to have selective memory. I lost my family through alcohol ( not primarily mine, but it played it’s part!) thankfully, now single & teetotal, I am beginning to rebuild bridges with them. I would never try to prevent anyone from drinking, if that is their choice, but I wonder if things would be different if we were able to see ourselves as others see us. Probably not! Youngsters have an excuse, they are just learning, experimenting. It doesn’t make their actions right, or any less annoying but it is understandable. As we get older, it’s very tempting to gloss over our pasts, or burying them in the hope that they will never be unearthed.
Facing our demons, whatever they may be is a very difficult thing to undertake, but a very worthwhile one. Hindsight would be helpful, but not available, all any of us can do is our best with the tools we have. If we use them to try recollection, we can admit, even if only to ourselves, that we made stupid decisions, probably acted atrociously at times, embarrassingly at others. Most of the time they weren’t actually choices as such, we just didn’t think about the consequences of what we were doing.
Tonight, in the pub, seeing reflections of my past was horrible, yet illuminating. I have come through those days & although I can’t rewrite them, I can learn from them & forgive myself. I can move on.
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All of that said, I hope that you all have a lovely weekend. Enjoy the good weather, drink enough water & whatever you do,be kind to yourself, as well as to those you love.

Thanks for reading this, although not my usual style, it feels good to get it out of my system.
I hope that you will ‘follow’ or subscribe to my blog. I love sharing my thoughts with you all.

Love & light

Rosie x