Riders on the storm

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Feasgar math. ‘S mise Queen Leda. Tha mi stoirmeil. Translation: good evening, I am Queen Leda. I am stormy. That’s the rough parameters of my new found knowledge of Gaelic, which is pronounced gahhh lick – the gay lick is the Irish version. You may also be interested to know that the word smashing comes from the Gaelic ‘s math sin for super dooper. Or not.

What’s with all the Gaelic chat, you might wonder? There have been free lunchtime classes all week at work for Adult Learners Week, with all sorts of things available from creative writing, to Spanish, to cartoon drawing and yoga. And an introduction to Gaelic, which I went to on a whim and found quite entrancing.

To be honest, I’ve always wondered why people bothered to learn Gaelic down here in the lowlands, where nobody speaks it. After one wee taster session, I can see why. There’s something romantic about it, despite all the disturbing phlegm sounds. And of course it’s always handy to have a language that very few people can speak. For example, if there was a terror attack, we could plan a counter attack right under the noses of ISIS who would think we were just coughing.

The class sparked an interest in learning to speak it, if only to order a beer and a whisky in a pub on a Scottish island somewhere, someday, after a long hill walk. The bar staff will probably be Polish and have no idea what I’m saying, but it’s a pleasing notion all the same. For me, learning something new is also a tactic for engaging my brain in a way that helps me cope with feeling down.

For yes, that is quite simply the case. The truth is that I am not, in general, feeling in a happy place at this time. After weeks blaming my hormones, I have come to realise I have a low level sadness going on, that feels like a mild depression. Before I go on, this is not a please-feel-sorry-for-me, woe-is-me sympathy piece. More a reflection on what’s going on and something that might be helpful to others who feel the same way for whatever reason, as the daylight gets brief and we can feel chilled to the bone.

The end of every serious relationship is like a death. We have to grieve them and go through all the various stages of that in order to heal. At the same time, life goes on: we have to go to work, love and look after our children, see friends and family, go to the gym et cetera et cetera. In work terms, it’s not recognised at all really, unless you go to the doc and get yourself signed off with stress or depression. Something that many are reluctant to do.

The death of a marriage is not included in bereavement leave, but maybe it should be. It’s a hard thing to quantify when it should be taken, but the person suffering will know. Because maybe initially things need to go on, particularly where children are concerned. They need to feel loved and safe and secure most of all, so you can’t let every emotion escape with them; you must be careful.

Life goes on. And I am lucky, so lucky, that I am not fighting a war with my husband as some are. Or when they don’t have them nearby to share the load and joy of parenting. We have found ourselves learning and able to co-parent. Our son seems happy and non-disturbed, we are being flexible and kind to one another. It is the best it can be in the circumstances and in no way horrible. Except that it is, in the same way that all deaths are.

While learning the new normal, you have to push certain feelings aside for a while to function, like you do after a death. You need to do practical things, sometimes with lawyers and money. You need to figure out your new world. You need to keep looking after and loving your child. Or your pet, or whoever, or whatever it is you need to nurture.

In those early stages, the pain of the loss surfaces from time to time, but you push it down, in order to be able to cope with all the things you need to do, the new places you need to navigate. Coping strategies in this phase also include first of all, the company of friends that know the truth of you, wine (yes, it’s ultimately destructive if continued but necessary at times), work to distract, exercise, fresh air, music, reading…things that make you feel good. If you are lucky and it’s going to be a good experience for you, then sex might also help too.

But like in all grieving processes, at some point, the pain needs to be felt. It starts to leak out a bit more, unexpectedly. You have less control, you can feel like you are hanging on by your fingertips. Not in a life or death way, not necessarily so dramatic (and if it is life or death, seek help immediately), just of acting in a normal fashion. For example, not having to disappear for a five minute cry in the toilets at work. I feel myself in that leaky phase, in which it can be hard to be around people. Apart from the ones I can be true with; I am lucky to have quite a few of them around me.

And it’s okay to be leaky. I am not depressed, just sad, heading to the cold, dark winter, for more firsts. As we go through the difficulty of first birthdays, anniversaries and festivals after death, we do the same after the end of long relationships. I am about to hit my first solo Christmas and New Year in a decade, and that’s tough.

In an ideal world, I would ask right now for bereavement leave for my marriage. And in that time I wouldn’t have to worry about work, just focus on looking after my son and healing myself. Being kind to myself. Seeing friends. If I wanted to go and exercise every day to make me feel better, I would. I am shying away from that right now with a bit of muscle strain in my belly, but will be back to it in a few days. And I’m desperate to get for a hill walk before it gets too dark and cold.

Culture…reading books & poetry, sometimes all day, catching up on films I haven’t seen, learning a bit of Gaelic. Music…live and other. I’m putting links to my three favourite healing songs on at the end if you want a listen. They’re not in any order and they’re not post break up songs necessarily, just beautiful songs that make me feel better. And want to share with others. There has been other music in the past for different times and there will be again, but these are my consistent ones over the last while.

Most of all writing. There is other writing that needs to leak out. I was lucky enough to spend a day being inspired at a blogging conference in London, listening to people like Sandi Toksvig, Bridget Christie, Meera Syal, Val MacDiarmid, David Baddiel, Shappi Khorsandi and other writers. Getting a day to spend thinking about being creative is a great thing. We should all do it, whatever kind of thing we are interested in because there will be something. Go and find out. Dare.

It would make things easier in the world if we were more relaxed about dealing with each other’s sadness when we feel it. Going out in the world is tough because we fear other people’s responses to our pain, in those moments when it shows. And because in those moments we are so vulnerable and exposed, it’s easier to stay at home, or stick with the safety of the ones we know. Which makes sense, except sometimes powerful new connections can be made with others when we show our raw humanity. Maybe we should be less afraid to show it.

We don’t live in an ideal world, but there are always moments of joy and happiness, even when you are riding out the storms of life. Grab them and make of them what you can. These are the things you turn to on the tough days and they get you through. They are the things that get will get me through.

Beannachd leibh m’eudail,

 

Until next time,

 

QL.

 

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