There It Was – Gone

Since you’ve been gone, today has been so empty.

Everywhere I look, I expect to see her, curled up in the corner, or sitting with her ears pricked up as she watches the squirrels in the garden. No more do I have to step over her as I go to draw the curtains, or have to ignore her pleading eyes as she watches me eat.

I didn’t have to go out in the rain today, or undertake the wet dog challenge upon returning home. I didn’t see her lopsided smile, tongue lolling out of her mouth, as she bounds in from the garden and gallops, literally horse-like, to the kitchen for a long drink.

A submissive underbelly was not presented to me for stroking. Nor was there a persistent nuzzle against my hand, requesting – no, demanding – to be loved.

There’s no comforting figure asleep on the floor beside my bed, and the gentle sound of her dog tag tinkling against her collar as she shakes herself – that’s gone too.

I can’t stop thinking about where she is and what she’s doing, and can only hope that she doesn’t feel as desolate as me. I hope she finds a wonderful owner soon. One who deserves her. Not me. Not a failure.

None of these feelings are new to me. This is just another loss adjustment that I will have to make. One day something is there, something I love and in which I find much pleasure and fulfilment. And the next, it is gone. Perhaps there is a lesson in all of this. A truth that I must learn. But for now, all I know for certain is that I miss, with a great, deep, yearning ache, how it used to be, and I mourn for what once was.

Reality Bites

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve had one of the worst weeks of my life.

And considering how many bad weeks I’ve had over the years, that’s really saying something.

Accepting that I not only don’t come first, or second, or third… that in fact, not only do I not get a place on the podium, I’m not even in the race – that was really hard. But I guess I finally did it. And in the spirit of the theme of running, knowing that I’m not IN the running has helped me to create some distance. It stings. Not in the same way as muscle cramp or physical over-exertion. Actually, that would almost be easier, because that kind of pain lessens over time. I don’t think this burning sensation will stop, no matter how many warming down exercises I try. Or how much I sit in a comfortable chair. Still, I guess it’s not a totally bad thing. It will act as a reminder of how stupid I have been – and indeed, can be – and guard against me being an idiot again. Well. One can hope.

Coinciding with this epiphany, in the vindictive way that these things happen, you know that ‘kicking you while you’re down’ way of the universe, a series of events led to having to lose Milly.

She has always been difficult around other dogs. Over the time we have had her, we have increasingly had to keep her away from other dogs, avoiding them on walks and in the park. Despite trawling the internet for ideas and paying a dog trainer for help, we could not get beyond the almost workable arrangement where we walked her in certain places only and never too far from home. This was never ideal. She is a big dog who needed more than she was getting. However, she was also content with us. And so sweet natured. And we loved her.

There were a couple of close calls. I was bitten on a couple of occasions. Not because she was aggressive towards me. I was just in the unhappy position of being between her and the dog she wanted to ‘talk to’. We did our best. We were as vigilant as we could be. We thought we were doing OK.

But on Tuesday morning, she escaped from the garden and ran across the street to attack another dog. The dog’s owner intervened and was bitten on his hand. I can’t tell you how devastated I am for the animal and his owner. I feel so bad, so guilty, that this happened to them. The trip to the vet concluded superficial injuries. The trip to a walk-in clinic found a few puncture wounds to the man’s hand, one of them painfully deep. In one sense, it was a blessing that it wasn’t worse. Both of them will recover with no lasting ill effects. (Although I’m sure the trauma of what they went through will never be forgotten, and leaves me feeling sick at the thought of what their memories will never let them forget). But the risk of the same thing happening again, with potentially much worse consequences… I couldn’t live with myself if that happened.

There was no alternative but to take Milly back to the rescue centre. The people there will work with her and find a home where there are experienced dog handlers – who will know how best to move her forward and give her the home that she deserves. We were not the right family for her. It was a horrible decision to take. But there really was no alternative.

I took her back to the dogs home this afternoon. It was one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever done. She leapt out of the back of the car, bright eyed and bushy tailed, excited at the prospect of a walk in the countryside. I passed her lead to one of the rescue centre staff and she began to gently lead her away. At first she went willingly. Then she realised I was not following, so she turned around and walked back towards me. I dropped to my knees and she pushed her nose into my hand, leaning into me. Tears poured down my face as I said goodbye. I swear she knew something was wrong and stuck close to me as I hugged her. I think she was actually trying to comfort me. To tell me that whatever it was, it was ok. We’d go for a walk and it would all be alright again. I stood up and walked alongside her as she was taken to the kennel, but there came a point where I had to stop and watch her go.

It’s dark, windy and raining now. All I can think about is Milly, in an unfamiliar place, wondering where she is and where we are. She doesn’t like being left on her own. And nice as the staff there are, she won’t have them around all the time. She will be sad and lonely and will feel abandoned all over again. I can’t bear it.

I failed her.

I know it was the right thing to do. But this is another one of those situations where the right thing to do, feels completely like the wrong thing to do. It hurts, like a thousand dog bites. It hurts.

Reality bites. And then it craps all over you.

Better to Have Loved and Lost…?

Since you’ve been gone, I’ve been thinking a lot about love.

The dictionary defines love as (amongst other things);

*A strong feeling of affection (noun)

*A great interest and pleasure in something (noun)

*Feeling deep affection or sexual love for someone (verb)

Yes. Yes. And yes.

So the question is, is it better to have had, or experienced those things, and then lost them – or to never have had them at all?

Greater minds than mine have sought to address this issue. Across time, countless books have been written on the subject of love; from the ecstasy of giving and receiving unbound affection, to the agony of having it returned, unwanted and despised.

And yet, we continue to love. We continue to offer our hearts, often, and even when we know we will be rejected.

Why?

My own view is that this is because love is, in most cases (but by no means all), involuntary. You can’t help who you fall in love with. Whether they are likely to love you back… well, that’s another story. But when your heart goes ‘BOOM!’, even the most level headed, sensible person can’t resist falling headlong into the high speed adrenaline rush of the love train.

If you’re lucky, your affection is reciprocated. But then, the chances are, it’s only a matter of time before one half of the love heart in the sand starts to fade. And eventually the tide comes in and washes it completely away. What happens then is gut wrenching despair as the unwanted party tries to come to terms with losing their love.

And this, I guess, is where the jury is still out on my original question. Is it better to have loved and lost – or never to have loved at all? Perhaps the answer is different, person to person, situation to situation… and whether it is asked at the very beginning, when the heart is so freshly wounded that pain is tainting everything with regret, or later on, when fond memories can be revisited and even enjoyed. Maybe it depends on how strong and deep and real your love was in the first place.

For myself, I would rather have loved and never lost. I suppose that’s a no-brainer. But also, my love is not, and never will be, lost. As Shakespeare so beautifully wrote in Sonnet 116, ‘…love is not love which alters when it alteration finds, or bends with the remover to remove…’. My love is strong and will always remain. My love may have to remain locked secretly inside my heart, and never manifested in the outpouring of affection that it so ardently desires to show. But it does not mean that it is gone.

I will never regret my love.

Stay gold.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Since you’ve been gone, sometimes I don’t know what to do with myself.

Old habits die hard. (No – this is not another sequel to that famous Bruce Willis franchise. Although, I CAN actually picture myself in a torn vest, crawling through an air conditioning system in an attempt to subvert my own inadequacies… but already I am digressing….). I’ll start again. Old habits die hard. Especially when you don’t want them to die at all. Especially when you actually loved them, thank you very much. Especially when they brought more joy to your day than a Friday feeling, a huge bar of chocolate and an England rugby win combined.

It’s hard for my head to convince my heart that everything’s going be OK, or even, for that matter, the other way around. In fact, no one’s convincing anyone of anything. It’s like trying to catch the breeze in your hand, or finding the end of the rainbow (which, incidentally, I heard the other day was actually impossible, because rainbows are actually circular, but we only ever see the ‘top arch’ of them. I know. It blows your mind, doesn’t it). I can’t do it.

So I try to put my mind (such as it is) to other things. And for a little while, it kind of works. I keep busy. I get jobs done. I interact with my immediate world. But there’s like an invisible string – or more accurately, piece of elastic – that keeps bringing me back to the same place. And the familiar ache of loss and longing washes over me once more.

They say that nostalgia’s not what it used to be, but I don’t know about that, because it’s alive and kicking down here in Loserville.

Ah well. I guess the only thing to do is to keep moving. The end of the rainbow might not exist, but it must still be possible to get ‘over’ the rainbow, and I should never give up hope of cutting the invisible ties, and finding my way forward.

Stay gold.

I Don’t Like Mondays (Tell me why)

Since you’ve been gone, Mondays aren’t much fun anymore.

And today was particularly trying.

One week plus one Monday into my new job and I am certain of two things:

1 – There is a lot to learn/ do and it’s filling my head like crazy.  2 – I CAN do it. If I make it through September (did you get that wonky reference?), I’m sure I can start to really make this job my own.

In one respect I am glad that my time is so completely occupied. It helps me to think less about you, or to hanker after days gone by.  Days that are never coming back. No matter how much I close my eyes and knock my shoes together and repeat a mantra of my heart’s desire.  (That doesn’t work, by the way. Take my advice. Never trust Hollywood). And perhaps by the time I find more of an equilibrium, I will have have moved on sufficiently not to miss you so much.  Oh! Look! A flying pig..!

Maybe tonight I will be granted a full night’s sleep, and maybe tomorrow I will wake up refreshed and buzzing and ready to take on the world. Or maybe the day will be new, but the way I feel will be same old, same old.  Sometimes I think that no matter how much changes, how much gets better, how much is going well… the space that you once occupied will always make me feel empty.

Stay gold.

She Said ‘Yes’ to the Dress(es)

Since you’ve been gone, the weekends are always the hardest.

My efforts to keep myself occupied were massively helped today by a trip to a bridal shop to look for Number 2’s wedding dresses.  This trip had been unbelievably difficult to plan, as it had to work around her shifts and include, and accommodate, nine others.  So today was very much the day and we all descended upon a shop in Camberley, ready to help her find the perfect ones.

Yes. Ones.

As you were aware, Number 2 is having two weddings. One ‘legal’ ceremony; the other very much more ceremonial. The first dress had to be something simple and low key – the second could make a bolder wedding statement.  She had to fall in love with them both, as well as meet the requirements of her mother-in-law to be. I’ll be honest. I was more than a little apprehensive on her behalf.  MiL to be is a lovely person. But she is also has a very big personality and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks.  I just wanted my second daughter to have what she wanted for her wedding.

We started with the second, more dazzling dress and arrived at seven possibilities. Not surprisingly, Number 2 looked beautiful in all of them. Incredibly, there also seemed to be a general consensus amongst all of us and it really wasn’t very hard to whittle it down to two main contenders.  I was so pleased for her when she made her decision, because I know she truly loved the dress she chose. Number 2 has a habit of compromising too much to keep others happy. But I know she didn’t do that with this dress. She is going to be gorgeous, because her natural beauty will be enhanced by the pleasure she will take in wearing it.

It was then the turn of the five bridesmaids – Numbers 1, 2 and 4, plus my youngest niece and the groom’s cousin – to try on some dresses. And yes. They all needed two dresses! As you can imagine, this was a complicated process and could have been impossibly difficult to satisfy them all. But thanks to no one being a diva, plus a genuine shared excitement to help make Number 2’s day, this too was a pleasure to behold. Before long, all the dresses were chosen and everyone was happy.

Dress number two was a much quicker journey.  She tried one. Just one. And that was it. Boom. It was one of those occasions that was just meant to be.

I can’t finish writing this without throwing in an anecdote my own MiL told me about my youngest sister in law’s wedding, some 14 years ago. They were shopping in Shrewsbury a week before it was due to take place, when she realised she hadn’t bought a veil.  She asked a lady in a shop if there were any bria

That Was the Week That Was

Since you’ve been gone, I survived the first week of my new job.

Mind you, it wasn’t easy. It seemed like the more I went to work, the less I got done, and the more I had to do. My to do list for next week is already unachieveable. But I remain hopeful that I will get to the bottom of, and/ or get on top of things, before too many more weeks have gone by.

Still. My colleagues have seemed appreciative of what I did manage to do.  And it’s still a refreshing change to feel wanted and valued. And I wouldn’t trade where I was, for where I am now.  As my mother used to say, I may be green, but I’m not cabbage looking.

I do miss certain elements of my previous life.  I think it will take a long time to completely wean myself off of saying ‘we’ in relation to ‘them’. And even longer to stop missing what once was. In fact, I will always be hankering after the good times.  Always.

Stay gold.