Wall wisdom

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“We only want to be happy!” (on my way to work)

Summer is slowly losing ground.

Tonight is hot, thunder echoes down the mountains, drowning out the rain’s gentle music on the roof. The children have only been back at school for three weeks, our new routine is still getting ironed out, I’m already feeling knackered.

I like my job, but it is crazy: There are twelve of us in the team, and everyone requires some level of care and attention- on top of my workload. When I get home, two children need my care and attention. In between, there are school meetings, sign-ups for activities, a car to service, medical appointments, bills to pay, no more clean socks in my son’s drawer. I have a headache, my sprained ankle is still hurting, and my knee has decided to join in for a laugh. I no longer have time to shave my legs: I wear trousers.

Days fly by in a haze of furious activity. I no longer read, write, play the guitar, or watch the first stars blink over the mountains. At night, I don’t feel much more than bone tired.

Still, the children seem happy enough, Mr Xmas keeps helping with some school pick-ups, my mum came to stay for a couple of days to give me a breather. And honestly, it’s not as if I feel unhappy. I just don’t have time for that.

Every morning as I cycle past this strangely poetic wall on my way to work, I am reminded that all any of us wants is to feel happy. Rather annoyingly, I no longer seem to have much time for that either…

Major Lazer – Powerful

The knights who say no – part 2

There’s nothing like a bit of people-watching, fluffy magazine reading, or supermarket psychology musing, when you’re idly sitting on a beach… Which is what I did in copious amounts over my recent holiday, leading to the previously dazzling profiles of my exes.

Anyway, huhuhu, next instalment (hold-on to your seats, a psychology Nobel prize might have to be created): I have brilliantly worked out something T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas all had in common.

They really fancied themselves as knights in shiny armours, rescuing a hapless princess.

How they thought it would be 1

The thing is that T, Mr Nice and Mr Xmas don’t really like themselves, and conversely really liked the idea of being knights in shiny armours, especially family knights, because it would make them feel all saintly, worthy and good.

how they thought it would be 2

Needless to say that I am no hapless princess, but a perfectly capable one thank-you-very-much, even though I admit to some degree of fraying around the edges.How it really was

So family knights they became, which was quite nice, if I’m honest.

how it actually was 2

Until they worked-out that being family knights was not exactly how they had imagined it based on, you know, car and holiday villa adverts…

In fact, being family knights turned out to be quite hard work and boring after a while, because you can’t really go out every night as you please, there may be nappies to change, pesky people wanting your attention even when you’ve had a hard day at work and just want to collapse on the couch to watch game of thrones and eat pizza out of the box. That sort of unbearable disappointment.

Meanwhile, I’d wanted a boyfriend, not a hero, and strongly believed relationships need constant tweaking so that everyone’s needs can be met; so it wasn’t like I had them chained to the stove or banned from having their own lives.

Still, the car-advert promise was shattered, disappointment set in, and they started resenting being family knights, as well as feeling bad about themselves for failing to be heroic.

And because feeling bad about yourself is no fun, they eventually had some kind of brutal a-ha moment when they decided that in fact, our relationship was the source of all evil and must be disposed of rapidly.

Clever clogs.

The end

So there. I seem to attract men who convincingly really, really, really like the stability and security they see in me, as well as the idea of having a family with me, but end up saying “actually, you know what, I don’t think this life fits me, feels a bit too tight, makes me look kind of bloated… Can I send it back to the shop?”, which is when I say something to the effect of “No bloody way. We’ve had a baby together / blended families / moved in together. This is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty”

Voilà.

So what does that teach me for the future? Mmmwell, I’m not quite sure… That I should steer away from men who like the idea of family life? That I should never ever have a baby / blend families / move in with someone who really, really, really likes me ?

Err…, have you got any slightly more convincing lessons to suggest?

Interlude

Corbières

This week I have been blessed with forgetting.

Not my usual where-on-Earth-have-I-left-my-phone (oh, and the charger, and the canteen bill?), but the rare gift of has-there-really-ever-been-another-day-than-today oblivion.

In fact, get that: I managed to entirely forget the past year…

And nope, it did not involve half a gallon of rum and passing out with cocktail olives up my nose.

Which is impressive, because even by my standards, the last twelve months have been pretty hairy.

Say, if I were to produce a dodgy Xmas present calendar with pictures illustrating each month, there could be: Mr Nice and I crying over our separation and the death of my children’s pet Guinea pig (August 2014), Mr Nice changing his locks and turning into Mr Big Bastard From Hell (September 2014), me frowning over a job application (anytime beween July 2014 and February 2015), meetings at the bank attempting to fit a size 12 budget into a future size 6 income (November 2014), piles of unfinished work and a ticking clock (finishing my old job, Jan-Feb 2015), an idiot’s guide to international relations (starting new job just as Mr Xmas plunges into depression, March), a bottle of Sauternes and foie gras (to celebrate my promotion, April), an idiots’ guide to surviving hierarchy overload, stress at work and single parenthood (May to July), a blown gasket for Mr Xmas (June).

Although I have to admit that I wouldn’t know a gasket -let alone a blown gasket- from a garden gnome.

Anyway, this week, no shade of work, blown gaskets or big bastards. Nope.

Toulouse 1I righted the world’s wrong with friends near Toulouse, until far too late in the night to cope with energetic offspring in the morning.

Watched my son’s delighted fishing despite his refusal to touch anything on the hook (bait or fish).

Watched my daughter go down the water slide all by herself for the first time.

Chuch bell CorbièresListened to the church bell ring out the slowing down hours, in a quaint village of the ruggedly beautiful Corbières.

Cooked with only a microwave for three days (a challenge)

Counted the number of mosquito bites behind my right knee (8, a record)

Listened to my children fight over three hours of jammed traffic and torrential downpour between Narbonne and Montpellier. Fantasised about heavy-duty parcel tape, gags, and James Bondey-type cars where you press a button and a sound/bullet-proof glass partition buzzes up between the front and back seats.

Saw a lot of relatives and was stunned by how much their children have grown. A mystery of the universe (apart from the disappearance of anti-matter): How do I keep forgetting that other people’s children grow up too?

GuardiansWatched Camarguese cowboys near Montpellier herd bulls through the streets at high speed (and yeah, I didn’t fancy getting too much closer as I took this shot). It’s a local festive tradition. So is drinking neat Pastis.

So there. It has been a busy, and lovely week to round off my Summer break. Tonight, I will be driving North one last time, and going back to work tomorrow. I haven’t started loading the car and think I may varnish my nails. Anyone mentionned denial?

Madilyn Bailey – Radioactive

A nice cover, which keeps playing on the radio this Summer, and my children like to sing along to when they’re not fighting.

Not sick of holiday snaps?

Corbières IMG_1780 Corbières

It’s not you, it’s me

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

Dusk rainbow by Lady E

“It’s not you, it’s me” says a tearful Mr Xmas.

No shit, Sherlock.

I, for sure, am not the one currently in the depth of the worst bout of depression yet,  whose clarity of mind probably stands around 0.3% of its normal average, and who decides that, wohey, isn’t this a great time to wreck the most significant relationship of my last few years?

Let’s all pause to give Mr Xmas a round of applause for his truly outstanding judgement.

Mr Xmas is honestly the sweetest, most loyal and supportive companion when he is not depressed. It’s not always easy when he feels down, but he readily admits that overall, our little family is a positive help in his fight against the funky kind of unipolar, bipolar depression that’s been plaguing him for the last 27 years. I love him. The children love him.

But the abysmal bits of the funky unipolar bipolar thingy turn him into someone else, someone tortured, who oscillates between abject self-loathing, guilt, sadness and anger. Someone too scared and hopeless to give medications a real go. Someone who believes that the demands of family life cause, rather than help his depression, and that he is better off without it.

I am out of fight. I sit on the sofa and look out at the moutains, rain clouds shifting in the evening sky. I wish I could be somewhere else, perhaps the other side of the world …

Emily Loizeau – L’autre bout du monde

Worlds collide

Petals by Lady E

Petals by Lady E

A baby I don’t know is sitting in my daughter’s buggy. A red-haired little boy, who dribbles on the straps, looking content. His mother smiles, hands me a few notes, and walks away.

A little piece of my heart tears.

There is something really odd about standing in the sunshine on a perfect Saturday morning, selling chunks of your children’s babyhood for a few euros.

I look at the new mums milling around with newborns strapped to their chests, at the collection of baby-bumps cooing over minuscule onesies and ridiculously cute pyjamas. I remember being one of them, walking around NCT sales, oblivious of the middle-aged mothers selling their wares, absorbed in my own present of moses baskets and muslins.

Today, I have a son in middle school and permanent bags under the eyes. There will be no baby number 3.

As the sale closes, I stay behind with a friend who is expecting her first, and shows me her loot. As she beams and talks animatedly, I lose myself in the rush of pregnancy and newborn memories. The hopes, the worries, the excitment.

A man is walking towards us. I automatically look the other way and carry on smiling, but my pounding heart muffles all other sounds, as recent, painful memories in France collide with the bittersweet flow of UK pregnancies.

A year ago, Mr Nice and I walked down the same road, hacking out the menu for our evening barbecue with friends…

He walks past us, a stranger.

My friend doesn’t even notice.

Love it or leave it

The last threads of daylight hang suspended above the mountains, birds have gone to sleep, leaving the muted hum of city life take over.

I too have been quiet lately… Muted, but not gone. Sometimes going under in the storm of Mr Xmas’s depression, but soon bobbing back up and carrying on with a steady stroke.

After years of practice, I am a master of resilience. I can juggle a demanding new job, tax returns, play dates, and still think up ways to cheer up a miserable Mr Xmas. But there are also the times when I feel worn out, and so lonely I could cry…

Bless his heart, Mr Xmas is trying, and I am touched by his efforts be there for me and to help. He truly loves me.

But most of the time, he just isn’t really there, lost in the private hell that has become his mind.

He is so far from my reach, I feel so helpless, so unable to help.

Or to answer any the nagging questions: Will he get back to being the Mr Xmas I loved? When, for crying out loud? And anyway, how often will these depressive episodes happen? Is this the life that I want?

Asaf Avidan (who happens to be a hugely talented, generous and good-looking -if slightly tormented, fellow)- Love it or leave