November 22, 2009

Times are changing...


Today I find myself with a bit of time, so I thought (perhaps unwisely) that I might get this year’s introspective out of the way before the enormity of the festive season and what it means to those of us who have lost so much actually hits. I will try not to keep you long (there is food at the end)…
One thing I have learnt over the past year is that the psychology of grief is a curious thing. That certain experiences can dominate your mind so powerfully they can destroy you physically still amazes me, and no matter how much you focus on what you know you should do, it often seems near impossible to break out of the darkness. And then you feel guilty because you promised you’d try to live life and be happy, and of course you want that too, you just never imagined that it would be this difficult…
For me, the two biggest things to try and accept have been that firstly, my life also ended that day, and secondly, that despite being surrounded by the most supportive and wonderful people, I have been left very much alone, and I need to be ok with that. I have learnt that I need to ask for help, and have become better at allowing people to do this for me. Having cared for someone for so long it has felt ludicrously selfish, but I am beginning to realise that it's just people doing for me what I so enjoy doing for others. I still give little of myself away, but I am now more comfortable with asking for what I need, and am more confident in saying what I think and choosing how and to whom I devote my time.
Tied up in all of this came the realisation that I was ready to start searching for some semblance of happiness. That you have to fight with every fibre of your being just to find something that will make you feel happy is crap. No one should ever have to fight for something like that, but that’s the way it is, and I’ve found that if you acknowledge and accept these things as part of “the process”, it becomes something you can work at, another “goal” to get you from point to point.
So that is what I’ve been doing, trying to find a little bit of happy. Much of it comes dressed backhanded; as you re-live the things you so desperately miss and pursue new adventures that would be so much more fun to share. But Team Pretty Bake has given me a passion, I have done lots of new things, and I am learning to find the balance between stubbornly doing things on my own and asking for company, and am so lucky to have such wonderful and obliging friends who do this for me.
When something catches you out it’s usually a little thing, although that’s probably just me. I’m not one for the pomp and glamour of a frenetic life; I prefer simpler things and would quite happily lose myself in an epic Valdes solo and good cup of coffee. So it perhaps shouldn’t have been that surprising when I was somewhat floored this week by a simple request. You see, due to the nature of circumstance, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy cooking for people – not for special occasions or planned dinners, just cooking – and so I’ve recently been enjoying a little solo time at the helm of TPB to do exactly this. What I found that I apparently missed even more than this was being asked to cook something in particular. It sounds silly now, so I won’t bother trying to explain what I mean, only to say that it was nice, and it made me happy.
Baked chicken meatballs
Asparagus, courgette and haloumi salad
Cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt sauce
Berry mascarpone tart
So it seems there will always be a balance. On the positive side, I have found that pushing yourself physically can do wonders for the mind, and there is a certain satisfaction in tilting that emotional-physical seesaw towards the more constructive end. Less positively, the sensation that I may be managing this new life of mine better has been coupled with a profound sadness and realisation that amid all the turmoil of the last year and a half, I had almost forgotten how much I miss dad - and that’s a little heartbreaking. But while struggling to maintain a sense of balance, I have also managed to achieve a lot. Maybe not big things, and certainly not to the usual level of personal expectation, but enough to know I’m ready to take control of my life again and start finding my own way (rental property gods willing). Who knows how it will go, but I’m ready to find out, and at worst, at least I’ll be able to make myself a mean lunch…

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