Hidden Gem…Pearl of the Atlantic

Its funny isn’t it. Losses come in all sorts of ways. Today a blog I always liked looking at, just in having images of beautiful places, had shut down. Gone. Just like that. In it’s very small but big way for me, it was a connection for me, to something beautiful beyond the world I live in. A world that over the past six months has felt the most difficult and awful of my whole life. My daughter’s illness reaching a stage where the possibility of her no longer being in this world was so high that I couldn’t even breathe. Her BMI at the dangerous life threatening level of 12 and seeing her so emaciated, that bringing her back seemed completely impossible and insurmountable. This illness is an absolute killer and it nearly did. What has lived beyond that and most specifically over the past two months has been absolutely horrific. 

Sometimes those images were the things that made me think and inspire me in trying to reach a world beyond. And it felt like it was just taken away. I guess I could google places but I liked the different versions that were picked out. It made me really sad last night in what seems such a little thing. Sounds so silly, but it gave me tiny moments of pleasure in amongst a life that every day has felt so difficult. I guess it says a lot about the life I am living and how the simplest things can make all the difference for me, in lifting me in that. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my Nan. When I saw my dad he said that she was the kindest person he ever met in life. She really really was. So so kind. A very gentle and lovely person but behind her very tiny and quiet exterior she was so strong. Like a powerhouse strong. I didn’t even realise how strong. You don’t when you are younger. When you are just a kid and haven’t really lived a life you don’t really understand what goes on behind the scenes in caring for and protecting others and what that takes. In being responsible for more that just your own health and happiness.  Especially when you are not sitting at the top of the ladder and everything has to be worked and struggled for.

But as a woman who has had to deal with so much responsibility and so many really difficult things now, I completely see it. Completely see her in all the invisible  and hidden but truly amazing things she was. Things that inspire me all the time as I continually try to find what she had and kept her going. She was the nan who loved watching the teletubbies. Makes perfect sense to me now, as she escaped into LaLa’s Land.  My mum tells me all the time in how proud she is of the person I am and have become but most especially right now. She also tells me that my Nan would be incredibly proud of me too. Something that really lifts me in knowing what happened to her in life and what she went through. Despite the fact that only close family attended her funeral, she was so loved. Soooo loved. The most unflashy and unassuming person you could ever have met in life as she took care of my cousin after his mum committed suicide. He found her with her wrists slashed. The woman who was once so full of fun, my mum told me, but was abused for many years by her narcissistic policeman husband who completely destroyed her. Her son suffering with schizophrenia. I can’t imagine how my Nan dealt with that every day, but she did. And she never moaned or complained. And was always so grateful for nice things with her brothers and sisters and loved being with us. Especially at Christmas when she would drink a little ginger wine and watch some Jane Austin. I absolutely adored her. Remember when I was little and she  brought me a little tiny plastic table and chairs with teeny tiny teddies. I love them and played with them all the time. She always asked after Jerry, after I once told her that she had sat on top of him on the bus. ”Move up Jerry” she said. She was completely down to earth, living on her council estate, but with such a gentleness of class that didn’t really fit in the world she inhabited. And always wearing her little pink jumper and slacks and comfy shoes. Bounding along like she was still in her twenties. I always told her that I loved her but I wish I had told her just how amazing she was. I think perhaps I did without saying it as I stroked her hair and held her hand in hospital and read her the newspaper as she lay unconscious before she died. Never knowing if it was my cousin who had made her fall down the stairs. Even if it was she would never have said. 

She loved to write too. She won a prize for it when she was at school and won a book. Charles Dicken’s Little Dorritt. She couldn’t have been any more Little Dorritt. It is a story of changing fortunes and how those fortunes change people. It depicted the arrogance and pompousness of those who had or found themselves with money but also what happens to some when they lose it. I’ve never been wealthy but I’ve certainly known what it is to lose it all. It made me think of a really lovely girl I met many years ago who was dating my friend. One of the many many girls he dated. He is a lovely fella but he didn’t treat women very nicely. Alot of them he said liking him because he had a lot of money and they liked the lifestyle that he could provide. I think liked him too. He was reasonable looking, interesting and fun. But he often said he wondered how much the birds would like him if he drove a dust cart. There’s some truth in that. I’ve known alot of women and men where lifestyle matters more. Anyways she went on to marry another rich man. But the other day he committed suicide. He had lost it all and was up to his neck in unpaid taxes and so he left her and her three children under ten behind. With absolutely nothing. I felt devastated for her. Not that we were close. She was one of many that I met. But in knowing how nice she was and how completely life shattering this must feel for her. The fortunes of life suddenly shifting and leaving her three children fatherless and her wondering what to do. Far away with no money or security with three children to look after. The other side of what money can do. Life can be very harsh and just like that you can find yourself in a desperate position.

I have thought a lot about how for some it is easier to love people when there is a comfortable and good life attached. But how quickly it can disappear when it’s not. I think me, my mum, my Nan and my Gran missed the boat in that version in all our romantic notions of love conquering all. Maybe it is because we never grew up with money. Although my Gran did but spent her life moaning that she should have married the man with the car. But I still believe in Love conquering all. I married P because I loved him as a person. He didn’t come from money and spent most of his at the pub, in the bookies or going all round the country and Europe watching his team play football. I didn’t come from money either and have never cared about it until i had none and it was all about security and survival. And that was because I had a daughter to think about. I think my lack of care in money beyond the basics was because my dad was and still is very lifestyle over love. I heard it in everything as he talked about his life. 

And actually the only other person I ever fell in love with was for exactly the same reason. I liked him just in who he was. The stuff that sat underneath. I believe that he is more well off than he ever shares. Comfortable in the security provided that allows many choices in life. But I never cared what life came with him. It was only ever in wishing to be around him. To spend my time with him. Just because I loved him as a person.

In fact the majority of  blokes I’ve ever met with money have been pompous and arrogant. As though having money makes them better. And in that they are worth more. In my overall experience of life and people I’ve met I’ve often seen in fact that it actually makes people less grateful in people and things that really matter.  I’ve met so many wannabes. The crowd is full of them. All clamouring for a lifestyle. The easy life. The good life. The life that is bought. But that version has always felt very soulless for me. And feels like convenient love.

But what I’ve noticed more recently through the worst moment of my whole life is that despite how difficult life currently is, how awful it has been and how much I wish things were easier and better for my daughter and me, and how much I cry for all the stuff that has really hurt, I actually feel so much better in myself in the more simple version of life away from the crowd. How little I actually need any of it but how much I really look forward to or really enjoy to the absolute max any tiny thing that feels lovely. Everything good feels really really special. Everything. I don’t take one single thing for granted. And that reminds me of when I was a kid and had I had nothing. But how dreamily happy I was when I carried my goldfish home from the school Fair. I remember lots of people questioning why I gave up my really good job when I had my daughter and did little jobs instead to make money while volunteering as a teaching assistant and running after school clubs for kids dealing with difficult stuff. Would spend my money on buying creative stuff to make it fun or little things for individuals who had shared what made them happy. Like the Manchester United top trumps for the kid who always spent the time there playing football all on his own. Until I would kick the football with him. It made me so happy in seeing him show and share the cards with the other kids. But my favourite thing was having all that first five years with her every day. Where P would work his job around trips to the seaside and sun £9.50 holidays at a caravan park. I loved having teddy bear picnics in the tent in her room and doing the Hokey Cokey in the church hall at mother and toddler group. None of it was flash. None of it cost any money. But it was all really really happy and wonderful. And somehow in amongst this modern worlds obsession with having the perfect life and what “more” looks like I lost sight of the fact that actually my “more” was so much better without needing anything. Finding yourself back to the very basics when really struggling in the worst of times certainly teaches a lot about what really has value and what is just a cherry on top. Something that was given clarity when my dad told me that “getting my daughter back is the cherry on top”. How differently our cakes are made. The opposite in fact. As he talked about his life it was all about what he had done, who he knew, how successful he was at work as he gave me a long commentary of being head hunted by several places and offered more money. And where he had been and that even his shed was purpose built, fully insulated and heated with electricity and by the sounds of it, the size of my actual home. The people that loved him just being cherries on top. I felt quite empty as I listened to it all. Lifestyle over Love. He’s not alone in that version. 

And then I compared it with mine. Where the people I love and care about are central to my cake. They are everything that matters to me. Family, close friends and things in my life where I have felt I’ve made some kind of real difference to a persons life. All surrounded by the beautiful and natural stuff of this world like the sky and the sea and the trees and mountains and clouds and stars and flowers. I could go on. The other stuff just being nice to haves. The crowd just being momentary, jobs being a means to an end and all the many distractions of life being the little bit of sparkle on top. Nice to have but I can live without. But when I have that for a moment wishing to share it with those I love and who love me. My pain only ever in losing people I love. The other stuff is replaceable. I realised in my dad’s cake, I was replaceable. I was just an extra. How can your own daughter just be an extra? A nice to have on top of what matters. Stuff. It made me think of my relationship with my own daughter and also what she shares with her dad. I felt so glad that P is her dad especially right now. He is struggling in it so much but she is more important to him than anything else beyond as he gave up that job in order to be more available. I was grateful for his commitment to what is more important too. When the stakes are so high there is no room for selfish. Both putting ourselves in second place to her as it should be. It has made me realise as I listened to my dad that I’m not less. But that for me his cake, even though on the surface it looked so much better and more sparkly, wasn’t more. His cake was him. And in that all that better felt very superficial and empty. But perhaps for him it was enough. We are all made differently. But it would never be for me. And I also felt like I was worth so much more than being a cherry on top of his cake. And in that moment I no longer felt that feeling of not being good enough. It was a very empowering moment to feel the immense worth of my very beautifully real and substantial and soulful and loving cake. And that despite its squashed and messy appearance it contains some pretty amazing and epic flavours many of which belong to those other beautifully real and substantial people I hold close. There was a lot of peace and closure in that experience as he hurriedly stopped me halfway up the stairs to the departures and blurted out “I love you M. I have always loved you”. Words that I had said to him so easily at the beginning of that few days but had taken him all weekend to build up and be able to say. I took them like a gift but felt happier in him being able to feel and say them. It felt really difficult for him to do. I wondered if he had ever really felt really deep love even though he told me “we always had a special connection. You always held my hand.” I came home with a lot of phrases that he shared with me that made me think about who I am and what I give. I felt really proud of who I am. I absolutely a girl who loves. For all the hurt I have felt through the years in how he treated me and his absence for the majority of my life, I had never stopped loving or caring about him. And maybe in his own way he hadn’t either. He just needed and loved the other stuff more. The crowd of admirers mattering to him much more than his own children. I think he has always just needed to be loved. Not mattering so much where it came from. Needing to feel like he was more. But I saw just as I did when I was a kid how much he struggles in giving it. He’s been married three times now and has had countless younger women along the way. But he said my mum was one of a kind.

For me love doesn’t just vanish. When it’s real and felt inside, it stays there forever. It has its place in your heart. I never stop loving people that mean something to me even if I have walked away in moments in not wishing to be hurt. To some that would make me a fool. But I own my own feelings, and my love is as solid as it comes. It’s just sometimes, when it isn’t reciprocated, you have to know when to let go of hands. I was called bitter once. One of the most hurtful things ever said to me. I think it was meant to hurt me. I think perhaps some relationships are unhealthy when one cares more than the other. But I am certainly not the devil. Not even close. Just different to them. I felt angry at being used as one of many time fillers and distractions in their game of boredom on the way to “better” and in how that impacted on me as a person, my life and subsequently the lives of others. And very sad for sure in losing what felt treasured by me. But never bitter. Because for me they were huge part of my “better”. The disappointment I think must have felt similar to my nans when my mum told me of a similar experience in her life. “She was heartbroken” my mum said. And so was I. Sometimes we have reason to protect ourselves and our hearts and that was one of those occasions. 

Little Dorritt was her favourite and actually it’s one of my favourites too. She could not have been any more Little Dorritt but without the happy ending. But perhaps when we both read it we dreamed and wished for that happy ending. Sometimes just the dream of something is enough to sustain a person when they are dealing with what feels difficult. I see a Robin everyday that sits close in the early morning in my garden. I always feel like she is with me. And I always look up to the same star in the sky at night which is very faint and hard to see but I always find it. She was never a one to be seen by everyone. T

Today is the first day that I have a moment to myself. My daughter spending the day with her dad. It is a moment of respite for me in being so exhausted from trying so hard. But that trying has and is making such a difference as her BMI has now reached 15. Extreem categorty. Needing to get to serious and moderate before making it to a healthly 18.5. But in two months alot has been achieved. I feels right to jut note that. That huge decision in keeping her out of hospital has paid off both physically and mentally despite how difficult that has been and still is. Difficult in a way that is impossible to describe. Life shatteringly difficult. The illness threw it at me yesterday in telling me “you have no life, no job, no friends”. It was right other than the fact that actually I do have a few really deep and meaningful and close friends that I haven’t really had any time to spend time with or talk to. Just little connections via what’s app that mean everything to me especially in the extreme loneliness of being in such a situation where I don’t have time or energy for any life beyond. Today I plan to catch up on a little sleep if I can. But those little messages have been the difference in not feeling completely alone in it. Kindness is such a beautiful thing but especially in a moment like this. The moments that I have felt kicked when I was down hurt me so much. Why would anyone do that? i have thought. I’ll never really understand that. It’s a source of sadness but one I am trying to ride over. Always reminding myself of who I am as a person deep down inside. But when you are fighting for something so much bigger you can’t feel it. It’s a weakness that you just can’t afford. But I know it is there and it really hurts me in the moments when I feel really tired and lonely. Eventually in better times to come I hope it will not hurt quite so much. It’s so much easier to move on when you can move. But I always believe that we will reach that “better” eventually, despite the last couple of day being really tough and like a few steps backwards. 

But for a moment and through the tunnel vision we did have that moment of better. A glimpse of what life can be if we keep climbing. Something that right up until that morning felt undoable as the illness kicked out in telling me that she didn’t deserve it. Oh she deserves it. She has always deserved it in being such a wonderful and kind and loving and caring human. She’s just had to really fight with me for it while P has stood like a back up in helping me. 

It began a few weeks back with a trip together to the moulin rouge with L&M. I thought we wouldn’t get there. Her hands round my neck again in the illness not wanting her to eat before we left. Trying to ruin it for her, by wanting me to say that she didn’t deserve to go. But I ignored it and eventually got her to eat. Knowing that the illness would win in spoiling her happiness and then being able to provide comfort by not eating. . I know how it works. Its hard to cement the boundaries in that. But I took her and her gratitude and happiness in making it there created a sublime happiness for me as we sat and held hands as she ate a little ice cream in the interval. It can be done I thought.

And then last week that tunnel vision took us to a beautiful island in the Atlantic despite the illness”s last ditch attempt to tell me it couldn’t be done. It could. It was. As just  the two of us took to the sky and found ourselves in a peaceful, simple, gentle and naturally beautiful island of sea and tropical mountains in all its most natural god given beauty. A place where gentle and warm and kind and friendly people lived. A place that felt like a pre pandemic world in all its simple ways of living. A place where without a phone to check messages or social media she told me “I don’t feel alone here”. An epically life altering moment as her mental health improved ten fold. As she felt like a person again. A person  who ate two pain au chocolats for breakfast. Where she adventured in cable cars and Japanese gardens. Where she swam in the sea and trekked through the mountains high up in the clouds as though we were in a tropical Jurassic Park. Where we bounced around in the jeep stopping at waterfalls and swimming in natural volcanic pools. Where we found ourselves entertained in cabaret at the Ritz by a former moulin rouge dancer of the past and danced together before watching the fireworks over the sea. And where she had her little Annie moment (as she called it) as we walked into our hotel room that made her feel like she had arrived at Daddy Warbucks house. “I feel like a rockstar”. 

I couldn’t believe our luck again in getting something so wonderful on a budget. I know how to find a super bargain. Years of practice I guess. Making those pennies stretch for a little moment of sparkle and luxury. but never have I ever seen so much gratitude in a weeks holiday that was struggled for in every single possible way. Where for a moment the illness relented a little and was quietened as we spent that time we had been missing together. Just the two of us living an adventure that as our sign says “will last forever!!!”The most perfect and magical place to be in that very moment. It couldn’t have felt a more perfect place to be in that moment. It had every simple element required that made us feel safe and comfortable and home on the first day. it was like we were meant to be there. Destiny!

Still having to manage things around it but so much easier in such a peaceful and beautiful environment where everything and everyone felt so kind and genuine. A very different feeling island to our own. Where the majority of people lived very simple and gentle life. we loved absolutely everything about it there.

The horse Funchal that I placed a tenner on a couple of days before, that won at 9-1 giving me the sign and a little extra cash to take that leap of faith despite the illness’s attempts to sabotage with continued aggression especially the night before. P”s concern in me being alone far away in that and saying that I shouldn’t go. I queried it right up until the moment we left. Saying that I didn’t want to take any more risks in life but sometimes you have to. And just like keeping her out of hospital it felt like a risk worth taking in trying to help her to climb over this illness and find her way back. Taking this leap of faith because I trusted and believed in her.  Feeling that if I could get her there it would be a game changer. A new hopefulness for better. A better that feels worth taking a risk for. And to not go would give the illness more power in providing a reason for wanting that dangerous comfort. The illness hasn’t gone away and now we are home we are feeling it more again, but her trust in me as her mum is what often sees us though. And every little bit of progress means everything to me. If I say I’ll try or I’ll fight for it, I always mean it. No half measures.. Come what may! 

And it was absolutely worth every drop of fight. As just for a brief moment we found ourselves in a place where we both completely fitted without needing to fit. Where she didn’t feel Alone. Where life felt very simple despite the complications of this illness. All physical aggression subsiding. 

When I told the young cheeky fella who drove our jeep why it had become our favourite place he told me “yes it is the best island ever isn’t it.. and the people here are all really lovely. But you’ll find that the higher up the mountains you go the more lovely they become”. 

Words that have stayed with me ever since returning. We still have such a long climb but just for a week Madeira made ir a very happy girl which in turn made me a very happy if very tired mum. It’s the most grateful I have ever been in life in seeing someone smile and feel so happy and not feel alone.

An adventure that she said has been her favourite adventure ever. I felt it too in all it’s work and effort. An adventure that money paid for but the feeling created was a shared love of each other in the simple and natural surroundings that we both really love and value. Providing the simple things that really matter to us in all its completely natural beauty and with a little bit of sparkly cherry on top. It felt so very special, so very perfect without being “perfect” and left us feeling that Truth Beauty Freedom and Love still exist even amongst this illness 

Couldn’t have asked for anything more in that one week that provided  a moment of real happiness, and motivation to want to get better, before the battle recommenced. 

Hang tough with me Hidden Gem. We will make it to the top of this mountain. I believe in you!


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