The little jeweled box

The little box..

While on holiday with my Dad and sister in Cornwall over half term we had many discussions about Mum and how we felt…   My Dad is by far the best at coping, dealing, managing with the sadness, loss, change… Maybe it is because he has had longer to come to terms with the demise of my Mum’s brain, her personality, her… having lived with it daily for many years…

One evening, I asked him how he managed to stay so positive and focused on the future, without feeling guilty or letting the grief overwhelm him as it was me. What could I do,  so that I could focus on getting my life back on track and being the best version of myself, to being the best mother to my boys, the caring wife, the brave, fearless and professional business owner… so that I could get back to being myself, my positive self, the optimist, happy, full of vitality and spirit.

He talked about a box.

He puts ‘Mum’ in a box.

And every now and then, he will allow himself to open the box… either when he is visiting her, or in quiet moments at home.

He will open the box and think of her – and smile at happy memories.

He will open the box and think of her – and allow sadness in.

He will close the box of Annie. And open the box of the life of John, Dad and Grandad and fill it. Fill it with adventures, of ice creams, silliness and cricket, rugby or tennis… making new friends and having fun.

This is a technique I started to apply on hearing about it. For Mum has been floating around my head like a ghost and interrupting everything in the life of Ali.

I am getting better. I tried to put Mum in box. At first the box was too small. Too plain. She wouldn’t go in. So typical of her. She never did want someone wanted her to do, if she didn’t want to do it first.

So I have covered it in diamonds and pearls. Her favourites.

And filled it with chocolates – Swiss. It had to be. She only ever ate Lindt. Anything else was inferior.

And filled it with kittens – Siamese kittens. Soft, silky and squeaky. Her babies.

She is going in more frequently now… a little less stubborn. And she is staying in her box more too.

I am finding I have control of the box, rather than her having control of my mind.

I can go to the box at any time and open the lid to check to see if she is ok. Sometimes, she is sleeping. Sometimes, she just looks up and smiles while playing with the kittens and waves to let me know she is ok.

Sometimes she invites me in for a chocolate. The sweetness of her treats, softens the bitterness of the memories.

Sometimes, I stay a while and let the memories float across my mind. The first time she picked me up from boarding school… I couldn’t see her in the crowd… only Dad with his wonky walk in the distance… but before I could get to him, being swept up in her arms and smothered with kisses, love and the smell of her Fendi perfume.   The time she first held Tom… pride and love oozing from every part of her. The same memory tinged with sadness as I know she would be so proud of Tom now.. and Willy.

Sometimes, the painful memories creep in and I have to close the lid… The last time she came to Yorkshire and Tom flying out of the classroom door and in to Grandad’s arms… Mum not knowing who they were… and the realization that this would be the last time she saw them and the boys had her in their lives. And always the haunting memory of her face against the window pain, rattling at the door, trying to follow us out of the mental hospital.

I softly close the lid of the jeweled box and let her get back to her kittens and chocolates.

I softly close the lid of the jeweled box of Mum and go back to my life and know that I can visit whenever I want to, need to and would like to…


The Rollercoaster

I started this blog exactly a month ago. I should be congratulating myself… I have kept to the challenge…. Spent half an hour each day to get whatever is on my mind on paper – the objective to help me get through the sandwich years; the trials and tribulations of worrying about my parents as my Mum declines and my Dad starts life afresh with out her… alongside the daily grind of childcare as a single mum 5 days of the week… and at the same time, the mental and emotional turmoil of the transition from professional career women to professional … ‘what’?

If the intention of this daily journaling or modern day blogging was to release the emotions out of my head, my heart, then its working…

The tears are back. And this time with anger… rather than the sadness of the other day…

I reflect at the exhaustion yesterday which is unlike me as I usually have so much energy… is the exhaustion from continually hiding my true feelings and being so British and having a ‘stiff upper lip’, forcing the positivity? Or is it just because it is half term and everyone gets exhausted at this time of year?

Or is this more? Am I hiding emotions deep down, suppressed that I still haven’t quite let go of yet?

I ask myself and wonder if the roller coaster ever stops? I look back and see loops of ups and downs – many now distant memories, gone in the hazy mist of the forgotten past… but there are still 2 vast loops still fresh, crystal clear that keep pulling my gaze backwards…:

The dramatic, crescendo-ing loop of the process of deciding to leave my corporate life, professional life 2 years ago, with a little dip as I enter freelance consulting and then a mini loop within the bigger loop as that is no longer a possibility with our lives as they are logistically, currently.

Another loop, one that leaves your heart behind you, out of your chest, breathless; short sharp, sudden and one that makes you grateful for your harness and the hands to hold around you.

From all the books I have read, I know you should never look back, never look in your rear view mirror while you are still travelling forward; for if you do, the crash is inevitable.

Is this the crash?

Or is this just me looking at the current corkscrew of my roller coaster and realizing I am going too fast, rushing from one thing to a next, taking too much on…

Or is this just grief…

I remember many years ago when we moved to Yorkshire, I had lost a baby at 14 weeks and the loss shocked me, devastated me. My head agreed with everyone that it was nature’s way, that it was a good thing, that I should focus on the positives and move forward. But my heart couldn’t deal with it. I had a wonderful grief counseller at the time, who helped work out that the grief I was feeling wasn’t just for my lost baby, but also for the loss of my London life, my bestest friends now gone from my weekly or monthly routine; the loss of my parents support; the loss of my maternal surname ‘Brooksy’; the loss of my identity for now I was James’ wife, or Ivan & Louise’s daughter-in-law; the loss of my daily routines…   She helped me refill my cup and replace the lost routines, lost friends, lost family and lost identity with a new one…. Who did I want Ali Mortimer to be?

Willy asked me this morning, if Granny Brooks had died – was that why I was sad? I answered truthfully that she hadn’t died but that part of her had. I smiled through my tears this morning as he asked, ‘is it her arm or her leg that is dead?’ I explained that it wasn’t a limb, but her brain that had died. I love his reply as it sums up so much of what I am feeling and why… ‘Oh… so she doesn’t know anything?’… ‘She doesn’t remember you or anything about you?’….

So is this grief for the loss of my Mum stirring up many more emotions of loss; the loss of my Mum’s memories of me, my life, my children; the loss of James in my day to day life, someone to hold every night, discuss daily nonsense with… the loss of friends who you realise aren’t really true friends… the loss of my routine, my schedule…

My best friend used to live a 5 minute drive away; she now lives a 5 hour drive away… and I am resisting getting in the car in my pj’s to drive to see her. I know she would be the medicine I need. Even for just 5 minutes.

But would that just be escapism? Would that be just like throwing myself off the rollercoaster carriage… ?

I know what I really need to do… I need to repeat what I did nearly 9 years ago. Refill my cup, rebuild my life, make peace with the past and move forward. Make new friends – like my wonderful Clifton Coffee Mums, who I am so grateful to have met; continue to embrace the new routine that we are creating which is much more of a focus on family at the weekends, rather than social; continue to embrace the evolution of my purpose. I originally wrote career and then profession, but now I feel that I am doing more; career is very egocentric… I like purpose – more of an emphasis on others.

I need to let this current corkscrew of the roller coaster and the two behind me fade in to the distance so I can no longer see them… I need to take from them the pieces that will serve me as life lessons going forward and let the rest of the scaffolding collapse….

I need to reset and focus on creating the path ahead of me stable for me, for my boys… I need to be ready for the next dip and dive of the rollercoaster that surely life will throw me… and rather than throw myself off into oblivion, use the harness, use the support I trust and hold on and enjoy the thrill… enjoy the adventure…   and as the wind whistles through my hair and the scenery hurtles by, know that the past is the past and that is the best place for it…

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