This summer I have been here there and everywhere, and have seen more of my family than usual. When I was down South I spent some time with my Grandma, who is 91 and still lives at home, but with Mum doing a lot for her, sometimes to much I think. She really enjoyed the fact I’d let her do what she liked, including a trip to M&S to have a wander around, and eat cake.
I’ve now spent some time with my parents on holiday in the North of Scotland. It’s lovely to see them, but for different reasons they both drive me up the wall. I was also reminded that they are getting older which worries me about the future. Mum (who’s 65), is determined that she is old and everything is a problem. I dread to think about the future with her, as there is to a certain extent in my family and expectation that daughters will look after there parents when they get old. Dad (who’s 70) on the other hand, I was aware was getting older, as he is getting slightly slower and has more aches and pains, which he is refusing to tell Mum about, and only told me about because I was trying to walk to fast. I was aware of how far away from they live, and also how personality clashes, would make it difficult for me to be of any use anyway. It’s more a nag at the back of my brain, and hopefully it won’t be come a real issue for a few years yet.
This post is partly prompted by the ongoing debate about immigration, partly prompted by Ian’s post, but mainly by some letters I have been reading. Recently some letters have come to light in my family which were written by my Great-Grandad to my Grandad and Great Aunt in the 1920’s and 30’s. He was at the time living in New York and they were living in Bristol. When they were 12 and 13, there Mother died, and several of the letters were written around this time, with some others being written when they were in their later teens. At the time he was living with very little money illegally, and wasn’t in a position to either return to the UK or get his children to America. Reading the letters re-enforces how he desperately wanted to do the right thing for his children, but couldn’t change the situation. The letters just remind me that anyone can end up in the situation of being an immigrant, it is by an accident of birth, it’s because of the situation that I was born in to that I am not the person hoping to find a better life in a different country, relying on others good will. Reading his letters I can also see he regrets his initial decision to seek a better life else where, but that once he had made what he thought was the right choice for all his family, that he was stuck in a situation that he was unable to change. Before judging both asylum seekers and economic migrants, it is worth reminding ourselves, that if we had been born somewhere else, then it could have been us.
What is family? Is it about blood ties or is it about something else? Is it about caring about others, about somehow belonging, just because you do, not because you have to? About knowing that if you had a problem you could just call, or turn up, and they would be there for you? But maybe it’s also about the bigger picture, about how our lives interweave, how we’re part of the bigger picture in their lives. This week I had a birthday, I received 3 cards addressed to Auntie, even though I don’t have biological nieces or nephews. I also received 3 cards from friend’s parents. It’s nice to feel you belong in lots of places, just because……not because you have to.
The last two years I have, for want of a better word reviewed things that I have done for the previous year which I am glad to have done. (See posts here and here.) It’s a year since the last one so I’m looking back over the previous year. While reflecting the main thing I realised is that I am happier with who I am as a person. Life in the last year has definitely not worked out how I wanted it to, but I have far less regrets than I have in previous years. I think this is in part due to seeing the positive in what I have, and partly due to not being scared to push doors/ say what I think, so I’m not looking back wishing I had done things differently. I guess I know I did what I could to get the outcome I wanted, which I find makes it easier to accept the way life is.
The following is a selection of things from the last year that I am grateful for.
1) Completeing my second NanoWrimo novel
2) Having the opportunity to learn that I don’t like snow as much as I thought I did!
3) Wonderful friends
4) Completing Script Frenzy
6) “Sunrise” on the beach on the longest day of the year.
7) MacDonalds breakfast with 2 wonderful teenagers, 3 wonderful grown-ups and 3 delightful children. (We use to take the teenagers when they were little.)
8) Special children in my world
9) Finding a church that I love going to (something that I never thought would happen)
10) Twitter (surfing_madness)
11) Remembering my knitting skills
12) Learning to crochet
13) Being given the guardian for the 3 weeks of the tour de France.
14) Completing my post-graduate certificate
15) Getting a place to study Social Work
16) Finding a bible study/ house group which I feel comfortable in.
17) Heritage open day
18) My brother and sister-in-law.
19) My Dad’s randomness
Christmas is so often portrayed as having it all, we all want to create that “perfect” Christmas, often described as that “perfect Christmas with loved ones”. But what happens when you can’t have it all? What happens when you happily spread your loved ones out round the UK, where even if you had some magic wand and could have them all in the one place, the possible explosions really aren’t worth it? I am spending Christmas this year again with wonderful friends, and I know it will be a great day, as there is no pressure to make it perfect, which in someways makes it perfect. But by being with them, I am not with other friends, or with my family. I’ll miss my family on Christmas day, but know that if I was actually with them I would be going up the wall! I spend most of the year being a ridiculous optimist, apart from Christmas when somehow I become a pessimist. Not sure why, but Christmas really isn’t my favourite time of year. As a Christian I often feel really bad about that, if I can’t feel optimistic about the secular side, surely I should engage with the religious aspect, but somehow it feels forced. I love God partly because he gives us free will to love him, he doesn’t force us in to it. He freely loves us, and therefore we can chose to love him, but sometimes, those around us make us feel that we should love God more at this time, but actually the freedom to choose is real love.
I’m staying with my brother and sister-in-law for a few days, and am being reminded how right they are for each other. Often we notice when friends starting seeing someone and they have a bad effect. I’m having to watch the nightmare of seeing a friend with the wrong person, it is therefore been good to see a positive. I love my brother to bits, but am realising that him being with my sister-in-law has definitely made him a more rounded, complete person. She has brought out parts of his personality which would have remained hidden. I guess what I’m saying is that if you can find that person who makes you a better of version of you it’s good not just for you but for others too.
Sundays are the day that I most struggle with being alone. I mean alone not single. Let me explain, I grew up in a fairly old fashioned evangelical Christian family. Although things did relax a little but not a lot during my teenage years. I grew up in a family where Sunday was different from the rest of the week. No T.V or radio on a Sunday, we wore our Sunday best, we even used different crockery and cutlery on a Sunday. Sunday was a family day, we usually did things as a family, either games or a walk, and of course there was always church in the morning (and the evening as we got older.) When I first left home I really struggled with not having that automatically filled Sunday, and have continued to struggle periodically on and off since. I know that I wouldn’t choose to live near my family, but that doesn’t stop me missing them. Sundays are often just a day that underlines to me that I don’t really fit anywhere. The Christian world is not good at dealing with people who aren’t attached somewhere. They like it best when people come as part of a couple and later with children too, but they can deal with when you are there as a parent, daughter, son, aunt, uncle etc or even if you are still where you grew up school friend. But what about when you don’t fit any of these boxes. When you don’t fit, Sunday can turn into a day that just emphasis that you are alone.
This feeling of being alone is also emphasised to me when I church hunt, the majority of times I have church hunted, have happened due to a major life event, so in my brain church hunting, already has an association with struggle and change, outside of the church event. I also struggle walking into a church by myself, especially for the first few times. All these things work together to make me feel alone.
Over the last 6 weeks or so, despite not being at church, I have managed to have things happening so I have spent time with people who make me feel less alone in my world. When I have a few weeks like this, it underlines the alone feeling when it doesn’t happen. All in all then not a good day as all the things that make me feel most alone have happened in one day! (I did try a new church this morning, which considering how I’m feeling was good for me.)
Before certain people start to panic, sometimes it helps to have a moan. I guess the way to sum it up, is in a perfect world I wouldn’t have to deal with this, but life isn’t perfect, and in order for me not to feel like this now, I would have had to have made different choices which would cause me other problems and frustrations at other times.
About a year ago I wrote this post. So I decided it was time for an update of things I’m glad I’ve done in the last year/ things I am grateful for. It’s just a random selection that came to mind in no particular order, and is as ever incomplete.
1) That I have a job (even if it isn’t secure at least I have one right now.)
2) That I spent Christmas with amazing friends
3) That I danced in the snow with Third Party to Dolly Parton 9 to 5
4) That I have passed my first OU module
5) That I completed NaNoWriMo
6) Wilderness camping on Jura giving the change for thinking and reflecting
7) Counting yellow things, and making imaginary worlds with my god-son (he’s 3 and ½)
8) Camping with my god-daughter
9) Friends going on holiday and leaving me the subscription to the paper while tour de France is on.
10) Amazing friends
11) A friends 6 year old who thinks that “life is better when Surfing is in it!”
12) Relatively good health (both physically and mentally)
13) Visiting Cardiff station
14) Finally making it to Malta
15) Solas 2010
16) Train journeys
17) My prayer triplet (we always eat when we meet!!)
18) Somewhere to live and a flat mate who I get on with
19) For this amazing blogging community
20) For my family (and the fact that I live a distance away that means I don’t have to see them to much, but when I do I appreciate them)
21) My love of reading and enjoying some great books this year
22) Living where I can attend Holy City easily
23) for discovering a range of new music
This year partly through choice and partly due to work, i spent Christmas away from my family. I had a lovely time with friends. The high-light it has to be said for me was snow (apparently it snowed but i didn’t see it, but we have 2-3 inches lying on the ground at the moment!) I am house sitting the house opposite my friends who I spent Christmas with. My Christmas day there fore started with 3 children ringing the door bell at 6:45am, (because they weren’t allowed to open anything other than there stocking till i was there.) It was a great way to start the day three excited children in their pyjamers, the youngest one who looked at me and just went “your dressed!” as they had been expecting me to still be in my pyjamers. At church in the morning, one of the children flew a remote controlled helicopter and another showed off their rollerblading skills. The rest of the day was chilled out, i fell asleep in the afternoon with the 6 year old watching Hannah Montana. All in all a relaxing day, which was possible because their was no pressure for it to be perfect.
Hope everyone else had a good day.