Archive for the 'Friends' Category

Letter to self, age 16

NS December 6th, 2009

letter writing

The following is a guest post from a blogger whom I greatly admire and genuinely like, even though we’ve never met. She is one of those people whose personality comes through in a very honest and real way, even on the computer screen, and endears pretty much everyone who comes into contact with her. She has inspired many bloggers with her creativity and encouragement to practice and perfect our writing but to not get too caught up in that quest for perfection. This lovely lady has written a letter to her 16-year-old self, following a meme started by notSupermum. The contents of that letter are below. To protect her anonymity, I am not publishing her name or a link to her blog so if you want to comment on this post you can do so here, she will be reading.

________________________________________________________

Hello friend.

You’re not in a good place right now are you? Sixteen and already you know far more about the world than you should do. You are still such a baby although you would hate me for saying that, and I know you don’t feel like one. You feel like no-one understands you, and you’re right, they don’t. That requires you opening up to people and that’s something you’ve forgotten how to do.

I need to get one thing straight to you ok? Not all men are like the one you have just escaped from. Sex is not about being made to do stuff you are too young to understand. Sex is not about violence and not about manipulation. It’s going to be a while before you realise that, but you will. In the meantime you need to get some counselling and fast. What you have gone through in the last three years cannot be erased from your memory by force of will, or by taking your revenge on every guy you sleep with by being manipulative and obsessive in return, or by abstinence which will later feel like the safer option.  You have been battered my sweet girl, physically and emotionally and those scars are going to take a long time to heal – you need some help dealing with this. Oh and get your jaw looked at. Because shit head dislocated it and it will click when you eat for the rest of your life.

I know you feel like you’ve already suffered enough crap to last a life time but you need to prepare yourself honey because you have a bumpy road ahead. So have your fun, try and be a bit kinder to those poor boys that cross your path, but the drinking, the lying to your parents and running off to nightclubs in big cities? Go for it. You’ll never do it again so you might as well get it out your system. Just stay safe ok.

Once things start getting crazy you’re just going to have to hang on for the ride and trust you will get through it – which you will, and you’ll emerge stronger and grateful for the lessons you’ve learned. There’s not a lot you could do to avoid any of it, but to try and save you a little pain at least, here’s what you need to know.

Your parent’s marriage is coming to its end now. That’s ok, I know you’ve been waiting for it for a long time and although the little girl in you is so sad, one day you will look back and see that this was the best thing to ever happen to your family. But your mum’s new ‘friend’? You might as well learn now that she is a hell of a lot more than that, it will be less of a shock when you find out accidently. Don’t worry though, she is lovely and you will make your mum blossom and find peace in a way you never could have imagined. They are soul mates and needed to find each other – you will wish they had done so sooner.

Your dad is going to meet someone new too soon. She will make your life a living hell but you need to know that no matter how he acts your dad loves you and is so proud of you. You will lose him for a while but he will find his way back to you: he has his own lessons to learn and as much as you will wish to spare him of the pain he has to come, it will change him for the better.

Now the really bad bit: pretty soon you’re going to start feeling very poorly. It’ll start with a long hospital stay this year so don’t bother revising for your GCSE’s, you’ll miss the lot. In fact, I’d write off all formal education in your mind for a while yet, you’ll feel less disappointed when you have to let go of all your plans and dreams – you won’t really get better for a long time. At first you will think you’re dying, and then when the tests come back clear you will be scared that you have lost your mind because people don’t believe that you are really ill. You will be horribly afraid and in more pain than you ever thought it was possible for a human being to bear, but you will be ok. Honestly. I know it hurts honey but you need to try and keep moving around – you will get better a lot quicker if you do. Above all know that this is NOT in your head or some terrible punishment from God for your past. You’re just wired up a little differently. You will get better at coping with the pain and the fatigue. One day it will hardly bother you at all and you will get to pick up your life again.

Here’s the good news. In less than two years you are going to meet the man that will change everything and who will carry you through all the bad stuff. Everything else may go a bit tits up but this will be the one thing in your life you can rely on. So do what I know you will do, grab him with both hands and don’t let go. There will be much laughter, and a fairytale wedding, and a baby boy that will take you on a whole new crazy journey but bring you more happiness and more healing to you and to your family than you ever could have hoped for.

One last thing: I know you don’t know what to do with your life, but let me tell you girl you were born to write. So start now. Don’t be scared about failing because you won’t, although you’re going to have to accept that you will write some crap at times. And paint more too – I know you think you’re shit but you’re really, really not, and your insecurity and doubts are a horrible waste of your energy and your talents. You still struggle now, you still struggle with a lot of stuff, and have days where you feel worthless and that you should never write another word, but you’re getting there.

Above all, just be patient with yourself. You are headed for great things, I am sure of it. We may not have got there just yet but hell, we’re still young. There’s no rush.

Love,

you aged 27 and 11/12ths.

P.S. Sleep child, at every given opportunity. Believe me, you might as well make the most of it.

Photo credit

Weekend warrior

NS June 1st, 2009

The weather in London has been rather glorious for the past few days, explaining my bloglessness as of late. I tried to get the laptop out into the garden for some sneaky posting in between gardening, setting up and sitting at the new patio furniture, grilling various meats and vegetables, drinking beer and playing with the Noble clan, but the glare on the screen was too great, making my eyes and back very sore from all the squinting and hunching. I gave up after five minutes and declared the weekend a mini break from t’internet. But not to fear, dear readers, for we are like the two cowboys in Brokeback Mountain and no matter how much I sometimes despise our love, find it lonely and inconvenient and shameful, deep down I know I can never quit you. So come here and give me a big wet one. Mmwah!

On Saturday, The Noble Husband’s football team was in the FA Cup final and so he’d invited a few guys round to watch it with him. I was supposed to disappear with the children for a few hours to leave them to their male bonding (or something like that) but in the end I managed to beg off dragging them round the shops and various playgrounds and finangled a place on the sofa to watch the match and drink some brewskies with the boys. TNH’s team lost, sadly, but his mates cheered him up by challenging him to a game of poker and then taking all his money (and mine!) and leaving our house looking like a tip. That’s the mark of true friendship for men, apparently. It sounds so much easier and more relaxed than female friendship, don’t you think? We have to listen and nurture and empathize and be diplomatic. They just engage in some lighthearted banter, drink some beer and play cards until the game is over or the last train is ready to depart, whichever comes first.

Sunday. Oh, Sunday was brilliant. It was one of those days that seems to go on forever, but in a good way. I got to sleep in until 9am, which is fan-bloody-tastic, and then came downstairs to coffee and pastries while perusing the news online. Shortly afterward I had my shower and headed out to the garden to play with the children and utlitise the aforementioned new patio furniture. That I can now sit outside in the shade (shade being very important for my pale-as-paper complexion) while I enjoy various beverages makes me immeasurably happy. Insanely, suburbanly happy. Next think you know I’ll be throwing dinner parties and serving prawn cocktails as a starter, with a pineapple-and-cheese-on-toothpicks for canapes. And Chicken Kiev served with boiled-to-death vegetables as the main. And Blackforest Gateau for dessert.

Oh wait, that would be a variety of suburbanity (is that a word?) from the 1970s, not today. But still, not far off. It’s a slipperly slope out here in Dullsville and if I don’t stop grinning inanely at weather-resistant chairs and the free seat cushions that came with them, I may as well get one of those yellow ‘Baby On Board’ stickers for my car, start coordinating my gardening clogs with my baking apron (I have neither) and take to mocking the great unwashed queuing up for their dinner at KFC to make myself feel better. Ah, to be middle class.

Carrying on with the Good Suburbanite theme, I then cleaned out and hoovered the inside of the car before driving it over to the hand carwash being offered by several tanned men with heavy Mediterranean accents. Watching immigrant men with bulging biceps lean over my windscreen to scrub my car on a hot day while I sat inside singing along to the radio and basking in the air conditioning must’ve been enough to strip me of several feminist badges if the internet’s eyes had been upon me. Good thing we were on a break! As I had cut off outside communications, I allowed myself the guilty pleasure of hiring someone to do what I could easily do myself if I wasn’t so damn lazy, and somewhat enjoying the scenery to boot. Oh, the shame!

A little later in the afternoon I got both children to sleep and then nipped off to the cafe for some more coffee and a spot of writing; a much needed reprieve. When I returned it was time for TNC’s dinner and a webcam with my parents. Halfway through our Skype chat and TNH announces that we’ve been invited to come have a quick drink and a run-around by the river with a couple friends, one of whom has a 4-year-old girl. Seeing as TNC utterly adores girls anywhere from one to five years older than her, we knew she’d love it. Plus, one can never be sure when a warm spell will end so we thought “Sod bedtime, it’s down the river we go!” We set off just after 6pm and didn’t arrive home until half eight but it was a magnificent way to end the day – sipping a cool drink on a blanket by the River Thames, llistening to some chilled out music and chatting away while watching two children run and squeal and play. I could’ve lived on that blanket forever. But alas, it was Sunday night and we had to get back to get the nippers into bed and have a late dinner.

Afterwards, we finished watching a WWII-based film we’d started a few days before and then sat up chatting about world conflicts and alliances, military aggression, battle strategy and other things important to a game of Risk. Can I just say how much I love that my husband and I talk about things like this? We love learning from each other and discussing ideas and history when we get a chance or a reason. The occurences may be fewer and farther between now that we have small children to look after, but the pleasure we take in it remains the same.

And today, another beautiful day spent mostly outdoors or out-and-about, hence my late post. If this good weather continues you can expect more late-night musings as I enjoy the sunshine hours with my family. Though I did see that there are glare-reducing screen covers that you can get for your monitor….

Dial A for abuse

NS January 15th, 2009

I just had a call from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), a charity I donate to each month. They were informing donors that they’d merged with another charity, ChildLine, in an effort to provide more funds for abuse hotlines. At the moment they can only answer about half of the thousands of calls that children make each day. As the fundraiser on the phone pointed out, an abused child will often only have the opportunity or courage to call ChildLine once. If they don’t get through, will they try again? Will they know that someone out there does care what happens to them? Before she could even finish asking me to increase my donation, the words “Absolutely, yes” were spilling out of my mouth and, to my surprise, tears springing to my eyes. A memory from the darkest corners of my mind emerged suddenly, the details of which were suddenly fresh and vibrant.

Me, age 11, gripping a white phone in a purple room, whispering down the receiver while watching for the shadows of footsteps outside the door. Nervous fingers attached to sweaty palms picked at the frayed ends of a worn rug. Three pairs of expectant eyes looked at me with astonishment, relief and fear. I turned away from them, threading the spiral cord between my knuckles, and swallowed against the lump of uncertainty in my throat. After I finished telling their story to the stranger on the other end of the line, I realised that I had been holding my breath and breathing too quickly all at once, my heart racing yet steady. Adrenaline coursed through my veins and formed a knot in my stomach. I listened the advice I was given, nodded, and gently returned the phone to its cradle. I turned and faced the six eyes again, the eyes of my sixth grade best friends, who had joined hands in silent camraderie.

“They said we should tell a trusted adult,” I said in a low voice. “Who do you think that should be?” At their insistence, that person was to be my mother and the person breaking the news to her would be me.

The next day, I headed home from the surreal sleepover to make my confession. With a heavier heart and conscience than any 11-year-old should have, I found my mother in her bedroom and told her we needed to talk. She was folding laundry and busily tidying the room but said ‘sure’ and glanced at me but carried on with her chores, obviously thinking that by talk I meant ask a fleeting question or beg for something I know I shouldn’t or couldn’t have. I told her that she needed to stop and sit down because it was serious, or words to that effect. When she saw the look on my face she stopped in her tracks, her mother’s intuition on high alert, and asked what was wrong. She dropped heavily onto the bed, mid-fold, looking very concerned, and there, amongst the piles of clothes, it all came spilling out — how the sleepover had gone from popcorn and games and pop stars to shared secrets to admissions of abuse by my friends that horrified me down to my core. Admissions of molestation and rape, perpetrated by the stepfather of the friend whose house we were at. He had been molesting and raping her for years in that bedroom and now had moved onto her friends. My two best friends. They’d all been threatened into silence and felt they had no one to turn to. For some reason, they told me that night.

Weeks later, after the dust of arrests, police interviews, child therapists and doctors had settled, I asked them why they’d chosen me. They told me they thought I’d know what to do, how they could get someone to make it stop. They said I was the only person they knew of who’d been through something scary, something very adult, before. The long illness and subsequent death of my sister two years before that had made me stronger, certainly, but strong enough to turn in a criminal? I’m still astouned to this day that they trusted me with something so huge, so life-altering. I’m just glad that they allowed me to help them, and that there are people and organisations like ChildLine out there, on the other end of the phone line, ready to do whatever it takes to end children’s suffering at the hands of monsters.

If you’d like to make a donation to the NSPCC to help them take more calls from abused children, click here. If you’re not in the UK, consider making a contribution to a children’s charity that provides a similar service. It really can make a difference.

Blog love

NS November 6th, 2008

Becky at Musings From The Sofa gave me an ‘I Love Your Blog’ award (See it over on the sidebar, looking all pretty?) and so now I am to nominate seven other bloggers whose sites I love. With well over 50 blogs on my Google reader, it’s a tough choice but here are some that have been particular favourites lately. In no particular order, my nominees are:

  • A Free Man — For his smart, topical posts, being a ‘daddy blogger’ amongst all us mommies, and great music links
  • J. Lucy Muses — Because we share a common dream, to become freelance writers
  • Welcome To The Planet — A diversity of posts written by an artist, a survivor and a mother-in-waiting
  • 100 Days In Bed — Hilariously funny and touching tales from a woman riding out an emotional rollercoaster
  • Jen’s Den of Iniquity — My blogging guru and fellow expat-in-London, always with her finger on the pulse, who also happens to be my real-life friend
  • The Curvature — Does what it says on the label: “A feminist perspective on politics and culture.” Cara also does kickass Beatles blogging
  • An Observant Mind — Jet-setting flight attendant with a heart of gold and a knack for witty banter. My sister’s roommate for years, he’s practically family
  • The rules for passing this award on are as follows:

    1. Add the logo of the award to your blog
    2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
    3. Nominate at least seven other blog.
    4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.

    I look forward to hearing your acceptance speeches…

    A dose of gratitude

    NS June 30th, 2008

    It was my birthday yesterday (only one more year until the big 3-0 now!) and I just have to thank all of my wonderful friends and family for sending their well wishes and lovely, thoughtful gifts. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

    I also want to give special thanks for my friend L, whom I have grown particularly close to in the past three years and who has become something of a touchstone. We have so much in common, such similar tastes and outlooks on life and our conversations flow with the kind of ease and familiarity of those you’ve known since you were born. I’ve never censored myself when we’re together and know that I can be completely and utterly myself around her. That is not an insignificant thing.

    The other amazing gift we share is motherhood. She supported me throughout my pregnancy and TNC’s early baby days and when she told me of her pregnancy when TNC was about five months old, I excitedly helped her plan and prepare as she had done for me. We trade tips on teething, foods our kids like, breastfeeding, toys, milestones, the madness of toddlerdom and are always there to lend a sympathetic ear when one of us is getting no sleep or just at the end of our tethers. I trust her so implicitly that she is going to be my second birth partner, alongside The Noble Husband. We must be great friends if I’m willing to let her see me buck naked and writhing around in labour!

    And now, the news that she too is expecting her second child, news which will bring us even closer as we embark on yet another journey together. There’s no one else I’d rather go through this with and I will forever be grateful for her friendship and camaraderie. I love ya, L!

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