Tag Archives: grief

I don’t love you anymore with short hair

My boyfriend of almost four years didn’t love me, so I broke up with him. Did I love him? I think so. But I loved myself more, and I couldn’t handle the way he was trying to control me, so I left him.

He wasn’t serious about having a relationship with me. He couldn’t compromise. If I wanted to do thing A, and he wanted to do thing C, he would not look for thing B. He would not even consider option B. For him, meeting in the middle was other people doing exactly what he wanted. Sadly, I did that. But only for about 10 seconds.

He physically couldn’t empathise. He didn’t want to spend time with me outside of the house. We only saw each other in the apartment we rented. He drank a lot.

Two of our friends who were a couple broke up, but were still friends. “I admire that. I hope we can be like that” I said. “When [not if] we break up, I will never speak to you again. My friends are my family”. Why do I live with someone who speaks to me like that? Why do I spend so much of my time with someone who sees me as disposable?

He didn’t come to my mother’s funeral. I should have ended it then but I was too broken to move out.

It all started when we moved to Bilbao. He fell in with a bunch of very traditional, very culturally Catholic Bilbao guys, the type who shout and sexually threaten women in the street, then complain they don’t get any sex because it’s a “matriarchy”, completely ignoring the fact that women can have multiple orgasms and that if it were up to us there’d be a lot more sex in the world. They brag about cheating on their girlfriends, as if it were something to be proud of, they refused to call me by my name, insisted that I share cards with my boyfriend (a girl doesn’t know how to play poker, do they… After I wiped the floor with them, I was never invited back), and screamed racial slurs in my friends’ faces. He wanted to fit in with them, so he ignored all the ways that they disrespected women in general, and me specifically. I was making it all up, I was exaggerating, my feminism course was the real problem… After 2 years of arguments in our 4 year relationship, I’d just had enough. If he could turn a blind eye to this, what else would he turn a blind eye to? These friends were his “family”. I was nothing.

Every relationship I have ever had with a man has basically started and ended the same way, although the time span, names, faces, and nationalities have varied. “You’re so different to other girls” they tell me. “I love how strong and independent you are. My last girlfriend always wanted me to travel with her, she could never go anywhere alone” they croon. “I love the way you talk so openly about sex” they say.

Then, everything about my strong character seems to start to bug them. Or maybe I just seem to attract men who are looking for a challenge, who get off on breaking the wild horse. Why do you have to talk so loudly? You’re so vulgar. Stop acting like a man, you’re a woman. Don’t go on that trip, anything could happen. I like your hair long. Are you cheating on me?

“You’re becoming too feminist” he told me, six months before I left him.

I still thought it could work. I thought if I just explained to him in the right way, just… I deluded myself, as does everyone who sleeps with the enemy. Fear of being alone made with stay with him. I also liked the way that very few men sexually harassed me while I was “taken”.

“What’s the matter, don’t you love me anymore?” I said quietly, after coming back from a trip.

“Not with that haircut, no” he said quietly. “I don’t love you anymore with that haircut”.

“Ok. I’ll leave  this weekend then”. And I did.

He cried every time I saw him after that. I had to be strong and move my stuff out. He cried and cried. “My friend asked me was I willing to change anything. I said no. I’m not willing to even think about changing one thing”.

“Why are you fucking crying then? You’ve made me do this. All I asked you to do was listen. That’s all I asked”.

I put on a brave face to my friends. “I’m fine” I said. I really wasn’t fine, but after having survived the agony of losing my mum two years ago, this was unpleasant, this was painful, but it was like a nasty paper cut compared to losing an arm. There was no comparison.

I felt sad. I did feel sad. I do feel sad. I grieve the loss of the relationship. But in the end, our dreams did not even come close  to aligning (namely because he had few dreams and was not willing to make them work with mine, although they were very compatible), and all of my dreams he outright hated and tried to steer me away from with his negativity. One day I want to foster girls, I want to give them a home and love them unconditionally for as long as I can. He said he hated children. I thought “Maybe it’s a silly dream”.

Another dream. I want to buy a van and travel around, then live in my van while I build my own house. He told me that I can’t because I can’t change a tyre. I said I’d learn. He said he didn’t want to go, that he’d rather take a back pack. I told him he wasn’t invited.

Another, smaller dream. One day, I want a dog. He has a phobia of dogs. I said I had a phobia of men, and unlike him and dogs, men have actually attacked me, and all women live beneath the constant threat of violence from men. He told me that my feminism course was ruining our relationship. I told him the feminism course was more important than a relationship with him. He tried to pay for my dinner, claim my swiss army knife was his, be the macho man in public. I seethed.

I stayed so long because the sex was still good, and as a female, I feel that selecting men for sex is like playing the penile lottery. (Maybe it’s too long, maybe (more likely) it’s too small. Maybe it’s a good size but prematurely ejaculates. Maybe the man it’s attached to is so self-absorbed that he’s entirely untrainable in the art of getting you off and gets miffed when you do it for yourself).

Usually, in my previous relationships, the sex peters out and that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but that wasn’t the case in this one. I suggested to him we carry on boning. He declined. What a waste of good flesh, I thought. Life is just too short.

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It’s Almost Impossible to be Unhappy in Bilbao

I cried on the plane to Bilbao again today, knowing that I won’t be back in the UK for a while now. Home isn’t perfect, but it’s so…. normal. You know what to expect. You know roughly when stuff opens, and what time it closes. You count the money without thinking about it. Your brain doesn’t get exhausted by speaking a foreign language, trying to interpret signs that are make zero sense to you.

As soon as I got back to the flat, I lay down on the sofa and had a good old cry. My mum is 100% dead, incinerated, soon to be scattered. Her house is empty. I worked really hard over the summer, emptying the garage and cupboard after cupboard, giving things of no sentimental value to charity (which is where they came from), and my sister did the final clear out of Mum’s clothes this week. Don’t ask me where she got the mental energy. I just sat there, feeling waves of sadness hit me and trying not to get in her way.

I peeled myself off the sofa as there was no food in the house, and I put on my “walking in Spain face”, which tries to be neutral, yet with a hint of “I take no shit”. I’ve been working on softening it in the year since I left Madrid, but it’s still pretty sharp.

The lift in my building arrived. There was a young couple already in there. I got in. The lift didn’t move. “Your backpack” they said, smiling. Anther person got in. They all chatted.

I went to the supermarket, got my stuff, and then waited in the queue. Someone who worked there actually bothered to tell me I was in the 5 items or less queue, smiling, while his other coworkers consoled a crying child who had mislaid it’s mother, feeding her chocolate. When I was ready to pay, the cashier leant over conspiratorially, and told me that I was really missing out by not having the store card. She called over her manager to sign me up, and I dictated to him my details, while a lady behind me remarked “I learn English my whole life and look, she’s learning Spanish and she speaks so well. Where are you from?”.

Back in the lift of my apartment, I stopped to hold a door open for the person entering behind me. She started chatting to me about how cold it was (in Britain it’s 10 degrees colder right now,  but no one likes this to be pointed out). I smiled and nodded, agreeing about the “cold”, while thinking “You know nothing Jon Snow”. As I left the lift she called after me “Happy New Year!”.

I suppose that people are generally happier and friendlier during the holidays, but Bilbao is just such a happy and friendly place in general. It’s the complete polar opposite to Madrid. I wish wish WISH I had moved to the Basque Country earlier, but I always remind myself that if I hadn’t lived in Madrid for 3 horrible years then I wouldn’t have met my lovely partner.

I’m so glad I live here now. Basque people are so lovely and kind,  so polite, so positive, so gracious and welcoming to foreigners. I hope people treat them really well when they are in the UK.

One More Fight and Learning to Make Decisions

Something I didn’t expect about losing my mother is a feeling of wanting “just one more fight”.

We spent much of my adult life arguing. Mum wanted what she thought was best for me. I wanted to do things differently. “Play it safe” she advised me. “Marry an accountant”.

I’ve come to realise that many decisions I’ve made in my life I’ve made exactly because they are the exact diametric opposite of what she would have chosen for me, such as: piercings, tattoos, studying an arts subject at university, travelling around the world alone, self-funding being a volunteer, adopting a cat.

I won’t be studying this masters (Feminismo y género) because it’s something she would have disapproved of, but that’s a definite bonus. I think about dedicating my dissertation to her:

For Mum.
I know you’re probably right, but I have to try anyway.

Now that she’s gone, do I need to find a new way of making decisions? Firstly, I don’t know if she is “gone”. My religious/spiritual friends tell me that people they’ve lost continue with them in a certain way, which seems like what grief therapists refer to when they talk about “relationships continuing”. I find it comforting to think that the essencial *essence* of Mum, the kind and humourous part, will stay with me.

But as part of being an adult, I feel it’s important to make decisions based on your own internal compass, not to (dis)please others. Not sure how one learns to do that, but I have an inkling. Here’s my thought process about choosing my masters:
1) I want to do a masters.
2) a) Should I study something related to my current carreer (which I don’t really like) or branch out into a different subject?
Branch out.
b) Should I study in the US, the UK, or Spain?
Spain (cheapest)
c) Should I study in English or in Spanish?
Study what you love, in Spanish.

All of those questions I weighed up, mulled over, and researched, for probably about 5 years, although not consecutively. My final year of uni, I felt like I wanted to continue studying but I didn’t know what. I looked in to a few masters (like teaching, or law) but decided against them because I didn’t want to be tied to living in one country/region or saddled with  a bank loan. Then I forgot about studying as I grappled with learning Spanish.

So, deciding to do this masters is probably the first adult decision I’ve made in my life, instead of things just happening to/around me. I’m excited, but also nervous. Will I be able to cope being in Spanish all day? Will I run out of money? Will my classmates like me? Will people try to practise English on me all the time? It’s out of my hands. But I’ve made the decision.

Don’t give up giving up

I bought my first pack of cigarrettes when I was 13, when I bought my first bag of weed. “If I feel myself getting addicted, I’ll stop”, I said, with the hubris of youth. 12 years later, and I was still chained to nicotine, trapped in the idea that it was easier to continue smoking than to stop.

Out of 3 siblings, I am the only smoker. My father and his sister were chain smokers, and Dad always said: “Never ever start smoking”. When he realised I smoked, he tried to give me money to stop, but ofcourse that enabled my partying, and I continued smoking like a chimney.

The day my mother told me her cancer had come back(May 9th, 2014), I immediately started smoking again, trying desperately to handle the stress. I smoked more than ever, until I felt physical nausea, which made me lie down, until I felt better, so I could have another cigarrette.

My Mum always said “five a day”. Five cigarrettes a day won’t do you any harm. You have to die of something, don’t you?

She smoked until the final weeks of her life. “I feel so stupid now”, she told me, bedbound and morphined up. “I’ve brought all this on myself. I wish I had never smoked”. I tried to comfort her. I told her how addictive nicotine is, and how it wasn’t her fault. How no one blamed her.

I will never forget my mother’s black eyes twisting in pain in the last months of her life, and how she never, ever complained. Despite the pain, despite the degradation of her symptoms, all she wanted was one day more, one minute more, one breath more.

I would give anything to have one more argument with her. If she hadn’t smoked, would we have had another precious day together?

Mum,

I love you and I miss you and I think about you every day. It’s been 12 months since my last cigarrette, 8 months since your death, and I wish that it would bring you back to me.

Music, Death, Life, and Lindy

A few months before my Mum died, I put some music on Spotify, and my mum said: “Ah great, I love jazz”. She told me about how as a student in Belfast, she used to go to jazz events in a hotel in the city by herself because her friends weren’t into the music but she was. I’d known her my whole life, lived with her for 18 years, and I never knew that she liked that type of music. I suppose that she was a private person, and I was a difficult teenager (which she always refuted, but I know I was a complete twat), but still. I felt grateful then that she was dying of cancer, and that we still had a few precious moments left together when she was (relatively) well.

In the last few weeks of her life, when she was bed bound, we put on playlist after playlist of jazz music (she also loved Abba and the Bee Gees, but those didn’t really seem appropriate). “Which music shall we ruin now?” we joked, knowing that this music would be forever linked in our minds to watching our mother get weaker and weaker, eyes glassy with morphine, smiling when she heard our voices.

She’s been gone two months now, and I miss her like crazy. I’m incapable of going to weddings (I’ve declined 3 invitations thus far, and will probably not be going to another two) because I just can’t bear the thought of her not being there to watch me tie the knot, disapproving of everything  but also quietly, fiercely proud of the woman I’ve become.

My boyfriend and I enrolled in a Lindy Hop class in January. We dance to the swing music, which we both love, and I think about my mum. I feel close to her then, and I know that I’m doing something that she never did but would have enjoyed before she got sick. I don’t dance perfectly, but I dance for her.

Strength

A friend just lost their grandma to a long term illness, and they’ve said to me “How have you been so strong through all this? I don’t know what I would do if this was my Mum, and not my grandparent! Christ.”

For me, when it comes to psychological pain, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing, measuring, even competing. Just because one person’s pain has a “worse” cause, doesn’t mean it’s more or less pain. Pain is pain. If someone has a big cut on their arm and someone else has a cut on their leg, it hurts. End of.

I told my friend that I use a thin veneer to hide the pain of losing my mother from the general public, but that’s not strictly true. Sometimes I don’t feel sad, and other times I suddenly do, and it’s hard to predict when I will feel a spasm of grief or not. I kind of do feel like, on a psychological level, I’ve broken a bone, and it’s very painful at times, but I have to remember it will heal. No matter how bad I feel, no matter how much I feel like I’m trapped in the bottom of a deep well, I won’t feel like this forever.

The truth is, Mum would want me to stop making so much of a fuss about her passing away. She would say “Shhh. Stop crying darlinks, you’re not dead. How about some eggs dippings?”.

So, I plod along, putting one foot after the other, hoping that these deep, dark, scary feelings will pass. And they do.

I’ve learned that nothing is ever as bad as you imagine it to be, and that when the time comes, you will find the strength inside yourself that you never knew you had, and do what needs to be done.

Things I learned in 2014

2014 has been a difficult year for me and my family. In May, my mum’s cancer markers were up, and in June, we were given confirmation by the oncologist that she had 6 months to live. She passed away in November, at 61 years old,  and I am still reeling from the loss, but I am doing my best to be positive and live my life, because that is what my mum would have wanted.

Here are some things I have learned in 2014.

1) It is impossible to die from emotional pain.

When you watch someone you love die, you might feel like the pain is so unbearable that you might die too. But you will survive.

2) People are basically good and kind.

Most people are nice. I was completely surprised by the amount of kind messages people I hadn’t spoken to in a long time sent me after reading my blog, even those whom I didn’t part on the best of terms with.

3) I shouldn’t drink that much.

There are a lot of people who can have a few beers and be “happy drunk”. Unfortunately, at the moment, I am not one of them.

4) Anger must be released in controlled explosions.

It’s OK to be angry, and it’s OK to be sad, but it’s not OK to take that out on other people. My partner has invited me to join him at the boxing gym this month, and I think I need it. The training may be beyond my physical abilities, but I need to get out my anger and what better thing to do than pulverise a punch bag?

5) Sports massages are wonderful!

Psychological pain can cause physical pain. Watching my mother deteriorate made my shoulders tense up to such an extent that some days I could barely turn my head. Then I found a wonderful sports massage therapist.

6) Life is short. Enjoy every day!

No matter what’s happening in your life, there are always small things you can enjoy every day. A nice hot shower, a walk in the park, laughing with friends, pictures of cats…

7) Be grateful for what you have.

A clean safe home. Running water. A hot shower. Clean clothes. Enough food to eat. Contraception. Health care. The dentist. A library card. The internet. So many people don’t have access to these simple things.

8) I really actually enjoy seeing pictures of people’s babies on my newsfeed.

I might be one of those rare people that loves seeing pictures of people’s growing families on their newsfeed. More baby pictures please! Picks me right up when I’m feeling down 🙂