Layers

I never realised I could fall apart at the seams, hell I never even realised we had seams.

I love the scene in Shrek where Shrek tried to explain to Donkey that he has layers. Layers of personality. Not the Ego, Id type of personality layers, more the wear a different hat type of layers. I’m aware also that some people put on a hat and it’s the only one they ever wear, they never change. My brother is like that. He is what he is, never changing, stubborn and straight forward. Me, I wear so many hats that sometimes I forget to take one off before I have to put another on, and the layers just pile one on top of the other.

Enough of the fancy analogies, I’m here to tell you about the day that the seams unravelled and I ended up in a pile of bits.

I was doing fine, or so I thought. I had a good well paid job and I loved the power trip of being able to make grown men quiver at the sight of me. I was an accountant. I had a good husband and two wonderful daughters, a home and a new car, life couldn’t have got much better. At the gym three times a week, a size ten, blonde hair and being awesome.

The only thing I wasn’t looking after was myself. Being fit and fantastic was more hard work than anyone realised. Up at the crack of sparrow fart, lunches made, kids sorted, dropping them off at the childminder. Driving an hour to work, pretending to know what I was doing at any given time. Always being cheerful and efficient. Looking the part and feeling stifled in a suit on hot stuffy days. Trying to work out why my marriage wasn’t working out, pushing myself harder and harder to look like the ideal woman and then spending the time I had at home clearing up, sorting out and keeping the peace. I forgot about me, the real me.

Once a year I got away, a trip to the Spa, it’s not as posh as it sounds, but it was my escape and I would use it to shed the layers, put away the hats and make the most of being me. But this year I didn’t enjoy it, I spent my two days with my mobile stuck to my ear. I’d love to strangle the idiot that invented mobile phones. Then I got the phone call, Charlie senior was dying and he wanted to see me. I went without a second thought. Even though I knew my husband would not be happy about it.

Charlie junior was a part of my past, a layer I had buried and one that I didn’t want to surface, but his father was a different matter. Charlie senior and Phil his wife had been there in some of my darkest times and I could never repay them for there kindness, I needed to be with the family.

After a few weeks Charlie died and I fell apart. It was grief that set me free. I took time off and got to see my life as it was for the first time, and I didn’t like it.

My husband was controlling, my job was killing me, I was obsessed with the way I looked and my children weren’t as well adjusted as I believed.

The seams began to unravel, first the job, I had to take time off, I had to get away and have some time to think. Whilst on leave the company decided that our branch needed to be closed. I was offered the chance to go to another branch in Surrey but it was too far away.

My marriage came under inspection and I realised that it had died and was stagnating somewhere under layers of crap. I tried, I honestly did, but eventually it came to the point where I couldn’t hold it together any more, I lost my home, my youngest stayed with her dad and I lost my sense of direction.

It took time to piece it back together, the seams had split, the hats I had worn, mother, accountant, wife, chief cook bottle washer and dogs’ body, had all been thrown away. I had no more layers left, just an empty emotional wreck floating on a sea of insecurity.

It was, without a doubt, the best thing that could have happened. The hats had each come with a price and that price was too high to pay.

I moved away, and in my new home I had a piece of paper nailed to my wardrobe. I read it every morning. It read…

I’ve lost my home, my child and my life, nothing could be worse. Life can only get better.

Every morning I would see this and I would remember that there was nothing in this world that could make me feel that bad ever again.

I had a mental breakdown and I recovered. I’m remarried, and I stop now to make sure that I’ve removed all the hats before I move on. The seams aren’t so tightly strung together, if I drop a part of me from time to time I don’t get so wound up. I can miss a gym session, go without being the perfect housewife, and I do not have to worry about corporate statical analysis.

I’ve been down and looked under the layers, I’ve found myself, and do you know something I quite like who I am.

Freedom

I seek the freedom from my demons,
That sit inside my head,
They’ve been allowed to fester,
To lay around and fed,
On all my insecurities,
My troubles and my doubts,
Keeping me a captive,
Never getting out.
I seek the freedom to evolve,
To be all that I can be,
To go to places and see life,
And be all that I can be.
I want to show the World,
That nothing can confine,
Nothing ever holds me back,
Not even my own mind.

Connections

Before, that is before the World went Pandemic crazy, we all had connections. Work colleagues we would see every day, those we would have coffee with or sit and eat our lunch with. If not at work we had those people we knew that we would see in the Supermarket, the friendly till operator, or the woman who kept the vegetable shelves stacked. Whoever we were connected to, these connections have been severed or at the least changed.

My husband now sees his work colleagues on a screen in the home office. (That’s the spare room where the rubbish is dumped. It used to get binned but now I don’t have a chance to get in there to clear it out)

Things are changing, I wouldn’t say they are getting back to normal. In the last year and a half, the people I spent time with have all changed. They have each dealt with and had different experiences of the Pandemic. Isolation for some has been an eye opener or a time of despair. Me, I’ve changed, I’ve grown, I’ve found a new side of me, and I really like it.

We need to reconnect, I’ve started and it has been a good few days. I don’t mean getting back to the same routine, I mean taking this unprecedented experience and learning from it. Learning who meant so much to you that you contacted them daily, those that slipped out of sight only to reappear because it suits them. Then of course there are those who suffered with the isolation, that need to be reminded that they are missed.

I have four good friends, I wouldn’t say that I am their best friend, but they are all pretty special to me. This last couple of weeks has been about catching up, not by phone or messenger, but in person. Face to face, holding hands type of catching up. I’ve sung in the rain, shocked the life out a waitress because I told one friend to kill his girlfriend. Just kidding obviously. Had to explain to a lady that I was married ‘TO A MAN’ as she delightedly told me I was her ‘type of gal’. It has been a good time.

It wasn’t easy, getting out of the door, bypassing my agoraphobia which has plagued me since I was a child. I’ve been out, I worked through the Pandemic, but I hadn’t socialised. I’ve been to the gym, swimming, to bungee fitness. It’s a thing trust me. This was different.

It’s been an important development in my fresh start. You see I’m going back to college, not a distance learning course, a proper classroom-based Diploma. I’m going back to the choir, no more singing in my head to a screen as the music teacher plays to her camera not knowing if anyone is actually singing or watching Coronation Street.

If reconnecting is scary just remember that your friends may need a bit of encouragement as well. Not everyone has been standing by the front door for the last 12 months with their rave hat on waiting for the green light. A lot of us have been isolated in mind body and soul.

I started with the best person I knew, the one person who never judges me and just accepts that I’m a bit of a nutter. I booked a hotel that I’ve never been to, an afternoon tea, it was lush. We laughed and we told each other all the rubbish things we had been through, the drunk driver that totalled mine and my husband’s car in one pass. Her worry about the flat in Icmeler as the forest fires spread. We put the World to rights, I talked about David and she talked about work. We enjoyed good food and we spent three hours laughing, and being idiots. I thought it would make me feel better, but it didn’t.

I had been given a sweetie and then it was taken away. I wanted to be with everyone I knew, I realised just how much I had missed my friends. Physically hugging, the collapsing into each other as we laughed. It was the perfect afternoon.

I resolved to see everybody I could, this was going to be an expensive adventure. An adventure that would help with the repair of my mental health.

Roger, what can I say about Roger, the one person that I would run to when things get beyond tough. My confidante, my pain in the ar…. Seriously if there was ever a person that could be everything to one person it has to be him. Hell, even my husband gets on with him. We have had him and Nat over for dinner and we have been to theirs but that just isn’t the same as walking around the town being carefree and sitting and sharing a meal whilst talking psychology, murder (that’s where the killing the girlfriend came in, he’s writing a book) and food, after being dragged around the second-hand shops looking for books.

Roger thinks I should write my biography, but quite honestly no one would believe it.

My favourite connection of all is Vicky. She has become the best friend anyone could have. I will not describe her nor put her into a box. She is so far out of the box that I don’t think a box has ever been designs that would container her.

We went out on the wettest of days, we walked in the woods, hoods down and got soaking wet whilst singing, “It’s a Wonderful World” Yes it was sung in a Lois Armstrong voice. We had cheese on toast which for two women on a diet is a delight, and we finished the meal off with a blueberry and cream sponge cake. We talked about how we felt and what we wanted to do, we keep each other on our toes. We reconnected with friendship, it wasn’t about shopping, nor work nor who would look after whose pet, it was about us and it was a brilliant day.

I’ve reconnected with my family and I’m off next week to see my brother. Life is changing, and I’m changing with it.

I haven’t forgotten my husband, we have spent 18 months trying to get along in this house whilst he worked upstairs and I felt compelled to silently sit downstairs as he worked and had zoom meetings. We have had our rows and I have threatened to leave him more than once. He has been down to see the boys and I have been away with our daughter, but we haven’t started this new chapter yet, we are still in Pandemic mode. Something that is going to change.

David has been out with friends, he went Clay Pigeon shooting last week and he has had a chance to go to the War museum with our daughter and he has been to the Archery club. He has been in work a day a week for a month now and next week they will be in for three days. However, we haven’t had time to do “us”.

Today we are going to have an afternoon out, a pub lunch and time for us. The last time we tried I booked a canal cruise with a meal. It wasn’t a disaster but the night before our cars were written off in the drunk driving incident and the day didn’t quite go as I had planned.

Today we start a fresh new chapter in our lives. He will be retiring soon and has new projects he is itching to start. I’m going to train to be a Counsellor and we are going to have the whole afternoon to sit and enjoy good food, good company and good conversation. It’s time we reconnected.