Yesterday I agreed away my marriage.
We finalised the mediated separation agreement which will now represent my husband in absence. It’s full of rules and drop-off times, and weekend shifts and divided school holidays. It’s full of numbers and figures and how much I can spend a month on tampons. Literally. It’s full of facts and empty of emotion.
I used to have a marriage. Now I have a spreadsheet.
I used to have hugs. Now I have maintenance.
I used to have love. Now I have rules.
There are the days when you have the strength to deflect the little blows life throws at you. Like a martial arts expert, a hand shield here, a step back there. Deflect, desist, defend. But then there are times when all you can do is stand there and let life slap you around the face. You just have to live through the pain. Absorb it into yourself and cry.
My last post ended with me making the train to Belfast to see my mum. It was a blog about my mad life. This is a blog about my sad life.
Four and a half years after her catastrophic stroke, my mum is still hanging on. We all are. My dad, my brother, me. All getting a little tireder, a little older, a little less able.
But she doesn’t want to live. Because she knows she’s not living.
She is so low, her distress is unbearable to watch. She hasn’t been up in her chair in a week. The only thing that has made any of this manageable is the fact we can hoist her into a wheelchair and get her up most days for a couple of hours. Dad bought the ‘Patmobile’, a van that we can wheel mum into so that we can take her out and about. Some days she likes it, some days she doesn’t. But it beats staring at the same wall 24 hours a day.
But no more. Not moving for four years has taken its toll. She has pain in her legs. But I know really she has pain in her heart. We all do. To watch the woman you love more than any other endure a life like this is crushing. To be living it must be like being buried alive. Buried under the rubble of the life you had.
So this weekend was tough. She cried, she clasped my hand and begged me to make it all stop. She wants it all to stop. She needed me to just hold her and be there, and I’m so glad I was there.
But by being there I wasn’t with the other people who need me…. my girls. My daughter Daisy called me unable to speak with the hysteria of hurt. She’s 9 and enduring the worst thing a child can endure – the breakup of her family, her foundation, her life as she knows it. She wept down the phone, begging me to come home. Hysterical with upset, it took me 40 minutes to calm her down, my heart splintering into shards that I couldn’t be there for her. It’s not that she doesn’t want to be with her dad. She just doesn’t want that to mean she can’t be with me.
So all weekend I was pulled by the extremes of my life’s responsibilities – my mum and my daughter, both pleading and needing, both in despair. One at the end of her life, one just at the beginning. And me sandwiched between their anguish trying to fix the unfixable.
I feel bruised by life’s slapping this weekend, and now as I sit in the quiet of the house, my marriage reduced to a 6 page document, I wonder how I pick myself up. So I do what I often do and think of my mum. She had a hard life at times, but she endured it with love and kindness. No matter how crap it became at times, she put her face on. That’s what she would say. “I must go and put my face on.” I know she meant her make up or her lipstick but it meant something else too. It meant her other make up – her make up. Her strength to carry on, her love and kindness.
This morning Daisy stood in front of my bedroom mirror and preened herself with my make-up brushes. “I’m just going to put my face on!” she said in her best mummy voice.
I obviously say it too, just like my mum. And it made me smile. My girls will learn from me, as I learned from my mum. It’s not about being false or being something you’re not. It’s about facing up to the bad time, facing down the challenging times and facing into the sun in the good times.
Life is hard right now. But I will face up to it, I will face it down and I will wait for a time when I am facing into the sun. So time to put my face on and greet the day. Here it is – my game face. Bring today on!