Finding your game face

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!

game face

About Grin & Tonic by Alana Kirk

Bouncing into middle age armed with courage, ambition and a pair of tweezers (chin hairs for anyone over the age of 45 reading this) I am a writer with a mission: to redefine this midway point in my life when the last thing I want to do is hang up my high heels and become invisible. This is the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. A single mum to 3 fabulous girls, an author, and a fundraising consultant, both ends of my candle are on fire. As I enter this new stage of my life, I want to explore what it means for 'mid-aged' women today, who were promised they could have it all, ended up doing it all, and just do not identify with the traditional image of middle age.
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3 Responses to Finding your game face

  1. Cathy says:

    Heartwrenchingly true and beautiful.


  2. Thoughtful and touching. Praying for you & your family.


  3. My dear, dear friend… it makes my heart ache to think of the agony you are experiencing in all that you are going through right now, not least of all being sandwiched between the pain that both your sweet girl and your precious mum are enduring. It is a testament to your strength, resilience and beautiful heart, that you get up each day, put your ‘face on’ and get ready to fight on…… and also that you manage to end all these touching posts with such an inspiring and positive mind set . Thank you for sharing, Alana. I am so glad that your girls and your mum have such a wonderful mum and daughter. I just wish for you, with all my heart, that you’ll be facing the sun before too long. Just like you deserve. Much love, every day and always! xxxxx


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