Menagerie of Mayhem

It’s not that my Wonder Pants are slipping… it’s just maybe right now they’re giving me a wedgey.  I still have no doubt I will get through this………. it’s just that the getting through this is so so hard.

I have really struggled the last few days.  Separation is like going down a ladder in the dark, not knowing where the bottom is.  Every time I think I’ve hit a new low… a lower low emerges.  There’s always another step to take.

For years I have had to make terrible choices.  Sandwiched between the practical needs of my mum and dad, and the emotional needs of my three girls, I have often had to choose which to respond to over the other.

In the days and weeks after mum’s stroke, I had to choose between saying goodbye to her over getting to know my new baby.

In the weeks and months that followed, I had to choose between helping my dad get used to caring for mum in her paralysed, brain damaged state, and helping my daughters get used to school and montessori.

In the years that have passed I have had to constantly choose who to care for, and who to abandon (for that was how it felt).

Then, my mum’s need was so great and my grief so profound, the weight on me fell in her favour.

Now, my children’s need is so great and their grief so profound, the weight on me falls in their favour.

But the pull is wringing me out.

I go to Belfast and hear the pain in my children’s voice as they beg me to come home.

I stay here, and hear the strain in my dad’s voice as he deals with mum’s deteriorating state.

I spent years crippled with the guilt of leaving my girls so I could look after my mum, and now I feel I am abandoning my mum so I can be there for my girls.   I am thinned out from the endless choices and pulling and wrenching apart of my love and my loyalties.

And in the midst of this, there is another pull. Me.  Future Me, Wonder Pants Me, Opportunity Knocks Me.

As my dreams of marriage and family are shattered, another dream is being fulfilled. My lifelong dream to be a writer. To have a significant piece of work recognised and published is dangling in front of me like a sparkling gin after a long hot day.  At one of the worst times of my life, I have been offered a gift.   The disaster in my life of my marriage ending is tarnishing the joy of that gift, yet the opportunity of that gift is making that disaster almost bearable.

I have to grasp it. I have to take this chance.  But where do I add strain to give me some slack?

On Friday night I had to drop the girls to their dad’s apartment for the first time.   They were so excited to show me around (for them this is a wonderful thing, for me this is like being slowly strangled) and then I had to leave them, barely able to see the road through my sobs to drive 500 meters back to my house to spend the weekend alone.   There is nothing I can do except get used to it.

But there has been a loneliness to my life for years. I’ve a mother who can’t speak to me, and a husband who couldn’t hear me.  I have children who need me to be their mum, not their confidante.

So I have always have to be strong…. my mum’s love nurturing me from the past, my girl’s love nurturing me in the present. And my friend’s love nurturing me into the future.

But then when I think about the silence of the house and sounds of solitude….. I quickly look around me.  This is what ‘working from home’ looks like!

Olly Tinker

Because even when I’m alone I have company.   Olly would surgically attach himself to me if he could.  Tinker Tom is just so cool I want to marry him.  Just a rub across my ankles and purr in my ear and I’m love-punched for the day.  And so as if I didn’t have enough on my plate, I had to add to my magnificent menagerie of madness.

Animals calm me in a way little else can (gin and chocolate not withstanding).

But this weekend we doubled our trouble.

Poppy is finding it hard to adjust to a world where being with one parent means she can’t be with the other. I call her the Animal Whisperer and so given her sadness we’ve agreed for her to have a hamster.   It is portable enough to go with her to her dad’s and dependent enough to need care and love. She’s even very sweet.   I’ve never seen a child so happy, and if I could put a smile back on my little girl’s face then I will get her 100 hamsters.

But that’s not enough. I wanted a kitten for my birthday back in February but because we have a male cat we needed a young kitten. He arrived today. I can hardly contain myself.   As I write this now I have the kitten prancing around the kitchen, the dog asleep at my feet (after howling in horror that he was being usurped), and the cat mewling indignation on the windowsill.

Jerry I am pulled every which way. My Wonder Pants are straining as I try to figure out how to care for all the parts of my life that need my care. So it’s nice every now and then, for me to be cared for….Every Wonder Pants Woman needs a furry sidekick.

 

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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