I remember the day I met you like it was yesterday.
I had just moved into a flat after living in a hostel for nine months. It was a few short months after my Mum had died and at 21 years old, the staff at the hostel felt I had finally got my act together, that I was ready to move on, into one of the "satellite" flats. Where support staff turned up once a week to collect the service charge and rent and to go over any issues. I was nervous because in a block of five flats, I was to become the only female. I wasn't sure if I was ready to be around so many men. I had never really had any male friends, much less live with a man.
Our first meeting was brief but you made an impression. You were lying on your sofa in one your flat when we were introduced and you just glanced at me, smiled and said hello. I didn't see you for a few weeks after that between my working and partying, staying out late, leaving early. I learned later that you often dropped by to see my flat mate but it was an excuse to try to catch me at home.
The next time I saw you was on my return from a family break in Hope Cove. I was exhausted, the car journey home had felt like it had taken an age and it was raining. It was late evening and when I walked in my flat you were there. You and most of the men that lived in the building, all drinking and listening to music. It was unexpected and I felt vulnerable, uneasy. Once I'd bundled my stuff into my bedroom you offered me a drink and I said I didn't drink lager. So you asked what I did drink and merrily went to the off licence, in the storm, returning with three bottles of wine.
Later, as the party dwindled, I made my excuses and went to bed. You soon followed, knocking on my bedroom door, insisting you wanted to come in and talk to me some more. I protested, my bedroom looked like a bomb had gone off in it and I just wanted to get myself ready for bed and sleep. You wore me down and I let you in. We sat on my bed, talking and the next thing I knew, I'd woken up and you had gone to work.
That night was ten years ago today. Much of our early relationship was allegedly casual, yet there was no one else for either of us. I even ran away for a bit, confused as I was at the depth of my feelings. I visited family, only telling work I needed some time off for a few a days. The day after my return, I got back from work and you had remembered a conversation during which I said one of my favourite flowers was pink roses, that I thought a single rose was more romantic and thoughtful than a bunch and you'd left one for me outside my bedroom door, with a note asking to meet me at a local bar. Some point that night, this was played on the juke box and you attempted to sing it to me, told me that you loved me and knew you had from that night in my flat.
*Warning* This may be an overly soppy edition of Mixtape Monday for some.
Five months, three months. Neither seem like a long time yet both can feel like an eternity.
Five months ago, I thought my world was going to fall apart. The husband and I semi-seperated in that he slept on the sofa and we kept ourselves to ourselves, leading independent lives, as much as is possible when still living together, only talking to discuss arrangements with Harry. If we had the money, or friends locally he would have moved out. Neither of us wore our wedding rings for the duration, we saved whatever small amount of money we could (to fund him moving out) and this all went on for almost four weeks before we were finally in a place where we could talk without feelings of anger and hurt surfacing in an overly volatile way.
Three months ago and we found ourselves in a situation which made us realise that if we didn't make certain changes, our little family would end as we know it. With a lot of love and support we made those changes and we have never been closer. We are enjoying life as a family more, growing in more love than I thought possible.
None of us can look into the future, we can only hope to learn from the past and take each day as it comes. We can hope that we continue to create a loving, safe and secure environment for Harry and ourselves but who knows what tomorrow will bring?
The thing is, the husband and I have been through so much. Homelessness, allegations of varying degrees, health problems, depression, all sorts and yet these two things earlier in the year are the only ones that made us wonder if we could make it, nothing has tested us or our love for each other in quite the same way. Yet somehow, we undoubtedly knew we did still love each other, very much. Perhaps the toll and stress of the last couple of years finally caught up with us?
During these times, I did what I often do and listened to music. Music that allowed me to cry, music that reminded me of happier times, music that allowed me to hope. One such song was this.
We are currently a poorly household and as such I have been unable to put as much time or effort into the blog as usual (or at least anything that requires thinking, like writing) so yesterday I asked on Twitter if anyone would like to write a guest post on my blog for me. So I am pleased to introduce a guest post from Cate who blogs over at Me Add Three. She is a mum of two gorgeous children, a five-year old boy and one baby girl. You can also find Cate on Twitter at @PiscesCate.
How many ways can we love them?
Our children that is.
I have two. What about you?
How many ways do you love them? I ask because it’s probably many....
Do you love them in different ways? As time goes on I’ve found love becomes more and less. Reflective and proud. Nurturing, releasing, almost admiring. The same but different.
Confused? Me too. But I bet you understand.
Even if you didn’t feel the ‘rush’ of all-consuming love at the birth of your first-born, even if it took a while to take hold. Take hold it inevitably did. And a few months in, when you were weary from the broken sleep and your old life felt a million miles away, you realised you’d do a lot for the little person in your arms. Not just a lot. Everything.
And when they cried with pain, you hurt. Those injections might as well have gone into your arm. Those wobbly first steps, so much anticipated, and your love wobbled along with them, feeling every bump, anticipating every corner.
You turned round, and they were off on their bike. And when they fell off, your heart did too. But slowly, slowly, love lets you release them.
Love, it seems, evolves. It has many layers that can be occupied. It can take many knocks.
Second time around the layers and dents are already there. And as they are filled with another, love takes an even tighter grip on your heart. Top layers are full of pride, joy and almost reflective love for your oldest; bottom layers are full of the familiar protective nurturing love for your newborn.
You love them both, even more. The same, but different. Who knew it was even possible.
I have two younger sisters and a younger brother. When Mum died nine years ago, my sisters were just 6 and 13 years old, I was 21 and so Mum's brother and his wife very selflessly took my sisters on as their own, wanting my brother and myself to be free to live our lives without the responsibility of bringing up two young girls when we had barely left our teen years ourselves. This, however meant my sisters were moved from Bournemouth to Bristol.
Despite the distance, we all have a close relationship and so missed each other very much.
When I fell pregnant with Harry, I knew I wanted to be closer to my family. As wonderful as my friends and my brother were, for me, there is nothing quite like being with family. It took some persuading to the husband but when I was informed I was being made redundant, he eventually agreed, knowing that it would make me happy. It was also around that time that my health and mobility deteriorated and I was sure I could count on my family in Bristol for additional support if needed.
Harry is now 3.5 years old and we having been living in Bristol for almost two years now. It has been wonderful to see him grow up around his adoring Aunties, my younger cousins, my sister's boyfriend's little girls and of course my two Aunties and Uncle who all live here. Other extended family come to see us all as often as other commitments allow and I, for one, always have a lovely time.
Whilst we don't necessarily see each other as much as we would like being within a 10 minute drive of each other (depending on the Bristol traffic!), when we do reminds me why we decided to move and leave our friends behind.
My sister came over last night for dinner and a catch up as it had been a couple of weeks since we had seen each other. It was nice to have a rather impromptu evening together, having only arranged it that morning.
This is a very ordinary moment witnessing an Auntie playing with her only Nephew which brought home to me, once again, my main motivation for moving Bristol. And that despite what we have gone through over the last year, it has been worth it. To know that Harry will be surrounded by unconditional love, not just from myself and the husband means the world to me.
I am linking up to Katie's "Ordinary Moments" linky.
There are times in life when you can experience such a raft of emotions that you just don't know how to process them.
Sunday was one of those days.
The parent blogging community had an exciting morning, bidding farewell and good luck to Annie, Tanya and Penny of Team Honk as part of Comic Relief. We waited with bated breath to find out who the famous TV presenters were that were joining them on their trip. (Jonathan Ross and Davina McCall in case you are interested)
It was a morning spent being proud of the community of which I have become a part of, knowing that the challenge these fabulous ladies were about to undertake was not one that I would be able to take up.
Then in the afternoon some tragic news filtered through.
A fellow blogger went to bed on Saturday night and made a devastating discovery. Her nine month old daughter had died in her sleep.
The community went from excited to devastated as news filtered through.
Fellow parents offered condolences. My timeline was awash with a disbelief and sadness that was so real. Complete strangers were genuinely upset for a family who, in many cases, they had never met.
As the night drew in few of us could bear to leave the bedrooms of our own children, too scared to leave them, feeling incredibly blessed that we still had the honour of putting our child to bed.
There was little of the usual ramblings on my timeline on Sunday but a lot of support for a stranger.
Elizabeth set up a "Small Change" fund on her blog and in a short time has managed to raise enough money to get a star named after the baby. On a Facebook group Merry has also set up a fund for donations so the community can buy a gift for the family to remember Matilda Mae by.
Many people might not understand us. Or our reasons for blogging. Lots of people see blogs as narcissistic. Many don't understand how we can possibly feel an affinity with strangers. This weekend has proven otherwise.
After experiencing complete opposites of emotions in the space of a few short hours, I can safely say I do feel a part of the community. And it is one I am damn well proud to be a part of.
On Friday I wrote this post which got an incredible response. It was like nothing I have ever received before. I was called "inspiring", "brave" and other adjectives that I don't usually think of as referring to me. To be honest, that still hasn't really sunk in.
As hard as it was to write that post and press that submit button, being told you have inspired someone to work harder at letting go of their past or to try to share their experience with just one person after many years of bottling it up, has made it all worth it.
Something that may surprise some people is that I felt in order to move on, I had to forgive.
This person didn't ask for my forgiveness. I have no idea if he ever truly realised what he did to me, how much he completely and utterly turned my life upside down. I never spoke to him again despite being in his presence several times over the following 18 months.
I was brought up as a Christian and as such forgiveness was often spoken about, whether it be in the sense of God forgiving or people needing to find it in their hearts to forgive misdemeanours against them, often asking for guidance from God to forgive. I am no longer sure of my own beliefs, truth be told but perhaps it was this upbringing that lead me to the conclusion I came to after meeting D.
We met as two broken young people, recently having left different hostels, living next door to each other in supported housing. We both had a key worker who was based at another site and visited on a monthly basis (mainly for us to pay the rent and service charge but their for pastoral guidance if needed).
Our relationship started very casually, a sort of friends with benefits scenario if you will but I quickly realised I was falling in love and I ran away from it. Literally, I booked a week off work, packed a bag and jumped on a train to see my family and left my phone behind, telling my flat mate I just needed some head-space and would return within a week.
I was in a place where I was too frightened to fall in love.
In my teens I had felt abandoned and let down by my father.
When I was 19 I was raped by a young man I thought I could trust.
A year after that my mum died.
I met D three months after my mum died, having never truly grieved. Being the eldest sibling I had been desperate to keep strong, to prove to my family and the authorities that I was capable of bringing up my sisters and how DARE anyone take them away from me? I would show them and one day, soon, my sisters could come back to Bournemouth and I would bring them up. That was my oh so simple plan.
So, when I realised I was starting to fall, very quickly, in love with D, I panicked. I would go so far as to say I was in love after that first night of just talking, all night and comforting each other over our own demons. However, there was no way on this earth I was going to let someone hurt me again. Not happening. Ever. I had resolved that I couldn't trust anyone, not really. After all, those that I had trusted so far in my life had either let me down bitterly, or had abandoned me. No siree, I was not going through that again.
I spent a few days with family in Bristol, my Aunt and Uncle who had generously taken my sisters into their home as their own children. I spent time with them as a family and a lot of time reflecting. I was asked if I wanted to go through life without being loved in that head-spinning crazy way that most young girls dream of? Did I really want to go through life never trusting anyone ever again? Did I want to end up like a real life Miss Havisham?
It seemed to me that if I wanted to go forward and have the happy and fulfilling life that my family wanted of me (hence my sisters being placed with them) and my mum would have wanted, I needed to let go of the past. But how? Really? How could I let go of so much hurt and pain and anger, knowing that I would experience more at many points in the future, assuming I lived a full life and wasn't struck down dead tomorrow?
So, after 5 days away, I went home. I can't have been back in my flat for an hour before the buzzer went and D was stood at the door, brandishing a single pink rose with a card. He passed it to me then turned his back and walked out, simply asking me to come to him when I was ready.
I was surprised by this touch; he'd remembered our conversation that first night where I told him I thought a single favourite flower was a more thoughtful gesture than a random bunch. I had also told him my preference would be pink roses or stargazer lilies. In the card he had written that he really cared for me, he apologised for not realising how special I was before and that, if I felt able to, could I give him the chance to make it up to me and pop by his flat an hour later.
I sat and thought for about 45 minutes. I so wanted to take this opportunity yet I was still so scared. What would I regret more though? Remaining committed to protecting myself, avoiding love at all costs? Or letting go and let someone care for me? Someone who had already helped me more than he knew?
The fact that I am sat here, writing this, married to D with a son probably tells you what I decided to.
For me, forgiving was more about me. I realised that I personally couldn't possibly give myself to D, to my future without forgiving those that had hurt me, whether they realised they had or not, whether they had intended to or not.
That is by no means to say I have forgotten. I don't believe anyone truly can forget hurt caused to them.
And I have to say, forgiving isn't an easy process at all but for me at least, I truly believe it was (and remains) an essential process to enable me to live my life rather than just exist. It remains an essential process because there are times when the hurt and anger come flooding back and those are emotions I don't want to hold onto in my life.
Maybe it makes me a weak person? Maybe I forgive too easily, at least to other people?
I asked my twitter followers earlier what forgiveness meant to them and got, as you'd expect, various responses. Some ranging from "Sometimes it is impossible to forgive but you can still move on" from @cherriemayhem, "it's harder if u can't talk to or challenge the person who did it to u aswell or if they're not sorry" from @ladyemsy and "I think both help.I'm also of view that if you can't forgive then you can't possibly expect to be forgiven for your own wrongs" from @cupcakemumma11.
So, I am interested to see what you think.
Is forgiving a person who wrongs you essential to you in order to be able to move on? Do you hold a grudge, anger or bitterness for a long time? How easy do you find it to forgive? Does someone have to ask for your forgiveness in order to receive it?
Here is a lovely post I read recently on this subject from @eliza_do_lots.