Where to start?
Not at the beginning, because I can't quite work out where that was.
Not at the end either, cause we're not there yet.
I guess just here, today, will have to do.
I am a little bit broken just now. A little blue, a little exhausted, a little, 'what's the point in it all?'. A few weeks ago I started getting shakes in my hands when I got stressed. With a child about to go into hospital for a major operation getting stressed was becoming part of the landscape. I was dealing with it, I had my goal in mind (get the child safely out of hospital and home after the operation) and I was trying my best to focus on it. Life, as it does, determined to get in the way of that quite a bit, however.
This summer has been a paradox. The best of times - so much sunshine and a great deal of happiness, and, on the other hand, the worst of times too.
My son's spine has been fused. A 'huge' operation. An operation with risks, like all operations. An operation with a slightly complex recovery schedule and an operation that makes mincemeat of social lives, plans, work, school and commitments and just about everything between all of those things too. An operation that has parents grinding their teeth into next week but leaves no time for the dentist. Or the smear. Or the shopping. Or the explaining to people why you have no time - because that would take too long. More than half of my precious boy's spinal vertebrae have been connected together with grafts of his own bone and that of someone who has died and made a donation to a bone bank that I can never thank them for, even if I had all the words in the world. Even if I could bring them back to tell them that I am beyond grateful and that I will look after and cherish their bone as I look after my boy's, it still wouldn't feel like enough. These grafts will beat with life blood and grow and wrap themselves round my son's vertebrae and, in time, they will harden and lock his spine into place, meaning it can't curve anymore and that the titanium rods and screws that currently hold him straight will become redundant, wrapped in calcifying bone as part of him, they will become surgical archaeology inside a child who becomes a man who only occasionally glances a scar. The scar will remind him and us of the week that he had surgery for an entire day, at one point without 40% of his blood and, shortly afterwards, incredibly declaring he'd like to try to stand up in intensive care, that morphine was fantastic and could someone take a photograph to show his sister that he was OK?
He will become a man and, I'm sure, someone will fall in love with him and spend their life with him. Perhaps they'll know how his scar looks better than he will and in time certainly, better than I will, hidden as it is on his back, frustratingly out of view for most of the time he tries to see it. Taking photos of it helps. You can get a sense of the wonder of the surgery looking at the scar and looking at a photo of the scar. Thank goodness for iPhones. And for spinal surgeon's and nurses and anaesthetists with capabilities and expertise that break my heart a little again and again because of my gratitude for having my child delivered back to me, a little broken but never more mine. Never more perfect.
And then other things happened throughout summer too. It became obvious that my daughter's back is not quite right either, so we put the scoliosis wheels in motion for that too - this spinal story is not quite done for us yet. Hard, but true. I don't really know how to process it so I wait for an x-ray all over again and I'm grateful that with knowledge in hand, the second time round is not as frightening as the first, at least.
And Granny Glasgow died.
I can't quite get my head around that either.
Her absence seems to have beckoned ghosts into my hometown and I don't know if they'll leave or if maybe this is the time for me to leave them there. It's the first death I've known that has utterly baffled me and that's really strange considering Granny was 91 years old. To borrow a phrase from Forrest Gump: that's all I have to say about that. For now, anyway. I'm processing all that this end to an era means. I think my heart is a little shell shocked by the enormity of everything that has come to pass in 2013 so far.
I've learned I'm much stronger than I thought. I've learned that I may not be able to run a marathon on my feet but I can do one with emotions. In fact in emotional terms I've learned that when I have to I can do an emotional ultra marathon and then pop an emotional iron woman contest on the end, for kicks. But just as with marathons run on the feet, there is a price to pay after the tests of emotional endurance too. Any honest distance runner will tell you that they gained lots but lost something too and that it takes time to physically build back up afterwards. We can run 26 miles (or more) on the trot but it doesn't actually mean we're meant to. When we push ourselves we have to recharge afterwards and restore or tend to the damaged bits. Blisters, bunions, achey knees that never quite resolve or a tendon that warns you again and again that she might, just maybe, rip in two if you're not very careful for a few months. Emotionally, after long periods of enduring stress the price is that your thoughts change slowly from beautifully forming and rising souffles to damp and slightly congealed looking scrambled eggs that no-one visiting the breakfast buffet wants to spoon up onto their plate. The price is that your emotions decide to visit their own neural version of Thorpe Park. They hop on roller coasters at the most inconvenient times and start to scream, cry or vomit just when you need them to adhere, listen or rest. You can't heal emotionally by wrapping a knee support round your bonce or applying ibugel to your forehead in copious amounts either. All you can do is retract from life a little. Sit. Think of the small picture instead of the big one. See the strength in saying no to things for a while rather than grasping the challenges and adrenaline of saying yes. Let your thoughts come to a slower pace. Let the colour filter back into the images in your mind. Acknowledge that things have been tough and that it is necessary to breathe out long and low, again and again.
I've gone off the grid temporarily. I'm chatting to the kids and the husband about all kinds of shite. I'm drinking just once a week, walking up Pentland hills a lot, taking in beaches and getting to bed on time. I'm eating ten a day and turning down plans. I've pulled the house phone out of the wall to prevent it from ringing at all the wrong times. I need to heal, I feel it profoundly. If my Mum was here she'd tell me so too. And I'd listen. Sometimes we have to be that loving best friend or parent to ourselves, I guess. I've studied and experienced enough about psychology and mental health to know that if I don't do this for myself now, while the chance is available and the thought is voluntary, my mind is going to meltdown completely and take me to a dark place where I might not find a torch for some time. I know where that road leads and what the grassy bit just before the turn off looks like. Therefore I have a responsibility to stand on the grass for a moment and choose another way, this is extreme good fortune laid down by the school of hard knocks and the people in my life who have the bollocks to talk about having been there too.
Here's to life. And Big Bollocks. And getting back up, slowly.