“And the river grows inside of me”

When it comes to driving there are three things I am most afraid of – a collision when I’m driving (I see the aftermath of these too often on the road to work), hitting an animal when driving (see road kill too much too), and crashing into one of my co-workers cars when parking at work. (Well, I fear crashing when parking all the time, but most keenly at work. I do not want to have to face one of my co-workers everyday knowing I smashed up their car. It’s not something that should or does happen.)

Guess which one occurred yesterday?

I drove into the work car park and there was a small crowd of people gathered at the smoking point there, a couple of them hanging in the road. I was too aware of them. I didn’t position myself properly and as I drove in to the bay and felt myself coming too close to the car next to me I didn’t stop and correct it I just thought it should be ok because I wanted to get parked and away from the stares of those people. The two standing in the road, their jaws dropped as they watched me smash into the car next to me. I can’t forget the look on their faces. It was loud, it was obvious, it must have looked quite aggressive. I somehow managed to correct myself and get into the parking space, turned off the engine, then I covered my face with my hands and wished fervently for the ground to swallow me whole. I felt so stupid and embarrassed and scared. I tried to phone my dad but couldn’t get through, then I googled, became even more scared from the results, tried again and again to phone my dad and finally got through. The tears came then. I sobbed down the phone at him, but thanks to him I at least had a plan (and some reassurance, too. I badly needed that…) After the phone call I gave myself some time to cry and panic some more, then I forced myself to calm down. I took pictures, I went to reception and asked them to look up the details of the car owner, who was thankfully not part of my immediate team at work, and she came out and I had to tell her I had damaged her car. She took it well, seeming more surprised than anything else (who can blame her. Its a ridiculous situation) I took her email. Later, much later, after I had time to process and phone my insurance I sent her my details and the photos.

Now I wait. She hasn’t responded yet and she wasn’t in the office today. I don’t know what comes next.

I can’t believe this happened. I feel deeply embarrassed. I’ve spent so long learning to drive and I’m still…not very good at it. It was very hard to drive back from work yesterday, and then to drive again today. I feel vulnerable and scared. I’m worried for what I’ll do, what wrong judgement I’ll make next.

Mostly, have I mentioned that this is extremely embarrassing?

In the end though, as embarrassing as it is at least it is just embarrassing. At least I didn’t flatten some poor innocent animal or drive a car off the road or get driven off the road. I didn’t even dent either of our cars – it’s superficial paint damage only as far as I could tell. Nothing was hurt but my pride. (And, I fear, my reputation at work. I don’t think anyone else knows about it but I fear it becoming known…)

Checked on my fish tanks this morning to find that my Betta fish had built a huge bubble nest. Overnight. It certainly wasn’t there last night….But look at it now! He has sort of built these nests in his old tank but never at this scale- it was usually nothing more than a small clump of bubbles. Look at this thing though! I’m a little taken aback by the size of this, and the timescale of it (overnight!!). I’m taking this as a sign he really likes his new tank.

(Technically this is a breeding behaviour ingrained into the fish. They build these nests to keep the eggs in and keep said eggs oxygenated – yes, the males look after the eggs. According to some websites, Bettas will build these even in sub par conditions as it is such an instinctive behaviour. But then other websites say they’ll only build them if comfortable and happy. So who knows, really…the internet is a confusing place for research. I should probably buy a book or go the library…easier to Google though! 😅 )

Miss You

I’ve spent the past few days in a cabin in Scotland with my family, no internet, and no cellphone reception. I was tempted to write “stuck with my family” but that sounded a little extreme, as it wasn’t all bad.

It was only somewhat bad.

Wait. Backtrack.

My father drove us – my mother, my sister and myself – up to Rowardennan on Thursday. It was an extremely long drive, just over six hours in total, most of it motorway. It was very dull and very exhausting just to be a passenger, and I imagine it took its toll on my father too. We stopped three times and even then, I still felt cramped and sick. (We got to stop at the famous Tebay services though which yay?)

Once we got there we settled into our cabin. Which isn’t as pokey as it sounds. We had rented this cabin/lodge just by the Rowardennan Hotel. There was a whole group of these cabins located on the shore of Loch Lomond, with their own little private beach area and jetty. The lodge was roomy and full of character – three rooms, big bathroom, big lounge/kitchen/living area and large balcony with a view of the mountains in the distance. The bedding and cushions were all themed over deer, highland cattle, sheep and foxes. The walls were exposed wood, the ceilings and floors too. It was kind of awesome. We settled in, and then my sister and I ventured to the jetty together. We sat at the end, right out in the Loch, and soaked in the sunshine and the incredible view. It was very quiet and very still, and I felt small and removed from reality in a way that felt good. Like that the holiday started out well, but over the next few days the reason we were there, alongside the close living quarters, would take its toll and it became a bit tense and awkward. We needed space and didn’t have any. We needed escape, but we were cut off from the things we would usually use to ignore each other – mainly, our phones/internet.

You see, we were there to scatter my Grandfathers ashes. He was born in Glasgow and spent his early life there before work took him to Southern Africa, where he would meet my grandmother and settle in to life there. When he died, my grandmother asked for him to be laid to rest in his homeland. As my father and his family, my family, are the ones living in the UK this became our task. When he was younger my grandfather was an avid outdoors man and the area around Loch Lomond was one of his favourite places to go to. He would stay at the youth hostel just up the road from the Rowardennan Hotel we were staying by. It was an area he knew and loved. Therefore it was decided that we would take him to be laid to rest there. It made for a very sad trip, a very tense trip, as we were all grieving in our own ways.

I wish grief could be more straightforward, more linear. I wish there was a beginning and an end to it. Instead, it comes back, so suddenly and with such clarity. These past few days it came back and I feel devastated all over again now.

Nonetheless, we found a perfect spot for his final resting place and had a small but beautiful memorial service for him. We also did some good walking, went to the aquarium, soaked in the quiet, calm atmosphere of our cabin, and the sunshine and warmth and beauty of Scotland in Spring, before braving the long drive back again. (The drive back felt even longer and more cramped, which I know is psychological but still) (We got to go to Tebay services again though so yay again?) I have to go back to work tomorrow and that’s going to be weird- I feel I’ve not been working enough lately, and I’ve become quite lethargic, quite lazy. My brain isn’t ready to focus on actually being productive…and well, these past few days have been so full on emotionally that I feel like I could do with a holiday to recover. :|

These photos are from the first day, taken from our Jetty. I may post up some more entries with more photos, I may not. This trip feels so personal and my feelings are still raw, so I am not sure if I can write about it.

Cathedral

The bank holiday weekend couldn’t have come soon enough – it was wonderful to have four days off work without having to use up my leave. I gave the flat a good clean and then went home to my parents for Easter. Both my sister and I came home that Sunday so we could have lunch together as a family. My parents hid our eggs in the garden, just as they used to do as we were kids. This was random, but amusing. After a good lunch, we sat around and talked…well, bickered, and ate chocolate, and it was a nice chill day. On Monday I went with my dad to Liverpool; there was an organ concert being held at the Liverpool Cathedral which we wanted to see. We did see it, and it was nice, though perhaps not as dramatic as I would have liked.

Afterwards we looked around the cathedral (and I learned that the phrase “pull out all the stops” is to do with the function of an organ, which fascinated me) and then we decided to pay to go to the top of the Cathedral. It turned out to be quite an adventure to get the top! We had to take two lifts and then climb some terrifyingly exposed stairs (I should not have looked down) before we reached the top. The views were amazing up there though. Although it had, of course, been raining the entire bank holiday weekend the sun was trying to come out on Monday. We could see clearly to the Mersey and could spot a few recognizable landmarks such as the Radio Tower and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Afterwards, we took the lift to another set of viewpoints – to some of the balconies at the top of the inside of the cathedral. This was the coolest. I have always wondered about the hidden stairways and balconies in a cathedral and we actually got to see some of that. Looking down from the balconies was so cool: the people below were tiny and busy, like in a Lowry painting.

I was so glad I had brought my camera. My father meanwhile had not, and without a strap on his phone, was left to take pictures whilst clinging on to his phone for dear life (can you imagine dropping something from that height…)

After the Cathedral we went to get lunch at a terribly overcrowded Pizza Express, and then did some light shopping before going to the World Museum. I loved the World Museum when I was a student in Liverpool; it’s free to enter with a small aquarium which I remembered had some beautiful tanks. I would pop in after or between lectures and sit and watch the fish to cheer myself up/relax. Sadly, the aquarium was undergoing a lot of work when we went in and it wasn’t like I remembered at all. We wandered around some of the other sections and it was nice, but I was disappointed about the fish. I guess nostalgia may have tinted my memories a little, made them better than they were? I know that does happen. It’s funny how familiar Liverpool feels to me, but also how distant now. It’s been a long time since I was a student there. Still, it was a fun day.

I’m not able to travel abroad this year for various reasons, and my UK Railcard which gives me discounts on rail travel is expiring, so I really do need to get out and explore around me like this as much as I can to keep myself from getting restless and to make the most of my discounted travel whilst I still have it.

It was such a long, exhausting journey back to my city from Liverpool though. I slept like the dead and woke up late on Tuesday. I was not particularly looking forward to going back to work after such a nice break either which did not help my motivation. But the week flew by in the end, and was mostly uneventful. I did drive to work every day and back which I am super proud of. As implied, I had taken the train to see my parents and to go to Liverpool, as I couldn’t face such long journeys by car. And I am still a very…all over the place driver. I have good days and bad days, but I am doing my best to gain experience. Today I also put petrol in my car for the first time which I am also proud of myself for (I even managed to figure out how to reset my trip meter!) then I drove down to my local park/nature reserve for a walk in the nice sunshine (of course the weather would turn brilliant when it’s not a four day weekend. :| ) and to check out the status of the spring flowers – the snowdrops have gone, the daffodils are ending, and now finally the bluebells are here. There were also many birds out, and I could see some baby ones too. It’s lovely to see the world come alive after the cold, dark winter. I love how long the days are now. I really got my driver’s licence at the ideal time – not having to worry about driving in the ice, snow or heavy rain just yet (fingers crossed). I drive to work in the light and leave in the light and it’s just wonderful. My days feel so much longer now.

I’m not looking forward to this upcoming week at all: I have my annual performance review and some scary training course coming up. I also have a few doctors’ appointments coming up, for nothing major, just investigation, but it’s a little worrying. The last post was kind of freeing to write though. Sometimes just admitting I’m not OK is enough to feel just a little better. I’m not OK, so I may as well not be OK and getting on with the things I need to be doing!

“When we were together, we were like kids. Now, where I’m going, where I am, I don’t know. I am roaming about. After sending you off it’s all dark.”

I recently read a blog post about how major changes can divide life into a before and a after. This resonated with me. I think about my befores and afters. Before my family immigrated to the UK, and after. Before my grandmother died, and after. Before my cat died, and after. A thing happens, and afterwards you are left with a new and terrible reality. But not all befores and after have to go like that, do they? Sometimes the after is better than what came before. Before being accepted to university, after being accepted to university. Before I was employed, and after.

And recently, before I could drive, and after.

I have a car now.

No more waiting around for buses, followed by an excruciatingly long and claustrophobic journey- funny smells, loud noises, packed tightly on overcrowded services. No more lugging my things around with me. Just me, my little car. I am in control of my environment and my journey. I do not have to carry heavy loads anymore. It is terrifying, every time I struggle with the clutch, when I stall, when there are no speed sign limits and I’m unsure how fast to go, when someone drives too close behind me… I have so much to learn still. But I can drive to work, in 40 minutes flat I can get there, 30 minutes when the traffic is good. (A two hour commute more than halved and much more reliable!) The world is shifting again. My world opens up, new and exciting, and also very scary. Another step towards an independence I want but don’t feel truly capable of.

A before and after that I think about a lot: Before I wanted to live, and after. The scars on my body remind me every day that I am alive, but that I once set a time limit to my life.

I sometimes find myself tracing the scars on my wrist with my fingertips, thinking about all that has been, amazed to have made it so far, but also wondering if I have the strength to go further. I doubt myself sometimes. I feel pressure and I know it’s coming mostly from me but I can’t seem to find the ‘off’ switch for my thoughts. I’ve had so much going on lately, most of it I can’t go into here, and I’m stressed out. My life has felt very all over the place, my anxious brain has been going at 110% with worry. Nights spent lying awake, thinking about this and that. Tired, so tired. Everything keeps changing and I am only just keeping up with it. Some days my chest feels tight, like I can’t breathe, it’s all too much.

But then I look at the scars sometimes and I stop at that amazement. I know I have survived, and that I can get through whatever life throws at me. I am reminded that I am still, despite everything, alive.

My brain can’t quite settle on a state of mind. I feel stuck in a bad place, wanting change, making some half-hearted efforts towards it, but dreading it all at once, and procrastinating and putting off the things I know I should do.

When I encounter something new, I begin to feel that familiar pressure to succeed at it. I can’t just do something without worrying about doing it well enough. Whatever ‘well enough’ means. I apply unreasonably high standards to even the smallest things, in ways that don’t make much sense. This is my perfectionism. I strive towards unrealistic goals and naturally never reach them, so I become disheartened and demotivated. Sometimes, before I even get going on my way towards my goals, I get so overwhelmed with worry that I won’t carry out my task properly that I can’t even start it. I procrastinate, put it off, and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

I worry about driving, too. It’s hard to discuss when I can’t go into details about certain things, but I basically have gotten into bad habits, haven’t gotten much of a routine right now. I used my commute as an excuse for my disorganisation, and now with that stripped away, I am left vulnerable. I can look at having my licence and my car as a chance to press reset, as the good sort of change I’ve been waiting for. It becomes my hope that I can fix it all now; I can get my routine sorted and become more in control. But the reality is- I wanted a convenient excuse for why I am struggling (a bad commute!) and an easy fix (driving!) when there is definitely something more to it. I am overwhelmed by all the changes in my life, and I am retreating from it. I have set myself standards that are impossibly high and become demotivated because I cannot reach them. I am so caught up in worry for what may become, that I become detached from the now. I tell myself to take each day as it comes, but in the morning, when I have just woken up, my tired brain can’t quite be that strong, and I struggle to begin my day properly, and then struggle to get through the rest of it once I’ve failed at that. (Again perfectionism – if you’ve already failed there’s just no point is there. The world becomes very black and white.)

I am caught up in my befores and afters, tracing the scars too often, too afraid. This pressure to keep going, to keep succeeding. I don’t know what version of success I am chasing, or why I can’t be happy where things are now. I don’t know why I cannot accept the present, but am always looking ahead to what’s coming next. I can’t settle into a happy after without worrying about that shift again, something else changing again, turning bad.