Hello blog. It’s been a while.
Disclaimer: this post could go anywhere. I’m out of practice.
I’ve been determined to feature the boys faces less on here (with E starting school this September it feels right to respect his privacy more) but we’ve just come back from a little holiday in Wales, and it was such a glorious ray of light during a shitty year that I thought I’d share. The boys had so much fun, and I felt a calmness and clarity that I’ve not done in ages.
We stayed in an Under The Thatch cottage in West Wales. It’s the third one we’ve holidayed in and I’m sure they’ll be many more to come, we love them. But this isn’t a review post – it’s safe to say that writing them doesn’t come naturally to me, in fact after some reviews I’m pretty sure I shrivel up and die a little inside. What I will say is that UTT properties are beautiful, often old, always lovingly restored, and you can find them all over Europe. I’d recommend them to anyone who likes quirky, eco-friendly, or historic properties.
The boys had an amazing few days. Each night before bed they ‘helped’ J light the woodburner, and E would ask if we could live in the cottage forever. They learnt the art of old fashioned childhood fun – drawing, imaginary play, ‘reading’ in their beds, and telling stories.
We took them to beaches, waterfalls, to see wild animals and to play in adventure parks. They barely noticed the lack of TV or internet. And we even managed without phone reception – those who know us will understand that this is nothing short of a miracle.
It was a proper disconnect from the instant technological gratification of our normal life. And it was so needed. I felt cleansed.
Going back to West Wales, where J and I spent our uni years (and then some), seems to be turning into an annual pilgrimage of sorts, which is odd because I distinctly remember us saying that we’d never set foot in the place again. I think the actual words were ‘over our dead bodies’. We’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the place. It’s beautiful, the people are kind, warm and generous. We made brilliant friendships there. It’s where J and I met. And where we had some of the best times of our life. 15 years and 2 babies later, it’s impossible not to feel a strong attachment to the place. But it’s tinged with a lot of pain. At just 4 months into our relationship, in a tiny little Welsh town with no train station or means of escape, I was disowned. J and I felt grown up at the time, but we were just children really; naive and broken. We were forced to make very difficult decisions, not understanding how huge or dark our situation was, how alone we were, or how hard our lives would become.
Over the years I tried to focus on the old adages: ‘it could be worse’, ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, ‘it’s in the past’, etc. But dismissing pain as irrelevant always felt a pretty cruel and short-sighted coping mechanism – it only works if you want to bury something, usually for the sake of everyone but yourself. And the thing is, in my experience, pain refuses to stay buried.
Going back to the place where my world shifted so terribly was cathartic, and it showed me how much I’ve changed. I’ve learnt that when the trajectory of life forces you into dark places that you can’t imagine escaping, and your self-esteem and relationships are stripped to their bones, one of the best things you can do is reclaim your story. I’m still learning how to not feel selfish or ashamed for wanting to talk about my past. Some days, like today, I manage it. Other days I’m not so successful; judgement, dismissal, and the echo chamber of silence in response to my words, grinds me to a self-conscious halt, and I wonder whether the things that nearly destroyed me, whether I, matter at all.
This isn’t your typical holiday blog post. If I’d gone on the Mediterranean jolly that I daydream of I guess I’d be posting a more upbeat, beach photo saturated post. But I’m glad we took the boys back to where it all began. It felt like closure. We stopped off in our university town for lunch and walked passed the building where I went for lectures. Immediately I felt a huge and unexpected knot in my stomach, and then tears. E looked up and asked me why I was sad. I told him they were happy tears. As I stood there clasping his hand in the town where I fell apart, the extent of how far I’ve come hit me. I remembered how lost I felt in that place. How I fell again and again, convinced that I was too broken to be loved. I remembered wondering how on earth J and I would survive and make it beyond the fog and sadness to have a family and a future.
And now I know. You survive by owning the pain you endure. And by telling your story, over and over, until you know how to write the next chapter.