Friday, 22 June 2012

'If Anyone Can'

When someone you love is diagnosed with a serious illness/condition, the cliches start flying out of everyone's mouth.  We can't help it.  Words are our currency.  It feels futile, but we feel the need to say something. 
When P was diagnosed people from every corner of his life and mine came out to say 'if anyone can beat this thing, P can'.  And we believed them.  But I do remember thinking, ever so briefly, that this is one of those cliches.  Surely, no one says to someone 'you, of all people, can NOT beat this'.  And statistically, I knew that no matter how hard some people fight, no matter how fit they are when they get ill, there are some who just plain Run. Out. Of. Luck.
I attended a presentation evening a month ago to witness P's childhood friends hand over a large check to the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Charity.  While I was there I had the opportunity to speak to an older gentleman who has the exact same Leukaemia as P did (there are over 60 different types, I think, possibly 100's).  When I was asked to recount his diagnosis and treatment, I did so as quickly as possible, providing only the necessary detail.  And the man's response was.....'he was just really unlucky.'

Hmph. A comment meant to ease my pain? Perhaps.

It is strange.  I do feel the need, as P's prideful voice booms in my ear, to inform everyone that he did 'beat this thing'.  There were no leukaemia cells left when he went.  It was the chemo that caused the infection that took his life.  No one understands this when they say 'you can beat this'.... It's not always 'beating the cancer' that determines your fate.  Sometimes the universe has other plans.

And now, at 8 months, I have finally stopped hearing the cliches.  And I am grateful.
'He would want you to move on'
'Time heals all wounds'
'He's in a better place'
'It was God's will'
Words meant to help, I know, but words that are ultimately bankrupt of any real value.
Now people just tend to say 'I'm so sorry'.  And to them I say 'why? did you create Leukaemia? if so, we can't be friends.'  But really, there's no need for words. Throw out the cliches and the words meant to ease your tension.  If someone you love is going through a difficult time - just give them a hug, put your arm around their shoulder, or hold their hand.  It will say far more than the cliches ever could.  And if you STILL need to say something, just say 'I don't know what to say'.  Trust me, they'll thank you for it.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Madrid: A Slightly Biased Review

I've been back for just over a week now and I thought it was time I reflected on my first holiday P.P.P. (post P's passing).

My Amiga made sure to spend as much time with me as possible.  But let's face it, we've all got to earn a living, and some days she worked from 9am - 10pm, leaving me to entertain myself.  I was glad for this, though, in all honesty.  I went there with the intention of discovering whether or not I was ready to travel on my own.  And the verdict is.....(drum roll).....Maybe.

Madrid, to be fair, is not really a city for singletons. Yes there are a few spectacular art museums and monuments.  But the Spanish culture is based upon socialising with friends and family and as a result, it can make the lone traveller feel VERY alone. Tapas are, after all, meant for sharing.

In the past, faced with a night on my own in a foreign city, I would awake at the crack of dawn and work to tire myself out so that I'd be in bed early, like an old dear.  The weather wasn't really condusive to this plan, though.  It was BOILING.  I'm not complaining.  It was lovely to be able to stroll around in shorts and a teeny top from early morning until after midnight without feeling the slightest chill.  I'm merely saying that the weather made you just want to lie in the park all day, or lounge by a pool, or sit in a cafe sipping a cool drink.

Things you usually do with a partner. Things I should have been doing with P.

It definitely did not make you want to whittle away the hours in a darkened museum.  If you live in the UK you know all too well that when it is sunny you stay outside because that might be the only sun you get all year (must store up the vitamin D)!  P lived by this motto.  Whenever the sun was out he would drag me across the street in order to stay in the sun, back and forth, running away from the shade.

Don't get me wrong, I did do some of the tourist-y things.  The Palacio de Real Madrid (Royal Palace) was spectacular, what every little girl dreams of - it is the stuff of fairy tales.  Adorned spectacularly, no detail is left untouched and the gold....!  If Spain's economy gets worse I'm sure they could fund the whole country with all the gold from the Palace. I found myself clutching the audio guide in an effort to restrain myself from touching everything like a two year old in a toy shop!

El Prado (The Prado Museum), on the other hand, bored me.  Sorry, no nice way to say it. Frankly, it is only worth it if you truely enjoy Flemish and religious art.  The paintings are generally very sombre.
Templo de Debod (an Egyptian temple gifted to Madrid for Spain's help in saving the sacred buildings) is wonderful surprise. The visit doesn't take long, it's free, and it's wonderfully informative.  It's a must-see of Madrid, in my opinion.
Really, Madrid is best used as a base from which to visit the small historic towns surrounding the capital.  Toledo was the highlight of my holiday - I was too consumed with wandering around the small city, taking photographs, getting lost in the winding streets, and purusing the many gift shops to notice that I was on my own.

Overall, I must say, I was very proud of myself.  It was hard, no doubt, the pain sat in my stomach and behind my eyes - giving me a constant headache and an unsettled stomach.  BUT I did it. The first holiday PPP is behind me.  And I have learnt valuable lessons about travelling on my own:
1. When staying with friends, make sure to get out and do things on your own. Maybe stay a night or 2 in a hotel just in case you need some time to release (tears, screams, whatever).
2.  Take up a hobby like photography (or scuba diving) which will make the holiday feel more meaningful and will provide a distraction and a reason for being on your own.
3.  It's ok if you don't do all the touristy stuff. The purpose of a holiday is to relax, to get away, and for us UK residents - get some sun! [this was a big lesson for me, the American whose brain says 'you must see everything because you may never be back again!']
4.  Places like Spain are not the best places for singletons. With this in mind, maybe tours are good ideas for those of us on our own.
5. It took me almost the full week to get comfortable speaking my heavily accented Spanish. They know we're foreigners and they appreciate us trying (they're not like the Parisians!) - accept that you have an accent, and muddle through as best you can.  And say at the beginning 'Lo siento. Mi espanol es muy malo.' (I'm sorry. My spanish is really bad.) and then they will be more patient and understanding.

Next up - Paris! WITH a friend and her mum. 

Monday, 11 June 2012

It's Strange How....

You find yourself feeling sorry for newly bought items, never to be used again
You reach for your phone to text a certain someone, knowing they can't answer anymore
You put on his clothes just to remember what it was like
You feel the need to protect other people when you inform them and see their visible discomfort, so...
You find yourself laughing when you tell people about it. It doesn't make sense! It's an awkward, uncomfortable half smile, half 'laugh' as you say 'what can you do' in an effort to ease the tension
You know logically he's not coming back and yet you are constantly surprised that this thing is not over yet. That he hasn't come back yet.
It's rarely the BIG things that make you cry.
You feel like you can't get rid of certain things, ya know, just in case
Your brain becomes like a sieve, making it nearly impossible to remember anything
You no longer remember how to make small talk
Hugs become awkward - physical contact feels strange and unfamilar
People look at you differently
Your body changes - you lose weight, gain weight, lose muscle, lose calluses, muscles ache, headaches become routine
You lose track of time regularly
Time moves sooooooo slowly
You move sooo slowly
You're tired all the time, but seem to avoid going to bed at all costs
You sleep, but rarely soundly
You lie in, a lot
You lie - to avoid telling the truth
You find the simplest of decisions REALLY difficult - like what to eat, what to buy, where to go, who to call, what to do
Seriously, this THING is strange! 

Friday, 8 June 2012

The roses aren't as red...

All around people are laughing, smiling, gazing at each other fondly
They point to buildings of historic value
stare in awe of sites of grandeur
and yet here I stand
Bored and alone
no one to whisper my thoughts to
no one to share these experiences
I visit these places
as I'm told they are special.
It is what you do, as a tourist.
I eat the food that is traditional
Shop in the stores and the markets
I wander the streets, soaking up the culture
and spend hours seeking peace in the parks
and yet....
nothing touches me.
This numbness
It is a veil between me and the world.
The roses aren't as red
The sky is not as blue
But I know 
I am meant to find it all so beautiful
so I exclaim
¡Que bonita! 
But inside, I wonder
will I ever find myself again?
Existing as a half of a whole
is tiring.
When you've been high on love for so long
how do you get your fix when it's gone?