How hard times change us

Hard times. Everybody has them. Heartbreaks, disappointments, money too tight for comfort, our head doesn’t match our heart, illness in ourselves, illness or distress in our loved ones, people besmirching our character. Hard times happen to everyone. There is no immunity.  Rockefeller is reported to have half jokingly offered half his kingdom to his chauffeur to swap Mr R’s weak and painful stomach for the chauffeurs strong and healthy one. No immunity from troubles in this life.

Hard times are coming, and hard times have passed. We have a 100% success rate at getting through difficult situations thus far. We can do difficult things.  Sometimes we don’t want to, but we can.

The difference between difficult times making or breaking us is how it changes us. How do we adapt?  Darwinism isn’t the survival of the fittest as is so often quoted but rather the survival of the most adaptable.

So, how does adversity change us?

Sometimes we become brittle, and brittle things snap easily with very little pressure applied.  Brittle responses are short, sharp, hurtful to our self or others.  Brittle hearted responders confirm their bias that everyone or everything is against them.  There is confirmation everywhere that they are right.

Sometimes we become gentle. Gentle things can appear to be defenseless. Some try to take advantage of gentle responders. Confirmational bias reinforces the notion to a gentle person that the world can be a good place. A famous quote states that “a soft answer turneth away wrath”.  Frequently, meeting hostility with calmness or treating people how they would want to be treated whether they deserve it or not brings about a suitable outcome.

If we have been ill or broken hearted, we get to decided how we react.

It takes less than 90 seconds for the chemicals generated in a surge of anger to flush through the body.  If a person can breathe through a moment of anger, keep cool and not rise to the bait, the incidents physical response will be over in a minute and a half. However if a person dwells on the situation and feels the surge of anger again, the clock starts over.

Saying “I am this way because I had a hard life” or “I am this way because my parents are this way” or “because I am a redhead” underplays and undermines our decision making rights and privileges.

We get to choose. Every time.  The more often we choose one way rather than another, the faster we develop a habit. But we get to choose. No matter what, we decide how we respond. We are free to change our mind at any point.

Choosing gentleness wouldn’t make a person weak. “No” is still in the vocabulary.  There is still a resolve and grit. There isn’t a requirement to be a fall guy.

We can do difficult things. Heartaches over time become manageable. Wrongs can be overcome. Anger can pass. There is no reason to choose one response over the other. Just, what shape do we want our life to take. What manner of men ought we to be?

I am trying to learn to be gentler with people. There is a propensity for me to be yes:no, right:wrong, do it or step aside. Often there isn’t always time to say things twice so directness is a useful tool. But is the directness brittle or gentle? That is what I ask myself.

I wonder if either one or the other is more correct. Is there as much correctness in retreating into hermitude after a grief and yelling at the neighbourhood kids or expanding in to empathy?

There is no definitive answer. I find from personal experience that on the rare occasions I am having a hard time, it passes quicker or my ability to carry the problem increases if I make an effort, no matter how hard and no matter how concerted the effort has to be, to check in with those I love and see how they are doing. It helps.

The upshot is that I believe anyone who is free from a traumatic brain injury gets to choose how they would like to respond, even if that choice leads to a relearning or exploration of options and skills not yet at our disposal.

We get to decide. What a gift!

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The House # 2. What we found.

I hadn’t been home for 4 years, and prior to that it had been our home, not mine. I hadn’t any idea what I would find but this had been such a difficult process I was prepared for almost anything.

So, we left off at me and Missy retrieving the key to the house from the neighbour.  It was this key.  One solitary, very expensive, hard fought and won key.

We took our courage and entered in to the house.  First impressions were that the place was grimy, as though a house full of greasy handed adults had lived there.  The air smelled dusty and dirty.  A carpet on the stairs was threadbare and torn.

Some items including an armchair were left in the living room but it wasn’t bad at all.  The bathroom was dirty.  The bath – I just don’t know how a bath gets that gloopy with gunge.  The bathroom cupboards were occupied, the understairs cupboard was filled, the living room cupboard was filled, the bureau that we fought over where I ended up giving up my furniture in favour of making space for his furniture – was sat there, abandoned and containing stuff… lots of stuff.  The conservatory wasn’t too bad on first inspection but fish tank stands were screwed in to the windowsill and the blinds were broken and unusable.

A photo with my face scratched out but you can still see my smile was left behind.

The sheet detailing the police record of his taped interview was in the drawer.

Love letters and cards to his ladies, Linda and Louise, were left for me to find.  Apparently he helped them get through their darkest hour and everybody loves everybody.

The kitchen, I didn’t want to touch anything, the grime was evident on all surfaces and handles.  All the cupboard doors were wonky, many of the cupboards were filled with unnecessary clutter, lots of clutter.

Upstairs all the blinds had been removed so we were open to view from neighbours on all sides, cupboards were filled, Missy’s room was kitted out in full furniture including a dining table and bar stools (really, bar stools), a broken bed, a tv stand, all her toys we’d not been able to take which were now for children not adults, her wardrobe was empty.

The third bedroom has built in closets, full to the brim.  Aircon units were left which will end up being handy in the summer if they work.  Bathroom sink in a box was left.  A bathroom cupboard in a box was left.  DIY tools and tool boxes were scattered around the house.

The main bedroom, to be greeted by the king sized marital bed was disturbing.  I could see the impression from where he had lain these past four years, with my side undisturbed or indented.  Other items of furniture abounded.  My bookshelf over the chimney in the bedroom lay untouched, none of the books read, all dusty and as I left them.

Black mould in the cupboards and in the corners of the room.  How can someone knowingly live with black mould in the room they sleep?  It is unfathomable to me.

The boiler was broken with an error message indicating trouble with the intake vents.

Wires, cut, severed, uncapped or made safe, were dangling from the boiler.

Black mould behind two kitchen cupboards.

Plumbing piping on the outside of the house had been smashed.

Debris littered the rather decent for an English house’s garden.  Canopies tangled and broken, rubbish all around the garden, paddling pools were strewn across the grass, the giant fire drum which stands at around 8ft tall was filled with hedge cuttings but from where I do not know as the hedge had grown to be as high as the upstairs windows and covering much of the garden and garden buildings.  The sheds were filled to the brim.  They were filled with abandoned tools, with 4 lots of bathroom sets of wash basin, pedestal, toilet and cistern.  That was around 16 sanitary items had to be taken to the tip!  There were old dishwashers, freezers, fridge freezers, tumble dryers, shower trays and surrounds.  The roof of both sheds had caved and ripped, one worse than the other.  Behind the sheds we had a hip high, 30ft wide expanse of broken and discarded wood and weeds.

The front of the house as you pull up on the drive looked perfectly respectable.  As you entered the home and moved further through it became a more shambolic representation of the truth rather than the façade.  For a man so fastidious and aggressive regarding all things housekeeping, the condition of the place was a shock.

In that moment, once I recovered from the surprise of how grimy and unkempt this house had become, I determined that I would invest the capital required and invest the elbow grease necessary to make the house habitable again.

It would take many days, dedicating myself to the task, and calling on service providers and accepting the help of those who wanted to assist including my mum to get it to a point where we could move furniture in.  The house needed to be decontaminated of mould, walls needed to be stripped, everywhere needed to be painted and repaired, carpets needed to be laid.

It took a skip, a gypsy scrap dealer, another flatbed truck for garden debris, a mass of furniture donation including saying goodbye to the marital bed, and 15 estate car loads to the tip and we are still going strong to remove the unnecessary and undesired items from the house.

The Saturday before last we moved in our things.  We’re now trying to close down the rental home and hand in the keys but landlords, gosh they make things difficult!!!

This house is littler than the rental so our furniture doesn’t fit, we’re having to be quite creative and repurpose items and continue downsizing but we’ll get there.  This last weekend we managed to get 3 bedrooms set up, a washing machine plumbed in and find homes for lots of possessions, mostly keepsakes and bathroom stuff.

On the Saturday I moved us in, I thought I had made a terrible mistake.  I felt like an interloper in my own home, I was a little upset for no tangible reason other than the mess that the removal company had left was a little overwhelming.  A friend at Church on the Sunday suggested that Missy and I take a day off, that we just eat easy food, watch a movie, spend time there, don’t worry about the boxes.  It worked.  We bonded with the house and come the Monday I felt less like a stranger.  So, thank you Julie Brann, you helped me get back on my emotional feet and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for your kindness toward us.

Now, and for the next 25 years while I pay down this mortgage, Missy and I will (fingers crossed) have a home to come back to, a place to call our own, a place to rest from the world where people aren’t inspecting us every 12 weeks on a Wednesday, where we can have friends over in an impromptu fashion, where we can hang pictures on the walls and plant our garden without wondering if we’ll be around to see it flourish.  I’m looking forward to getting used to the idea that this is home.  Pictures to follow.

 

 

 

The House #1. Winning the right to the matrimonial home in the divorce.

I received an unexpected email from the solicitors office stating that the funds were transferred.  I replied “Oh, that’s nice, any idea of a completion date?” and they said “as far as I am concerned, the house is now yours”.

I went a little pale.  Blood drained from my face.  I felt a little woozy.  Things we’d been hardly daring to hope for over the past 4 years were almost within touching distance.

I enquired after keys.  “Oh, yes, this is an unusual situation with no estate agents who would normally hold keys, I’ll try to track a set down”.

I waited half hour and then went to the solicitors office, it was a Friday evening after all.

Upon arrival I discovered that the contact has gone home for the weekend but that Mr Pollyanna Whyte would make a key available at 5 pm at the property, no sooner, no later, I had to attend in person.

This was not awesome.  Firstly, he was now in my house.  Secondly, we’d had no contact for 4 years, you know, what with the death threats and everything, a woman tends to stop staying in touch when a surprise child beating and wife hurting during the rescue narcissistic personality type (at best – perhaps with added psychopathic tendencies because he’s not really clever enough to be a sociopath) goes off message and starts behaving in an antisocial manner.

I am on the Police National Computer so if I call, they know who it is and send someone even if I cannot verify details so I thought I’d ask if they’d be so kind as to go with me to pick up the keys to prevent a breech of the peace.  Sorry, Nope, sayonara sucker!  Ok.

I considered waiting until the next working day, requiring Mr P to hand in keys to the solicitor and take it from there.  But then I caught my second wind after a little “I’m quite a bit frightened cry” when I’d tried to keep my act together but then a family member was nice on the phone and I had to end the call, and so I put on my big girl knickers and pulled up to the drive at 5pm on the date specified.

No cars were in the drive.

A sticky-note was in the window directing me to the neighbours house for the key.

No conflict.  Phew.

We had the keys.  By we, I mean me and Missy.  We had a home.

Now to find out in what condition the home had been left.

 

 

Cambridge University for 16 Year Olds

Missy is off for a 3 day residential course at Cambridge University, England tomorrow entitled Women in Science.  

She qualified to attend as 1 of 30 year 11 students which means the children are 15 and 16 years old.  In the acceptance letter the University stated thousands had applied and that they were excited to extend the offer. 

To qualify the candidate had to be female, getting fantastic grades in science, have chosen to study sciences in the next phase of education during A levels for the next two years, have a reference from a senior staff member at school and generally be an all round good egg who’s parent didn’t have the opportunity to attend University themself. 

As with all new experiences there are some small measure of jitters.  I told her it’s just like camp where we think we won’t get along with anyone but end up firm friends.

“Not this time, all these people are nerds”

“I hate to break it to you, Honey, but so are you!  Ha ha”

She jokes that if it goes squiffy she’ll head out on the razz because she’ll obviously be the cool one in the group.

“Honey, I am going out with my girlfriends, I will not collect you”

“No need, I’ll be on the razz, ain’t no stopping this razzzzzz, [insert heavy metal aaaarrrrgrgrg sound]”

She made me hoot laughing.