Recently I was featured in the local paper with the title “Poetry gave me a reason for living” – not something I said or would have chosen and in a way of a headline and think it should be the other way round “Living gave me the reason for poetry”! By writing this blog as my kind of therapy of the past, present and future and expression of a place where I find hope as well. I was asked how I could sum up in one sentence of where I thought I was today - and I couldn’t. How can you define past experiences in one sentence?
“A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.” Yevgeny Yevtushenk
How do you explain how frustrating it is just living day by day without being able to make plans, not even for the next day let alone months or years ahead and how frustrating it is watching those around you forge ahead to the future, while the future seems blocked off to you. How do you put in words the fatigue, the emotional rollercoaster of a serious illness? How do you explain how you feel having your child watch you go through depression, and cancer treatment having already suffered from rejection and leaving behind all that he knew to no security of his own home, his own space and then made to feel of no value and treated with a lack of understanding and empathy from others? I could have wept with despair, or become very angry, became isolated and sunk further into depression – and I am not saying that some days I didn’t or still feel burdened down (and even still do now in recovery) – but I wrote a blog and poetry instead and expressed my feelings there, found quotes that kept me positive, grateful for what I did have, and sought out supportive people who made me laugh, lifted my spirits and who were there when I needed them – and still are around but I can now be around for them too. And there were certain people around who I could depend on and kept me going with such concern, kindness and practical support. I learned that you cannot go it alone when the going gets tough and also found out those who really cared me and valued me for the person I was rather than whom they wanted me to be.
“Lets face it, everyone tries o be strong and act like nothing ever goes bad in their life, but in reality we all struggle and need help once in a while...Its okay to cry, laugh and ask for help because no one is perfect!”
It is gratifying now that I feel more in a position to return some of that support that was given to me to others now I have finished my lay chaplaincy (hospital visitor) training – been DBS checked and picked up my badge - I am now going into the local hospital on Fridays. Looking back I am a different person now than before being diagnosed with cancer and I have grown as a person.
"I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect.” ~ Mother Teresa
I was also asked looking back, who are you now? Such a good question and I ask the same of myself “who am I”? I don't regret my life not really, I wouldn't have my son but I can feel the guilt of not walking away from situations sooner. Suffering from depression, and having breast cancer and all the tribulations associated with that have been valuable life lessons and which have taught me true compassion and empathy with others. It has taught me that that you must make the best of life and the curveballs that it throws at you, not stressing too much about the little constant worries and that solution can be found for the larger ones. Problems do eventually go away but then are replaced by different problems and over a stretch of time you forget why you worried in the first place. I have also learned that it’s ok to desire the material and luxurious things in life but it is the absolute necessities that matter more and there are much more important things then possessions.
I look at the quote “the past does not define you” but in a way it does – it clouds your vision - and you really do need to face the past to move on pass it so the quote can become fact.
“Moving on doesn't mean forgetting things, but accepting what has happened to continue living”.
I do not know the person I was five years ago, and in some ways I am not quite sure of the person I am now either! I do know however that I am a stronger person than I ever thought I could be, I know what I want to commit to and what my priorities are currently. Everything else is wishful thinking. I can only say that what has happened in what I call my “soap opera” life over the last five years is that I have survived and with the grace of God and Jerry springer it has led to where I am now and I have a certain measure of happiness, a sense of purpose, faith and confidence in myself which was not there before.
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami
Not that the article reflected all this! Why am I writing this now, well I had my consultants visit a couple of weeks ago – the first year is up. I can't say that I have been feeling great since Christmas and have been a little worried that my recovery was not going as well as it should. But was told “what do you expect”! Recovery can take years to get the energy you once had back and then there are the side effects of the pills I am taking and throw in the long winter and lack of vitamin D, I can join everyone else who seems to be tired, down and yucky at the moment. There are no bumps or lumps so it’s see you in six months …… At least it allayed some fears.
“Where ever fear shadows…. that always means there is a light shining somewhere.” ~Jonathan SantosYou may think that everything should be hunky dory now, but as I said as one problem go away others replace them and at the moment this is financial difficulty. I have been struggling quite a while with my finances, an accumulation of lots things and years but now including reduced hours at work, an ex-husband who can't pay child maintenance (sure he is working cash-in-hand though) and the increasing costs in everything else from council tax, utility bills to food. I have tried borrowing myself out of it but that hasn't worked and at long last I am now tackling it very seriously. I wouldn't mind if I had accumulated debt because I had carpeted my flat, brought a new flat screen TV, a tumble dryer, a shower unit, a new oven, a new laptop and went on holiday (all on my wish list) but it is just surviving day to day and I do realise that I am not the only one in this position. I am not the best person at managing my money having always relied on an overdraft but this is no longer an option and in reality is a false status of affairs when it is a lot worse. I must admit I am sometimes sceptical of people who say they have no money when you are weighing up what food to buy to buying a new coat for your son rather than saying you can’t afford to go on holiday – but then I suppose that having no money means different things to other people to different degrees and to different worries and anxieties so I should not judge. Well I have started tackling it already (and not without support I must add) having met with my bank branch manager, a friend who took me through debt management strategies and setting a new budget with goals - I can now sleep a little better knowing I am doing something about it rather than hiding my head in the sand.
“Debts are like children: the smaller they are the more noise they make.” -Spanish Proverb
What have I done/going to do? Here are my top ten:
- Broke down all my current spending (including how much I spend on the cats) for the month and then looked at those figures and then the areas where I can spend less coming up with a budget that meets my incoming money. (There are obviously things like rent which you cannot reduce. Also try to identify amounts you spend on birthdays, Easter, Christmas –things that could be an outlay if needed, i.e glasses, holidays, and anything you may want to save up for, for me my carpets(!) and put this away in a savings account. I am saving a small amount currently through pay as you earn and it is paid out of my salary straight into a savings account so I don’t miss that money. It may not be much but I broke down, for example, 50p per month for Easter which £6 per year which is about what I do spend on Easter eggs anyway.)
- Changes my bank account to non-fee paying, took of the reserve and lowered my overdraf
- Moved my direct debits to come out of my account as near to my payday as possible. (This one and the above will ensure unnecessary banking charges do not come out of my account and by moving my direct debits within the first week of salary means a) they payments won't deferred incurring exorbitant charges and I know exactly what I have to spend.)
- Spoke to your bank’s financial assistance line for advice. (This is not the National Debt line but each bank have financial assistance advisor who can help you – for example in the next four months I will be able to consolidate my loan and by paying it over a longer term with a reduced interest rate I will have a little more monthly income. If you go to the retail personal banking they will probably offer you a loan at an inflated interest rate and even if you do say you are consolidating will not probably not be directed to financial assistance. I wish I had known this before borrowing to get out debt last year!) do not speak to the retail side of the bank for personal loans go through to the financial assistance line first. )
- Having a payment diary – basically recording amounts to make sure I am keeping to the budget
- Online banking so you are reconciling your budget diary to your bank account (It’s really important to keep an eye on your accounts regularly and not waiting for monthly statements tending to hide from what money you have in your – which I have tended to do.)
- Setting up menu’s of meals and stock-taking exactly what I do have in my cupboards, freezer etc
- On-line shopping for big shop and list on fridge of what needed in between and only getting those things when popping to the local supermarket. (Ok this might seem a bit onerous but the important thing is to stock up at the beginning of the month/or every two weeks taking a big chunk of the food and running of the household budget leaving some left for perishable items. I do seem throw away food more than I should do and have been guilty of buying things I already have! – the important thing here is reduce my food budget by quite a lot so not to be tempted by other things in store just getting what is needed which is going to be quite hard for me because I like to shop and not online!)
- Cash not card – take out the cash for budget and do not use card (Elementary take out the cash and keep within that cash amount you have taken out – don't take your card out with you on days out etc. so you only use the cash you have allocated yourself – again keeps you focussed!)
- Looking for better utility/broadband etc. deals (Ok I’m not having much luck at this one – but you may do so!)
“Some people use one half their ingenuity to get into debt, and the other half to avoid paying it.” -George PrenticeOf course there are other things like ensuring that you are getting the benefits you are entitled i.e. housing benefit, working tax credit and child tax credit to ensuring your tax code is correct and finding lost bank accounts. There are also things like extreme couponing, saving “shrapnel” change and putting this into a savings accounting or taking it to the bank and exchanging for notes etc, making money on-line. You could sell gold, put items on Ebay and also sell branded/vintage clothes you will never wear again to local shops specialise in this. I am watching Superscrimpers for ideas and I am sure that you all may have tip for me too which I would be very grateful to get! Please do send. One given recently never turn down a free meal or drink!
Anyway getting into debt has just been another worry and also to some extent came about due to having cancer – to be ill and face financial difficulties is a double whammy and would also advise you speak to McMillan as they are brilliant in this area.
“Like any problem it’s just admitting there is one in the first place, getting help and taking action”Did I hear anyone say giving up smoking – well obviously that is on the list and pretty high up there too! My son has also now getting a Saturday job, is making some money on Fivver on-line (Fivver is where people do things for $5 or what they call $5 per gig – paid into paypal – doing such things as infographics, editing videos or basically anything you can do for $5 and from his YouTube channel – so is making his own pocket money to buy those things he wants – he is even going to move his direct debits (only two of minimal amount) to his own paypal. Later when his contract runs out on his mobile he is going to get his own and pay for his own contract too! He’s learning budgeting too .......
“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” ― Joe Biden
Otherwise – I think I can say everything is hunky dory right now – although my son has signed me up to an online dating site so that might be another blog if I decide to be a little adventurous! Not really me though but it’s difficult to try to start dating again. I do want someone in my life but I am very wary and well aware of the barriers I do put up. I also need to learn flirt again! Any tips?
I have been out and about performing poetry again - and have done a lot of walking as will be doing Race for Life in June – although note - walking not running (the wimp I am!).
“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.” – Isak DinesenThe past does not define you?
They say the past does not you define
Clouded vision, emotion confined
Repeating the same scene,
Over, and over, and over again
Poisoned forked-tongued serpent
Of heart in weeds entwined
Could it really have been different?
The past is gone
That cannot change
The future not designed
The justifying games we devise
The little ways we improvise
A consciousness self-awoken
Of the hidden and unspoken
A heart with burden aches
Not to make the same mistake
Be aware, see the truth
Light up the darkness
To blinded invisibility
Don’t make a noise, keep the peace
Crows starving at the devious feast
Ripping and tearing at the despair
Of castles drawn in the air
Experience your defence
The heart that’s been deceived
Why do you keep up this pretence?
Give it a voice
Let out the rage
In yourself believe
Face the demons that contaminate your space
Put happiness and laughter in their place
Memories unhidden not forgotten but happened
Regrets unbidden, put away not saddened
There’s really is no mystery
To loving the person you’ve become
Just need to face all with honesty
You are who you are
I am who I am
And just keep on moving on