Resolutions Part III: The thing about family and friends

I am almost at the end of my resolutions list: Spending more time with family and friends. How is this one coming along so far?

Well, the family (apart from husband and the boys, who I am luckily seeing on a daily basis 😉 ) is not exactly living around the corner, so quick drop-ins for coffee are out of the question. One side of the family is a 4 hours drive away – not too far for the occasional weekend trip, but still not a distance you are keen to cover on a really frequent basis with two kids in the back of the car (plus the driving does take a lot of time out of the normal 2-day-weekend). We have been there in December and are not sure yet when the next trip is going to be. But we will go to see my mum end of this month – flying down for a week during our “Spring Break” (ha! funny word – although it has not been really winter yet, I do not yet believe spring is waiting around the corner). We are all looking forward to that.

What about seeing friends? Some friends I see almost daily on the school yard at pick-up time. It is nice for a quick chat, but it is not the same as sitting down for a coffee somewhere and actually spending some real time together. Which I have a not done very often recently. Not at all this year so far, to be honest.

The problem is, meeting for coffee in the morning takes interferes with resolution number 2, getting more writing done. So I am kind of stuck. But there are a few people I definitely want to meet for an elaborate chat (without kids) really soon.

What I would also love to do is spend a weekend with an old friend who is living about 3 hours driving from here. We have done it before and it was lovely. She does not have any kids (yet), so it was a weekend going back in time for me. Just being responsible for my own needs, not having to check if anyone is about to get hungry (= grumpy and starting fights with his brother) or tired (= same outcome). Doing stuff like going shopping, stopping for a quick bite in a cafe, go home to dump the loot, decide on a movie, go out again, come home late, chat endlessly during the whole process (except during the movie). After a weekend like this my friend and I are completely up to date with each others’ life again, have sorted out the problems of the world as well as our private ones and filled each other in on other people we both (used to) know. My (and probably her) ears are then ringing a bit and I feel a bit high from all that new input, but I am always driving home very happy. And happy to be with my family again – because funnily, it also makes me realise how much I like my normal life too.

So we need to find a free weekend for that again – which is not easy since she is really really busy and my weekends tend to fill themselves with lots of activities (that very often are a bit too much for a home-alone-daddy to handle… like two different birthday party invitations for the boys…). But we have managed before and we will again. In spring. Spring is our visiting season.

Another good moment to get all social and having a party would be my birthday, which is actually approaching rapidly. The last years I never had a party. Not a conscious decision, it just did not happen. For this year I was rather determined to do something – going out with a couple of friends (since I am not so keen on doing all the work required to have a party in our house… on my own birthday). But our primary babysitter did not have time, and the back-up babysitter did not answer my emails. And while I was waiting if she would answer, and while I was wondering where I put her mobile number, I suddenly realised I was not so keen of having any kind of birthday activity after all.

You see, the last weeks and weekends have been incredibly busy and I am starting to feel I am in this reactive mode again – responding to queries, doing things that are expected from me, without stopping to think what I wanted myself.

So I stopped and I thought. Here is the result: I will not have a party. I will not even go out. On my birthday, I want some time for myself, maybe a nice cake (from the shops… I won’t put husband through any cake baking ordeal, and the boys are still too small for it), maybe order some special dinner, getting someone else to clean the dishes. 😉 Take it slow. Have a nice evening with husband (when the boys are in bed). Breathe. Just be.

(Maybe that’s a sign I am getting old…. Oh well. I am probably. 😉 )


Wrong Tactic for Coping with Grief

All those nice things I was writing about “choices” and “staying in control” (or at least re-gaining it), about choosing your reaction to things.

Yes. Quite. And now I am sitting here, typing this with a bit of a swollen, painful wrist. Because control did not work at all.

What happened? A friend died.

An old friend, someone I knew since childhood, since the day his family moved next to us. We used to play a lot, although we did not go to the same school, had different circles of friends. But it was always nice to just cross from one garden to the other and knock on his door.

Since we have both left the nest, we saw each other rarely, only when we both happened to be visiting at the same time. But we did manage to reconnect at least once a year, mostly during summer time. He would tell me about his jobs, and how he finally decided to go to university after all, to study law. He would describe how different he felt compared to all the young people freshly out of school, how much more concentrated he was. He said he did not need all the parties anymore, had had enough of them in his own time. He was very proud when he finished his studies quickly, but not as proud as his parents, who were positively glowing.

He also told me about his girl-friends, some of which were a bit complicated. Let’s say he did not go for easy. Until he found his love. The real one. They married recently, expecting their first child.

And then she woke up a few days ago, to find him lying next to her, not waking up any more.

When I heard it via my mum, who had got it from his parents, I first felt like in a bizarre dream. It could not have possibly happened. I spent some time staring at my tea cup that luckily was filled. I drank some tea. And, with my kids playing in the same room, I managed to actually go on with the usual things.

But after maybe an hour I snapped. I had forgotten to do some silly little thing, and that made me so angry that I had to leave the living room. I ran up the stairs and suddenly I was filled with some much rage at the universe that I clenched my fists – and hit the top of the stairs. Hard. As hard as I could.

Then I sat down, looked at my hands. They both hurt. Slowly, the pain in the left one started to recede. The pain in the right one got worse though. Stupid, I thought. That was really stupid.

And so the pain in my hand reminds me that sometimes choosing does not work. At least not if you are me.

As for my friend, when I think of him, I remember the last time we saw each other. It was this summer, at a BBQ in his family’s garden. He was the grill master, at one point he actually managed to set his own pants on fire. But only a bit. After having eaten, my kids were running around playing, his soon-to-be wife, being already pregnant, excused herself to get some rest. We talked. He told me how happy he was. He told me how the concept of having a family of his own had always seemed nice, but distant. And how easy everything had become since he had meet this woman, his love. How easy living together was. How much he was looking forward to becoming a dad. How everything had fallen into place.

It was a wonderful day. I want to keep remembering him like this. Happy.

I wish that one day his love will also be happy again, together with his child.