Saturday, 14 July 2012

Postcrossing: Vilnius, Lithuania

I've sent my first Postcrossing postcard, to Minsk!
And received my first one too, from Vilnius, in Lithuania.

I hadn't heard of Vilnius before, to my shame, and one of the reasons (perhaps the most obvious one?) I'm so in love with the Postcrossing idea is that gives me a chance to luxuriate in learning about new places.
So every time I receive one, I'm going to post a bit about it here!

Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania. Here's the wiki and I even found a youtube video!

My postcard has a beautiful picture of Saint Johnnes' Church, bathed in beautiful sunlight.  The church is situated on the University campus, apparently.  I so love the colour of the stone!  I love old stone buildings.  And would so love to spend a day wandering around there!

Friday, 13 July 2012

There's a reason I don't fight the sadness I feel when I miss my cat.
And why I do when I anticipate loss in other areas of my life.

It was a pure relationship, with no opportunity for any of the shit that language brings: negativity, expectation, inference, guilt.
We learnt, without words, what the other needed and wanted, and whether we were the Being who could give it to them. We learnt how to give and take, how to share and when to leave the other alone. We learnt comfort and tough love. We learnt how to manage boundaries and expectations without any expectations. Without feeling or imposing any obligations or habits.
I don't even know what that would look like in a human relationship and if you asked me to explain, I couldn't. But I know, in a deep way, that I knew it with him.
I might sound like I'm idealising it - perhaps I am.
I might sound like I am tired of the complexity of human relationships and am retreating into a dream world where my cat and I just were. I am.
I miss him. So much.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Asking for what you need

 An essential part of 'growing up' - or just growing, I think - is figuring out what you need, and whether you can really ask it of the Universe (by which I do not mean being a chickenshit) and if so, asking!
I find it infinitely easier to ask for 'things' or manifest opportunities than I find asking for something from someone. I find that incredibly difficult.  It's unsurprising, therefore, that I end often end up angry and resentful.  I find it difficult to say: 'You have slacked off, and it's started becoming really lame now'.  I find it difficult to tell my Mother that she needs to also listen to me on the phone, not just talk about her or my Dad.  I have a voice in my head saying selfish, selfish, selfish right now, by the way. 
I find it hard to tell friends who always seem to have something or the other going on: I exist too.  
I wait until they get it - which never happens, and no wonder. 

Without meaning to turn into one of those annoying people who accuse their pasts for each failing, I am pointing my finger at my past. 
I've felt responsible for my parents, and particularly my Mum, because of my Dad's illness and my Mum's brave, lonely and sad vigil through it.  Though it's never been let on that that is my expected role, I've taken it on to varying degrees, automatically.  For most of my life I have of course felt that I could ask my Mother for whatever I needed, but over time, I've felt it less and less.  My Dad's gotten older and older, my Mum is tired and going through this every single day, and I feel like I should be able to handle myself.  But I am under no grandiose delusion that I should handle myself entirely alone.  That would drive me mad.  That's why I treasure friendships - for the joy and the solace that they provide, for the opportunity for me to share and participate in life outside my situation at home. For the sake of it. For fun. For learning. For the chance to give and receive. But I've let the pattern of 'I understand, I'm there for you, Forget about me' that I let myself develop at home go too deep. It has spilled over into the rest of my life, and I find it difficult to say to my friends: 'You know, you're behaving selfishly (because I let you?)' 

I am finding more and more ways, over the past few weeks, in which my family situation influences how I think and act. Or to put it more accurately, how I have let it influence the way I think and act. 
I guess it would be obvious to anyone with two eyes, but it is a process of discovery to me because I'm in it and can only see things one at a time, slowly building patterns rather than realizing them all at once 'from the top'. 

I wrote an email to my dearest friend today, to point out that she hadn't replied to my phonecalls for weeks. I feel selfish for having done so, and anxious. But I also feel like doing that represents a step forward - one that would not have crossed my mind to take just six months ago - and there's no going back. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I do not speak for other people who have faced the long illness of a loved one (and particularly a loved one who is meant to 'take care' of one - a parent, a guardian).  Speaking only for myself, I find that on reflection, a huge part of this challenge is how it affects my sense of self. 
In many respects, I consider myself a very decisive person. I know what I want, and I find a way to get what I want. 
Not so when it comes to my relationship with my parents. 
A normal part of 'growing up' is developing an independent sense of boundaries.  This is difficult to do, but it's necessary and healthy.  Our society seems to grant that it's a long and difficult process and grants people allowances for the many years of adolescence, during which time this 'coming into one's own' is meant to occur. 
My adolescence was constrained, in many ways, by the fact of my father's illness. I see that now. Even though I was quite 'rebellious', and I did experiment and push boundaries and explore my interests, I was constantly aware of the limits. If I stayed out too late, or was in a belligerent mood, I felt guilty about what this would do my father, either directly or through the effect on my mother's mood. I don't think my parents ever explicitly constrained me by using guilt, but I felt it anyway. For the simple reason that whether they made me aware of a connection or not, I could see it myself. When my father was upset, or especially angry (as the parents of adolescents sometimes are!), he felt chest pain. There was no need to remind of this connection because it was exceptionally visible. 
So I was split. 
I was (and remain) quite strong-willed, and with diverse interests, and with a strong sense of adventure and fun. 
But I was also relatively considerate and reasonable (compared to some of my less constrained peers). 
Of course, this was a good thing at the time, but I start to wonder now whether I sometimes lose the balance between being considerate of my parents' needs and being aware of my own. 
Sometimes I brush aside things I really want to do when I'm at home, because I imagine that I am needed there to help, to be a constant 'rock', to not impose any demands, to not express any desires. 
Recognising this (on the threshold of 30 - late-onset anyone!?) feels like the first step towards becoming more than just a support for my father's illness (though of course that is important to me too). Towards becoming a person outside of that, and not just at the margins.