Saturday, 20 December 2008

the gift


Gosh, sorry about that. Everything rather came crowding in there, for a bit. 'All better now' would be an exaggeration, but 'No longer completely potty' probably sums it up quite well. How long does it take to stop being bone tired, though? We both look like extras from a zombie movie. I'm thinking months, after what we've been through. Months would be fine. There are lots of months ahead. And no more of them are in 2008, for which I think I'm probably very grateful.

Eleanor is improving. The bronchilitis is still there and the GP and Health Visitor are monitoring her closely. But she's put back on the weight she lost in hospital and is eating okay. And is very alert. So that's all good. We have been told to keep her away from people with colds and chest complaints until the bronchilitis clears up, which makes sense. The added benefit of this is that it means that we can avoid Kate and Vic (B's parents - I really need to update my 'Who's Who?'). Kate has a chest infection. They were supposed to be going to Venice for Christmas - she booked it in a fit of pique when we weren't speaking. She has cancelled it because she is too poorly to go and now wants to come and see us. This is Not Happening. Not Happening. Not. Happening. Has the woman no brain?

Things are getting back to normal. Normal includes:
  • Making marmalade
  • Decanting sloe gin
  • Making soap
  • Spinning off honey (B is doing this in the kitchen as I type)
  • Worming and cleaning out the chickens (this morning)
  • Killing and plucking the three spare cockerels (Yesterday - part-exchange for two (or three) hens and a pair of ducks in a complicated poultry/honey transaction)
  • Swapping a pair of hens for a wooden clothes airer (photos to come, it's FAB)
I am going to make up a little box of gin, marmalade, honey and soap for various friends and family - we have bought some bits for Leo, but Eleanor is too small and we have decided that we just don't want to go down the bought-present route for other people any more. I am just about to make up some little boxes and cover them with pretty paper to put the bits and bobs in. I haven't managed to achieve Christmas Cards this year; I have given in to the dreaded 'round robin email', something I swore I would never do. I haven't even managed to write and thank people for the gifts they sent to Eleanor and some people have asked me for our address to send things and I haven't even manage to send them THAT. It's official. I am Officially Disorganised.

But that's okay.

This year has been truly, truly dreadful for us. Awful. I am sure that worse things could have happened; but what HAS happened has been quite enough. The final door-closing has been that in Welshpool yesterday, we saw 'our' old house for sale in the Estate Agent's window, for an asking price of 30% less than we paid for it two and a half years ago. It really hurt - I came home and cried. But that's that, now. That door is closed.

We have come away from the year with nearly everything in our lives changed.

Our relationships with both my family - because of Pa's death - and B's family - because of 'The Row'. Our relationship with each other, because of those upheavals, and because of the arrival of the children. Our work - not being a limited company is a relief in a way; but I think I would probably also speak for B - who will no doubt comment if he feels the need - when I say that there is also a small, sneaking sense of failure that we were unable to keep it going. The positive side of that is that we can pick and choose what work we take rather more than we could with the start-up debts around our necks. We have also lost the house in South Wales that I lived in before I moved in with B, that was supposed to be our pension fund. And finally, our home. When we moved to The Dream House in 2005, we really thought it was The Place. It was going to be the home where we had our adoptive family, where we had a productive garden, where we kept bees and chickens; everything. The heart of our lives.

And now it's gone. We literally ripped that heart out of it before we left. All the things we had put in with such love and such hope - the greenhouse, the neutraliser, the solar panels, all got taken out when we moved. We have been reduced to almost nothing, materially. No savings, no property, sometimes, not even any hope for the future.

And then Eleanor. I haven't even touched on what that has meant, have I? This cycle of events started with Pa dying, I suppose. A good death, in the fullness of his years, surrounded by his family. It hurt. But it hurts in a way that was right and expected. The cycle has, hopefully, ended with Eleanor recovering. We were so, so scared that we were going to lose her. A premature death, caused by a bad hand in the DNA lottery or a chance mouthful of myconium swallowed as she was born. And now, she is smiling. Grinning like theCheshire Cat, in fact. I love it. I love her. I'm less frightened thatI'm going to lose her now. I am forcing myself to pick her up and feedher. I had a bath with her last night, which was lovely. The bonding isvery fragile and very delicate. But it's there. And every time shesmiles at me - the smile that seems to take over her entire face - itstrengthens a little bit more.

2008 has given me some things, too, as well as taking them away. I have been given an enormous ability to cope with stress. I know I can cope, that I can survive things that would probably have crushed some people. I know that my relationship with B can stand literally anything. I know I don't need 'stuff' to be happy. I have had my trust in the moving moral force in the universe tested and tested and tested. Yes I had a blip for a few weeks; but I reckon I'm back with it again now.

Things are good. We have a strong relationship, two beautiful children, a fantastic family. We have a lovely place to live - okay, it's rented. But so what? There's space for ducks!

And the one gift that 2008 has really given me is an appreciation of people. Not where you live, not what you have, not what you do. It's who you are, deep inside that matters. And it's the people that you connect with on that level. The extraordinary kindness of online friends via this blog and downsizer.net; freecyclers; health-professionals; old school and college friends; people we have come across over the last few years as our interests and lives have intersected; colleagues, clients and suppliers. This year we have really learned who our friends are. Some of them are not people we would have expected count as friends. Some of them we have known for years. Some of them I haven't ever met in person, just online or on the phone.  But friends are friends are friends.

The gift I have been given by 2008 is one that will never wear out; it is the lesson that it's people that are important. Nothing else.


24 comments:

  1. Happy, happy, happy, happy Christmas, Ally.

    Thank you for a beautiful post.

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  2. Happy, happy, happy, happy Christmas, Ally.

    Thank you for a beautiful post.

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  3. *wipes away a tear*

    Merry Christmas!

    And *hugs* as usual.

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  4. *wipes away a tear*

    Merry Christmas!

    And *hugs* as usual.

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  5. Sweetie, I know I don't comment a lot, but I just wanted to say that, with everything you have been thru this last year or so, you are truly inspirational to people, and your strength is awesome, in the real sense of the word.

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  6. Sweetie, I know I don't comment a lot, but I just wanted to say that, with everything you have been thru this last year or so, you are truly inspirational to people, and your strength is awesome, in the real sense of the word.

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  7. That's probably one of the most amazing posts and accounts that I've read.

    Your courage, determination, positive thinking and sheer guts have had me reading your posts in admiration.

    Have a very happy Christmas :D

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  8. That's probably one of the most amazing posts and accounts that I've read.

    Your courage, determination, positive thinking and sheer guts have had me reading your posts in admiration.

    Have a very happy Christmas :D

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  9. Bless you and yours, dearest Ally, and happy Christmas.

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  10. What a wonderful post Ally. I hope you count me among those friends. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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  11. What a great post! I'm glad that you are feeling rather more positive about things. The fact that you can do that is a miracle in itself. You've been through more in a year than some people do in a lifetime. I really hope that 2009 is a much better year for all of you, and in the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas. Those first few Christmases with your children are magic. Once they get to being teenagers it all changes, so enjoy it while it lasts! Happy Christmas, love from Annie

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  12. What a great post! I'm glad that you are feeling rather more positive about things. The fact that you can do that is a miracle in itself. You've been through more in a year than some people do in a lifetime. I really hope that 2009 is a much better year for all of you, and in the meantime, have a wonderful Christmas. Those first few Christmases with your children are magic. Once they get to being teenagers it all changes, so enjoy it while it lasts! Happy Christmas, love from Annie

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  13. Your beautiful post just made me cry. All the best for a happy and hopeful 2009.

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  14. A very moving and hopeful post. All best wishes for 2009.

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  15. In all the ways that count, you are one of the richest people I know. This post was like a shaft of light pouring out of a dark cloud -- you know the ones? the angel slides? -- one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. This was a wonderful gift to us.

    Merry Christmas to you and the family.

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  16. In all the ways that count, you are one of the richest people I know. This post was like a shaft of light pouring out of a dark cloud -- you know the ones? the angel slides? -- one of the most beautiful things you will ever see. This was a wonderful gift to us.

    Merry Christmas to you and the family.

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  17. I so agree with you, ally.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, lotsaluv, Karen xx

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  18. I so agree with you, ally.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, lotsaluv, Karen xx

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  19. looooong time gone from your blog...clicked across from someone, and there you are, writing this, and I am agreeing furiously with where you have got to here...

    Yes, yes and yes...I found myself thinking many of the same things on Dec 21 about the year...I wonder what you'd make of the conclusions I reached?

    I'm glad you're doing OK. Hope and joy and optimism don't mean anything unless you have had to feel life without them, and it seems you have.

    I'll be back ;-) (as they say)...

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  20. looooong time gone from your blog...clicked across from someone, and there you are, writing this, and I am agreeing furiously with where you have got to here...

    Yes, yes and yes...I found myself thinking many of the same things on Dec 21 about the year...I wonder what you'd make of the conclusions I reached?

    I'm glad you're doing OK. Hope and joy and optimism don't mean anything unless you have had to feel life without them, and it seems you have.

    I'll be back ;-) (as they say)...

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  21. Wishing you peace and blessings and chickens and eggs and bees and honey and apples and jam tarts in 2009

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  22. I wish you and yours happiness and good health for 2009. You have been through such a pig of a year but your determination and outlook is a pure inspiration.

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  23. Hey lovely, I'm so glad you're able to count your blessings, even after the totally sh*t year you've had! That is a sign of somebody pretty remarkable. It's all very well being able to count them when it's easy, isn't it? But you're a real trooper. That's the challenge, gratitude and grace, under fire.
    You're dead right, nothing more important than people.

    I think you got all your crappy luck out of the way at once, so let's hope 2009 is smooth sailing, hey? I'm sure it will be.

    I'm so glad E is getting better, too.

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  24. Hey lovely, I'm so glad you're able to count your blessings, even after the totally sh*t year you've had! That is a sign of somebody pretty remarkable. It's all very well being able to count them when it's easy, isn't it? But you're a real trooper. That's the challenge, gratitude and grace, under fire.
    You're dead right, nothing more important than people.

    I think you got all your crappy luck out of the way at once, so let's hope 2009 is smooth sailing, hey? I'm sure it will be.

    I'm so glad E is getting better, too.

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