You may have noticed the absence of a dragonfly blog last week; I would love you to think that I was on holiday, but in reality I was distracted by recycled cardboard boxes, a deluxe rental van and a new bijou storage unit.
The demise of the stamp duty holiday at the end of June (thank you Rishi) galvanised purchasers into action and at last allowed some final ‘closure’ (I hate that word) on the sale of my marital home. Although divorced for some years and both of us venturing bravely into our respective new lives, this marital home still stubbornly refused to say goodbye. In fact, because we had owned said house for over twenty years, it seemed to have developed an unfortunate and sulky habit of revealing its quirky foibles every time a would-be purchaser put their hand in their pocket to chance a survey. Over the last three years the house’s little eccentricities – namely its tendency to damp and a shared septic tank (on behalf of the purchasers I hope that these two things are not connected) have turned our estate agent into a premature silver fox and seen my tooth enamel gradually erode.
Anyway, here I am out the other side, having had time to catch up on sleep and reflect on my learnings. Although most of my mid-life musings are typically shallow and flippant, the odd perceptive insight may be here if you choose to read it: I sincerely hope that you have no need of my experience, and can simply skim read through as usual.
Truth is, the last few years have been very, very hard. I never wished for any of this to happen – and will certainly break into a rash if I see another packing box in the near future – but strangely I now feel quite blessed, quite proud and vaguely energised. I feel this is worth sharing.
As I packed up for the very last time, I had the radio turned on for background white noise and found myself worrying not about the politics, social distancing or the deceit that possibly surround the Hancocks and the Goves of this world right now, but instead hoping that each person involved in their unique and personal story has the life-line of support that I have experienced. We can all make massive mistakes, we can all change and we can all let people down in thoughtless,messy ways, but we can also amaze ourselves with our strength and tenacity as we regroup – and this is so much easier if you have the right people around you on the wobbly days hidden in the Terms & Conditions of even the best ‘Phoenix from the Ashes’ gold star package.
So my thoughts – in no particular order – are these:
- I should have rented a lock up unit years ago. The one I now lease is cleaner and more welcoming than many hotel rooms I have stayed in. I thought lock ups were where detectives found dead body parts or murder weapons (I may have watched too much crime drama lately) but I now believe that I could happily have seen out lockdown in a lock up with good wifi and a kettle.
- A van rental offers a thoroughly good adventure – I am not sure if this applies only in a post-lockdown context, but although I was dreading a final trip to box up my belongings, from my passenger seat stance, a road trip with Favourite Man offered an elevated vantage point both metaphorically and physically. I also learnt that it helps to move furniture with a very logical, spatially aware and patient person, for if I had loaded the van alone it could have ended in an aborted game of Tetris. Instead, FM saw van filling as a reverse game of Jenga and was happy to waive his overtime rates for a cooked breakfast in return for an ‘honest day’s work’.
- In my lifetime I have collected far too many books and perhaps I should still learn to recycle them. But when you had your own childhood library set up in the bedroom you shared with your sisters, and your own index box full of handmade library cards for every Ladybird book you owned, and a toy cash till for library fines, then there can really be no turning back. In the packing process I even found some of my ‘Little House on the Prairie’ books with my childhood handwriting advising:
‘If this book should ever roam
smack its bum and send it home to…’
Boxing up my many, many shelves of books last weekend allowed me to revisit handwritten messages on inside covers, gifted books and hidden postcards – cards once sent with notes of encouragement at difficult times and now masquerading as page markers. People are so kind, thoughtful and wise, and all these messages are evidence of this. Thank goodness I kept my library intact because I have a shocking memory.
- A gifted book is a wonderful thing. I am so pleased that I am a book hoarder, because on my shelves are so many books that my sister and I exchanged over the years – well I say, exchanged, I always demand a loaned book back. My sister’s book gifts were much more worthy and spiritual than mine and she did not share my love of crime. From her new postcode, I feel Sis may still want a refund on her gift of the ‘The Prayerful Wife’ for example, however I see she still has an outstanding library fee to pay on my ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy. I have to confess that my book packing took a lot longer than planned because I slowed down to smile at the summer time reads we once shared over adjacent sun loungers. Even on a moving day it is good to marinade with your memories and books facilitate this nicely. Favourite Man may think otherwise, but at least he had the van for company.
As I tape up the last book box, I reflect that it was typical of my sister to leave me with so many book messages that she knew would see me through even when she would not be here to walk beside me or lie on a sun lounger sharing a book review. At least I can reread the books we both loved and lend them on to her children.
- Family are everything and so are my friends. Whenever my spirit has buckled my son, daughter and mother have always been there with a timely phrase, nudge, meme or Kleenex to remind me that I am stronger than I think I am . I hope they know how grateful I am. Same goes for my brother and sister. Correction, my 95 year old mother does not do memes but she does ‘do’ a very good email in the middle of the night.
And it is the same with friends. My friends not only offer the most timely messages, meet ups and hugs, they also offer practical help…and I have finally learnt to accept these offers. I hope I now remember to offer these genuine and timely little acts of kindness for other people who may be wobbling behind a smile.
- Taking two lateral flow tests a week for school is a real faff (and frankly ineffectual when your have the Euros to distract students from social distancing) but the large boxes that arrive with a stash of school LF kits in them are better than the packing boxes I purchased from a removal firm. #CovidKeeps. At last I am recycling.
- Perhaps most importantly, at the start of my dragonfly journey, when she was still with us, my sister prayed that I would only have to face the things that I was strong enough to face and that new challenges would only be revealed when I was equipped to deal with them. My faith wasn’t as strong as her’s then, but looking back – impatient and resentful though I have been during this journey – I can see that Sis’ prayer was always answered and that I often didn’t even notice. I now pray that this same prayer will see me through my road yet travelled and that I will be more observant of the blessings as they come. Sis will be pleased that my faith has grown to take over her prayer mat because she sometimes used to say, ‘Feel free to pray for yourself sometimes. I am happy to help out, but I don’t have a direct line to God’.
While the last years have often left me fearful and braced for bad news, and my Covid legacy is a bizarre joy in rental vans, storage units and recycling lateral flow boxes, I also acknowledge that I can feel a little bubble of excitement growing. Ever since I met him, FM has been telling me to hang tight for there will be nice decisions ahead. When FM comes back from returning that rental van, I will let him know that he may just be right. I may even write a book about it. I may just rent another storage unit for my bijou lending library. Pop by any time, all welcome.