Excuse me, can I ask you, how you have your sex? I don't think that we're doing it right and it's making me feel quite vexed. I'd like to conduct a survey to uncover your toppest tips and find out if we're using them right (you know, all our jiggly bits!) I didn't pay much attention to biology back in school which really is quite unfortunate as now I can't have a clue at all. For if I were a genuine 'sexpert', I'm sure it wouldn't be such a struggle to pop another human out without getting in such a muddle. Everyone else seems to manage it. It's not a silly saga for the rest. So, what have we been doing wrong? We've been trying our very best. Maybe it's all about the angles or perhaps the temperature. Should we perform a special ritual before each jiggy-jiggy adventure? We use the correct biological bits. I've double checked, so I am sure and from the umpteen books I've read, we've run out of options to explore! So reader, that's why I need your help, to explain this confounded mystery. Answers on a postcard please. It would mean an awful a lot to me.
She married her true soul mate. The one she had been waiting for. The one for whom she had turned down the others who'd come before. As soon as she had met him, she knew he was the one. Despite initial reservations, to his charms she did succumb. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Weekends travelling to see him, to and fro on South West trains. Lunch in child-friendly restaurants, pushing the buggy through the rain. One of two other females, quite a challenging, complex game. Hoping, helping, supporting, though she found it a bit insane. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' At the altar, on one condition that her dad had asked him to accept, 'Don't make her wait for babies, treat her right and don't neglect to remember all she does to raise your child whom she protects from harm, often to her detriment with no acknowledgment nor respect.' 'Be grateful for what you've got.' But, no babies came, month after month for the yo-yo, part-time mother. Though sadness and confusion grew, she kept on caring for another's child who made the pain much worse, Often she needed to recover from the consuming visits of the child she'd promised to love forever. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' The mounting grief would swell then ebb, though she rarely complained of this feeling. No, she didn't speak of the emptiness left by her step-daughter's abrupt leaving. The tension built as the couple tried for her own baby she dreamt of conceiving. But when nothing happened time and time again she spent her nights silently grieving. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Not many knew of this inner struggle for each day she reapplied her smile. Lipstick in place and hair done well, no cracks to betray her trial. She tackled life with positivity, stayed busy, worked hard and with style. But the secret stone in her solar plexus was dragging her further into exile. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Her marriage, by now heavy with struggle, burdened by guilt, grief and tension hit a new and major crisis that rendered her bed bound with depression. She'd spent years fighting to stay strong, conquering fear and apprehension, but crippled by anxiety, now she lay staring at the ceiling of her bedroom. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Extreme exhaustion and panic attacks are not a pleasant sight. Frequent episodes could paralyse her both day and through out the night. Uncontrollable tears, pains and body shakes made her ashamed and gave her such a fright that she wondered if she'd finally lost her mind, but though it was close, she hadn't yet, not quite. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Slowly, the pills she took began to help. The psychologist was essential too. Together they rebuilt their marriage, acknowledging all the tests they had been through. Step by step, she regained her strength, searching for fresh hope in something new that could help her once again feel positive, not so sad, alone and blue. 'Be grateful for what you've got.' Now when asked how she is getting on, she speaks out more honestly. It’s healthy to share the truth with others not just a few friends and family. It takes courage to speak of personal struggles, through it we can gain such liberty. But just be prepared to forgive that most infuriating phrase of complete stupidity, 'Be grateful for what you've got.'
'I must use my core muscles. Just two minutes more.' I tell myself repeatedly whilst upside down on our bedroom floor. For stability I've wedged myself between the radiator and the door. It's quite a challenge admittedly and actually quite a bore. The top of my head's now throbbing and my muscles they now ache I try to cycle with more gusto, but my arms begin to shake. You must think, 'What's she up to? What a palaver, for goodness sake!' But I'm desperate and this could really work. There's an awful lot at stake. I visualise the Olympics, the champions whom I've seen who've persevered and mastered the perfect gymnastics routine. Their mental strength is astounding. They forge forward toward their dream. I'm inspired, but tired and starkers. Our 'Olympic games' are a bit obscene! Back to the frantic cycling. I pump my legs whilst still on my head. My husband looks over with pity, tucked up cosily on his side of our bed. All he can see are my legs akimbo, thankfully not my face that's beetroot red. I know he thinks all this is futile, although that's not what he's actually said. So I call out to him whilst puffing "Baby, this time it might really work!" I've always tried to remain positive, but it's humiliating. I feel an utter burk. I wish we could make love more spontaneously, be free to sleep, cuddle or go berserk. But behind the intimacy of our relationship, the pressures of duty and functionality lurk. All too often my fertile, ovulation window dictates our passionate habits. The looming shadow of obligation means we have to get at it like rabbits. Bleary eyed and numb with exhaustion, stressed by work and at the end of our wits, we summon the energy to get our jig on, not to lose faith in these fruity antics. During the first few years, there were candles, a little music and some fairy lights. I used to bother to shave my hairy legs, now they're enough to cause a fright! I used to be the epitome of Aphrodite. A temptress, transforming myself at night. Now I leave my thermal socks on to keep my feet warm and legs out of sight! You would certainly think that I'm crackers if you could see my butt in the air. Each month I'm clutching at fewer straws, seven years and still not getting anywhere. Perhaps it is sadly pointless, this often forced tragicomedy affair. But one day we might hit the jackpot and it'll be gymnastics that do get us there!
A wild crescendo of grief ignites from deep within. Alarmed, I see no obvious shelter from this havoc and chaotic din. No longer the sure footed woman who painstakingly conquered this place, I wobble, panic and then topple over this sudden, unseen precipice. Now mid G force 8 of free fall, parachute unopened in it's pack, I'm hurtling towards the earth. Crikey, I'm going to hit it with a 'SMACK.' I search desperately for escape routes, not easy when panic and grief blur thought. I gasp for air, squeezed from my lungs, perhaps in a huge cargo net I'll be caught! I'm not sure how I came up with that, like a kid's cartoon on TV. Maybe I'll not manage to reach the end, or perhaps there is a way to save me. As I fall the cacophony grows louder, wind whistling in my ears. My shuddering sobs now accompanied by an overflowing river of tears. I feel so utterly despondent. My thoughts are not controlled nor are they straight. Except I know I don't want be pulverised, that would not at all be great! I cannot think my way out of this pickle. I must simply surrender to the test. All I have I give to it and I can only give my best. Now my sobs diminish and remarkably my descent begins to slow. I fumble with my parachute, pulling the release cord to let it go. A jolt and then not quite so much terror above the hazy ground. I open up my swollen eyes to contemplate landing safe and sound. If only crash mats and landing specialists appeared at each attack of personal despair, it wouldn't be so hard to navigate a free fall through the air. This grief that's lodged inside me is the cause of all this anguish and to be quite frank, I'm fed up with it. I'm sick of feeling rubbish. I don't know how to get rid of it, to free myself from pain. It's a bloody noose around my neck, a bloody ball and chain! Sigh! At least I landed with dignity intact. My best roly poly with a flourish in years. And I suppose no real lasting damage done, except mild dehydration due to all those tears.
I'll sit here whilst you sleep so you don't wake up alone. I'll speak to you often or every day on the phone. I'll listen when you want to talk. I'll not judge what you need to say. I'll be calm when you're overwhelmed, an anchor so you don't lose your way. With my words I'll try to help heal you. With your spirit mine walks too. I'll hold your hand in silence when weariness paralyses you. Exhaustion is a daily challenge as well as years of strain. But don't you worry my brother, I'll be right beside you in your pain. We may be older, but you are still my little brother whom I'll protect. I wish I could right the wrongs for you, those years of bitter words and neglect. I'm so proud of your integrity, the honourable way you live. I'll support you and encourage you, acknowledging all that you regularly give. We're kindred spirits you and I. I hope you feel the same. So when you need to weep and let go, please don't feel ashamed. You will get better. I know it's hard to trust this process has an end, but bit by bit you will improve. I see that you're already on the mend. But until the day you feel like you. I'll be right here by your side. And though you feel so uncertain, I feel such a sense of pride. I know it feels like two steps forward and then one giant leap back. I'd move mountains if I could for you or trade places so I could take some flak. Have faith, my brother and know that soon you'll be a new version of yourself. But until that time tell me what you need, I'll always be here to help.
The woman who lives at house forty three has got six children. (That's six more than me.) How does she cope with her workload? It's a logistical challenge just crossing the road! I think she's had a life that's quite tough. Her eyes are vacant and her voice is quite gruff. She has wiry hair and is as thin as a rake and when she talks her hands tremble and shake. I can hear them coming from some distance away. She shouts and she shrieks at her kids every day. When she walks with the buggy, she strides at a pace. The children behind her jog along in a race. The men who frequent her house look like trouble. She comes to the door still away in her bubble. Her face looks so drawn as she laughs through her daze. The man in the car drives off as she waves. A little while later a toddler escapes. She's forgotten to close one of the gates. He picks at the weeds that grow in the drive dressed only in nappies. A miracle of life. He stumbles bare foot close to the road. Hairs rise on my skin and there's a lump in my throat. In two seconds flat he's held in my arms, this blond headed boy that's now safe from harm. He looks at me startled, but doesn't utter a sound. Grubby faced innocence. His cheeks smooth and round. His body relaxes as I whisper reassurance a smile appears with a shy sideways glance. My thoughts can't be stifled as I think of his mum, I'd like to do her a favour by keeping this one. I'd love him and raise him as if he were mine. I'd nurture and praise him and give him my time. Perhaps she'll not notice if I take him with me to become part of my own longed for family. I'm sure she can make do with one less off-spring. In fact, she may thank me for taking him in. The toddler is holding me tight as I stand in front of his door. (This is not what I'd planned.) His mother appears and he's whisked away to join his siblings and be told 'Shut up and play!' Occasionally I see him or hear him cry the toddler in nappies with piercing blue eyes. I nod at his mother when she passes me, this world-weary woman at house forty three. But several weeks later, we see that they've left. (We'd seen police people in thick stab-proof vests!) I still think of that child and the life that he'll lead. That where ever he is, he will thrive and succeed.
The odd thing about a trauma, I have recently come to learn, is it's strange effects on one's body; palpitations and funny turns. Simple ordinary questions such as troublesome 'How are you?' are hard to honestly answer without sounding like a loon. My default, short, polite response doesn't really cut the mustard. No mention of the sudden shakes that leave me confused and flustered. I never non-nonchalantly describe, whilst I guffaw and crack a joke, how my legs, they feel like jelly and I think my mind's been broke. There's often pounding in my chest and I feel a little queasy. Having a normal, friendly chat is no longer easy-peasy. I spend my relaxation time laying staring at the ceiling, trying desperately to rid myself of this crazy feeling. These horrid, frightening attacks were caused by a tremendous shock. But the pills I have to pop each day do help an awful lot. I'm starting to feel much better as the days and weeks go by. I can even wash the dishes without a pause to have a cry. I can have a conversation that's coherent and makes sense. I no longer stare off into space when I go out with my friends. There are even several positives to being in this state, despite my healthy apetite, I've lost a lot of weight. Clothes that I'd 'grown out of' now re-fit me like glove. My oldest ripped and faded jeans are worn with proud, rekindled love. My feet are most surprising though as my shoes are now like boats. It turns out that my feet have shrunk, my clown-like shoes are jokes! My cheekbones are like razor blades. Paris fashion week best watch out. Ol' skinny feet might turn up next year modelling a perfect pout. Experiencing this major blip has given me brand new skills. Meditation really helps, it's not just those little pills. I know about a lot more things like herbs and nutrients, calming homemade vitamin shakes, fruit smoothies and supplements! In fact, I might retire to Spain to start a health retreat. I'll retrain as a yogi chief with uber skinny feet. I'll put this trauma to good use, my rebirth now awaits. So when someone asks me how I am, I can truly say,'I'm great!'