“As you move towards this new chapter of life, I hope you learn how to let go of the idea that it’s too late.”
When I first started my blog, eight years ago, it was certainly a very dark space to be in and my posts attracted a following of very hurt and equally damaged people, also in their own dark worlds. After very many years, I decided that I didn’t want to live like this anymore, so, I embarked on a journey of self-discovery. I read endless books (my favourite being, ‘The Mother Tree’ by Suzanne Simard), trawled through various websites and signed up for lots of courses. In the early days, they were topics like improving self-confidence, building good self-esteem, assertiveness training etc. (That last one was a toughie and one I never quite got my head around!). Oh, well, you can’t win them all!!
Then, I started signing up for courses on subjects that interested me. At the time, we were in lockdown so many of these courses had to be on Zoom. That was a challenge in itself but one, I quickly overcame. I did a lot of nature courses; I learned about British trees, wildflowers, fungi [fascinating], the islands around Britain, rivers and waterways; and then, there were things like aromatherapy for beginners, learning about crystals and fossils (that was spurred on by my nine-year-old granddaughter’s interest and determination to be a paleontologist when she grows up!) Quite impressive for a nine-year-old, I think. Now, I’m taking part in a series of writing courses, not so much spelling and grammar, but more creativity and thought expression. I’m in my element!
This was a simple poem I wrote a short time ago while I was digging deep inside of myself to find the ‘real’ me.
Turning life around was tough; so difficult to do Secrets and nightmares, tar-black and sadly true I’ve been through hell and trauma, and dealt with so much pain Now, I’m learning to trust myself all over again
The thieves have all left and the abusers have gone I’m free to dream and dance, and gently walk on A brand-new life is waiting patiently for me As I discover better and smarter ways to be
Such beauty to see in this new world of mine Blue seas, emerald forests, beasts of every design A pale waxing moon and the glory of the sun My heart, soul and mind, all united as one
Now, I’ve so much to love and so much affection Searched deep inside, and found a new direction I’m joyfully grateful; perhaps, even wise I’m honest and open, no need for disguise
Living my life now without shame or disgrace Treading my new path; no blame at this place Letting go of the guilt; being rid of the dismay Searching out truths; at last, finding my way
If you knew me back then, eight long years ago You’d know how hard I’ve fought, albeit progress was slow See how much I’ve grown by the sweat of my brow Judge me not as I was, but rather where I am now.
One afternoon, I found my ivy-clad tree as I drove in my wheelchair along the footpath near my home. It’s lined on both sides by vegetation and is called the Bunny Walk. The walkway is at the bottom of my road and follows the course of the River Chelmer to town in one direction and Broomfield in the other. I used to drive down to see my tree quite frequently and had many thoughtful ‘conversations’ with it.
“Hello tree”, I said aloud on one of my visits. “Hello”, I repeated; “how are you feeling today?” The tree remained silent. I knew a little about trees and in case you don’t know, they talk by connecting and sending messages to each other through a network of fungi beneath the ground. I wondered what the tree was thinking.
It was a bright day in late Autumn; the sun shone through the tree’s branches almost blinding me. I took a photo of them silhouetted against the vivid blue sky. It made a gorgeous picture. “Excuse me; would you mind not taking photos of me!!” I was a little taken aback to hear such an indignant voice responding. “Can’t you see, I’m undressed?” I looked around me and then, realised, to my surprise, that it was the tree speaking. I was quite astonished. However, I decided that it was only polite to reply at that very moment. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said; “I just wanted to show my friends how beautiful you were.” “I’m not beautiful; I’m ugly,” – he had suddenly become sad and almost annoyed. “Oh, tree; please don’t be so sad; I think you’re beautiful.” “What do you know when I hardly have any clothes on”, a very cross voice snapped at me. “Oh, but you will have when the Spring comes; I think you will be dressed in delightful green leaves and delicate, scented blossom,” I said reassuringly. “Really!”, he stated grumpily. Then, after a few moments, a more friendly voice replied with, “Well, thank you.” He was speaking in a much warmer tone now. “What would you like me to call you,” I said. He replied simply and quietly, saying “Tree.” I thought that was a bit impersonal, but then who am I to judge someone who I’d only just met.
So, Tree it was. I went a little nearer and asked him if he would mind me picking up one or two of his Autumn leaves from the ground. He said that was okay, so I got a bit nearer, reached down from my wheelchair, and chose a couple of damp leaves. Some were brown; others were golden and a few still had a hint of green on them. I thought I’d take them home with me to identify what sort of tree Tree was. I spent ages researching, but it wasn’t as easy as I’d thought. I’ll have to wait until the Spring arrives when the buds, leaves and blossom appear. It’ll make it easier for me to find out what sort of tree he is. I didn’t realise how long I’d been out, sharing my time with him, and decided that I should start making my way home.
Each time I went along the Bunny Walk I stopped to visit my special friend. I watched him changing until the last of the autumn leaves fell to the ground. I felt sorry for him standing there, now naked as he’d previously forecast.
As the weather got colder and wetter, I found myself not going to visit Tree as often. I did feel guilty not going as regularly. More time went by until one cold but bright Winter morning, I woke early; I was so keen to make the most of this lovely day. I set off down the road and a few minutes later, I arrived at my tree. I went up to him, and said, “Hello.” He remained quiet for a few minutes and suddenly came out with, “Huh! What do you want?” I was taken aback by the bluntness of his tone. “Oh, what’s wrong? Have I upset you?” I asked. “What do you think?” Tree said.” “You come down here and befriend me; I learned to trust you and then you abandon me!” I’m so sorry,” I said. “It’s just that the weather has been so wet and cold. But I have been telling all my friends about you and how much I enjoy visiting you.” “Really? Truly?” “Well, if that’s the case, I forgive you”, followed by, “yesterday, I was also telling my friends about you and how much I look forward to seeing you.” “How kind of you,” I said.
“Tree, can I ask you something personal, please?” “Of course, go ahead,” he replied very politely. I could feel myself blushing, “Tree, I’d like to hug you if you don’t mind. I’ve always wanted to hug a tree and you are very special to me.” “Will it hurt?” he asked. “Not at all,” I reassured him.” The only problem is; well; I don’t know how to say this,” I blurted out. “The only problem is … I’m not sure I can reach you. It’s because of my wheelchair, you see.” “Oh, really;” he exclaimed. “Wheelchair? Wheels? I thought they were legs. “My legs don’t work very well”, I told him. “Well, you are just as important to me whether you have wheels or legs.” I could feel a tear welling up, not because I was upset, but because I felt so moved that he accepted me just as I am.
Tree looked at me and noticed I was trying to hold back my tears. “Don’t cry,” he said gently. “We could have a virtual hug.” ‘How lovely,’ I thought.’ So, I drove a little closer although I was aware of the crisp leaves and twigs that I was crushing under my wheels; I got as close as I could and just about managed to stretch out to Tree placing my palms against the bark of his trunk. I’d always wanted to hug a tree. I had happy tears rolling down my face. I felt all warm and fuzzy. It was at that moment, I realised we were in a relationship; not a symbiotic one as in the way trees communicate through the fungi under the earth, but a true, loving and caring one.
(Can humans have relationships with trees?’ I wondered. I think so. Love comes in all different forms, and I loved and cared for Tree very much, and I think, maybe, secretly, in his heart, he loved and cared for me too).
I suddenly realised the time. “I’ve got to go home now,” I said. “It’s getting dark.” I drove back onto the path and turned round to face my newfound friend. His branches waved in the wind, and I’m sure he was waving goodbye to me. I blew him a kiss. “I’ll be back,” I said.
“He can cut the grass for you and you can cook the dinner”, she said. These were the words of my Health Visitor. As time went by, her words became a self-fulfilling prophecy, except … he never cut the grass and I always cooked the dinner. We lived in separate houses, but I spent much of my spare time at his, not only cooking but, cleaning, shopping and caring for his two children, a girl and a boy. I, too, had a boy and a girl of roughly the same age.
He didn’t work; I did, and my wages lined his pockets. He was a liar too and a good one at that. He was saving for our ‘future’, he declared. I didn’t want a future with him but I was too scared to express my thoughts. He was unkind to me, and also to the four children. His daughter, every time she asked for something as simple as a cup of tea, was responded to with the words, “And what have you done for me today, child?” *Rose at twelve years old was too scared to say anything knowing her reply would never be good enough. I witnessed him demanding the same question of his younger son, and my innocent children. I felt a failure as a mother, unable to defend them. I was always wary of his response to me if I did, and of his subsequent attack.
He was determined to make a future for us; a future I was terrified of but couldn’t find a way to escape. I’d moved in, leaving my own home standing empty with a ‘For Sale’ placard planted in the ground outside. He wanted marriage; I didn’t. He ruled the roost. I bought my own unwanted engagement ring – even the tiny diamond put me into debt. He didn’t care. I was completely under his control and he was a bully.
I woke beside him one morning and somehow, reality hit me. I didn’t want any of this. It had been the story of my life, constantly the victim. When he was in the shower, I phoned my best friend and poured my heart out. She listened in horror and told me to meet her at my home; she’d arrived before me. I appeared with tears of terror and desperation running down my face. She pulled the ‘for sale’ sign out and threw it on the ground and a minute later, was on the phone to the estate agent telling them that the sale was off. My tears of fear turned to tears of relief. By then, I was an emotional wreck and she arranged for the children and I to go to stay with my Mum. We were there for six weeks as I slowly healed. I couldn’t face my ‘fiancé’ so my Mum, who had provided us with sanctuary, made the call. I could hear the fury in his voice as he demanded I returned to him. Mum, in no uncertain terms, told him I wouldn’t be doing that. What for? For him to cut the grass, and for me to cook the dinner!?
It’s been more than eight years ago since I first joined WordPress and at least three years since I last wrote anything. Where do I pick up from? So much has happened between then and now that I scarcely know quite where to begin. Perhaps, I should start with the now, and, if necessary, fill in the gaps from ‘then’ as I go along.
I’ve been doing some amateur writing courses over the last year or so; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them and have learned a lot. Having spoken to my tutor earlier, I decided that I’d like to write my memoirs, but I don’t intend to rehash my often angst-ridden posts from several years ago. I’m going to try and write about my life as a series of personal experiences, but not necessarily in chronological order. Some of my memories will be serious or emotional, but equally, some will be events that, on looking back, are definitely amusing.
I don’t know how often I’m going to write at this moment. I think I will add to my repurposed blog as and when the fancy takes me. After all, when recording one’s memoirs, it’s important to do so when the time feels right, and not to try and write according to the day on the calendar.
I’m also very open to ideas, feedback, and suggestions that anyone wishes to make because I realise that I’m in no way a professional writer, nor do I pretend to be. I’m eager to learn more, both from my readers and also from my own experiences of writing in a whole new way.
I’m going to leave it here for the time being. However, I’m hoping to publish my first piece in the next couple of days. I hope you’ll bear with me while I find my feet again on this platform. Looking forward to meeting some of you again, perhaps from a new perspective, and also meeting others for the first time. Thank you, Ellie.