Sunday, 4 August 2013

I am not hiding any more!  I have, as they say, hidden.  I am back home now, feeling so much better and telling myself to remember that these times come upon us, but they do not always last.  Running away was, in this case, essential.  I had planned this retreat a long time ago, in order to be very silent and to begin writing a book, but by the time I was due to leave, it had become a full scale retreat with all guns blazing from my life in Bognor Regis.

I went to Hawkchurch in Devon.  I went to Lizzie's cottage; Lizzie who composes the music for the A Graceful Death exhibition.  Lizzie has gone on tour in the US and we arranged ages ago, that I would spend a few days there enjoying the peace and quiet, and even at the time we discussed this visit, my life was fairly stressful.  By the time I was packing my bags to leave, my life here felt as if it was bludgeoning me with a mallet.

It will be a small blog this week, as I am now very laid back.  I have photographer extraordinaire Eileen with me, and we are working on our Bridport A Graceful Death venture in November, and then we are going to a fair here in Bognor.  In the spirit of being extremely healed and smiling a lot with not only my mouth but my eyes too, from the panic of the last few weeks, in the spirit of having come back from Devon with my feathers well and truly smoothed, I shall fit this account into my plans to go to a fair, instead of fitting the fair around my plans to blog.

I must thank all of you for your wonderful support and kindness around casting my wonderful and sad son into his own life without me.  So many of you gave me wise and loving advice, and so many of you reassured me that we would all survive. I want to reproduce an email that my friend Stuart sent from Scotland, that helped me so much.  Stuart has suffered greatly.  He has lost his beautiful wife to suicide (and today, 4 August 2008, is the anniversary of last day he saw Sue before she went ahead with her plan to end her life) and as a result tumbled deeper and deeper himself into depression and alcohol. Stuart ended up going to Alcoholics Anonymous, and has turned (and is still turning) his life around, and Stuart knows a great deal about making choices and taking responsibility for your own life.  Perhaps I should add that Stuart is, too, a deeply sensitive, intelligent, kind and modest man.  And so, the following email means so much to me.

Hi Antonia
I've just read your blog and at the risk of being patronising I feel I need to say something (patronising because probably you know it already).
You have NOT taken a risk with  his life - he is the one taking all the risks with his life and there is, ultimately, nothing you can do about that.  It must be extremely scary for you, but you have not abandoned him.  As you have said previously, you are where you always have been - a loving mother who will be there still if/when he decides to see it.  Like me, however, you are not God and his life is not in your hands.
I have heard so many people in AA talk about how sometimes the best thing a close one did was cut them adrift a bit because that let them hit the rock bottom they needed to reach in order to begin recovery.  Without that, their loving one was helping to keep them on their destructive and selfish path.  The hard thing for others is that everyone's rock bottom varies.  For some it is marriage break up, for others it is years of destitution and pain, and the harsh reality is that some people don't seem to ever hit that bottom and end up killing themselves one way or another.
I'm not telling you what to do Antonia - I am just trying to speak from my own experience - whatever happens to your son now, it is NOT your fault.  Easy for me to say because he's not my son - but that doesn't stop it being true.
As they keep saying in AA, the only person in this whole world that you CAN control, with God's help, is yourself.  So, here I am telling you what to do - you look after and nurture yourself.  And if/when the time comes that your son recognises and is able to accept your love, you won't be a complete wreck.
Lots of love, Antonia.  Take good care - of you.
Stuart "
Thank you Stuart, and thank you all of you.  For the record, Stuart and Sue feature in A Graceful Death, and Stuart features in the AGD film that Neill Blume made.

Stuart and Sue look over at each other, and between them is an extract from Sue's diary, her suicide note, and a letter full of love for Stuart from their wedding day many years before.

And now for something completely different.

I arrived at Lizzie's on the Sunday, and did not speak a word until going into Bridport on the Wednesday to meet a friend.  In order for you to know properly how wonderful this cottage was for me, I am going to upload 3 small minute long videos.  It is much more informative for you than just words, I show you where I am and tell you what I am doing. Number one video, if you please ...

And now, video number two ...

And finally, video number three.

And now.  Off to the fair.  There is much to look forward to.  I have decided to take the whole of August off, seeing myself in my mind's eye pottering bare foot from the house into the studio and back, putting more gloss on parts of the house that may need it (you may remember that I bought a job lot of brilliant white gloss paint because it was on offer, and have now quite a lot of gloss paint).  I saw myself telling myself that if I wanted to stop everything and go and read a light and uncomplicated detective novel in my sitting room while the sun was shining through the window, then I was to do that.  And bit by bit, I have been realising that this is not about taking just August off, it is about taking the rest of my life off.  August was about removing stress and anxiety from my thinking, it was about not feeling hopeless pressure while never allowing myself time to stop and smile at the hollyhocks.  And so, I am taking the whole of August off as a prelude for taking the rest of my life off.  I am very excited to see how much better the work I do is, by removing the ferocious anxiety that goes with thinking that you never quite do enough, and it is never quite right, and that at any minute, someone will notice and point it out to you in a crowded place.  

And so, off to the fair!  But first, I must have a word with the hollyhocks on the way out...

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