Thursday, 8 August 2013


"I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
Bringing something we must learn and we are led
To those who help us most to grow if we let them
And we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you."

"It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime.
So let me say before we part, so much of me
Is made of what I learnt from you; you'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend."
Endings have been playing on my mind for a little while now. I blame D, my wonderful volunteer counsellor. It is, apparently, important that I get used to the idea. I can see the logic, but it's still painful. I know she feels it too - I'm not the only one who gets tearful every time it's mentioned!

I've never liked saying goodbye to people. Not just as an adult, but as a child too. I've always felt like it's yet another person disappearing on me, that I've finally grown to trust someone and then suddenly they're no longer around either. It's only really since coming back to Guiding in Nottinghamshire that I've realised there are people not going anywhere and I'm stuck with them! It's kind of reassuring after being surrounded by people who are on the move or constantly moving around myself.

Goodbyes are part of the package, really, for someone like me. The four years I've been back here in Nottingham is the longest period of time I've spent in one place as an adult. I went to university in Southampton, but was jokingly referred to as a flight-risk, due to my worrying tendency to jump on the nearest plane / coach / ferry and find myself somewhere in Europe. My summers were spent working in France and third year in Germany. I did my PGCE in Gosport, Portsmouth and Salisbury, taught in Salisbury whilst commuting up to Durham at weekends, then moved to Luton, moved to Nottingham and commuted up to Manchester every weekend.... I'm not a person to stay in one place for long. But it also means that relationships don't last either.

I often joke that my habit of getting attached to people is a real hindrance to my job as a supply teacher. I hate leaving the staff and pupils and never fail to get teary at the end of a post. My last head of department very kindly told me, "it's a bad quality in a supply teacher, but a great quality in a human being." As a result, I tend to avoid goodbyes and just disappear quietly on people. They'll just not see me again. Easier for everyone.

But then, is it? We need room to express that sadness. By running away, I'm robbing myself of that opportunity and not allowing the other party to express that either.

There is a big part of me excited for this ending. On its most superficial level, it does mean that I can get back to my Guide unit full-time. I was never supposed to leave Guides - I specifically waited for a Monday night slot at the centre! But it's more than that, because it marks a different phase in my journey and a shift in my relationship with Nottingham Rape Crisis Centre. I will still be around there and doing things, but I will be doing them as a volunteer with Senior Section, as a sort of liaison point. I will still be around, but as an outside party, making change rather than being changed. Or perhaps an element of both rather than just one. I'm no longer crushed by my experience but empowered by it, it's something that I can use to benefit and challenge others.

And part of me just wants to curl up and cry. It's not fear. It was fear at first, but I'm pretty sure I'm strong enough to cope (at least with the help of various support networks around me). It's not even a sense of abandonment or loneliness. I'm just really, really going to miss D. 

Since working together, we've seen
every month of the calendar. Most
of them twice over!
When we first started working together, I couldn't for a second believe that I'd open up to her or be able to work with her. Everything she said and did grated on me. She was still a trainee back then and she was very.... textbook. I pulled her up on it, she pulled me up on things that I did and really challenged me. When she told me she was pregnant, I had just started to open up and I was distraught, especially given where I was personally. I resented her for allowing me to open up, knowing my background and knowing she was going to leave. But we stuck through, and her maternity leave coincided with last summer's Finnish and Essex adventures. Since September, we changed nights meaning I had to miss Guides, but it's been worth it in so many ways. She's supported me through the advocacy work I've been doing, she's managed to (somehow!) find the right balance of caring for me and giving me a swift kick when I need it.

I'm going to miss her. Going to miss the jokes, the tears, the Tuesday night hugs. I'm going to miss having that person who doesn't think I'm useless or that it's my fault, who is supportive of the work I'm doing and believes that I have the strength and ability to do it and to make a difference to other people. I'm going to miss the smiles, the teasing and someone I feel comfortable enough around that I don't flinch when she reaches out to touch me.

The thing that scares me most about all this ending rubbish is not the end of the sessions, but the fact that I won't see D again. She's been such an important part of my life over this last couple of years and we've come so far together that the thought of her not being there... it just isn't right.

Desk calendar in its
undecorated display stand
So I'm dealing with all this in the only way I know how. Well, apart from floods of tears (I'm sure my laptop didn't ask for a bath!). I'm creating, making, having fun. Doing something I love for someone I love. 

There's a fine line between destruction and creation and I love to dance along that line, pulling together different threads and experiences along the way. This time, it's all because D commented on my creativity and it got me thinking.

You see, way back when, in our very first session, D asked me to draw a tree to represent me. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't do it. In my head, I was going through all the things that she would read into a tree that I drew (size, position, colours etc) and it stopped me. I also couldn't get my head round everything I wanted to do with it.  So she asked if I would do it at home. My answer was to construct a huge, 60cm papier maché tree. The bark was made up of words; people, places, hobbies, adjectives, everything that made me ME. There were beautiful coloured leaves and, hanging amongst the branches were items; my second engagement ring, the necklace and one of the earrings I wore the night I was raped, a gift from one of my first pupils, a Doctor Who figure. She didn't know what to make of this tree, and we used it as a starting point for discussions for some time.
The tree still lives on my 
bookshelf & is the first thing
 I see in the morning

Trees have been significant in this journey. Right from that first task, but also because of my own fear of trees and woodland, the dizzying panic that a canopy causes me. There's something significant about trees, wood, woodland; it signifies life, a journey, endless possibilities. And I wanted this creation to be made from wood and reflect that.

Whilst thinking of journeys and endings, one of my favourite songs came to mind. I've quoted two verses at the top, but it seems somehow appropriate. In the musical Wicked, Elphaba and Glinda first meet and hate each other. They are forced to work together, even though they can't imagine ever having anything in common. Everything they say and do grates on each other, but they become so incredibly close over their journey and this is their last song, saying goodbye to each other. They talk about the mutual impact of their relationship and how that will carry into the future, and both characters sing about woodland as a metaphor for how they themselves have been changed. It seemed fitting.
In addition to an extension,
my blanket is getting some
special new badges!

So I started a project in wood this week. The medium itself signifying a change in the tree's life, a different future, but also the decorative theme being one of contrast between nature and glitter, a melting of two worlds impacting each other. The item - a desk calendar - is a gentle joke, given that she managed to forget a couple of appointments due to not having a calendar by her diary on her desk. It's also pretty. I just hope she likes it!

The ending itself is still a few weeks away yet. We've planned to make camp blanket badges and sew them onto my blanket as a lasting reminder of the journey. I know it's going to be difficult, given that I'm already feeling this way now, but endings are there so we can move onto the next part of the journey. Or the next journey.

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