When I was young I had an almost intoxicating freedom. Whenever I wanted or needed to escape, I could simply get up and leave. Crap jobs, crap boyfriends, crap anything meant that I could raise a weary middle finger, pack a bag and move on. I travelled a lot. I drank an awful lot. By God I had fun.
It has been painful to look at pictures from those years. I haven’t been in a position to go adventuring and so I have closed myself off from the reminders of what was and what cannot be. I shut a part of myself up in a box to avoid having to address it’s loss. But now I can see things starting to open up again. For the first time in a long time I feel that I have options.
This has been a place of best and worst. I have always been someone who, in difficult times, puts my head down and grinds through. I deal with things on my own, sealing up the door to people and battling through and till I reach the other side. I always have and it is the only way that I cope. But despite this, my friends, my brilliant friends, have been glorious.
The last few months have been a fresh type of hell with many of those upon whom I have had to rely, proving faithless. The bad has bled into the good and soiled it. I have been angry, sad, disappointed, frightened and petulant. But looking back from a slightly firmer base I have also realised how immensely lucky I have been. My friends stuck with me and never once tried to give me advice on matters about which they consider themselves fortunately ignorant. They invited themselves in for a cup of tea, pushed a broom around, dragged me out for a run knowing full well that I would F and blind my way along the whole route and leave them feeling worse than they did when they fetched me. They accepted my refusals and then turned up anyway, claiming to have forgotten. They made me secret lunches, backed me in meetings, asked me 40 times to come out for a dog walk and, when I finally accepted, wet themselves laughing as I retched every time their dogs crouched down. They sent me ridiculous gifs at night time making me laugh so much I almost fell out of bed. They emailed me, texted me, sent me their love from far away. They did not gossip and used unspeakable language against those who did. They were complicit in my petty revenges and stored away what they learned for the future. They agreed that it was shit, stood with me when I was embattled and formed scaffolding around me to prop me up. They expected nothing and received nothing back. And still they remained. I will not forget.
Change is in the air and for the first time in a long time, I can lift my head up for long enough to recognise it and embrace it. The time has come to move on and now I can see it as a new adventure; I see opportunity. This new venture will be tame compared to those of the past. No solo missions overseas, no booze, no surviving on crisp sandwiches for days on end, no backpacks or spontaneity and, I hope to goodness, no sleeping in cars. This will be a very middle-aged type of adventure, planned to the nth degree in order to reduce the fears of my children. And this time there is someone I dearly love waiting for us at the other end. This adventure does come with the hope that, in the long run, things might just be a little bit better.
Martha Smith Parent Advocate is a supportive blog focusing on the challenges and wins of parenting children with additional needs. Based in Hampshire Martha runs workshops for schools and other education providers in Surrey, London & Hampshire on how to encourage children with additional needs to thrive in education.