Yonder is one of those words that I love for the memories and feelings it evokes. For me it has ties to childhood and family, to places heavy with significance, and to lost loved ones.Read more
That Was The Year That Was—2018 in Review
The past twelve months seem to have passed quickly as I sit here looking back over them. I’ve been places both real and figurative, seen amazing sights and met some lovely people. There have been highs I could scarcely have dreamed of, and lows I would rather not dwell on.
In January I travelled to Sweden for the first time to visit my daughter who had moved there the previous summer. We had a lovely time hanging out together and I got to indulge my tea habit.
Leaving her to return home again was a bit of a wrench, but then later in January I went to my first spider show (SEAS–South East Arachnid Show) with dear friends Gemma and Dom. I didn’t indulge myself but did help a certain person acquire four tarantulas.
Fast forward to March and, wearing my Autistic Inclusive Meets director hat, a trip to Parliament with Emma for the launch of the Westminster Commission on Autism’s report into harmful fake autism cures. As you can see we were completely in awe of our surroundings and took it all very seriously.
May brought a visit to the British Tarantula Society’s annual show in Warwickshire and the acquisition of my first tarantula. Not bad for a woman who used to be afraid to get into bed if she saw a spider on the bedroom wall or ceiling.
By the end of June I was counting down days, eagerly anticipating my upcoming visit to Canada and the opportunity to meet and hang out with my beloved friend Patricia in person.
We had an amazing time over the two weeks I was there, getting to travel across the Maritime provinces, visit some wonderful places and meet lovely fellow-neurodivergent people. I completely fell in love with Canada.
It almost broke my heart to leave and come back home: how I cried. But I’d not even been back two days when my daughter arrived from Sweden for a visit with her boyfriend. It was fantastic seeing her again and we got to do some fun things together including visits to Stonehenge and the Natural History Museum.
Unfortunately, after her visit burnout hit me hard along with PTSD from the relationship I talked about in my previous post: I ended up being off work for the best part of two months before starting to recover towards the end of the year. It was a difficult time with several episodes of self-harm.
In the middle of September, while I was off work, I got to visit Stroud and meet up with my dear friend Sonia before going to see the fabulous play The Duck by Rhi Lloyd-Williams. (Note to readers: the play will be touring at some point in 2019 and I highly recommend going to see it.)
I’d been having something of a midlife crisis in the midst of my mental illness, and realised that I needed to make space in my life for artistic expression. I bought myself a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Art Matters, illustrated by Chris Riddell, and found it truly inspiring.
It didn’t hurt one bit to get these encouraging words from Neil himself either. Feeling inspired, I got an additional boost when invited to be part of the launch event for close friend Jon Adams’ charity, Flow Observatorium.
I was also deeply honoured when Sonia asked if I would read a message from her since she wouldn’t be able to attend. That month, September, also saw me turn forty five and was a turning point in my mental illness as I began to recover.
October saw me teaming up with Gemma to welcome the newest regeneration of our favourite Time Lord: we were both agreed that we loved the Thirteenth Doctor as portrayed by Jodie Whittaker.
Less than a week later and I was meeting another lovely friend, Naomi, in a field down in Sussex for the re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings at Battle Abbey. Great day out that would be hard to top.
Having said that, November excelled itself as I went to the O2 Arena to see Florence + The Machine live in concert. Wow! Utterly breathtaking, and an experience I won’t forget in a hurry. The atmosphere was so positive that I was buzzing for days.
Rounding off the month, I got to visit Tate Modern and experience some exceptional works of modern art, including some de Stijl paintings by van Doesburg and Mondrian, a whole room of Mark Rothko, and so much more. That day was completed wonderfully with a meal in the company of Emma and Amy, fellow directors of AIM.
Into December now, as a couple of weeks later I was back up in London for a meeting with a PhD research student from France, following which I bumped into dear friend Jon. We had a good chat before I left to explore the National Gallery, just off Trafalgar Square.
It’s no exaggeration to say I was in heaven! Over the course of nearly four hours I wandered the galleries, lost in a kind of rapture. It’s hard to single out individual works, but the four van Gogh paintings on display were beyond comparison! I stood in front of each of them, examining the brushwork, feeling the emotion laid onto the canvas along with the oil paint.
And so at last, with no little conceit, I finish up my review of the year by placing a painting of my own alongside the genius of Vincent. Not for comparison, not for any other reason than this: 2018 was the year I finally felt comfortable calling myself an artist. And that makes it a good year.
I got a message from my brother last night wanting my phone number; he called me later. Our father is in hospital. It’s been more than 2 years since I had any contact with him (or my brother for that matter). Seems that it’s never good news that brings the family together.
The lack of contact had nothing to do with my gender transition: it started well before I came out. Just… separate lives I guess.
I don’t know much about what’s going on at this point–although it’s more than I knew this time yesterday. I didn’t know he’d been undergoing chemotherapy for myeloma. I didn’t know he’d been having back trouble that led to a fall before his recent hospitalization. (Until my daughter told me last month, I hadn’t heard that he’d remarried.)
I’m informed that he’s to have an MRI scan Monday and we should know more following that. My brother’s going to phone me when there’s more news.
I’m not sure how I feel yet. I never had the same closeness to him that I did to my mother. I have very few memories of doing stuff with him; mostly going to rugby matches (usually with my brother). But he got me my first computers, provided that means for me to discover my passion for programming.
I’m thinking about whether I’ll make the journey to see him: my brother tells me he’s not very lucid much of the time, and I live about 250 miles away. More than that, I don’t know what I’d say: we don’t have a lot in common and to be honest, as I said earlier, we live separate lives. I suppose it might sound callous, but if he weren’t family there’d be no connection between us these days.
Still, there’s a lot of history there, living under the same roof for nearly half my life. I’m torn between the lack of a current relationship and a sense of filial duty.
I Don’t Know What To Say
My daughter turns 18 in a month’s time. I’ve not been part of her growing up, not been there as a parent to her. There are reasons of course but I’m not going to go into that now. What matters to me is that she recently chose to get in touch.
She sent me a message via Facebook which I didn’t see for nearly a week because it went into my Others folder. I have no idea what she thought as the days went past and I didn’t respond; I replied as soon as I read it. We established that we’d both like to keep in touch which makes me happy.
That was two weeks ago. I keep thinking about starting a conversation with her but I have no idea how to go about it. I realize I know next to nothing about her. I don’t know what her interests are, what she studied at college, places she likes to go, food she likes to eat. I don’t know how she feels about me.
The last time I saw her was at my mother’s funeral, a cathartic day on which I was finally able to move on from the pain I felt since my breakup with her mother. I think I’d like to see her again, face to face. I have some anxiety because I can’t predict how it would go.
Writing this has helped me gather my thoughts. I guess I could just start by asking about the kind of things I’ve mentioned here. This social interaction business sure is difficult — I’ve got so little experience and in this case it means so much to me that I’m terrified of getting it wrong.
Here goes… Wish me luck!