Tag Archives: Brother

It’s just I’m not sure I fit in here. There’s no one I can really talk to.

Take a deep breath. Try not to over think things. Remember why you’re here.

New situations, rooms full of new people, places I haven’t been to and sometimes places that I have can almost literally petrify me. If you have met me and I have started a conversation rather than waiting to ‘speak when spoken to’ you can probably count yourself among the honoured few. If I have divulged a secret or shown you a glimpse of who I really am you can count yourself honoured indeed.

I wear masks, not actual physical ones usually, the figurative type we can all put on. Sometimes they get me through the door into the new situation, the room of new people or the place I have never been. If there is a chance I will observe and adapt. I do have a generic ‘go to’ if there is no opportunity to adapt.

I remember walking into my current church for the first time four years ago. I had been at my previous church for eleven years and that church had become like family. Changing churches was a big deal, at that point it was like a child leaving home. We, Brother, Sister and I were leaving our safe, cosy church where everyone knew everyone (I left small out of the description) to walk into this new, unknown church. We knew it was a much bigger and, boy did we hope, younger church. We were changing churches partly to find other Christians our age. The first service I went to was a family service and as we approached the building I reminded myself of the three things at the top of this post. I think it was remembering why I was there that got me through the doors. Once through the doors things were okay, there was no fuss or anything. In fact for most of the service no one spoke to me, which was a good thing. I liked that no one pounced on the new people and I could just enjoy church without having to speak to anyone new. After a few weeks of only speaking to my sister’s friend and her parents who would kindly give us lifts for the evening service however I was starting to miss the people I could talk to and wonder if I was in the right place.

Brother had quickly found out about a congregation that met in a bar on Wednesday evenings called Conversations. I thought I would try it and see if it might have what I was looking for. I guess I needed it to be somewhere I didn’t feel invisible or anonymous but I could still keep the mask on. That is what it was. I went and was welcomed by someone who genuinely wanted to know who I was and found out more that evening than people in the central church congregations had all month. There was still a background to fade into, but as I watched I hoped I had found a place to fit in, to make friends, maybe even to belong.

It took a while to settle in to Conversations and I was mostly happy to just sit back and observe as I tried to work out who might be a friend and perhaps ultimately a confidante among this new group of people. It was still difficult for me because although I was in a place where the congregation was small enough that everyone noticed me there were only one or two people who made an effort to find out about me. I guess it got to the point where I was there and felt like part of the furniture but at times felt as though this still wasn’t quite where I belonged and couldn’t really say that I had real friends there, probably more acquaintances. There were some people I met occasionally away from the meetings on a Wednesday and we had a prayer group but I still never really found a person to really confide in.

When I met Fiancé at New Wine he was another new person. I was unsure at first whether we would even talk never mind making friends or anything more. I guess that being with people I had known for a while at the pub in Lincoln gave me a little bit of confidence although I don’t remember saying very much to him then except to ask what he did for a job. After New Wine he started to come to Conversations and I started to notice things about him that made me interested. I started to make sure I sat at the same table a him and I listened whenever he spoke. I guess I fell for him by degrees, a little more each week until around Christmas time, 4 months after we first met, when I realised that despite some family things that were going on I couldn’t keep him out of my mind. I prayed one night that if he was the one God intended me to have a relationship with that he would ask me out, the next day I received a text asking me to go to dinner.

Fiancé and I have been together for a year and eight months now. We’ve been through some tough times and some happy times together already. I think we’re a good couple and fit well together. We spend our time together and share our lives with each other. In April Fiancé will become Husband. He is one of my best friends and my confidante. I know that I can talk to him and usually he’ll listen.

Sometimes though I miss my friends from my previous church still. I might want to talk to someone about Fiancé or our relationship, to ask for advice from someone older and wiser or just to have a girly chat about the things that don’t interest Fiancé. Conversations doesn’t meet any more and the people I met there are becoming little more than facebook friends. I wish that there were someone that is a regular part of my life now that I could talk to but most of the ‘friends’ I have right now who I see every week do not fit the bill. I sometimes long to sit down with friends who have moved away or that are too busy leading their own active lives to see me every week and pour out how life sometimes makes me feel. Maybe my prayer life isn’t what it could be, but even then there are some things you want a discussion or real conversation about and it doesn’t always seem like that is possible with God. There are times when I still feel alone in a room full of people.

 

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What do they have against people who are different, anyway?

“Spiral Speirsy.” “Specky four-eyes.” “Tell us that pirate joke again.”

I think I was six when it started. The name calling, the teasing, okay, let’s call it what it was, the bullying. We had a fancy dress day for Children in Need and I coloured the patch I wore for my lazy eye black and went as a pirate. The joke flopped and the teacher, Mrs Taylor, defended me against the jeers of my class mates. That was the day they noticed – the glasses for the lazy eye, the lack of confidence and the reliance on the teacher for approval and acceptance. I played almost exclusively with two other girls that school year and didn’t really push to try to make other friends. Bryony and Amy were enough for little me, although one other girl, NameFriend, who shared my middle name did try to build a friendship.  Come Easter though Bryony had moved away, her dad was in the R.A.F and if I remember correctly it wasn’t long before Amy said she too was leaving. I never was much of one to push myself forward so when I looked around and the others were in friendship groups already I didn’t know where I would fit when we went back to school after summer and I didn’t have Bryony or Amy any more.

Then when the new school year started our class was spilt and my half, the older half, were in a class with the younger half of the year above. The older kids noticed me then and they seemed to decide I was the one they would pick on. For a while it was just the occasional ‘Spiral Speirsy’ and a selection of other choice phrases including the really original ‘Eurgh something smells around here, oh it must be you’. Things that I soon learnt to shrug off.

For a while I didn’t realise that this even was bullying, innocent little kid thinking it was what we would probably term ‘banter’. I realised later in life that no, that wasn’t what it was at all. At the time it was attention from my peers and somehow I thought that must be a good thing.

Then my life changed, got flipped right round, when my baby brother died.

“Your brother died because you didn’t look after him properly.” Words another child said to me on the day my parents, family and family friends went to the church to bury my brother. I had, apparently, chosen to go back to school.

The words people had said before were nothing compared to that one sentence. I knew absolutely that what this older girl had said was not true; I had sat and listened as the men from the coroner’s office explained to me and my parents that David Martin had died because he had a hole in his heart. I knew it was nothing to do with how well he had been looked after, but we had looked after him brilliantly, thank you very much. I got so upset and Mrs Dixon, the dinner lady had to look after me and take me back in to my class teacher as it had happened as we lined up at the end of lunch break. Of all the things that have been said to me those words are the ones that have stuck in my memory.

As time went on I guess I gave up really trying to make friends, even with the people who didn’t bully me. Brother was there in the playground most days and I could always chase NameFriend around the playground when she was in a grump. With my next teacher, Mr Eldridge, when I was 8 almost 9, I really wanted to impress him and do my best. He was a fun teacher and although that first year in his class was mostly my year of daydreaming the second year he was my teacher I did everything I could to impress him and, I guess, to make up for the first year. The other children noticed and they started to call me ‘Teacher’s Pet’ and to pick on me because I would always get good marks in tests and ‘Harry hedgehogs’ on pieces of work. The other thing they had started to notice was that I was ‘chunky’ and although the cheers on sports day when I was last in the race, again, were endearing the comments about my weight the rest of the year were not. Throughout my time with Mr Eldridge some of the older children had been bullying me too, some were older siblings of my class mates or lads from across our estate but some just picked on me because I was the fat kid that couldn’t run.

My last couple of years at primary school were marked with bullying. I was constantly teased and called names. Some of the lads started trying to trip me if they were ever in line behind me and in those years the physical stuff started too. We had eggs thrown at us one ‘Mischief Night’ and pebbles thrown. A certain family moved into our village and had started to spell trouble not only for me, Brother and our family but for others too.

Secondary school seemed worse. I walked into the classroom the day I started, two days later than the others and by lunchtime it was fairly obvious that some of the kids who knew me had been telling the others about me. It didn’t even take until Christmas for these new classmates in this much bigger school to start with the names and comments. Before too long it felt like my year was split into three groups, the ones who bullied me, the ones who didn’t seem to know I existed and the much smaller group, the ones who tried to be friendly. The split happened in the first year and the groups were pretty much defined from that point on.

Hearing every day that you’re fat, smelly, stupid, being called some of the most derogatory names I had heard, it doesn’t really boost your confidence much. I joined the junior choir, the bullies told me I couldn’t sing. I became a librarian and the bullies laughed and called me names because it was ‘sad’ and ‘nerdy’ being a librarian. My sporting prowess never appeared, my artistic skills were never given the space to bloom and being good at English, Maths and Science meant you didn’t fit in. I liked my teachers and always tried my best. I could often be found at Mr Tibbits office waiting to talk to him in my first two years at secondary school. Sometimes when other kids would see me outside Mr Tibbits office they would tease me for that and they definitely still teased me for being ‘Teacher’s Pet’. After Grandma died when I was 13 I would spend a lot of time talking to Mr Tibbits, Mrs Wood or Mr Kershaw about how I was doing, about my school work and also about the bullying. They never managed to do anything effective about the bullying. I had some older friends who I knew because Mum worked for the parents of one of them and they were my ‘best’ option for company at lunch time. A younger girl who caught the bus with me and who was probably as much of a target for bullies as me once asked me why I was bullied so much. I told her I didn’t know, maybe it was because I was different.

The bullies never really got all that physical with me but there was an incident once where my brother was beaten up by bullies and the police were involved. There were also incidents where Brother got physical with bullies. One time boys in the lunch queue behind him were giggling and because he had been bullied all through school he assumed it was him they were giggling about and pushed a pizza in one boy’s face. The other time I remember was on the bus when we were in foster care. One of the lads on the bus was being unkind about the way I was holding my in-ear earphones in and Brother saw red, quite literally after the scrap left him with a broken nose.

Bullying made my entire school life seem like Hell. On Sunday Fiancé and I were in the small market town where my secondary school was and he asked if I would go back to my school days if I could. There are so many reasons I would go back, the lack of responsibility, the learning new things (not that that has stopped), the opportunity to actually prove myself academically instead of letting a teacher I trusted convince me that I should let go of my best chance at GCSEs and A levels because my attendance the year after Grandma died was erratic at best. The main thing that would have stopped me was… wait for it… no, not the school dinners, the bullying.

Unfortunately for me when I sought out a nursery nursing course at college to try to bump my future back onto my choice of track I couldn’t escape the bullying. This time only two people with any prior knowledge of me were in my ‘tutor group’ and they had not been bullies. I walked in there hoping I could start with a clean slate. The problem was my confidence was shot, I was shy, quiet and from the country so not streetwise enough to fit in with a group of rough and ready girls, oh and when I did speak what I said was often peppered with talk of church. The advice the child psychologist had given me just over a year earlier failed to work. I didn’t  make friends easily although there were 2 or 3 girls I would have given that label to in the first year. Again I was bullied because I actually listened to everything the tutors said and tried my hardest, I was bullied because of my faith and, when my first placement failed me after about four weeks because I ‘never spoke’, I was bullied because of that too. It was awful when we had music appreciation and I didn’t have an angelic voice or a sense of rhythm because they all wanted to know how I could say I was a Christian when I couldn’t sing. These days I would tell them I ‘make a joyful noise unto the Lord’ but I didn’t have that one in my arsenal then.  Many times I would be in tears because of things that had been said and I would tell the tutors, then feel let down because they had made idle threats to chuck any bullies off the course. I stuck it out for as long as my patience let me, and my patience can stretch for miles. My patience stretched almost to the end of the two-year course. I had missed an assignment from the first year that I could have caught up and I had quite a few observational studies to complete, as well as placement hours to make up, but I thought it was still possible for me to complete the course. The bullying had continued and, had the tutors been true to their word when they said bullies would be thrown off the course they would have only had one student, me. I remember one lesson maybe three weeks before the course was due to end when Meg, one of the nicest tutors, had us all in the art and craft room and she gave the others a lecture on how hard college had been for me because of them and their bullying, I never did find out how it ended because I left the room in tears. A week later I was in floods of tears again. Because we had been told that if we didn’t all finish together everyone would have to wait for the last student before the work went for moderation and we could qualify the bullying got really bad and they were all really nasty about the fact I was behind the rest of them and because I wouldn’t finish on time I would hold them all back. The last controlled test was on the anniversary of David’s death and that added another factor to my decision to leave. I stood in that classroom and told my favourite tutor that I couldn’t take any more, I knew I was close to the end and even she said I would be able to finish, but my mind was made up, I was going to walk away from the college that afternoon as an unemployed person, not a student.

Decisions I have made in my life have been influenced by other people more than once and I have let the bullies have things their way. My life could be very different now if I hadn’t bent and broken under the peer pressure of the bullies. Maybe then I should be grateful for what the bullies did in some ways, my church, Fiancé, wedding plans, dreams for the future might be positive outcomes of the bullying, but I don’t really think they are (although they are fantastic things). You see God has a way of taking us to where His plan was leading, even when we divert our own paths. I would have been in the right places at the right times still, but perhaps with a job, a car, smart clothes, maybe even my own flat. As it is I’m unemployed, I usually wear clothes that are at least 5 years old if not older, don’t drive and as soon as I finish my internship at church I’ll move back in with my parents. I sometimes wish that the me who Fiancé proposed to had been the ‘better’ version, one that had totally learned to be confident, to stand on her own two feet and not rely on things so much for security. One day I will be that person because I know she’s inside, hiding still, but for now I’m glad Fiancé loves me for who I am today.

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Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.

Today I should be singing ‘Happy birthday’ to my youngest sibling, my second brother. I still could I guess but standing by a grave and singing ‘Happy birthday’ always feels a bit odd. On the day he would have turned 22 I will remember him as always and the memories will, albeit briefly, bring me solace. We had precious little time together but I will always remember my brother and love him deeply.

Dear Davy boy,

Today is your birthday. If you were still here you would be 22 today. I don’t know what you would have been doing because in the two weeks we had there was no time to get to know you. We’re left with the memories of a little baby boy and the tears we still shed because you had so little time to live.

When Daddy came to Grandma’s to tell us you had been born I imagined being your big sister, helping to look after you while you were still a baby, reading to you and teaching you our games as you got older and being there for you to talk to every day of your life. When I met you the following day I knew that I would do all I could to always protect you and keep you safe. You were my baby brother and at eight I thought myself grown up enough to protect you from all the bad things in the world. I would love you the way a mother loves her baby and protect you the same way. You filled me with pride and joy and I would never let anything take that away.

When you came home I helped Mummy with you. I decided you should have a teddy so I stood by your pram one afternoon with Sister beside me and cut the whiskers off Nurse Cat so she could go into your pram with you. I made that sacrifice for you and it was a sacrifice as Nurse Cat was one of my favourite toys, I never got her back. I loved being your big sister and having you there. It was the most amazing thing ever. I had loved you and wanted you from the day Mummy told us she was pregnant and I suggested calling you David Michael. Mummy and Daddy didn’t like Michael so Brother suggested Martin and there you were, David Martin, from that day on.

I often think of you and I wonder what you would be like. Would you have been clever like me? Would you have been the one that actually went to university and really made something of his life? When I was younger I used to imagine what you would look like. I think you might have kept those beautiful blues eyes and had the dark hair that the rest of us have, even if you had gone through a blond phase like Brother did. I was always sure you would be handsome and would never be short of a girl or two to ask out. I hope you would have been friendly and popular and never felt alone.

Twenty-two is a great age, you would have loved being twenty-two I’m sure. I watch young men I know who are around that age and I wonder where you would have fitted in. I guess you would have been fairly easy-going and probably a bit of a joker as Daddy is a complete wind-up merchant. Brother is quite like Daddy in some ways and I think you probably would have been too. I know that Brother would have liked being able to take you down the pub for a few drinks and last year, being at Conversations on your 21st birthday, was difficult for us as we could imagine having you there.

I still remember the day you died, but this is your birthday and I don’t want to dwell on the memories of the heartache that came that night. I will say that we had a chance to show you off that day and I could not have been a more proud sister.

I will always remember the two weeks when we had you, you will always be in my heart. I love you always David Martin.

Xxxxx

Two of the three pictures we have. One taken before David was born, the other after he had died. We unfortunately have no photos from the two weeks he was with us.

 

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You think you’re very grown up, but you have a great deal to learn.

Tears stung my eyes as I cuddled up to Fiancé in the dark. It was Christmas Eve 2011 and we were staying at his father’s house in Arnold, Nottingham. It felt like it had been a long day. We had two fairly late nights before, on the Thursday we had been to the pantomime, Brother, Sister, Fiancé and me because Friday was my 30th birthday. Then on Friday we went to my family home for dinner and watched Love Actually two days earlier than my family’s new tradition dictates. It had been so lovely to spend time with my family and Fiancé for my birthday. The two late nights and then the drive from York to Nottingham had made us both quite tired. Then there was an extra ingredient, alcohol. After sending FiancésFather out to get cola from the shop before it shut it would have seemed rude not to have a drink or two of vodka and coke. I went for two.

So the tiredness and the alcohol were not great aids to my emotional stability and the fact that this was the first Christmas properly away from home I had ever had did not really help matters. Fiancé and I had been talking on the drive about him finding a flat to rent in the next few months, somewhere he could take on that would eventually become our first home together. It was all so exciting, we had been engaged two weeks and were talking about getting a flat to live in together. My head was merrily cantering ahead of anywhere we had reached already dreaming of the children we might have and how awesome that would be. It was also trying to plan the wedding all on its own, in the way that your imagination sometimes runs away with you. All of this was spinning round in my head and in the bed in the dark with Fiancé on the camp bed just feet away (or was he?). It suddenly seemed all too much and the tears came bringing a sob or two with them. Before I could speak Fiancé’s arms were around me holding me close and safe. That’s one thing I love about Fiancé, how just having his arms around me can make me feel like there’s nothing that can hurt me. I tried to explain, still crying, that it all seemed so terribly grown up to have just turned 30 and to be talking of weddings and flats, of getting married and spending the rest of my life living with Fiancé. He listened and tried to reassure me. I don’t remember exactly what he said but I do know that he made me feel we could face whatever the future and growing up might mean together, that he would always be by my side.

I had tried to rebel against growing up. Since the darkest days of puberty, which were mixed with the grief of knowing Grandma had cancer and then her death, I had wanted to be anything but grown up. My fight to cling on to some of my childhood was going quite well, thank you very much. I still slept with a big Pooh Bear teddy most nights and several other dolls and soft toys by my pillow. My duvet sets had Tinkerbell and Pooh Bear on them. My Baby Born doll occasionally came out to play as did the six-month-old size baby doll Zoe that is jointly owned by me and Sister. I had tried to become a nursery nurse, to help other people by looking after their children and partly because it would give me an excuse to still be a child myself. For me being a grown up seemed to mean that I would have to leave everything of my childhood behind, that meant David and Grandma too, and I wasn’t sure if I could do that.

Since meeting Fiancé I have chosen to/had to do a lot of grown up things. Things like: going on proper dates and dressing like a real young lady instead of some grunge fan teenager, going to house parties where alcohol is being served, applying to work for my church unpaid and moving out of my family home to do that, having to fend for myself when it comes to doing the household things like washing and cooking and getting engaged. A lot of these things barely seemed like blips on my radar eighteen months ago, even less so six months prior to that.

In some ways it feels like emotionally I have been fired on a rocket from where I was two years ago to where I am now and Fiancé lit the touch paper. Some of the things I have met with our church staff chaplain to talk about kept getting pushed back onto the shelf even a year ago because I wasn’t emotionally mature enough to consider really confronting them, things about how my grief for David and Grandma has held me back and about the insecurities I feel when I get close to people. I’ve gained in confidence a little and because I now have Fiancé to talk to and I know I can trust him I am starting to open up with him.

I still feel like this is a roller-coaster sometimes and inside there’s that scream that I’m never sure whether it’s excitement or fear.  At times I am desperate for it all to stop and let me catch my breath before we go round again, but there’s almost a sense that is too much to ask right now. There’s a wedding to be planned and that seems to bring with it more ups and downs to be negotiated. We spend time together at Fiancé’s flat, testing the water there for when the day comes that I actually agree that yes, I live there and that can be a little testing at times. We usually get on quite well though. I’m trying to find a paid job so that I can make a contribution to the wedding fund and with the current economic climate that is often not easy.

The one thing I do know is that I know the guy who is operating this roller-coaster and I trust him to be in control. It’s God that’s in control and he’s the best one to be there. He knows what we want from our wedding, which at the moments seems more than we know ourselves and He knows how we’re going to get it. He has answered prayers before that may not have been spoken and I trust that He can do the same with this wedding. We want to glorify God with our wedding day and He will make that possible in ways that we don’t yet know. I’m not sure if Fiancé, who is a younger Christian than I, is quite on the same page as me with God’s plans and provision but I’m guessing that when everything falls into place he’ll see.

Hopefully when the wedding planning is all done and I’m no longer Miss but Mrs the roller-coaster might stop for a while, or at least hit a plateau, but in the next 11 months I know I have a lot of growing up still to do and an awful lot still to learn.

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