• Al Jennings

It's time to talk...

I haven’t sat down to write anything in quite a long time. I think this is maybe the third piece that I’ve written this year. It’s not been for not wanting, I just didn’t know whether I would be ready to; however, I’ve concluded that now its time to talk. I’ve pretty much written this as its come to my head, so if it’s all over the place then I apologize – sometimes you’ve just got to get your feelings out of the page.

2021 started out perfectly. I finally found the perfect home for me in Leeds; a lovely one-bedroom apartment in the city centre – staggering distance from the dizzy heights of Briggate and Call Lane, but far enough away for me to enjoy my own space. I was thrilled. I’d dreamed of finally having my own space; it was my own piece of freedom where I could do what the hell I wanted, have over whomever I wanted and somewhere that I could finally, after being living out of suitcases in my parent’s spare room, call home. Then, almost instantly it seemed to all come crashing down around me.

In easter of this year, tragically and suddenly I lost my beautiful mum to a heart attack. This isn’t something that you can truly prepare for. For weeks I walked around in a daze, my heart broken, my head in complete shatters. You know that one day you’re not going to have your mother around, and you build some resistance to that, a sense of understanding that this is going to happen. Life can be incredibly cruel; but you play the game of life with the cards that you are dealt, but it’s not something that you can truly prepare for.

In the aftermath of losing my mum, I tried all sorts to keep myself busy. For the first couple of weeks, I was in the gym nearly every day. I wasn’t sleeping. I was awake right the way through the night, sleeping for maybe a couple hours. So, I was going to the gym at 4 and 5am in the morning, hoping that if I burn myself out then maybe I will sleep. Then when I was asleep, I would wonder that whether when I woke up this whole garish nightmare was just that; a nightmare that would be over when I woke. I would imagine walking down the stairs in the morning and there she was sat on the sofa watching This Morning and bickering with my dad about something nonsensical. The pain of knowing that wasn’t going to happen was unimaginable.

When the gym didn’t cut it anymore; I moved on to food. I ate my feelings for a good couple of weeks I sat on the sofa and ate my feelings. I would be stuffing my face with anything that I could find in my kitchen cupboards. Snacking on shit; chocolate, biscuits – literally whatever was in there. I’d worked hard for 18 months to try and shift some weight and it seemed that in a couple of weeks I’d reversed all that work. I had no energy or desire to go to the gym. It gave me anxiety enough as it was, I didn’t want to add that to my stress levels.

I think I’ve worked through the food now. My cupboards will probably agree. Now it’s moved on to the alcohol.

I’ve never been a big drinker – I’ve also never been a midweek drinker. Now, I find myself propping up the bar at Happy Hour more and more often. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to sit on my own in the flat? I’m my own worst enemy when I’m lonely; but I’m also equally as dangerous after a drink. I lose all inhibitions; and I’ve found myself sat on Grindr and Tinder until the early hours making worse decisions. Hooking up with guys just because I didn’t want to be on my own for a little while. Guys who I wouldn’t look twice in a normal situation. I know I’m no oil painting, and I don’t pretend to be; but sometimes you crave that bit of attention or validation. I almost always immediately regret it. I don’t do hook ups; I never have done. Unless we’ve been chatting for a while and it would potentially go somewhere if it’s been suggested, then maybe a drink and a fumble afterwards would have taken place. I don’t normally go looking for it. I like to know a little bit about someone before I let them into my bed.

I’ve gotten to this point when I have sat down to try write something and then I’ve bottled it. I’m not a great communicator when it comes my personal life; I don’t open-up and share things. I bottle things up until I explode, then when I do; it’s like bonfire night all over again – firework central. That’s been part of the problem here, I think. I go from one crux to the other. Hoping that something might just drag me out of this funk. I go into a daze sometimes where I’m seemingly away with the fairies; in my head, in my own universe where everything doesn’t feel like such a shit show.

I’m no stranger to death. I’ve been losing people close to me for years. I often make a joke about I’ve been to more funerals than I’ve had hot dinners sometimes. It gets a laugh in the right circumstances. Maybe this is just the stages of grief that I’m experiencing. I just don’t want to feel like this forever. I want to get to a point where I feel like I can start to rebuild my life and getting things back to normal or a “new normal”. Eurgh. I really hate that phrase.

If anything positive has come out of this, then it’s that I’ve started to reconnect with my brother and his family. I’ve gotten to know my niece and nephew, and as bittersweet as it has been, or as awkward as feels sometimes, then maybe that will get that better with time. I’ve become a lot closer to my dad which I’m sure my mum will be howling over. We’ve always pushed each other’s buttons; especially when we start bickering about politics. I’ve also realised that I’ve got an incredibly supportive bunch of friends, and although there’s been times when I’ve pushed them away a little; they’ve stuck by me and supported me when its counted and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.

I’m a firm believer that there is a reason for everything; sometimes you’ve got to go through something to understand it. Eventually it becomes apparent, but isn’t that just the journey of life? I don’t want this feeling of never-ending sadness to be my new normal and I’m not going to let this define me, or who I become. I had dreams to move to Manchester. I had dreams to meet the man of my dreams and start a family of my own. I suppose I’ve also got to be thankful for what I’ve got; but does it mean that I’ve got to give up on my dreams, or settle for second best? Of course, it doesn’t. it just means that I’ve got to work that extra bit harder to make sure I’m making Mum proud.

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