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I think, as we enter a new year that I’ve come such a long way and yet still have such a long way to go. I wonder if I will ever make it. I’m more aware of the work yet to do and it scares me. Feeling comfortable with who I am sounds so simple and yet so far.

I’m sitting in the pub starting this while listening to Comfortably Numb which is what it takes to start this post I’ve been ruminating over for the last week. I’m finishing it at home the next day.

Whether 2016 has been a good or a bad year for me I really don’t know. I think it has actually been good but I don’t feel it.

I’ve entered my  second year of driving and have become a lot more comfortable with it. I’m still not using the car as much as I thought I would, with weekly therapy the only regular drive I do. I haven’t had days out in it anywhere near as much as I thought I would, let alone weekends away. However I am enjoying it a lot more than I have been my second year of insurance dropped by £200 and this month I shall see if that happens again. Driving may not be the most important thing in my life but as a symbol of breaking the patterns of a lifetime it is huge.

The second big life change and pattern breaker would be to get a cat. This is something I am resisting as I don’t want to bring an animal into the family that I then have to commit to when I only have four more years of children’s schooling. If I do decide to up sticks and run away I don’t want to have to consider a cat in all that. I’ve never had a pet and do want one some day. It has been suggested that I get an adult cat due to the shorter commitment. Anyway I’m not yet ready.

I want a new job. I’m bored of doing bitty things; I  currently have three and a half part time jobs. Whether counselling is what I want to do I do not know but I will do the level three certificate from September  (assuming I get in) and see where that takes me. I do consider looking at proper part time (or even full time) jobs in the third sector, but am not sure whether I’m really ready for that sort of “proper” job with office hours or even if it’s what I want I be but I do know that I need a change.

Therapy is going well. I’ve said some things I’ve never said to anyone before and I’ve asked to be pushed a bit as I don’t want to spend so much time talking about my children rather than me. I do count the money I’ve spent and find it difficult to accept how much it costs over the year but I’m trying to put that to one side. It is without doubt a bizarre relationship but the continuity has given me the time to feel safe and trusting. The counselling course has given me a better understanding of the process and what I need to do in order to get more out of counselling.

I said I wanted a relationship. I’m still not sure that’s true or whether I really just want to feel more connected with other people. I don’t want to finish my life on my own but that doesn’t have to mean I need a life partner. I have some good friends but something’s lacking. I feel that I have individual good friends, but not a good friendship group; I don’t have a gang to hang out with, a family to be with. That sounds really ungrateful as I do have so many more people I can talk to compared to a few years ago but I still feel lonely. I still struggle in crowds. I need to put more effort into keeping contact with people in the real world, not just on social media. But also I need to talk to more people when I’m in a crowd, to get better at simply looking at other people and saying hello or just smiling. My unspoken attitude says to keep clear so people do.

I need to push myself to go out more, to do more things, whether on my own or with friends. It could be more gigs and plays, or just getting out of the house. When it comes to the holidays we all immerse ourselves at home, whether it’s the children playing video games or me watching crap on TV. I’ve been reading a lot less this year, watching so many TV series from Netflix and elsewhere. I need to stop. Recently I’ve been watching cheesy teenage soaps that I find it embarrassing to admit to. It’s been about trying to reconnect with teenage hope and dreams rather than just being negative and assuming nothing nice is ever going to happen. I’m trying to force my mind to open up to possibilities I’ve sat on for years and it’s not easy.

I am trying to feel better about myself. Having chopped off all my hair and gone back from blonde to my natural colour I’ve decided I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. I need to grow it some and find a cut that reflects me better. I was pleased last night when a male friend talked about women worrying about their size was so ridiculous. He was being totally genuine and it just reminded me how rarely this voice of sanity is heard over all the diet and thin bullshit we hear. I’ve started exercising again, and have finished my 30 days programme in 7 weeks which is the first time I’ve done it all year. I’ve found it easier to get through and have resented doing it less so something in my mind has shifted. Let’s see if I can keep it up. I’ve pushed for consultant appointments to look at my consistent degeneration in health to determine cause. If it is location and pollution, I intend to move once the children have finished school.

As to the children, well I’ve recently realised that I am enormously proud of each and every one of them, something I really should have felt years ago. I spend so much time focused on what’s going wrong with them that I haven’t let myself feel pride in them. And I am so very proud of them. I have yet to extend that to acknowledging my hand in their development but small steps.

1son has done tremendously well this year. In the summer he did the Cambridge TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) course and is now in Ukraine for nine months, putting the skills he’s learned into practice and hopefully finishing as more experienced better teacher who can travel where he wants and teach. He was bored with what he was doing, didn’t know what he wanted to do instead and is challenging himself with a life changing experience. He’s not getting paid very much but he’s never not lived with a parent so he’s learning in more ways than one and his Russian is improving.

2son has also done remarkably well. He’s gained 2.5 GCSEs this year, will finish another this coming July and, if he gets funding, will finish the two more that are needed for him to apply to new colleges for A levels. Funding is much harder to obtain (although will be easier after this year) so we are in something of a hump year that we just need to get through. He has a new social worker who has actually written a really good report on him and my intention is to spend some of January looking at alternative provisions with her so that I can “help” her discover there’s no where else that offers what 2son needs that is cheaper than his current provision. It’s horrible and messy but as he is 19 they have to put next year’s funding in place by the end of March rather than the end of August as happened last year. So I’m pushing to get it done with the hope that I won’t then have to spend the following six months appealing a poor decision. He’s beginning to make progress at school in terms of accepting his diagnosis of autism and to start to think about his social difficulties but he’s a long way off being ready to move. Hopefully getting funding agreed would help him make more progress as he wouldn’t have to worry about his placement. He still has a girlfriend though and they clearly do each other good, although I wonder what will happen if one of them gets funding and the other doesn’t.

3son is more of a worry than he was a year ago. He’s aware that he didn’t do as well at GCSEs as he could have done and he has no one to blame but himself. He found the start of A levels a culture shock and went out for one of his late night walks to think about it but this time he took a rope. His friends panicked and got in touch and I went and found him and we went for a long drive. We talked about stuff but that was four months ago and that open intimacy hasn’t re-appeared. He doesn’t want to worry me with what is going on in his head and I find it difficult to push him when I know he doesn’t really want to talk to me. Taking a rope out with him elevated him to tier 3 CAMHS intervention which got him an immediate set of six sessions, although the therapist he started with has moved elsewhere so he has to start again with someone else for the last two, which is one of the reasons he has no trust in CAMHS or in therapy. He doesn’t really participate in the few family activities we do jointly and even when he does, rarely feels present. He moans a lot about everything but denies that it’s moaning. I find him absolutely exhausting. One of his outlets is poetry. He watches a lot of spoken poetry / rap online and sometimes out in the real world and writes his own. He is having a poem published in the Young Writers 2016 book which is an amazing achievement for him. I’ve suggested that he joins poetry meet ups (or similar) in order to meet other like minded people he can perform and learn with. That’s a big step so although he’s enthused by the idea it’s still just an idea.

4son is far too sensible. I worry that the impact of two of his elder brothers has been to lose his spontaneity and to mature too fast. His company is a delight. I think he works slightly harder than 3son and he’s definitely the most relaxed of all of us. I don’t know how I would cope if he wasn’t so easy. We go to football together and I’m strangely looking forward to him starting to drink so he will want to spend more time in the pub on away days and maybe cut loose a bit. I think I’m worrying for nothing and that he is simply a more chilled out person and would be anyway but as the youngest he does have the biggest burden watching his older brothers.

So that’s the immediate family. My parents dropped the bombshell just before Christmas that they’re returning to UK and are looking at locations near me. When I say near I’m talking about 15-20 minutes drive compared to the other side of the Channel. They sent round a discussion paper on the subject and then made it clear they had already made up their mind. My sister who lives near them is also looking at returning to the UK, a casualty of Brexit. I’ve actually received an email from her this morning, the first direct communication in several years. I don’t want my parents near me. I don’t really want them in the same country and I don’t see the point in offering my opinion when it just gets ignored. I keep suggesting the south coast, from Brighton to Hastings with fast trains into London, cheaper prices, less pollution and a better quality of life. I’m hoping they realise that they can’t afford what they want near me so will choose to look further out but I can see this being a total and utter disaster. They’re not looking at living near their other daughters. In their paper they talked about us visiting and helping care for them in their old age and I’m really not interested. They rarely gave me any support that wasn’t financial when I asked or needed it. Splitting up with both ex1 and ex2 were the only times they came to support me physically in the last twenty years and I really don’t feel that I owe them anything. The expectation makes me angry and the discussions we’ve had have just served to stir the pot of bubbling discontent that I had been able to just leave to one side.

That was 2016 then. Many good positive changes, a better awareness of where I am and what I need, and my children continuing to go their various ways. 2017 will not be dramatically different and I always find the new year really difficult as it’s about hope and optimism, both of which I can feel for the world as a whole, but not for me.