Learners

Robin and Annabelle have been living in Blackwood for several months. How is her emotional health now?

These are the previous parts of Annabelle’s story:

Robin and Annabelle spent Thanksgiving itself on their own. But the weekend afterwards they hosted a dinner for Burt and Pearl, along with Chris and his sister Gina, who had come down from Chicago to visit.

learner.pngIt was Annabelle who had wanted to invite their friends over. But on the day, she ended up in tears, overwhelmed by the amount of tasks ahead of her and losing track of the timings each dish needed. Robin came into the kitchen after he returned picking up some wine and soft drinks for their guests.

“What’s up Belle?”

“It’s all going wrong. I can’t do this. maybe we should ring and cancel,” sobbed Annabelle.

“We are not cancelling anything. If it came to the worst, we would order take-away. What’s wrong? The turkey is in the oven, that’s going to take care of itself. We just need to get a move on with these spuds and veggies. I’ll start peeling. You take a breather,” as Annabelle sniffed into a tissue, Robin came behind her with a chair from their kitchen table and put his hand on her shoulder, “Sit. I’ll put the kettle on. You just need to take a break.”

attempt.pngThey ended up producing a decent roast dinner between them. Perhaps not as tasty as a dinner made by Pearl Jennings, but their guests were all very pleased with dinner and made kind comments to Annabelle about how much they had enjoyed dinner.

***

“I just feel so pathetic,” Annabelle confessed to Robin later that evening, when their guest had all said goodbye.

“Well, you’re not. That was the first time you ever cooked a big roast dinner like that. You’re still a learner Belle. Everyone was impressed.”

“I think I am a learner at everything. I’m a learner at life.”

“That’s absolutely fine Belle. It’s when people stop learning that they start having problems.”

gina2“You and Gina were talking for a long time.”

Robin scratched the back of his head, “Did you know she had a boyfriend over in London? Well, he’s just been over here in Arizona apparently. She said she flew down to Phoenix and spent some time with him there before she came back to have Thanksgiving with her own family.”

“No, I didn’t know that.”

“That woman is a real go-getter Belle. I’m not surprised she has ended up in business. She is one hell of a negotiator. I think I agreed to her coming up to stay with us in Inkpen after Christmas, and she wants to bring this bloke Jordan with her.”

“Gina’s going to be in England?”

“Just to visit him for a week. She told me she spent some time with him after our wedding, and then she went back over to London at the end of August. He lives is some pokey flat in Hammersmith, although he is earning a mint up in Canary Wharf. Anyway, yeah, I don’t know how she talked me into it, but she’s blagged her way into bringing him out to the countryside to see us. You can ask her about it tomorrow when Gina and Chris are with us.”

***

woods.pngAnnabelle ran up to Chris who was walking several strides ahead of the other three. On reaching him she grabbed his elbow and cried out, “Gina’s going to come and stay with us for a few days when we are back in Inkpen. She’s bringing her boyfriend. Have you met him Chris? She just showed us a photograph of the two of them together on his family’s farm.”

“How did it go today Annie?”

Annabelle pulled a face, “So you don’t want to talk about Gina’s boyfriend?”

“Nope.”

tears.png“Right then, so you’d prefer hearing all about me and my worries. I see!” Annabelle turned to Chris, “Today was a good day. We laughed and we cried. But we seemed to really get somewhere today. It felt good, despite the tears.”

Chris turned around to glance at Robin who was walking next to Gina. Catching his eye, Robin nodded at Chris. Chris questioned Annabelle, “What were you crying about Annie?”

Annabelle exhaled deeply, “I feel as if I am trying so hard Chris, but I keep on making mistakes.”

“What with?”

food“Everything! I am trying to cook meals for us, and they always seem to go wrong. Pasta seems to be the only thing I can make – well I don’t make the pasta. I mean just boiling dried pasta and tipping it into some sauce from a jar that I have heated up. Beyond that – my cooking is a disaster zone.”

“Well, the meal you cooked last night was great.”

“Robin had to help me out though Chris. And the point is, I hurt myself again. Just before he came back from the grocery store, I was so overwhelmed I was punching my head. I felt awful about it. I only told him about it after you’d all gone home.”

“I’m sorry Annie. It’s still there isn’t it?”

Man with bag full of food“Always Chris. Always lurking away, waiting for something to go wrong, for me to feel stupid or worthless. I get so angry with myself for feeling this way. I just don’t know why I make such a big deal of things in my head. Robin came home from the grocery store and saw I was upset, and he made it seem like it was nothing. He just gets on with things without getting stressed.”

Chris sighed, “You’re a great team Annie.”

“He said something yesterday that really helped. I told my therapist and she agreed it was something to remember.”

“What was that?”

learner L“He said I am a learner. In fact we are all learners really. People who stop learning have a problem. We are learning at life, we make mistakes, we try again, we might make more mistakes. But it’s alright, because we are learners. I need to keep telling myself that and not let my mistakes overwhelm me.”

Chris looked thoughtful, “We are all learners Annie. We’re always learning about ourselves, about life, about love. We kick ourselves for our mistakes. I’ve been kicking myself for my mistakes.”

Annabelle paused, “When things don’t turn out the way we hoped, it’s easy to blame ourselves for our mistakes. Or blame our parents or think it’s Karma paying us back. We can punish ourselves and others for something that didn’t turn out as we expected. But that’s where we might need someone else to help. Robin helps me. When I feel I’ve done something wrong, he will make out as if it was nothing. He doesn’t treat my mistakes as mistakes, he’ll make them into a positive, a break from the norm, or a lesson learnt.”

team1.png“I’m glad you have him.”

Annabelle turned to Chris, “Learners at love. You said we are learning about ourselves, about life and about love. I’ve been thinking of myself as a Learner at Life. But maybe we are more Learners at Love. Or maybe the two are intertwined.”

“Life and love – hard to have one without the other. Just when you start to want to believe in them, both of them life and love, they screw you over,” Chris shook his head and laughed, “Forgive me Annie, I don’t even know what that means. I’m tired. I hardly slept a wink last night.”

in the woods.pngAnnabelle was concerned. She turned her face away to avoid looking at Chris, “It’s impossible to stop loving you Chris. You are always going to be precious to me. You didn’t make any mistakes. You were perfect. I was already with Robin. I wasn’t going to give up on him. That’s why things didn’t work out between us. That’s the only reason why. I have been trying to learn how to love you at the same time as loving Robin. I don’t want to ever stop loving you. But as our friend. You help Robin as much as you help me.”

“It’s cool Annie. I’m alright with this. I’ve just heard nothing except how great Jordan is from Gina, and I’m struggling a little bit with everyone else being so loved up. I’m just so relieved you and Rob are going to be in Blackwood for so much of the time. I’ll miss you guys when you’re over in England.”

english2“We are going to be learning more about managing the estate at Inkpen. We will be working with Robin’s parents and their caretaker Nick. You remember Nick don’t you?”

Chris raised an eyebrow, “Do you think I could forget Nick?”

Annabelle laughed, “Getting drunk when Nick was making sure everything went smoothly at the wedding reception may have been a mistake Chris. But it’s just a lesson learnt. I made a mistake. I should have thought about what to say to you. When you arrived in England before the wedding, I didn’t know what to say. I could see how you felt in your eyes, I had no idea what to say. I didn’t mean to be cold.”

“I don’t think there was anything you could have said Annie.”

“But I should have tried. We don’t have to have the perfect words to show how we feel.”

Beautiful woman with perfect face

Chris nodded, “Gina’s getting fed up of me. She’s been great for ages, but now she just wants to think about Jordan. She’s started telling me to go and find a girl, get laid, move on. But it’s not as simple as that.”

Annabelle focused her eyes on the brown leaves they were trampling over as the walked, “I want you to be happy Chris. You know it isn’t easy for me to talk about this. Love is a funny thing.”

“Ay, you’re right – love makes a fool of you. Don’t think I don’t know how uncomfortable I’ve made you at times Annie.”

“You’ve made me be careful Chris. I never wanted to mislead you. But I have been so grateful to have your friendship and support. There are so many things I probably would not have done without you believing in me.”

“You told me right from the start that there was no use trying. That I wouldn’t get anywhere with you.”

“I think platonic friendships can be cruel. I didn’t want to be cruel. I just loved your company so much. I loved the conversations we had together.”

if“You weren’t cruel. The timing was cruel perhaps. I wish I had met you before you met Rob. Maybe just after you had broke up with Dean, or earlier, before you even met Dean.”

“Chris don’t.”

“Sorry Annie. This is where I am at the moment. I’m struggling to get past it.”

Annabelle folded her arms and took a deep breath, “I have a situation myself that I cannot get anywhere with. I’ve talked about it to my therapist, and so far we’ve not really got anywhere with it. My daughter Lucy. Robin wants another child Chris. But I don’t. The thought horrifies me to be honest. I think his parents know. They dropped a few comments at family dinners that I didn’t know how to react to, about how great it would be for me to have another baby. I think there will be more and more comments in the future. When we go back to spend the winter in England, well, I’m bracing myself for a hundred questions about when we are going to start a family.”

“I got the picture when you mentioned your daughter last year that it’s hard for you to talk about her.”

lucy and annie“Yeah. Although, I’m trying to talk about her, for Robin’s sake mostly. Robin isn’t pressuring me to have a baby. I have no desire to be a mom Chris. And it’s not just that, I am afraid. I don’t see it as something that will bring happiness and joy. I see it as something that will bring guilt and pain and the desire to hurt myself again. I don’t want to do that to myself, or to Robin, and I can’t inflict that on a child. People don’t really understand that. They say things that I know are well-meaning about having a child, but they don’t know what a risk it means for me. I was extremely ill back then, mentally and emotionally ill. It was not Lucy’s fault, but I have never been so empty, lost, so out of control mentally and emotionally as I was those few months I was a mom. The hurting myself – it was just out of control. Robin’s parents wanted to have me hospitalized, and that was for other things I did. They don’t know anything about the self-harm.”

peeve“People say things without understanding. They are trying to be positive. I get that. But sometimes, well, sometimes they just don’t have any idea that it’s the last thing you need to hear. It’s frustrating.”

“That’s where we have to know about ourselves. It’s good to be honest about our limits, our weaknesses, our struggles, what we find challenging. Or else we may find ourselves drowning when we are overwhelmed. When we make a decision to take a risk in life, to do something that we realize is going to be hard, we have to let those around us know we are scared, that we are going to need extra support and a lot of understanding. Especially then, we have to remind people that we are Learners, Learners pushing ourselves to do something we are afraid of.”

“Are you thinking about taking that risk Annie?”

for robin“No. I can’t Chris. Not yet. I’ve been so up and down, even though everything is working out well. So much has changed so quickly. But I’m finally talking about our daughter with Robin. It means a lot to him. And I’m talking about it with my therapist, That’s something I couldn’t do last year. But it’s been helpful for me to finally unravel what was going on in my head back then.”

“You are stronger than before. You are getting stronger and stronger.”

Annabelle smiled at Chris as a tear streamed down her face, “But what I was trying to say was that I get that when you have had a disappointment, it’s hard to see past it. It’s hard to see happiness ahead. I think that right now, you might find it too much to imagine yourself with another woman. People are going to tell you that a new girlfriend is exactly what you need. But it’s all up to you to decide if and when you are ready to fall in love again. There are no guarantees. It could be wonderful, it could be bloody awful. Life and love are a mix of bitter and sweet. It’s knowing when you are ready to take that risk.”

annie thinking“You sound more like an expert than a leaner Annie,” laughed Chris. “Thanks pal. It feels like you’re becoming my therapist.”

Realizing Chris had stretched out his hand and was about to take her’s, Annabelle, turned to look behind at Robin, who was still listening to Gina. “That’s not going to work for Robin. I think any physical contact at all is going to be a big problem. But I get it Chris. I get it.”

Chris grinned, “Maybe it’s a good thing that you and Rob will be away for a couple of months.”

“I wonder if you might want to join Gina in England. Come over and stay with us in Inkpen. I am sure Robin would be pleased. You might find it interesting to work with him and Nick around the estate – unless you want to play gooseberry for Gina and her boyfriend.”

________________

You can read the next part of Annabelle’s story here:

Loss

Kim, the creator of Writer Side of Life has given us some great writing prompts. Several of them appealed to me, but I have only chosen one to work on for now, because I am still playing catch up with blogging, after my trip to Australia:

Free Creative Writing Prompts

I chose a prompt under the ROMANCE section: 3. Who is she waiting for?

kim's prompt
Photo by Thiago Matos from Pexels 

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