I’m sorry to be so quiet around here this week. I’m afraid difficult times remain the order of the day for the Litloves. About ten days ago, my son and his girlfriend split, something we knew he would take very badly. He had a great deal invested in the relationship – more than it could ever carry – and he’s only 19 so it feels a bit like his world has ended. In the kerfuffle beforehand he got so behind in his work, and couldn’t face limping through, that he decided to back out of his course for the rest of the year. He had hopes of doing some voluntary work, which I strongly support, and I think we are all aware that some sort of salvation for him lies in getting busy. But just at present he’s in the sad and confused bit. I long to be able to help him, but he’s got some tough growing up to do, and that sort of thing can only be done by him alone. Hopefully one day, we will look back on this as an interesting story. In the meantime, if you have good wishes, or optimistic thoughts, or prayers to send in his direction, I would be very grateful for them. I believe in the power of thought, and right now he needs some spiritual guidance, preferably from an external source.

I thought maybe it was the tension of the past days that made me put my back out on Tuesday. If I’d been shifting the furniture about, I’d have understood it. But I didn’t do anything, just bent forward slightly and found myself surprisingly stuck rigid. However, a sympathetic neighbour who called in last night told me it was to do with wearing heels. Just last week my favourite winter boots fell apart – the sole came away completely. I’m not someone with a lot of shoes to choose from, and the only other boots I own have quite high heels. Thinking nothing of it, I’d worn them all day on Monday, the day I spend mostly working in the secondhand book shop, and then I’d gone shopping and done some chores, so I suppose I went from not wearing heels for about a decade to a full day standing on them. This evening there’s an event with Jill Dawson at the main book shop in town that I really want to make, so I have shuffled along to the chemist this morning and bought – and applied – one of those adhesive heat packs, which I may shortly be able to cook my lunch on. Here’s hoping it’s wonderfully effective.

On the good news front (and despite everything there still is some), I’ve been extremely busy lately with a new venture that I can’t tell you about just yet, but watch this space in about three weeks’ time.  The other good news is that my son has decided that this is the moment for him to start reading more. Now that was a happy announcement. I put together a pile of books that included: Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere, Augusten Burroughs, Running with Scissors (which he read and enjoyed but had to check halfway through that it wasn’t fiction, so incredible are the events portrayed within it), Lee Child, Gone Tomorrow (which he also read and liked), Iain M. Banks, Consider Phlebus, Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and The Game by Neil Strauss. If any other books come to your minds that might work, I’d love to hear about them.

53 thoughts on “M.I.A.

  1. I’m sorry to hear about your son’s situation, at that age, and even older! the break down of a relationship is always tough to deal with. My positive thoughts would be to allow yourself to feel sad because it’s natural and normal, but don’t let it take over your day. Go out if it’s sunny, read or watch some good tv if it isn’t so nice. Start a blog or keep a journal and what I find that really helps me is Pinterest.com – it’s full of happiness in the way of religious quotes, smiley faces and fun things. I hope that helps x

  2. So sorry to hear your news, and I empathise completely. My 25 yr old son split with his girlfriend of 2 years last summer and moved back home. It has been difficult for all at times, and he was terribly emotionally bruised at first. All you can do is be loving and supportive and let them find their way through it – it’s just so awful to see your child hurt. Hope the back improves too – I gave up heels years ago and really would hate to go back to them!

    • I find it particularly comforting to know that others have been down this path and survived it. It really is awful to stand by while your child suffers, knowing there’s nothing you can really do. Thank you for the solidarity, Karen.

  3. Sorry to hear about your son’s heartbreak. Break-ups are absolutely horrible. Sending lots of good wishes from this side.
    But I do like the idea of his reading to take his mind off things. I also seem to remember listening to a lot of break-up songs during one of my break-ups. Doesn’t always work but it’s interesting to see how the poets / singers / novelists deal with such a universal subject. I’m pretty sure Nick Hornby covered the topic in “High Fidelity”. But the music seemed old to me so it would be prehistoric to your son.

    • High Fidelity is a good idea (my son has to live with my prehistoric music in the car – and he would certainly agree with you on its age!). I found him listening to music and feeling a bit cheered the other evening, so you are definitely onto something there. Thank you, Pete, sending hugs.

  4. Very sorry to hear about your son. Not much consolation to offer, I’m afraid, apart from ‘this too shall pass’ but I’m sure your support is comforting. It can’t have helped the back – tension being a sensitive back’s enemy. My partner experienced something similar two weeks ago after a combination of work and aged parent stress. I hope your son begins to feel better about life soon, and that the back improves.

    • Ohhh, backs! My dad had one that was often reactive to stress. Generally, mine is okay, but wow, did I put it out this time! It’s taken the whole week to get back to something approaching normal (and by the end of the day, it’s still sore). But I am a lot better. I send huge sympathy to your partner, and fond wishes to you for your lovely comment.

  5. Transmitting hugs and supportive thoughts to you all – I hope the heat pad works too.
    Been trying to think of some books that might appeal to your son – how about Will Wiles Care of Wooden Floors, The Humans by Matt Haig and Jonas Jonasson’s the 100 yr old man. All have plenty of fun.

  6. So sorry about your son. He definitely needs something to keep him preoccupied. And time. Time helps too. Big hugs to him. And your poor back! I hope it is feeling better. Looking forward to hearing about your new venture 🙂

    • We’re working on the preoccupation…. he’s definitely a little better, but not quite reached forward momentum yet! 🙂 You are so right about time. My back is improving, and I certainly have had plenty of good distraction lately, which has helped! Hugs back to you, dear Stef!

  7. Well, sorry to hear all this. It’s a grin and endure time, I suppose. Despite the many advantages of youth it is also such a complex time and the potential for crash landings is inescapable. I remember it well though it was long ago. I’ll send as many supportive thoughts as I can muster and hope each day will give a touch more distance and perspective. Bad backs out of nowhere are on my radar and you have every sympathy. On the up side I’m intrigued by the new venture news. As for books, if he likes Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris is in the same sort of area – makes me laugh. Best wishes.

    • Oh David Sedaris is an excellent choice. I once intrigued him into reading when he was 13 or 14 by reading out loud a Sedaris essay with the expletives beeped out. Thank you for the sympathy, which is much appreciated. Youth is awful, isn’t it? And bad backs are an immense nuisance. I’m certainly on the mend and have fingers crossed for my poor son.

  8. Yes. I have three now grown kids, so I’ve been right smack where you are now. One thing I told them in those heartbreak times was this: At the time something really painful happens, we think it is the end of the world. The worst thing ever. We think that because we can’t know all the wonderful things that await us in our future. Time passes and one day you look back and you realize that if that “awful” thing hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t be at this great place now. You would have been down a completely different path…your whole route altered. When I said this to them, I meant it. They may not have wanted to hear it at the time, but as it turned out…I was right. (Most Moms are pretty good at being right.) Anyhoo…big hugs to hiim. And Litlove, I’m sorry about your back! I feel your pain. I went to the fridge to pick up a bottle of milk and wound up in bed for 3 days! Rest well.

    • Grad – thank you for making me laugh with your final sentence! I’m glad it’s not just me! (Though I could wish you’d escaped this particular fate…) It’s a particular comfort to me to know that other mothers have trodden this path, and that it does emerge from the woods eventually. I completely agree with your words – it’s as well we don’t know what the future holds, but it’s a shame we can’t always get a glimpse of some of the good stuff.

  9. Life certainly does take a toll on our best laid plans. If you’ve only been MIA for a few days, you are a much better keeper of rhythm than me. I wish your son a lighter heart, your back a good lunch with its heating pad, and an eventful evening at the book store for you. Anxious to hear of your new venture. Take good care.

  10. Oooh! The same thing happened to my second godchild in her third year and life was very very hard for a time, but she did come through it. All of us here are thinking of all of you there and The Bears are prepared to pack up and come and stay for a bit if Beary hugs would help ease the pain.

    As for the back and heels, I’m sorry to say that I’m living proof of the link. I can’t remember the last time I wore a pair of heels and my back has definitely been better since. It has also made a difference on the corn front as well.

    • Bless you and The Bears – big hugs all round. It is a special kind of relief to know that others get through this in time, and I hope your godchild is now happily settled and fulfilled. I’m so glad you endorse my theory about heels! It’s such a shame because I did love my heeled boots, but ouch. Never again.

      • I have a pair of Russian boots that I haven’t been able to wear since around 1986 but I simply can’t bring myself to throw them out!!!

  11. My son, who seems to have similar tastes, given your list, suggests you get him Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and/or Pirate Cinema.
    Sorry to hear about your back (hoping we’re past boot weather soon) and excited to hear about the new venture when you’re ready for the big reveal.

    • Jeanne, your son is a star. Tell him a big thank you from me – I love those suggestions. My back is improving, slowly, and I’m steering clear of all boots at the moment!

  12. Sending waves upon waves of good cheer and soothing energy to both you and your son! Also, has he tried anything by John Green? (Of The Fault in Our Stars fame) (though he might be too grown-up for his books too…)

    • Juhi, you are such a sweetie. Thank you for your lovely comment, and for the suggestion too. The author is sort of familiar, and I will go and look him up!

  13. Oh please add my best wishes for your son to those of all your other readers. It sounds a truly gutting experience.

    Has he ever tried ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ by John Kennedy Toole?

    And sorry to read about your back. In my opinion, quite apart from the pain and inconvenience, there’s nothing like a bad back for making one feel completely haglike. (Of course, that may just be me since I’m a trifle haggish on a good day and you strike me as anything but.) In any case, it’s horrible and I hope you are already recovered.

    • Dear Helen, what a dear heart you are. Thank you so much for the book suggestion and the solidarity over my back. Haglike is a VERY appropriate word for how I’ve been feeling!! I’m definitely on the mend now, and refusing to wear anything but my converse sneakers, despite the fact they are a pain to lace up! 😉

  14. Books really do wonders, don’t they? They help immensely to keep one’s mind off life’s difficulties–they do me, anyway–why I am always in search of that perfect read! I am sending many good thoughts to the Litlove family in general! Mr. Litlove had better take care–so far he is the one left unscathed? Hopefully no flat tires or uneven paving stones are in his future (knock on wood!). It’s amazing how much you rely on those back muscles for everything so I can sympathize with a wrenched back (and it takes very little to do that!). I hope all is well soon in your household. Take it easy and think happy thoughts and hopefully you have sunny skies and gentle breezes at the very least. 🙂

    • Do you know, we have been lucky with the weather lately, which is spring-like and has definitely helped. My son is back in London at the moment, hopefully having a look for work, and I have my fingers crossed that the sunshine forecast for tomorrow actually arrives and tempts him out into job hunting. It’s really nice that he’s reading again, and I love looking out books for him too! You are right that Mr Litlove is so far unscathed… I have long suspected him of having a deal going with a white witch – he needs to share! 😉

  15. These two books came immediately to mind, but i’m not quite sure why. The first, perhaps, because in the end Scout recognises that human beings come in all shapes and sizes and that prejudice and hatred blind us and fill us with a fear that, if we let it, will kill our faith in human goodness. The second for its haunting stories of young, but tragic, love. Neither may be suitable: To Kill a Mockingbird and Le Grand Meaulnes.

    And I’ve heard that Tom Sharpe’s novels are very funny but I’ve never read any … .

    And I so hope your back is recovering. If you think about the angle high heels put our feet at, I suppose it’s not surprising our backs go out after wearing them. If you’ve never tried McTimoney chiropractice and find there’s one near you, I highly recommend them. I go to one from time to time and she manages to keep my back in reasonably fine fettle.

    And so many positive thoughts coming your way … and I echo the ‘This too shall pass’ because it will, but more quickly if he takes it slowly and doesn’t try to bury it … .

    • Angela, thank you so much for your lovely sympathetic comment. I think those are excellent book recommendations and I have never tried McTimoney chiropractice but find now that I want to very much! My back is usually a reasonably reliable part of me, but it is pretty ghastly when it’s out! I am a big fan of prevention over cure… 🙂

  16. Oh my, heartbreak and killer heels at the Reading room. Not much advice to offer for your son, except that he’ll learn in due time that it wasn’t probably meant to be. He won’t probably listen to it now, but… Heels are like good wine: very nice and stylish, but should be kept for special occasions. Perhaps you can enlist your son to help you find great new shoes online?

    • Lol! Yes, that is an unfortunate combination of events that we’ve had to endure. You are so right about heels and wine… I will bear that wisdom in mind. And we all think my son’s relationship wasn’t right for him…. Just waiting now for him to catch up with that (hopefully!).

  17. Your poor boy, I’m so sorry. it must be so painful to see him suffer, I’m not surprised you put your back out.

    I think it’s a shame university studies are so inflexibly structured that such a crisis can often only be dealt with by dropping out and starting again, which must feel like a further trauma on trop of trauma.

    Really, I just want to say, cherish the love between you all, because that is what will hold him while he recovers. That you love him so, and that he’s clearly a loveable, passionate, open-hearted man, is only to be celebrated. I’m not just being soppy: this matters more than anything else because it’s what fuels resilience, healing and the intensely practical energy and resourcefulness for everything else in life.

    • Jean, yours is a particularly wonderful comment. Thank you. University is so different nowadays, with lectures that you have to sign into, and endless deadlines across the year that can’t be missed. I hope the chance to have a break from studying might actually prove useful to him in the end. I love your advice – that’s exactly what I think we should do.

  18. Sorry to hear about your son. I think as a parent we always dread that… I was talking with a friend about our attitudes to love and togetherness and she said when she went to Uni she had always assumed that she would split with her then boyfriend, but he didn’t see it the same way… She couldn’t wait for freedom and exploration, while he was much more home loving.

    Life is a series of learning experiences and relationships are part of that. You are right that he has to learn his own way of coming to terms with what has happened.

    I have taken to taking my shoes off when in the office at work. I love heels and nice shoes but I also like to feel relaxed and save the heels for an occasion where it is worth it. Isn’t it a shame that nice looking things sometimes cost us? I hope your back is feeling better.

    Your son’s taste in reading sounds similar to my daughter’s! I look forward to seeing what he reads next…


    • Denise, thank you so much for your kind comment. I do wish that learning didn’t always have to be so painful. And yet it does, somehow. I remember reading in the works of the adorable Neville Symington (one of my favourite psychotherapists) that if you didn’t know whether you were breaking up or breaking down, THAT right there was emotional growth. Not encouraging! As for heels, I did love those boots, but clearly a whole day was a very bad idea. I’m wedded to converse sneakers at the moment, but they’re a bit too flat in an odd way. One day I’ll get my relationship to fashion right, but probably not any time soon. 🙂

  19. I’m sorry to hear it, and it’s hard for him, but so necessary to learn that you can be in love and get over it, and love again. I hope your back recovers soon! I’ve never taken to heels.

  20. It’s so difficult as our children become adults to mother them in the same way. It is such a delicate balance to support and nurture them while also allowing them to tough it out on their own. My son is nearly 20 now and I find myself walking this sort of tightrope quite often. I’m glad to know that your son is finding solace in reading. That is always the thing that makes me feel better.

    • Oh you are so right! I have been all over the place lately, I think, relating to him in ways that are too old-fashioned and too advanced. I’ll figure it out eventually, I hope! It’s a big consolation to me, too, that he’s reading. I’d go spare without it!

  21. Along the lines of Banks, I’d recommend Neal Asher and RIchard K Morgan’s Altered Carbon trilogy. Eon/Eternity has a great sense of scifi wonder and escapism too.

  22. Oh, your poor son! Breakups are so utterly wretched! I am sending good thoughts his way, and I hope he’s got plenty of good breakup music to listen to. That is key.

    Can’t wait to hear about your new venture! I’ll be watching this space with baited breath. 🙂

    • Dear Jenny, thank you for your sympathetic comment – I knew you would understand. He has been listening to music more and talking about getting an ipod – so you are clearly right! The new venture is happily keeping me (madly) occupied, so it has been very helpful in unexpected ways!

  23. Heartache and backache are both not exactly fun. I wouldn’t want to choose between the two.
    I feel for both of you and wish you both a speedy recovery.
    I’m very curious to hear about the new venture.

    • Lol! Yes, neither ache is particularly pleasant. Mine is on the mend, although somewhat slowly. I’m hoping to talk about the new venture in a couple of weeks – it should be quite exciting.

  24. Hot wheat bags – 2 minutes in the microwave and then bliss for your back or any other joint pains. So comforting.

    Sorry for your son, it’s hard for him to believe that this too will pass and, to be fair, at his age neither did I, so diversion, diversion, diversion. How wonderful that he reads. Crime fiction? Alexander McCall Smith (he may then want to go to Botswana if he reads the no. 1 Detective agency) other commenters above have good suggestions.

    Best wishes

    • Dear Sue, thank you for your kind comment, and for the suggestion. He likes Agatha Christie, so AMC may well work. I do have one hot wheat bag, and you are quite right – I’ve been wedded to it! Perhaps I should invest in several more….

  25. dearest literary fellow Pisces

    take good care of yourself.

    and book a massage if you can. let someone else take the pain from your sore back and drift off into a deep nap listening to something extremely soothing.


    _tg xxx

  26. Oh, Litlove, what a horrible, very upsetting time for your son, and for you and Mr Litlove, too, of course. It’s so difficult to stand by and watch these things unfold, but your love and support will be a great healing force.There is nothing like the sense of home and solidarity to bring comfort in these situations. I do hope that, even in these early days, your son is starting to feel at least a little better about things. Could I suggest a William Nicholson title? Perhaps ‘The Secret Intimacy of Everyday Lives’ or even ‘Motherland’? I think his exploration of relationships is very astute. I hope your back is better now, too – may I suggest Pilates as a preventative measure? Very boring, unfortunately, but the overall effect is wonderful and works a treat, so definitely worth the effort.

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