Tuesday, 1 January 2008

New year, new life

2007 was a hell of a year. I can confidently say the most unforgetable year of my life. I wasn't going to spell everything out in the blog, but hell with it, here we go. You'll understand why there have not been any blog entries lately shortly. Read on.

The first six months were full of hope and promise. Work was looking good, in February I was in New York for the SCBWI Conference and had a very promising reception from American publishers. This was followed by successful workshop tours to Manila in May, and Mongolia in June. Things were cooking. My wife Makiko moved into higher echelons of responsibility within her company, and was entering her stride as a manager. These things alone would have made it a memorable year.

But then my mother in the UK suddenly died in August from food poisoning. Soon after, my darling wife Makiko, my idol, died tragically in November at just 31 years old. Two of the most important women in my life were taken from me in the space of just three months. All I have left now is my 4 year old daughter Seren. After my wife's passing my former in-laws however attempted to abduct Seren, obliging the two of us to suddenly drop everything and leave Japan at short notice in December.

There is much much more on these events I could write about, but not today. The personal nature of the tragedy stays my hand.

The lives of Seren and myself have been irrevocably changed. We're no longer in Japan, my home for the last 21 years, and are instead about to re-settle into the UK. It's a bewildering reverse culture-shock after all this time. I'm now a single parent of a four year old, with no strong connections to this country and a freelance illustration business to somehow re-establish. It's not going to be easy.

And yet I have faith that with the dawn of a new year things will begin to look up for us, it's best to be philosophical about our position. I've always been a fatalist, I can't help but believe that this series of great upheavals were somehow meant to be. Seren and I are now entering a new stage in our lives, with new challenges, but also new opportunities. Despite the uncertainty of our future, our spirits are unbroken. With the support and generosity of wonderful friends and my family we've been able to remain strong. Battered by the seemingly unending series of traumas yes, but we are intact.

I've no idea what 2008 has in store for us, but things will move on for the better. With the new year a certain weight has been lifted. The nightmare of 2007 is over and good riddance. Roll on 2008, year of hope and fresh beginning.


June said...

Your friends are walking with you John, with You and Seren. We are willing you hope and strength, and a brighter happier future.
It is good that you have been able to mark a line, and step over it to the new year, and a new beginning.
Treasure your happy memories and keep walking forward, one small step at a time.

Anonymous said...

John! I just know this year will be better. I am so sorry for your losses, it is heart wrenching! It's good that you are moving forward,even though it is on the scary side. Good luck to you and your little one You know you have two angels that are especially watching over you.Take it one day at a time.

PG said...

John, have just found this...times like this words fail me, but I am wishing you strength and hope for 2008.

Tim Budden said...

As someone who came across your blog by accident, this was a complete shock to me. Words cannot begin to describe your situation. As a UK expat living in Taiwan - a mixed marriage with a young son - your situation rang a bell for all of us who've been away for a long time. Under Taiwan law if my wife passes away or we divorce I get kicked out straight away as happened to a friend who's wife died of cancer. He had to quickly close their business and sell the apt within a couple of weeks before his visa became null and void.
Good luck and I wish you well.

Ginger*:)* said...

It is good to see you back online and to know that you are surrounded by family and friends in the UK. I have no doubt that you will find wonderful opportunities for your magnificent art!

May you have a blessed and Happy 2008.

butuki said...

I'm sorry I did not write to you earlier, but I didn't know if it was appropriate for me to intrude upon your grief. I want to say that I'm terribly sorry for your losses and that the last part about your in-laws brings the last 21 years of your stay here such a bitter ending. I just can't understand why so often things seem to happen like that here in Japan (where I've been now, over a span of 35 years, for 25 years).

I am much heartened, and truthfully somewhat bowled over, by both the vigor and hopefulness in your words. You are a strong man! It looks like you're going to make it. I wish you the very best of luck. I'm just sad that I will not be able to meet you much any more, and I truly regret not going to more of the SCWIBAJ gatherings after we met last time. I enjoyed meeting you very much and wanted to get to know you better. Unfortunately I, too, went through a hard year (going through a divorce) and I just didn't have the will to do my writing and illustration.

Like you friends and family are what has helped me to get through it all. And I look forward to what this year has to offer.

A while back when I went through another tragedy my mother sent me a book that until this day still reverberates, called "When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times" by Pema Chodron, a Buddhist monk in Canada. The book is hard to explain, but it helped put things in perspective in a way that "help" books never do for me. And it is completely unsentimental, which is perhaps why I liked it. It's one of the wisest books I've read.

John, take heart and Ganbare! I hope to talk with you again some day.


Flora said...

Mr. Shelley,
I too stumbled onto your blog and just could not believe what I was reading. I wish and hope for you and your daughter,the best that life has to offer and that no other such tragedies visit you two again...the lord willing.
Many Blessings,Flora

anniedc said...

When I came back to Japan, I was shocked and so sorry to learn of your wife's passing. Sorry, too, to see you leave Japan!

Not sure really what to say.

My thoughts are with you both.
annie dc

Marjorie said...

John, I have just read this and am so sorry for your loss - and I do hope, now that you've been back in the UK for a few months, Blighty is not quite so strange. If you and Seren ever feel like tramping/exploring the North York Moors, you'd be very welcome to come and stay.