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Literally. WordPress keeps eating my posts.
So, I’ve been a bit hiding lately. I couple weeks ago I was wondering why I was so tired. And then I realised. Almost December.
I mean, December is wearying enough. But this year is pretty low key, so why was I stressed? Oh, that’s right. It’s Trauma Month.
I forget that I have to be careful of myself. I’ve been thinking about it, and I have decided that it really is like spoons. I hesitate to say that, because I am abled and I don’t wish to appropriate language that is helpful to people who need it. Oh, look, poor me I’m a bit tired and it’s hard! And it is, in fact, incredibly different. It isn’t physical tiredness, and so it’s therefore easier to deal with, by far. I’m not going to be unable to feed or clothe myself because I am too tired. I may lack the WILL to do those things, on certain days. But that is completely, utterly different from being actually unable to do them.
It’s emotional tiredness, attention tiredness. Anything I have to pay attention to or think about emotionally uses up a few more spoons. And I just don’t have them to spare at the moment. It’s not that I don’t WANT to spare them, it’s that they are not there. And I hate it, because it makes me feel weak and vulnerable and like a big fat wuss. But it’s true, that’s the way it is, and pretending to be fine is completely counter productive.
This week I’ve been migrainey, plus I saw my mother last weekend and am seeing her again on Saturday. Plus it’s the work christmas thing. Plus I got two unexpected bulls. Plus, plus, plus. Nothing major, really. Things that in any other month would be irritating but nothing a good whinge couldn’t fix. But it’s December and I’m TIRED. I just keep coming back to how weary and drained I am. I just want to lay down in bed and stare at the ceiling until January. My temper is short and I am having a hard time making meaningless chit chat with workmates and others without being rude. I’m sleeping badly and waking up tired and achey.
I didn’t start this meaning to have a whinge. I meant to simply say, you probably won’t see me around these parts for a while. Things are fine, but I have to keep reminding myself that they are fine as long as I watch myself and am careful of where my energy is going.
In a lot of ways, it’s a reminder of how good I actually have it. At how much grief and pain and that sucking, aching nothingness have receded. They still are always there, when I’m tired and stressed and upset. But I am in charge now. That feels good. And I want to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch.
So I am opting out until I feel less tired, because unfortunately I am paid to put my attention elsewhere. Please don’t think this is an appeal for sympathy or a cry for anything. I really truly am totally fine. I reserve the right not to be fine, later, but that would be ok too.
I am still reading everyone’s blogs but am too lazy to comment. I hope all of your holidays go fantabulously, and I shall see you all again soon.
I was chatting to a friend and to demonstrate a point which I can’t remember anymore I showed her this.
It’s Sweet Honey in the Rock singing verses from Khalil Gibran’s ‘The Prophet’. Those two things have a whole bunch of associations for me, but the base line is, I love this song a whole, whole lot for so many reasons.
Anyway, later in the day I was thinking about it as regards me and my own mother, and whether it’s still relevant (conclusion: yes). And I had a moment where I just intensely missed my dad. The first one without grief all tied in. The kind of missing you might do if someone were overseas, or you just hadn’t had a chance to catch up for a while.
And then of course I was even sadder afterwards. Because I am sort of used, now, to the emotion of missing my dad with anger and grief mixed in, or for feeling bad for missing my dad because he made dealing with my mother easier, or any of those things. But I am not used to missing my dad in a way that makes me think ‘I should call him’.
Clearly, I cannot call him.
And I am angry that, because of the way he chose to leave us, and because of my mother, it has taken me TWO YEARS to be able to just miss him. To just want to hear his voice and share a joke with him, without any other emotional meaning behind that impulse.
There we go. Anger AND grief. That’s more familiar…
On the Tuesday after craft camp, it was obvious that I was actually ILL, not just sniffly. My throat was sore, my ears were sore, I felt like someone had been using me as a punching bag, I was all stiff and achey and poorme. The last two hours of work were a trial worthy of hercules. As I left work, my sister rang me, squealling that the cat had caught a baby mouse and was playing with it, and she (the sister) had to go to work, so if the mouse was not dead by the time she left, I would have to deal with it.
Luckily, the cat appeared to have consumed it by the time I got home.
I put myself to bed at 8.30 that night, anticipating a restless night. I always sleep badly when I’m sick. And I always have horrible epic dreams in which I have to endlessly search for things or perform repetative tasks.
Surprisingly, I slept pretty well up to about 3.30am, when I woke up and then dropped back off at about 5.30, just in time to be very surprised that my alarm was going off.
I did have lots of vivid dreams, though. They were almost exclusively about craft camp, and were quite wonderful. What a lovely bunch of women to spend time with, even in my subconscious.
I did have one nasty dream, though. About my mother, of course. They always are. I don’t really remember much about the dream. It was set at the parental home, but although my father was dead in the dream we were younger – I was a teenager and my sister young, although she didn’t feature in it except inasmuch as I felt the need to take flak to shield her from my mother, as was usual. I had to perform some dream task – looking for something, maybe – and my mother either wanted me to do something else, or wanted me to do it in a particular way that I knew wouldn’t work. But she wouldn’t listen to the reasons for why I had to do whatever it was my own way. She was just talking over the top of me, being quite rude about my general capabilities and grasp on reality, until she found some way to force me to do it her way.
It was a pretty unremarkable dream, really. Except that when I woke up I still felt all the emotions – that soul deep frustration and anguish and powerlessness and lack of agency. That terrible loneliness of being caught under someone else’s power and not even allowed to acknowledge that. The anger at having one’s will not even heard, simply squashed, for arbitrary reasons.
It was nice, in a way. It was good to remember the way I used to feel, all the time. That these were genuine emotions, caused by real things that my mother did, not just teenage tantrums. That I am in a better place now, thanks to hard work on myself and also limiting the amount my mother features in my life. Phew! I will be remembering those dream emotions the next time my mother tries to emotionally blackmail me or guilt me about something. Those emotions, remembered in my dream, are why I have no positive emotions about her now.
Tangentally, I realised that although I grew up calling my parents by their first names, I hardly ever do anymore. They usually feature as ‘my mother’ and ‘my dad’. Mostly because very few of the people who are important in my life actually know/knew my parents. But also, I think, because it’s easier to refer to my mother as such, when she refuses to treat me like a fellow human being. It’s easier to give her a label and a niche and file her away as a symbol, because that is all (all! ha!) she really is. The same goes for my dad, for a whole barrel of different reasons, obviously. I don’t really miss having a dad, I must say. I miss Tim, though. On the other hand, I don’t miss Theresa, but I sometimes miss having a ‘proper’ mother – whatever that means. A mother who it is safe to allow access to my life, I guess.
Oh, well. I feel remarkably little angst about it at the moment, but I suspect that that is a result of the new-relationship brain drugs and also the fact that I haven’t had to have much to do with my mother lately. Oh, and having blogged out some angst, and figured out some connections. The angst will be back, I’m sure. I’ll keep you posted on that, shall I?
I haven’t had much to say, lately. I am generally fine, the days go by and I feel a bit discontent, cranky at being tired and sick all the time, still, over being cold. But when I stop and consider what I would write, it all seems so blah, more whinging when actually, I feel lucky to be where I am in my life. Or else it’s been a bad day, and I really really don’t want to open that floodgate.
Does it look cold? That’s cos it WAS!
I realised mid last week that it was six months Since. I also realised, that I never, in my head, say Since what, exactly. Because it isn’t exact. It’s Since whatever is bothering me that week.
Since my father chose not to be a part of our lives.
Since things got harder with my mother.
Since we had to move.
Since some good things, too – that time, you know? The feel of it is what is in my head when I think of Since.
And After. Sometimes I am talking and I will say ‘right After’ like that, with a capital. Then I realise the person I’m talking too probably doesn’t know what I mean, and I have to go back and say – what, what do I say? Usually it’s ‘After the stuff with my dad’ or ‘After the shit went down’. So vague. But it seems too small to say ‘after my dad died’ and too uncomfortable to say ‘after he killed himself’. That’s not really what I mean, anyway. After my whole life changed, forever. You don’t just drop that one into conversation!
Well, anyhow. I realised it’s been six months Since, and I hadn’t noticed.
It’s been a hard couple of weeks, though. The idea of socialising literally makes me want to run away and hide – and that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing. Hiding. It’s nice that I can, but it’s also pretty darned boring. Especially since it’s so cold, all there is to do is huddle by the fire. And knit, I suppose, but although I haven’t lost my mojo, I’m not being lit on fire by any of my projects at the moment.
But this morning, after I had done some tidying, put some laundry on, I was puttering around my study, putting things away. And I got cross with my needles. As one does.
See, I bought a bunch of bamboo DPNs on ebay. 10mm to I think 2mm. 15cm long. Too many to fit in my needle roll that I bought off etsy, many moons ago. So they were sitting in a pile in my stash shelves, looking untidy, sliding around. And I thought ‘I need a new needle roll.’
Then I looked at my sewing machine, which I’d just moved into a more accessable position and I thought ‘… I could make a needle roll.’
So I did. It’s not perfect, not close. But I thought of it, and then I sat down and did it. I made a thing, where before there was not that thing. I forgot how good that feels!
There’s something thrilling about those chalk marks.
Can I tell you how much I love that ‘mum? Lots. That’s how much.
The fabric is from a big (obviously handmade) pillowcase that my sister saw in an op shop and bought for me, because it’s my colours. As demonstrated by the fact that it exactly matches my favourite handbag:
I am pleased it didn’t go into my stash to marinate. I am pleased that I DID something with it! I am pleased that I like it, and I had fun making it.
If I did it again, I would make the rows closer, so they sit on top of each other more. I would make the flap at the top longer. And I wouldn’t be stupid and sew the tab I was going to use as a clasp on the inside of the thing. DUH.
However, it is made, and it WORKS! And I did it all myself in about an hour. I am pleased as punch.
Now what else can I make?
I felt better today, going to work. Still cranky. Still irritable. But at a surface level, not a deeper level of discontent like I’ve been feeling lately. I’d still have preferred to be home by the fire, knitting. But I wasn’t so bummed that I wasn’t.
Suse linked me today to Thirdcat. I left a comment on one of Thirdcat’s posts. And she wrote me back. When I mentioned my difficult relationship with my mother, she recommended a book called ‘Motherless Daughters’ by Hope Edelman. That name sounded familiar, so straight away I emailed my oldest friend, who happens to work in our excellent library about 12 metres away from my desk. Since I work in Human Services, the library happens to specialise in that sort of thing. It has about five copies of this particular book, and so my friend not only loaned it out to me (as well as extending ‘Children of the Self Absorbed’, which I can’t bring myself to read, yet) but brought it straight to my desk.
This evening I arived home as tired, cold and hungry as usual, but in considerably better spirits. The evening was mine! And if I chose to fritter it away on the computer, then I damn well would. I didn’t choose to, though. First, I chose to check the washing that was on the line. Despite having been heavily rained on ALL last night and most of this morning (serious. It’s like it’s actually winter or something! This water from the sky thing – novel, that’s for sure) it was DRY! HORRAY! So I took it in. Hanging and taking down is something I find particularly meditative. It will now, of course, sit in a basket for a week since while I find folding it equally medatative, I also hate it. But howsoever that may be, the washing was dry, and it is inside. There is something about having clean laundry done that makes me feel good about life.
Then, I ran a bath, made toast and tea, and hopped into said bath with said toast, tea, and aforementioned book.
I read the introduction and the first chapter, had several good cries, and emerged from the bath feeling dehydrated and headachey, but having managed to find my equilibruim. Who knew it was in the bath!
There were several things that even this much of the book clarified for me. I may even have to go through it later and quote bits of it. However, the most important of them are thus:
- There is a difference between my mother and T (her name). I have T in my life. I have not had my mother, as I would like her, in my life for a long long time now. This loss was a continuum, so I can’t give you a moment or even a month. All I know is, there is a gap in my life where that relationship should be. I already knew this, but still. Further to that:
- This loss is made more abrasive by the fact that T is in my life. I can’t trust that relationship, and it’s not the one I want it to be. But I can’t ever have a good relationship with her, one where I feel safe and comfortable, until and unless I let go of the idea that she can ever fill that mother role. I think that is lost forever. And that is hard to let go of! I sort of had, before, but all the emotion and dramas made me need it more than I ever have before. But I need to delineate the two different things in my head.
- My father actually filled a lot of the role of ‘mother’ in my life. In fact, there were several phrases that I’ve thought the last couple days that were word for word in the book.
In a lot of ways, our family was traditional. My mother sewed and cooked, my dad made things from wood and tinkered with the cars. But he also darned all our socks, was in charge of getting all splinters out and kissing the wounds, as well as helping us learn our multiplication tables when we were struggling, making the tea and the lunchtime sandwiches, and organising family outings. Sure, our mum made sure they didn’t miss parent teacher interviews and made the evening meals. But she also played the traditional ‘dad’ role in more important ways – the dismissive anger, the blusters and storms, being the focus of the family unit. Meanwhile, my dad was always in the background, always a support, always a point of reference.
I didn’t realise how very very much he was a point of reference until he was gone. Until I was alone. Until I knew that I didn’t know how to be an adult, not really, I’d just been faking it this whole time, playing house. And now I was going to have to work it out by myself. I was going to have to buy the drill, hire the truck, be IT support for my sister, work out interest rates… and more importantly, I had lost my moral compass, the surety that there was always someone behind me, never judging but never compromising. Who knew me and loved me but wouldn’t hesistate to tell me if they thought I was off track.
And now I’ve got to do that for myself. And it’s scary. It’s freeing – especially given the mother situation, I now feel like I answer to no one, at the final count. But it is also deeply terrifying. I never really felt the true meaning of loneliness before. But now I understand it, although I am luckily enough to have enough lovely people around me not to truly feel it – to be insulated from it’s coldness.
“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” – Orson Wells
Yesterday improved. And then again, it didn’t.
All my metaphors and similies end up being about water.
It’s like a well. You can empty it, but it fills back up again. And when it does, you’ve GOT to empty it. Or it’ll overflow. Flood the place.
Had a giggling fit or two with the two younger girls in the office. A much pleasanter way off letting of steam than crying. Felt drained afterwards, the way you do after a good cry. But it was still there. I could feel it.
I went to Emma’s for dinner. Bus ride there was uneventful. Got off the bus, started walking down the street ot her house. It was dark and cold. To the right of me the sky was pitch black. On my left, there was a thin strip of orange, quickly fading to deep blue. The stars were pinpricks of light, startlingly clear and bright. I looked up at the moon (on my right), and it had a halo around it, shining through the cold.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had a memory. Something I’d forgotten. My honours year, I’m living at home with my parents (let’s not discuss what a poor idea that was). There’s a comet. I think it must have been comet McNaught, which would pin this date to Sunday January 14, 2007. It’s right near the sun, so you can only see it right at sunset. The problem? My childhood home is in a valley, nesteld between rolling hills. The sun sets there a good hour before actual sunset. In fact, the whole area is in a dip. Finding somewhere to comet watch will be a challenge. My dad’s up for it – he loves astronomy and comets are, of course, particularly cool. He mentions going to go look for it. My sister is disinterested. My mother expresses disdain for the idea. My curiousity and sense of history is tickled, but I am feeling lazy. It’s been a hot day, and I’m disinclined to go anywhere. But I can see he wants to go, doesn’t want to go alone. So I throw my hat in the ring. Mad rush to get ready, grab shoes, quick! The sun’s setting! The comet will be gone soon!
We jump in the car. My dad drives us North, suddenly veers off onto a dirt road I’d never seen before. This is my dad, who always drives exactly 7 k/h below the speed limit, who pulls over every chance he gets to let the more impatient drivers past. Sometimes trucks overtake him. He’s driving down this dirt road, bumping up the hills, trees whipping the windows, full tilt. It’s single lane, and once we see another car whipping along the other way, dust blooming behind it. We both have to creep up the edge of the road to get past. Then my dad FLOORS it again.
We find a hill. It’s some sort of relay tower. It’s fenced off, but we climb over, or under, as our fancy takes us. Almost certainly tresspassing. My dad never breaks the rules. Ever. We have a clear, spread out view of the valleys around us. We can see fields and houses. Nothing familiar. I don’t really know where we are. I don’t think I could find this place again. I can see Lobethal and Gumeracha sparkling in the distance. One to the left, one to the right. But they look a long way off in the clear air.
And we made it in time, too. the sun is just dipping below the horizon. It’s lighting up the sky with that deep orange glow. Then gradients of blues stripe the sky above it.
And there, right next to the sun, is the comet.
Its tail is streaming behind it like a train. It stretches out what must be miles behind it. It’s a good two centimetres to my human eye, from my earthly viewpoint. Two centimetres of dramatic tail on a mere speck of a comet – the size of a pin prick. What a show off! Or perhaps it’s a drag queen. Very Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
I look at it and switch between seeing it as I see it – a bright point of light with a streamer of white behind it – and as it is – a block of dust and ice, roaring through lonely space, shedding bits of itself in a blazing tail.
My dad and I don’t talk much. We watch as the sun sets and it gets clearer. We swap the binoculars between us. We sit on the fence and contemplate it. It looks ominous. I can understand why people used to think they were harbringers of doom. But sitting up here on the hill with my dad, with the green of my homeland spread around me like a skirt, like a blanket that some child is playing make-believe on, I feel nothing but peace.
Eventually the sun sets, the comet disappears beneath the horizon too, and we trudge back to the car and drive slowly home.
I remembered this last night and it stopped me in my tracks. Literally. It burst into my brain, the whole experience unfolding in a second, and I stopped dead. I said ‘shit’. And I burst into tears, there on the footpath. I stood there for a good five minutes, sobbing, before I blew my nose, wiped my eyes, and walked towards the glowing light in front of Emma’s house, where I had a wonderful dinner with friends that went a long way towards restoring my equilibrium.
What shocked me was the suddeness of it. This forgotten memory just burst in on me, unannounced. How many more are waiting to do this? I have felt that trivial memories are suddenly more weighted – remembering times that were normal and every day, but now take on the significance of a thunderstorm. Because I am the only one who remembers them, now? This memory is so clear, so crystaline. I can SEE the dirt track, I can SMELL the dust, I can FEEL the rough wood I sat on to watch the comet. My memory, and my dad’s. Shared between two. Now carried only by one.
I knew this wouldn’t be easy. I keep forgetting that, though. I am FINE. Right up until I am not, and then it all takes so much energy to hold together that I have to go into survivial mode.
I feel so out of control! None of it is anything I can do anything about. I’m not good at my emotions at the best of times, but this is ridiculous. Even my memories are doing their own thing. Who’s driving this thing, I’d like to know!
I didn’t expect was the physicality of grief. I didn’t know about this, but apparently it’s very common. I’m tired, my body is tired, I literally feel shaky. And it’s so forceful. There’s no denying it when it comes, the very best I can do it ward it off until a more appropriate time. But the more I do that, the harder it gets. So I have to pick the times, use it sparingly.
I guess I’m learning to respect my grief, if that makes any sense. It’s like the sea. You play by the rules, you know how to act in a storm, you take precautions, and you’ll be ok. Probably. If you think that just because it’s blue skies and smooth sailing now that you don’t need your life jacket, then you’re in for a rude shock!
I just sort of wish I could see land from here.