Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…


Lately, I’ve been under siege. I’m fire-fighting on multiple fronts. There’s Rosie, with her daily distress (the underpant issue has been replaced by the undershirt one). There’s work – the jokers (aka. our senior managers) have asserted total dominance over our organisation and all we can do is strike to make our points heard. And then there’s Ben who, for the first time in a long time, isn’t really a source of discontent, only mild discomfort.

There’s also my RSI, which has flared up in response to some rather intense pressure at work (when I’m not striking, I’m working ridiculously fast – writing and editing a flurry of texts on anything from military sexual slavery to disappearances in Thailand).

So, this blog has slowed down a bit. Partly because of the multilateral battle I’m waging, partly because of the pain in my hands, and partly because I struggle to find the words to tell this new story in which Rosie and I are pitted against one another like two factions in a wearying war.

All I can say is each day is difficult. Each day is uncertain (will we get to school in time or will she chuck a fit about her vest or t-shirt riding up, causing her to tear off her clothes at the 11th hour and consign us to the late register again?).

Today we managed to get out the door without incident. Tomorrow, we will try to do the same, but there is no guarantee we will succeed. Everything hinges on Rosie’s mood. And how well I manage it.

As for Ben, he moved out of the rehab centre and is now in sheltered accommodation, which means he’s effectively homeless. He’s got a room in a house somewhere in south London. He says it’s ok. His ok is my gross, so I won’t be taking Rosie to visit. I don’t really want her seeing him in those conditions. She will ask why he isn’t here and that will take us into difficult territory.

I asked him how he feels about leaving rehab and he seems relaxed about it. The centre has allowed him to attend their day programme. That lasts until the first week of December. Then he’s on his own. The house he’s staying in is a dry house – no alcohol allowed. And the rehab centre offers permanent aftercare. But what he does with his time once the programme ends, I really don’t know. I wonder how easily he might slip back into drinking. Then I decide there is no point in wondering. As long as he’s not here, I can deal with it.

Ben stayed over this weekend, to observe Rosie’s behaviour and try to talk to her. I’ve found myself turning to him more often than I’d imagined as I’ve tried to cope with her tantrums. Watching him manage her issues with clothing was educational. Ben is calm where I am not. His strategy is to keep calm and keep talking. It worked to some extent. He has a way with her that calms her down. I only seem to wind her up.

There wasn’t much to Ben staying over. Although we complained during our counselling sessions that we don’t get a chance to actually speak, and therefore have no way of evaluating where we are in our “relationship”, we had a whole night in which to do just that – and didn’t.

Instead, we watched The Killing (the original Danish version, of course). When we weren’t watching TV, Ben was on the computer and I was pottering. We said nothing to each other, apart from, “What did she say?” or “What happened while I was in the loo?”

Later, when I went off to bed, I tossed a while, thinking I should be in the other room chatting to Ben. And then I fell asleep and the opportunity slipped away with the night.



9 thoughts on “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right…

  1. I have a theory regarding children of alcoholic homes. Once the alcoholic is removed or in recovery, it is their (the child’s) chance to act out. Perhaps it is living with the drama for so long and once it’s removed, they create their own because that is what feels normal. Or perhaps they’ve suppressed themselves for so long, it’s their way of de-stressing themselves once they think it’s safe. I don’t know for sure of course.Though frazzling as it may be, I have seen many families go through it. Is Rosie seeing any counselor?

    • My therapist raised this point with me, too. I wondered about it myself. I feel like she is taking over where her dad left off. But really, I think it’s a combination of the natural idiosyncrasies associated with young children and the very real trauma she is and has been experiencing. I’m trying to get her to a therapist/counsellor. She’s been referred and now we’re waiting…

  2. At times my life has been absolutely s**t. Hubby is facing the same at the moment and says I’m the only good thing in his life. This will change and things will get better.

    Remember that while you didn’t talk to Ben, he didn’t talk to you either.

  3. I think you are making progress with Ben even when you don’t feel like it. You spent time together and you didn’t fight or remind each other of past hurts. I think that is wonderful. Try not to put pressure on yourself about what you “should” do. You are in brand new territory and there is nothing wrong with taking slow and steady steps. The fear will cause a sense of urgency to arise, but it is false. One action will not make or break your future. Well, on your part, at least.

    • Yeah, I’m starting to realise that. Even he says the same thing. The reality is, we are both exhausted by 9pm. He is still an insomniac and therefore perennially tired, and I’m effectively a single mum, so … we tend to nod off from time to time, wake up and ask each other what happened on the box. Not very exciting, but comfortable, I guess. Our focus is Rosie right now.

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