Understanding my umbrella

No, this isn’t a riff on an old Rhianna hit, though I suppose it could work that way, too. What this is, is an ode of sorts, long overdue…

Once upon a time, before Ben and before I had any notion of what my life would become, I took a year out between degrees to go travelling. I spent several months on an island on the other side of the world, an island fraught with trouble yet continuing to trade on its reputation as a paradise on earth.

One day, a cousin and I were talking about the peculiarities of the English spoken there. This cousin, who happened to grow up on the island and whose English is rather good, was sharing a somewhat derisory joke at the expense of his less accomplished compatriots.

‘Oh yes,’ he said. ‘It was raining and I heard this man say to a girl, “Come, come – come over here and understand my umbrella.”‘

I admit, I laughed – in a friendly and non-judgemental way, I assure you. But there is something sweetly apropos about this syntactical accident. You see, when I got freshly pressed at the beginning of this month, and a torrent of support welled up in my notifications window, this was the phrase that kept bobbing up in my mind.

Before then, I’d been writing my posts, throwing my torment onto the screen because I had nowhere else to put it, and hoping that someone might some day be comforted by the knowledge that she or he was not alone. The first person who really made contact with me was Stronger Me. In sharing her experiences with me, in showing me she had been through the same thing, I felt buttressed. I felt like someone sort of had my back.

And then I got freshly pressed. Suddenly there were scores of comments flooding in – so many of you with similar stories to tell, so many of you reaching out to me. After feeling so alone for so long, I felt like I had (have) a community out there keeping me afloat – a community actually interested in seeing me succeed without judging me. A community of people standing under my umbrella and bolstering me with their understanding.

Does that make sense?

On Saturday, the detox centre let Ben out for a few hours on condition that he would be breathalysed on his return – and chucked out if he tested positive. He went back to our flat, cleaned out the fridge, checked the gas, water and electrics, packed some extra clothes and his drums so he could practise in rehab – and mowed the lawn.

On Sunday, he used his free time to visit the Imperial War Museum.

On Monday, he completed detox and lugged his gear to the rehab centre where he was successfully admitted. He is now in rehab and will remain there until the end of November.

How does it feel? Bloody marvellous, really. Although, me being me, I’m already thinking of November and what that will mean. On the other hand, I’ve got you, my good people, following me, talking to me, keeping me a bit saner than I would have been had I been doing this entirely on my own.

A few months back, my therapist suggested I check out Al-Anon. I said that I’d wanted to, but that given I have no childcare during the evenings, attending a group was next to impossible. I said I’d started a blog instead and that I had made contact with a few people, which I’d found helpful. I said this was the best way for me to get the support I needed, because I could do it any time, without having to leave my daughter with someone.

So, everyone, I want to thank you. I hope you will stay with me as the months go by. I hope you will keep sharing your thoughts and offering your support. And I hope I can do the same for you.

Thank you for taking precious time out of your days to check in on me and my little family. Thank you for being candid and caring at the same time.

Thank you for understanding my umbrella.


Brakes on, still falling

I am a body in free fall. I am like Wile E Coyote in those first deluded moments, treading the air like it was earth, unaware of the chasm beneath me. This is the point I was at a few days ago – stage 1 of the fall. Call it bliss.

But now that I’m officially halfway through my holiday, I’ve entered stage 2 – realisation. I know that this suspension of woe is temporary. In a few weeks, Rosie and I will return to our home in London, back to our tiny flat on the western bank of a dual carriageway, back to school for her and work for me. Back to a whole cauldron full of trouble.

You see, now that Ben is in detox, I have enough head space to devote to the other major worry in my life. In a few months, I am going to be made redundant. This might not have been such a big deal if times had been less straitened. But this is no time to be losing my job. I am the sole earner in our household – I’ve got a mortgage to pay, mouths to feed, bodies to clothe. If I think too much about the disaster awaiting me, I go into paralysis. I claw my way back up to that first airborne moment. I cloak myself in delusion. And when that doesn’t work, I panic.

The truth is, each time I pass a homeless person on the street, I think, that will be me in a few months. I know I’m prone to melodrama, but who amongst us isn’t a few steps removed from a cardboard box? Few of us are so financially secure that we can comfortably weather a few months without an income.

I know I have options. In fact, I probably have quite a few. But right now, they seem rather fantastical and foolish. I’m not one for believing in fate and luck, but I keep telling myself that something has to change for the better – at some point, something good, and I mean really good, has to happen.

Perhaps I need to look at my impending joblessness as a sign (even though I don’t really believe in those either). Maybe it’s telling me that my time in London is over, that it’s time to move on and make a home somewhere else.

The world is big – really big. And somewhere in it is the right place for Rosie and me. I just hope it doesn’t take too much longer to find it.