Lost and found

oliver-jeffers-cover-from-lost-and-found

So it’s true, then.

Time really does accelerate as you enter the latter decades of your life. Standing here, on the other side of grief and trauma, I’m sucked deeper and faster into the mundane: a relentless flush down a very slick s-bend.  Continue reading

Advertisements

Why don’t you just admit you hate me?

The scene following a boiler explosion. source: hse.gov.uk

Thursday

Ben comes round at noon to let the boiler man in. Rosie and I have been bathing with pots of boiling water for the last few days, since the tap hasn’t been offering up anything other than cold. I am therefore grateful that Ben has agreed to be at the flat given I am in meetings most of the day.

My work situation is deteriorating dramatically, with termination approaching and more and more of my long-time colleagues deciding to take voluntary redundancy rather than hang in and be re-deployed. I have my own pressing decisions to make, with my gut flipping first left and then right, as I try to steer towards the best option for Rosie and me. I leave the office with a storming head ache. Continue reading

Summer drops in for tea

The Hill Garden, today.

The Hill Garden, today (view from the Pergola), Hampstead

We’ve had rubbish weather lately. London has been grim and grey and cold. It’s nearly June, and the rain has been truculent – a guest who has over-stayed his welcome.

But today, the sun hefts the heavens aside and strides out into the full swell of our desperation, dropping in for tea. An old friendship resumes. With a reassuring smile, the sun intimates it might be here to stay – for a weekend, that is. Continue reading

“You are the glue”

Taken in isolation, hardly a compliment. But this is what Ben wrote in my birthday card a few weeks back. You are the glue that keeps this family together. I can’t remember everything he wrote – I think I skimmed the card because I was too embarrassed to read it properly.

Why embarrassed? Probably because we say so little of substance to one another these days. We’re very good at managing domestic and parenting issues. It’s just us that draws a ringing silence, followed by embarrassment should one of us dare to break it.

So, I sort of scanned the card, saw all the words, but managed to forget most of them, apart from the first sentence. And rather than feeling happy to read these words of – admit it – appreciation; I find myself becoming irritated at the thought of them.

What do they mean, really? Why am I the glue? I never asked to be in this place, holding everything and everyone together. I don’t mind being that person from time to time. I don’t even mind being that person often. But why must it always be me?

Instead of appreciating Ben’s appreciation, I find myself second-guessing it. Is he saying this because he admires this quality in me, or because he feels sorry for himself? Is he passing the buck by saying, you’re so much better at this than I could ever be. In other words, is he somehow absolving himself of responsibility?

Perhaps I am being uncharitable. He’s been through a lot, and as my therapist said today, he’s actually doing pretty well, all things considered. She reminds me, time and again, that it is still very early in the process, that it has only been a few months since he came out of rehab.

Easy to forget

It’s easy to forget sometimes. True, I find myself back in the panic room when he adopts a familiar pose or walks with a certain gait. Sometimes, I can’t see him as he is now, because the memory of what he was (a sad, shuffling drunk) rears up and superimposes itself over him. As for what he was before all of that – that is the archival Ben, the Ben in wedding photos and photos of us as graduate students. And that person is unrecognisable. He has become someone other.

But the panic and the shadows are gradually withering. Ben is responsible and loving with Rosie. He’s helping more and more around the flat, when he comes. He does some of what he says he plans to do (like calling in the council to check on a potential rat infestation in the garden – yech). He doesn’t do things the way I would do them, but that doesn’t matter. All in all, Rosie is safe and happy, and I’m not carrying quite as heavy a burden as I have been of late.

So, it’s easy to forget. But just scrolling through a list of my posts clears my mind, much as my weekly visits to my therapist do. She is based at the local drug and alcohol service, and I often sit in the waiting room with several addicts.

I hate it. It smells of beer and body odour. It reminds me so acutely of my recent past, that I can feel last year rising at the back of my throat. As I sit there, I tell myself to listen, observe, find the humour in the situation. But all I can do is narrow my nostrils and bury myself in my smart phone, aimlessly swiping the screen just to distinguish myself from them. 

And then I’m back home, in my familiar life, and things have improved in ways I hadn’t anticipated, and yet, I’m still the lynch pin, still the glue binding our small family together. I should feel proud of this, but really, I’m just tired.

Mad and bloated

Ugh, will my rage never end? Today I hate myself. I am not a good person. When my hormones are raging like this, anyone (read: Rosie – poor thing) is in for it, whatever s/he does.

  • Let a chocolate bar wrapper be whipped away in the wind? – Immediate telling off for lack of civic pride
  • Fail to use soap while washing hands? – Stern imperatives coupled with prophecies of doom (where doom = worms and/or Norovirus)
  • Lost school jumper? – Guilt-trip in which price of lost article is repeated a minimum of 15 times, followed by promises that a replacement will not be forthcoming.
  • Half-eaten lunch? – Protracted moaning about feeling unappreciated plus prophecies of doom (where doom = rickets)

Oh yes, I am a bad, bad person. My volume is at one setting (the one where my throat feels hoarse by the end of the day), and the fact of my corporeal self – my physical self – fills me with loathing. There is simply too much of me. And to make matters worse, I keep eating, so that there is even more of me to despise.

Rosie has every right to batter me every now and then, because when I turn into this thing – this person who only (in her words) uses her ‘shouty’ voice to talk to her, well, that thing deserves a boot to the bum.

It’s times like these when I think that certain tribes had it right after all. I do need to be sent away around this time of the month. I should have a respite somewhere, far away from other people. That way, we’ll all be safe, especially Rosie. Except that ‘this time of the month’ inevitably lasts about two weeks, so that’s not feasible, is it?

By the way, a couple of days after my last post, Rosie and I were laid low by suspected food poisoning. Poor kid just lay on the sofa watching telly while I was comatose on the couch next to her. Every few hours I heard her say, “Mummy? Can I have something to eat?” To which I would answer: “Yes, darling,” and then promptly fall asleep. This went on the whole day. Thankfully, she only threw up when I was conscious. At some point, Ben texted me and discovered we were ill, whereupon he said he would come over to help… then turned up about five hours later. You know, when I was feeling a bit better and the urgency had passed. “Why didn’t you ask me earlier?” he said.

Anyway, to his credit, when he did come back to visit again, he helped out a lot – cooking, cleaning, doing laundry. He even woke up on Monday morning and helped Rosie through the dressing phase. That’s about all he can manage, but it’s a big help anyway (even if I have to remind him to do it).

Whatever it is, he is helpful from time to time. Today would have been a day for me to take a back seat and for him, had he been here, to take the lead. When I’m feeling like this – like I could drop kick a tornado – the back seat (preferably in a car going full speed in the other direction) is the only place to be. I don’t have that luxury though. So here I am, driving from that impossible position, and getting more and more pis@ed off.

That little spinning thing

Catherine wheel (source: epicfireworks.com)

I spend a lot of time watching that spinning thing – the little firework that spins around on your computer screen requesting your patience while simultaneously taxing it (no, they’re not the same thing).

Lately, it’s been appearing a lot more often, turning up whenever I attempt to do anything – open a new window, open a new tab, open an email, close an email. I know – time to get more memory, or time to buy another computer because I just can’t be asked to sort this one out.

When I look back on the last year, and all the sorting I did (chasing several different care providers, trying to get Ben the treatment he needed, trying to get my sanity back and him and his boozy self out), well, I suppose it was a whole year of that spinning thing, cranking its way round from month to month, laying waste to my life like a demented Catherine wheel.

But here we are, a whole year later – more than that really – and things have changed. Ben has moved out. Rosie and I have our living room back. Ben comes round, is sober, and doesn’t spend the whole day on the couch (although he continues to have problems sleeping and therefore occupies it for a lot longer than I would like).

Still, it’s different. No more beer cans, despite my imagining them there whenever I come into the living room in the morning while he’s still sleeping. Only it’s actually just a giant mug of cold Valerian tea (smells like feet before it’s brewed – yech), a tower of chocolate chip digestives and assorted used tissues (he’s had a bad cold of late).

I’ve even left him alone with Rosie for an afternoon and an evening. Yes, I managed to get out with my dear friend who is just about to fly away to a new life in the Caribbean with her two lovely sons. She was one of my rocks last year, taking Rosie in when I needed her to, listening to me moan about Ben when I couldn’t help myself. Just generally being there when I needed her. I’ll miss her.

Yes, changes are afoot with no real sense of what the year will bring. I have plans, like I always do, most of which involve me actually achieving something as opposed to succumbing to inertia.

Maybe it’s time I grabbed hold of that little spinning thing and launched myself off it. I might end up anywhere. Plot the trajectory of that.