Last week i was baptised. I stood up in front of church and i told a bit of my story. The following day i could feel the enormity of what i had done, sitting in the crook of my neck. In a sleepy haze at 5am on Tuesday morning, having been woken up by the rhythmic, strangely comforting sound of my husband snoring, i had a teeny tiny itch on my back that needed scratching. I made the catastrophic mistake of doing so, and after an audible 'twang' spent the day sitting in bed unable to move my neck at all. Forced rest, once again. Hot legs, once again. Incase you are thinking 'hang on, last week she had a chest infection, my life she's a bit of a one isn't she?' my previous post was written over a month ago, but it's taken me that long to work out how to actually set up a blog (i needed significant help in the end).
So i'm feeling like i should start way back when, tell you a little bit about who i was (am) besides being a vicars daughter with 3 siblings, an astronomically huge cat that growled rather than purred, various imaginary friends and my very own 'spit corner'. I was really good at drama at school. As a child i was the class clown and loved performing. My dad had one of those crazy bad boy VHS camcorders and would, at any given opportunity, get it out of it's crazy big bag and after waiting 15 minutes for it to load up (by which point the moment had passed), set it up on its tripod, shut one eye so one half of his face resembled a dehydrated prune, and the other a scary bug-eye that he would squash right up to the view finder. It was the 80's so we would be sitting at the dinner table eating liver and bacon, or microwave burgers (Tuesdays, after swimming). A liver and bacon day would go something like this: My sister (the girl i always looked up to, felt jealous of, the sensible one who could put her hand to anything and succeed) would be quietly enjoying the scrummy delights in front of her. My older brother (the boy who once threw me across the garden because i was chewing a whole packet of gum in front of the camcorder he had set up to video himself perfecting his football skills - and broke my collarbone) with, on this particular day (for the purposes of this story) an untouched plate of food due to a particularly bad case of verbal diarrhoea. My younger brother, ringlets stuck to his head, soggy from dribble and general malaise due to the sight of liver and bacon, complaining that eating it 'made his throat shiver'. And ME. See i rarely focused on the food in front of me, on what i was actually sat at the table to do. My focus was often on the feeling inside me, the faces i was drawn to pull, the noise that wanted to come out, often in the form of 'Gongielli, pillipongi, Shumalaka', my made up language that over time became something quite spectacular. A treat for the ears. While my siblings were sensibly eating/prattling about/shivering into their food i was exploring the nether-regions of my mouth, loudly working out how far i could puff my cheeks out before they hurt. I was wondering how i would sound if i said 'i want my hooooney' while straining my voice to its limit (a bit like the sound i now know i make during childbirth), then trying it. I was practicing my new nervous twitch to show my friends the next day. Poor liver, poor bacon, discounted.
I was very rarely in the moment. Or was I?
Bug-eye behind the camera captured it all.
It is in this dream-state that i have spent quite a lot of my life. I quite like it there. I would sit at the back of the classroom, a lovely comfortable spot by the window next to Daniel who always had a slightly musty, dare i say 'pooey' smell about him. Vaguely mindful of the fact that my teacher was prattling on about something to do with something that happened 100,000,000 years ago, i would sit and practice what they call 'active listening'. It was often in this spot that i discovered things like this: that if i opened and shut my eyes really quickly they made a strange clicking sound inside my head. That if i went cross-eyed and screwed my eyes up as small as they would go without shutting them, i could begin to understand what it must be like to have tunnel vision. And i decided it wouldn't be very nice at all. While my teacher talked about this number halved then halved again and again and again and again and showed us a picture of a pizza with slices missing and asked questions about it, i didn't understand because at that moment the caretaker was mowing the school field and was walking in a way that made his bottom stick out and i thought it was funny, and wanted to show all my friends, and stand up and walk around the classroom just like him. (Also the drone of the lawnmower was kind of rhythmical and sounded a bit like that song 'i'm special' that i played on my flute).
In a school detention, when asked to write an essay on the importance of punctuality, i wrote two sides about full-stops and commas.
I got to grade 4 recorder. When asked to play a B i looked at the examiner blankly. I had been playing all those songs from memory. I didn't carry on with the recorder, and Mrs Franklin was a bit embarrassed.
Shortly after passing my driving test i almost drove to Surrey via Hull. I lived in St Albans.
"She's scatty, she's lovely, she struggles, she needs to listen, she's so entertaining, she has a twinkle in her eye, she's a character, she's unique, she's away with the fairies, she only scored 25% in her geography exam... "
That little girl, sat next to musty Daniel, was lost in a haze of internal noise, her own imagination, attention to detail. That little girl was captured in her own moment detached from anyone else around her. She never captured what it really meant to be present. Who she was in relation to the space around her. She never grasped what it meant to sit in a shared moment and just ‘be’. She learnt to allow herself to be defined by others. She learnt that if she had an opinion different to someone else’s then she must be wrong. She learnt to never completely trust her own judgement in response to things around her, because the likelihood was that she would miss something. That little girl believed that inside her skin wasn’t a safe place to be. She became well versed in the art of pretence.
The thing about OCD is it robs you of so many moments. The thing about anxiety is that you are very rarely still. Stillness in your body, in your mind, isn't really something associated with anxiety. You have a thought, and as you are having it you are as good as writing it in one of those big black thick marker pens on a 6 ft wide white board 2 inches from your face. Your children are there, saying things that are actually quite funny for 2, 4 & 6 year olds to come up with themselves. Your husband is telling you that he loves you and is really grateful for how clean the house is and how many pairs of clean pants he has in his drawer. You’ve just read an email from a customer saying that her daughter loved your class and can’t wait ‘til next week. But in that moment, all you can see is the whiteboard. All you can feel is the pounding of your heart in your chest and the sheer weight of your legs as the blood rushes to your extremities preparing you for a fight. You have had this thought, and because you have had the thought it must be true. There is no alternative. No one can tell you otherwise and if they try to then you will just think they are being irresponsible, or just don’t ‘know all the facts’ so there is no point them even opening their mouth. You are in danger, those around you are in danger and it’s your job to put it right because if you don’t? It’ll be all your fault. So those little hands reaching out for cuddles, cheeky gigglesnorts as plots to ‘smack daddies bottom’ are derived, loving glances, stay hidden behind the white board. And those moments, they pass.
My boy was sad tonight. he decided just today that Pokemon was his absolute favourite programme and he couldn't possibly go to sleep without watching it one last time. We said no, but came to a compromise that appeared to suit. Then came the boys stories about their day, the inevitable bottom and 'butt-face' jokes, the pre-bed wee checks. At that final moment just before tucking in, prayers, kissing goodnight and leaving the room to start that blissful part of the day i'd been dreaming of since the pandemonium that was 3 testosterone fuelled, hungry boys at teatime, i hear the words 'Poookkeemmon' followed by tears. Oh crap, we've not resolved this after all. A battle of wills begins as i say 'no' and he says 'but...' Totally aware that it was likely that every word i was still to say would come from a desperate attempt to start my evening as soon as possible, i knew i was setting myself up to either fail, or spend the evening ruminating over my complete an utter failure as a Mum. It wasn't working, my boy definitely wasn't anywhere near standing down and accepting my decision as final. Deep breaths, i decided to lay with him, and i held him. I could feel his little heart beating out of his chest, his whole body contract rhythmically with every little sob, the little damp patch on his pillow. As i held him tightly, whispered "deep breaths, you're ok, Mummy's here and i love you", he stopped fighting. The atmosphere changed. I could feel the tension in his little body begin to release, and his feelings began to impact me on a deeper level. He felt misunderstood, not listened to, frustrated, overwhelmed.
I had decided to be still, and i saw him.
My cheeky little red-headed, footballing loving toddler told me he loved me today, completely un-prompted.
Yesterday my biggest boy skipped along the promenade after conquering his fears up on stage in front of 100's of people.
A few weeks ago, after hearing me asking Daddy for a cup of tea my spirited, beautiful little boy disappeared, then minutes later presented me with a glass of (neat) squash in bed.
Last week i collected leaves and threw stones in the sea with three soggy boys. I watched them as their eyes sparkled with delight. Adoration. Contentment.
These are the type of moments I want to capture.
The whiteboard can do one.