Reeling

I had just settled in the knowledge that my ex-housemate is in prison. In prison, for a crime that, this time last year, as we adopted a cat, I could not have imagined him committing. Courts and police raids and threats assigned to the past, housing re-determined, myself returned more peaceful from Taizé, I was learning to manage without his support.

I was pacing through research, beginning to accept that I don’t have paid employment; at least not for now. And earlier last week, there was a tangible sign of progress: of real impact taking place. I was feeling steadier; less often overwhelmed. Living a day at a time was do-able.

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And then. Then comes a repeat of a conversation I had with my mother five years ago. Replace “I’m leaving your father” with “He asked me to marry him” and you’ve just about got it, spot-on. She is 66 going on 16 again, running off to get married. Literally. I don’t know her partner’s family, neither they me, so for us to be there would be embarrassing for everyone. Plus, I don’t like weddings anyway, and why does my brother feel similarly cut out?

Before I’ve drawn breath, please could I help her with the preparations? What is she going to wear? FFS. Weddings are not easy for me. They highlight rejection in so many ways; from not having a partner, to not being able to find a place not ‘already taken’ at the table. To not being invited to the table. But compare turning up, to face those things, or not, if the wedding is well-organised, to helping someone else get ready to get married, then to wave good bye to them, because they don’t want you there, that feels worse. Add that this is someone who has done it before, as a farce, on a false promise. Add that this is your mother. I exist because of a false promise.

I cannot. And her words  show that she does not understand in the slightest why I don’t like weddings. But, nevertheless, I should be happy for her, and I should understand the arrangement as best for everyone. I should be happy.

It is not best for everyone, it is easiest on her. And there is a big difference between those things. And no, life won’t go on the same afterwards, as she says, because she will not share my name anymore, and I will forever associate her birthday date as her anniversary; the expectation for normal wedding type celebration cards, for normal in every sense but the ceremony, already weighing heavy.

Living a day at a time is not do-able, because some days are really, really hard. And when I think I’ve got some things together, something else will fall spectacularly apart under me. And, as I was before speaking to a brother at Taizé, I am childish and selfish, and small, and living in fear of what that next thing will be. It could be that the next piece of unwanted news lands with me today.

 

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Garden of Trust

 

You’d think that after 5 years, leaving Taizé would get easier. It doesn’t. It gets harder.

The notes of a friend who, like me, journeyed to Taizé for the fifth time this year, returning to the UK a week ahead of me. She’s right. So right. This time, while others were willing the coach to come and pick us up, I really did not want to leave. Leaving meant facing what is to come. Taizé is time stood still for rest.

Taizé is home. Tents and stars and church and music and openness and stillness. There was small group and chores, and new chants and glorious Burgundy countryside. And for the first time, having nothing to do one afternoon, I went with a UK family’s children, to their Olinda play. Paul in prison. And it was hilarious and to-the-point, and the children’s reactions were priceless. And I felt lifted.

Other parts of the week were hard. The Veneration of the Cross. I went early in the afternoon, when it is quieter, cooler. But still it left me fragile, broken inside. Laying down so much; it all feeling like too much to cope with, even with God’s help. Too much. From then on, each silence, I was fighting, or in, tears. I am none the more able to discern than when I left. I heard so many times, in the readings and teaching, the phrase ‘do not be afraid’. But I am. And it is too much, too much, too much.

Taizé is community. A community of brothers who listen, as the first prior would listen, long into the night. And speaking to the brother of last year, he said that it is not my fault that I am afraid. That I have had much in the past to be afraid of. That in spite of the struggle, I can plant a garden, underground, of all the precious and good things that still happen. That I can worry about a day at a time. That God will be working in me, even when I can’t face Him; God does not abandon.

The brother said that I am called only to be myself. Taizé is home because it is where I feel closest to my true self. Where I feel more able to talk to people, and in other languages; where I feel a sense of belonging, glimpses of hope that I can be more like this at home.

I am afraid of what is to come. The fifteenth century words of Nikolaus Von Flüe have been written into a new chant this year:

Gott, nimm alles von mir, was mich hindert zu dir! gib alles mir, was mich fördert zu dir! Mein Herr und mein Gott, nimm mich mir und gib mich ganz zu eigen Dir!

A brave request. One I am not sure I can pray honestly. But I would like to. To go to Taizé is a pilgrimage of trust. God is trust. I am trying to trust Her with what lies ahead.

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Laying down and lying down

A shorter and earlier post this week. One to note that I am heading for Taizé, so won’t post again for a while. To stop, and reflect on what I am taking with me, what I want to leave behind, and on the spaces between.

Foremost, right now, a question of discernment. This last week has not been easy. I had a ‘good leaving’ from my current contract; lunch, drinks, a card, utterly hilarious and apt gifts, and I am truly grateful.

At the same time, not revealing how I really feel has cost. Three days of (mostly hiding) solid panic, folding under the stress of an impossible workload that should have been done by now, and intermittent uncontrollable crying – keeping that behind smiles and laughter has worn me down. The question – whether I return to academia, or leave it and the devastating effects its corruption and competitiveness has had on me, time and again, behind. Move on to working more directly at grassroots, where I have felt fulfilled and real, when I am ready to return to full-time work.

Questions surrounding prison visits and contact, where the quandary of last week still rules. And other, more personal questions, around the work I am doing in the therapeutic community, the work I will do there over the next 12 months. So many questions to take, to lay down.

To trust. To trust, when just as with so many trips to Taizé, the questions are unanswered, the future very unstable, uncertain. To trust when I feel completely broken. To trust, because I am going to Taizé. Because God is possibility.

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Jumble

The tolerance and kindness you have shown me has been vastly more than I could possibly have expected or hoped for.

It could end there. The last substantive sentence of the message my ex-partner, ex-housemate, left with his father for me. He got a prison sentence on Thursday. He will be in prison for 12 months, at least; the sentence is twice that.

And now I don’t know what to think, or feel, or do. I know where he is, and I could write to him. I could visit him and be back in my house inside a couple of hours. I want to know what happened. Why, in contrast to many others, commiting similar offences, he got an immediate jail term. Why the court was adjourned for half an hour. What drugs possession they eventually charged him with. I am kicking myself for not going to court.

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I am angry with him. So, so angry. That house was supposed to be supportive and stable, for three years or more. Instead, I had to move at a stupidly busy time. He lied about the drugs. I knew there were drugs, yes, but he kept changing the names, admitting and denying their presence. Laughing at my ‘poor memory’.
And the other charges, what they mean, what his pattern of offending means, for our past relationship.

I am hurting. I am hurting because I thought I could trust him to be honest with me, and I couldn’t trust him with this, so can’t with anything now. And everything reminds me of him. I changed the cat tag this weekend; removed his now defunct ‘phone number. She was supposed to be our cat. And how we would have talked about the new Doctor Who. The Taizé pieces on my MP4 player that he recorded for me. Belle and Sebastian. Donovan. So much music. On top of that, there are echoes and footprints everywhere I turn in this city.

I pity him. He is not the kind of person who will readily survive prison. He likes routine sure enough, social scripting, but also challenge and activity. He won’t be able to play piano or program while inside – and won’t have many opportunities when he’s released.

Most of all, I don’t know what to do. To leave, walk away, forget. Or to stay, and wait, and support. I am torn in two. And numb to the pain, but anxious and stressed, and hallucinating, and I don’t know what to do, and I don’t know what to do.

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Fury, me.

Ten yo: Mummy, why is that lady walking like that?
Mummy: She’s drunk.

Stupid spastic

Oi! Are you drunk?

Spastic

Spastic!

SPASTIC!

The voices encircle me. Up the road, on the road that I live on, in town, on my way to school. I think I used to drown them out; repress them. I notice them much more now. The above, last week’s collection.

I hate that I can’t hide the disability; walk normally. My ankle-foot orthosis is still in for repair: my walking sucks. People’s interpretation of it sucks. I can’t walk properly. For the record, I am effectively, teetotal.

People stare. I remember them staring when I was a child, just learning to walk. Sometimes, they stared more.

Like in the adventure playground, at Black Park. They’re staring because, aged eight, I’m in the middle of a meltdown, because I can’t get on to, let alone across, the chain bridge. I am screaming for all I am worth. I’ve lost control.

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I’m screaming twenty years later in psychodrama, just as a child; with the scene laid out before me. My brother has already completed the adventure course. He wants to help. I am infuriated because he can do all the things, and I am older, and I can’t. I push him away. But I’m not allowed to be angry. But I am boiling with rage. But it’s not allowed.

I am evil and horrid and this is what I am really like; not the sweetness and light that my teachers see. I am bad to the core.

But you weren’t bad and you weren’t naughty: you needed something you didn’t have.

I breathe. The messages from my parents are ingrained. How can it not be bad to lose control? I breathe. I am trying to learn that it is OK to be angry. That containing my anger as a small child was not my responsibility. Being angry, and having no means to express it, was not my fault. I am not intrinsically bad. I feel bad. And I am hurting and I am pathetically exhausted. But the hurt is heard. And held. And it is safe. And things can be OK again.

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Rewrite

Pathetic. And stupid and desperately disappointed. I was offered a job interview for today. Somewhere different. Somewhere I’d not be known, MH difficulties or otherwise. And I’ve turned it down.

I’ve turned it down because it was a full-time job, a fair commute away, not teaching in my field, and…. I can’t take on that kind of workload whilst I’m in therapy. Before we’ve even gone as far as the logistics of I could only get in to university two days a week, despite that you’re paying full-time hours. Research work is flexible – teaching, less so. I can’t build my career whilst I am in therapy. Keep it afloat, maybe, but not build it.

I have to rewrite my story. The academic research life of bullying and homophobia and discrimination and prejudice, of bystander non-intervention, is masking the emotional work I need to do to deal with my lived experience of these things. When I’ve done the work, processed what happened, then I can return. Once – I thought it would be impossible to return – but it wouldn’t be, the staff say, it will be easier work when I’ve processed it properly.

There are other things, too, of course. Things that preceded and led from the research topics. My parents’ emotional rubbish and non-availability and arguing; my willingness to stay in an abusive relationship; the fact that I am socially inept; constantly desire to shred to ribbons. Guilt. Shame. Anger. Anxiety. These things will be addressed.

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Rewriting is hard. It hurts, more than cutting words on a page. Editing, proofing. Re-drafting. Not of words on a page – of my life. God – please write on me. Help me hurt. Help me re-draft and heal, find work again.

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