Do you ever get those times when there is so much going on in your life that the term ’emotional carnage’ seems an appropriate one to use?
Here’s some stuff I’m sifting and sorting, sorting and sifting at the moment:
My daughter is sixteen. This means she is grown up. She is applying for jobs. She is going to college. She is taller than me, although I confess that quite a lot of that tallness is down to her big hair, but still. You know. I have a grown up child now.
She cannot be grown up. I haven’t grown up yet. There will be a log jam. Also, I’ve only just mastered the toddler, which seems a shame as I don’t own any any more. I am terrible at the teen phase. How the hell am I going to manage the grown up phase? My own tax returns are stressful enough, and I’m not cut out for grown upness. I spent large parts of the day wearing a tutu with pandas on it for goodness sakes.
I am in a mild state of existential panic about this watershed moment of life, although to be fair it has passed remarkably smoothly and is proceeding from everyone else’s point of view in an entirely satisfactory manner.
UP TO NOW.
My dad has been ill. He is recovering now. It has been insane for months. It’s still pretty mental. I haven’t been blogging about it, because you know, other people’s lives, privacy etc. Today though I am saying something. I am saying: ‘It’s a tough fucking gig’ and ‘Not my circus. Not my monkeys.’ You can fill in the rest.
My mum is going through some stuff of her own on top of all this. Which is all of the above, plus some different shit, because, you know, variety is the spice of life and all that.
My other daughter is nearly 12. She is having a tough time of it at school. Puberty is hitting like a tsunami of Jacqueline Wilson novels, and we are right in the thick of it. It would be reasonably difficult if it were just her own puberty she was dealing with. As it is, in an all girls’ school, she is being forced into dealing with everyone else’s as well. She finds understanding her own emotional landscape pretty hard. She finds understanding the emotional landscape of her peers impossible. It is like high wire walking 24/7. We are the safety net. You can only imagine.
I am not mentioning the stresses of living with a man whose job involves a great deal of having to count to ten and think about pictures of cute kittens in brandy glasses in order to make it through the day with his sanity intact.
I am not mentioning my hypochondriac son who has only just started sleeping after a few weeks of roaming the landings late at night wailing in blankets about how very ‘tiiiiirreeeed’ he is.
Or the having to go without a washing machine for a fortnight. Or the fact that the dishwasher broke down, and is now only held together with spit and string and prayers, and let us not nod in the direction of the fridge/freezer in the hope that it will forget that it isn’t very well some of the time.
Or the GCSE’s. Although we can all unclench a bit about those now until the end of August LOOMS.
Or the fact that we are in the last death throes of the academic year, which means that there are plays, fetes, discos, sports days, jamborees, exhibitions of Morris dancing etc, on top of all the other school based requirements to juggle.
Or the fact that the tortoise is determined to climb everything and hurl itself to certain death as it flips over onto its back at least once a day, and spends the rest of the time trying to eat gravel/rag rugs/pencils and anything that isn’t labelled tortoise food.
We all know the cat doesn’t even know she is a cat and is permanently on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Particularly if she is being menaced by plastic bags, or wood pigeons, or squirrels, or magpies, or the wind.
Let us not leave out my own interior monologues about all the stuff that makes me bat shit crazy on a daily basis, which you are all more than fully aware of already.
We will throw a veil over the dark workings of the uterus. And the migraines.
Really what I am wrestling with is:
How do you separate loving people insanely and stopping people you love driving you insane?
How do you go about helping people when they need/want it and backing off when they need/want to do things for themselves?
How do you reconcile wanting to hug someone until their ribs crack because you love them so much it physically hurts and wanting to bop them on the nose because they have hurt you?
How do you practice that pulling people in close to keep them safe and the letting go to let them live their own lives, which is what we all want and deserve, with grace and dignity and ease?
How do you navigate the highways and byways of family life at those times when life is being lived so intensely by so many people in such a small space and span that it feels like everything is jumbled together in emotional gridlock?
I suspect the answer goes something like:
Keep being as true to yourself as possible without hurting others.
Keep letting go of what is not useful.
Keep a clean hanky and ten pence for your emergency phone call.
Keep buggering on.
Mostly keep loving.
Keep being open to change.
Keep letting yourself be wrong.
Keep being able to say sorry.
Keep a good supply of tea and biscuits.
Did I mention keeping loving?
That’s probably the most important.