Daily Prompt: Reach

via Daily Prompt: Reach

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I reached out to you, explained myself to you, tore my heart open and laid it out in front of you. They say that blood is thicker than water, but Mother Ship, there are oceans between us. I splutter still from our last encounter, my lungs still waterlogged, my body still bruised and grazed from being thrown about on your craggy shores. I’ve seen so many people drown in that vast tumultuous sea you spread around yourself, their broken bodies bobbing up and back down again into the dark depths. So few seem to fully escape and none unscathed. Yet your empathy as always is lacking, you simply blame them for falling in. Not a kind word was ever spoken of the fallen, you would tear apart the memories and hold up their flaws in the light of your halo.I should have noticed that every failure to connect,  every shipwreck  of a relationship was never your fault. I should have learnt from those drowned victims, lost loves, that one day I would join them if I wasn’t careful.

 

You weren’t counting on me building my own ship though. But build it I have. First I created a sand maquette on your shore, an idea of what I needed but of course lacking strength and integrity and though I decorated it beautifully with patiently laid shells, I watched it quickly wash away after your first wave hit. The second time I gathered driftwood, flotsam and jetsam and fashioned a crude vessel. I filled it with hope, but it could not float long.  I came to the conclusion that I was not a natural ship builder, I lacked the skill, strength and materials to forge a sturdy, sea going vessel. I needed education, patience, life experience, but most of all I needed support and people who believed in me.  They first needed to help me believe I deserved a ship, secondly to believe I needed one and third to convince me I deserved to survive.

I found that once I had those things, my ship built itself. Last year I was drowning, but this year I noticed I was afloat and that I had lost a lot of my fear of the sea. Thalassophobic no more, I realised it was up to me whether I entered those waters or sailed on calmer seas. I chose the latter and today I told The Mother Ship I would neither sail nor drown with her anymore. It is true that you can’t choose your family, but thankfully the family I have created and the crew mates who have joined me have taught me that life needn’t be continuously stormy. We don’t need to hate those we leave in our wake and we can learn from our past and not remain victims of it. Things can be harmonious, pleasant and full of love and adventure. Today I dropped anchor and climbed back to my own safe shore. I note the date and realise that this new season is a new beginning for us all.

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Daily Prompt: Elicit

She died today. Another one gone, given up on breathing.

She never did say goodbye, not to us at least. We waited as death did, somewhat impatiently. But a response never came. At least she heard our farewells and gained comfort  so we were told.

Then the announcement, an R.I.P next to her name. Shock. We knew it would come but not so soon. It always comes too soon, except when it doesn’t.

She died in her sleep, there was no waking her. Was she dreaming I wonder and will she remain so forever.

Death. We are all aware of it, it comes forewarned.   It is the unavoidable shadow, the inescapable silhouette. We know that one day, all of our lights will be snuffed out.

It is the unseen scuttle of a mouse stealthily hugging the skirting board. We know it is there watching and waiting, we sense its presence.  It is the third hand on a clock face, Tick Tock Tick, Tick Tock….(     ) Nothing.

We’ve had moments when fear gripped us suddenly like a strangers hand as we faced the possibility of losing someone we love. We know it’s coming for us all and yet we force that bitter thought from our minds until solemnly, it knocks on our door once more.

In search of optimism, we scour for good in the deceased and if we have any sense at all we add a little more to ourselves in their absence. There is that expression about living each day as if it were your last, but who can be arsed with that? it sounds exhausting not to mention pretty morbid. Besides some of my most unproductive days have been the most pleasurable so I’m not going to rush about attempting to live ‘life to the full’ My favourite moments are those in between ones and definitely involve napping, staring thoughtfully into space, stroking a cat, humming a song while waiting for the kettle to boil and watching droplets of water race down a window pane . I’m not sure there is a good motto for life, so I shan’t try to foist one on you.

I doubt very much we will be judged by anyone but our peers after we die and even they will tend to look at us with kinder, more forgiving eyes after we have passed. But you and I, us fuckers here, lucky enough to still be breathing, we are life and we are more powerful than we realise. We can make or break someones day today.

Daily Prompt: Elicit

Burn Out

In my profession, burn out is a term all too often bandied about. We are taught to fear it, to be on the look out for it and to practise good self care in order to prevent it. But these vague, ambiguous warnings never really describe what it will feel like when it actually happens. Nor do they make clear that actually, it might not be your work that causes it at all.

So here I am, a thirty seven year old human being. A wearer of many metaphorical hats, all of which lift me up and enrich my life, all of which also weigh me down and deplete my emotional, physical and some might even say spiritual energy.

My first and most important, is my mother hat- or lets call it Mam hat as I am a Mam, not a mum, nor mummy and most certainly not Ma or Mother. It is permanently fixed to my head, even as I attempt to sleep at night (I never know when they may need me) even when I am bleary eyed and dragging myself out of bed each day.  It sits above my sleepy brain which is already formulating lists and action plans- wake Adrian first as he needs a shower, wake Ev, make him some cereal, get his uniform ready,  sort out packed lunches, don’t forget his gym kit, where has Ev put his shoes this time? ok, once I’ve done that and fed the cats I think I can have a cuppa. Ahhhhhhh.

It is on my head even when I am in work and they are miles away in school,  when I’m wondering how their days are going, hoping nobody is bullying them or making them sad.When one of my young clients reminds me of them or something they’ve been through. It’s on my head when I have those rare nights away and even when I get  shitfaced with my mates. It was on my head when I had a weekend away with a friend and I felt so terribly guilty as my kids would have loved it there with that beautiful blue swimming pool. I promised myself that when I had more money I would take the whole family there.

My mam hat is my most rewarding hat to wear without a doubt, but also the most exhausting. My mam hat is heavy and sometimes smothering and claustrophobic. It demands constant vigilance, touch, holding, alertness, patience, care, interest (sometimes feigned interest. That’s love – pretending to care about the third conversation about what it would be like to have a duck car that quacked) The mam hat is draining but full of love, hope and dreams of the future. It’s also my silliest hat, with lots of fun and childish jokes, tickles and conversations sure to make your teenager blush tucked inside. I will wear this hat till I die and possibly afterwards too- I know nothing of afterlife fashion.

 

My next hat is my partner hat, a slightly (but not much more) grown up design, hopefully a little sexier, possibly a bit more feminine than mam hat, as I am of no particular gender when parenting particularly as I am both mam and dad to at least one of them.

My partner hat definitely still has a lot of silly in it, but when necessary it’s a bit more serious. It has pockets for mundane things like forgotten shopping lists and reminders of whose turn it is to wash up.  It has gaps to slide romantic notes in, storage for every I love you and is sometimes lifted up for tender kisses to be placed underneath. It has room for self analysis and room to grow (maaan). My partner hat is fit for cuddling and squishing and climbing on top of laps and laughing and kissing and leg wiggling while bed dancing along to the adverts.

I admit that my partner hat is sometimes a worrying hat because I simply can’t believe that I have found someone so wonderful and I get scared that I may lose him. Sometimes I retreat to some safe place inside me, sometimes I self sabotage, sometimes this hat covers a paranoid head  that has never had a trusting close relationship before so feels scared, unprepared, vulnerable and needs reassurance. But it is a learning hat atop a head that is beginning to accept this wonderful stuff that is being bestowed on it. The hat slides jauntily to the side when passion rises and is slipped down over eyes when I feel shy. It is thoughtful, well meaning and kind and is learning to accept kindness and care in return. It also has places for ideas for nice things to do together, future travel destinations and a growing and unusual space that sees scary words like marriage as a possibility for us and maybe not an archaic, outdated load of old shite after all. Maybe, pah cynicism dies hard. I hope to wear this hat forever too, I hope our threadbare hats will still suit us when we’re old and wrinkled. I hope we’ll still hold hands and find things to giggle at and that our eyes will still shine with love.

 

My next hat is my friend hat and it changes colour and shape depending on which friend I am with and what our journey together has been. I’ve never been good at making new friends, I am always rather baffled when it seems to happen accidentally. But God do I treasure them. If I’m with a  friend I feel truly relaxed with it lets me speak freely and with confidence and ease that would convince any onlooker that I am in fact a gregarious extrovert at all times. It holds a heap of love inside, as all my hats do. It’s a hat that says let’s be real with each other and not wear the mask of politeness. It demands real answers and does not want replies of ‘I’m fine’ when asked how someone is..unless of course that’s the truth, in which case we should probably celebrate with cider at once. In this hat I will offer a cuppa as we catch up. I’ll help a friend with anything I’m able to. I will try to think of funny stuff to make them laugh or cheer them up, I will adore it when they tell me funny stories and somehow we will always laugh a little, even if we are discussing dark and hopeless things. I hope it still has plenty of fun left in it and some adventures too cos it is happiest when its out at the beach, in a beer garden, playing music or singing, out in the countryside, in a pool hall, at a gig, talking shit, sitting under the stars and feeling free. I won’t always say the right thing, sometimes I might even offend people. It has been known. Ahem. But I hope that when I’m wearing this hat my friends know how much they mean to me and that I want the very best for every one of them.

 

 

My work hat is a bit more careful and tentative than the rest. I take my clients seriously but still pick fun at myself as it helps them feel at ease. In my work hat I try my hardest to be present and attentive and there with them in all that they say and feel. Sometimes I’m the first person who has listened and believed them and that is a real honour.

I love my job dearly, I’ve truly found my passion and ambition at last. It is exactly what I want to be doing with my life and I feel so grateful to have found my way into it. To spend my days attempting to help young people work their way through their problems and fears feels like the right thing to be doing with my life. I never dread the work itself, even if I do groan at the early alarm clock and rush to get there. I come out of work tired and sometimes carrying a lot of emotional baggage that my clients have left with me, but sometimes I walk out ten feet tall because someone has so obviously turned a corner and that feeling of sharing those steps with them is unspeakably wonderful and humbling.

 

I must at this point acknowledge that I have only been working in this career for the past few years and only been paid for my work for the last year. I still feel like I’m settling in, finding my feet and have gradually built up my hours and client load to three days a week. It took a bloody lot to get myself here. I was a single, unemployed mother on benefits for many, many years before this and have known struggles like …well like only someone who has been in that position would understand and relate to. It felt like I had to scramble over mountains of set backs, red tape and systemic obstacles to achieve this dream. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that I have any job, let alone the one I dreamed of and worked so hard to get.

 

The training I received changed me immensely. You cannot spend six years hungrily filling your head with new knowledge and remain the same person at the end of it. They warned us at the start that many couples break up when one of them starts counselling training. At the time I was single so I wasn’t worried about that. What I didn’t know is that it would highlight how very messed up aspects of my childhood were. It would also highlight some very toxic habits, bad coping mechanisms and the unhealthy dynamics of my past relationships. I would sit in uni surrounded by classmates and cringe and try not to weep when they described emotional abuse, physical abuse and neglect and the effects it has on children. They would discuss the importance of attachment to the primary caregiver and what can happen when the parent is on drugs, depressed or otherwise unable to attune to the child’s needs. I came to a lot of realisations, faced a lot of remorse for past mistakes and had to do a lot of grieving, letting go and forgiving. Suddenly I had words like ‘fear of abandonment’ & ‘Anxious attachment style’ weighing heavily upon me. The sense of being broken, having low self esteem, depression and being suicidal at times all became clearer.

My training didn’t ‘cure me’ nor has having my own personal therapy. I still struggle with this living bullshit. But it continues to help a great deal in gaining healthier coping mechanisms, achieving more loving, trusting relationships and giving me permission to remove toxic people from my life. I have come a long way and it is my hope that wearing my work hat, I  am helping others who are struggling in their childhoods to have an easier time of it. My experiences have made me who I am and they feel worthwhile if they can be used as a tool to help others.

So back to burn out. I don’t believe that I currently feel burnt out due to work but it no doubt plays a part in depleting me emotionally. When I’m at home I try to put my clients out of my head but  because I care about them they still remain in my thoughts like the glow of a candle you must not forget is burning.

My friends haven’t burnt me out, but I do worry a lot about them, I do miss seeing a lot of them and I try to be there for them when they are in darkness, fear or despair and that love and concern lights a few more candles I must keep safe.

My partner doesn’t burn me out but the love, attention, energy and desire to make things work ignites another candle to be mindful of.

General responsibilities of being an adult like housework, cooking, washing, being places on time, trying not to forget things (when my brain is pretty poor at remembering) and self imposed pressure lights a church sized candle at times.

General human cognitive, ruminative exercises and existential wondering light a string of fairy lights (and you should never leave those unattended either)

My beautiful children with their different age related, personalised, messy, noisy, grumpy, naggy, hormonal, emotional, ever questioning, ever chatty, hilarious, angst ridden needs… HELL YEAH they wear the crap out of me at times- add ten more candles.

Tricky relationships with other family members- add twenty candles, a bag of guilt, a few panic attacks, a fuck-load of dread, grief and a £50 an hour counselling fee.

 

So yeah I got burnt out. It’s nobodies fault & it’s everyone’s, especially mine. But..Nothing is worth killing myself over and I need to change things so that I don’t lose the plot or dig myself into a hole I can’t get out of. Beginning with some rest and doing things that make me happy. I am putting myself first and trusting that the universe will not fall apart if I take a step back for a week. So far, so good. I’ve slowed the hell down, Breathed, drawn, read, meditated, sang, played guitar,  been on a lovely walk with my love and taken the time to appreciate him and all that he brings to my life. I might put on half a stone in a week because I’ve hardly walked and I’ve done some bloody delicious baking, if I do say so myself. Better chubby and sane than mad and skinny I say!

I will hopefully feel more myself at the end of it. I don’t want to change who I am and I don’t want to stop wearing any of these hats, but I think I might need to make a hat just for me and it must contain love like all the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation

I remember when my second child was born, feeling so blessed because now I had one child of each gender. I’m not sure why that pleased me so much or why indeed I was so concerned with gender at all back then.

My first child was assigned female at birth. She was a beautiful baby and grew into a lovely, gentle, smart and witty young person. I never wanted to do the whole going mad for pink clothes or dolls thing but Gran, my then partners mother had brought up two sons, so the excitement of having her first female grandchild sent her into a shopping frenzy. She had plenty of cash to burn and soon my daughters wardrobe and toy box were stuffed disgustingly with pink and girly, girly, sparkly, princess themed SHIT. I secretly hated it but my daughter didn’t seem too bothered- new clothes were new clothes and any new toy was only exciting for the first few hours anyway (at best). I would try to sneak a few more gender neutral toys, books and clothes in there for balance. I guess having been a Tom boy myself who hated anything overly girly, I just didn’t go in for that stuff. However, I had plenty of friends that did so I saw no damage coming from this pretty pink onslaught. I recall the first ever baby grow I put on my eldest was made of blue and green striped material. I had no idea when I was packing my hospital bag, what sex my child would be, but I figured it didn’t matter so just chose one I liked the look and feels of. In fact I still have it stored in a memory box.

When my youngest was born, I had been single throughout the whole pregnancy and it was a stressful, lonely and painful time for me- both physically and mentally. I decided that this time I would find out the sex before the birth. It felt like it would make things easier, that I could better prepare if I knew. So I already had heaps of clothes, bedding, a few toys and play sets ready before his arrival. Strangely enough I had still chosen very gender neutral items, preferring the bright colours and fun patterns. It wasn’t like there was a tonne of blue and YOU MUST LIKE CARS AND FOOTBALL shoved on him the moment he arrived home.

Fast forward eight years and I sit here wondering- do I still have one child of each gender? what the hell is gender anyway and why are we so focused on treating people differently due to the type of genitals they have? I now know there are way more than two genders anyway.

Eight months ago my eldest came out to me as trans. He requested we all call him by a new name and address him by male pronouns. It didn’t come as a huge surprise to me and didn’t really trouble me at all, though it did take a bit of getting used to. As you can imagine Gran wasn’t best pleased and we have had a bit of a nightmare getting everyone on side and to be respectful. But as far as I’m concerned, as long as he is happy, healthy and being true to himself, I am behind him all the way. In fact I felt incredibly fortunate to be the first person he spoke to about it and that he knew it wouldn’t change anything between us. He is so much happier now. Before we had that chat together he had been quite down and was becoming increasingly self conscious, introverted and as it turns out- self loathing. Now he is living as his true self at home and with friends and family, he is brighter of spirit and his confidence has grown massively. He’s just a happy teenager and we are very close and get on fabulously…and I know a lot of parents who wish they could say that about their teenager, so I know how lucky I am.

Obviously he is now dressing as a boy and actually, though I loathe shopping we had a blast on our first shopping trip together. To see him so delighted made it all worthwhile. I have become a dab hand at cutting hair and he has rocked some pretty awesome hairstyles if I do say so myself.

 

My youngest child is now eight. And do you know what his favourite things are? well some are similar to his friends, such as Minecraft, Youtube (he has his own channel), gaming online or on the wii. He is also obsessed with pugs and pigs for some reason. But the thing he loves most is the colour PINK. He keeps telling me that when he is older he is going to have a pink car, a pink house and he might even have pink hair. He’ll ride a pink bike and keep pink pigs. He has been growing his hair for the past year and it’s now below his shoulders and thick and curly. It is a nightmare to brush and when he brings back head lice from school I sometimes wish he had short hair, so they would be easier to get rid of. But he loves his hair, almost as much as the pink wig he likes to parade around the house in, or my mother’s pink dressing gown he insists on wearing when he stays with her. He tells me that he thinks he would like it better if he were a girl. I must admit when he first said that I thought Fuuuuuuck…how on earth can I be raising two trans kids?! that can’t be true surely? I wondered if there was something about me that had caused this if I’m honest. But on reflection I think that what has happened is I am raising them in an atmosphere of acceptance. They know that as long as they are decent, kind human beings that anything else they decide to become, love or embrace is OK with me.

I don’t know if my youngest will continue to adore pink, but I know it doesn’t matter even slightly if he does. I don’t know if he will become more and more unhappy being perceived as male and decide to transition like my eldest is. All I know is that I love them, whoever they decide to be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transformation

Don’t doubt the need for goodbyes

When someone tells you they want nothing to do with an ex partner, friend, parent or sibling- they probably have a fucking solid reason to do that and it is entirely within their rights to say goodbye to folk who do them harm. Most likely you have no idea of the intricacies of their relationship and the toxic elements may be hidden to you.

Don’t guilt trip them for it by saying things like-

‘Oh they looked really sad’
‘They say they really miss you’
‘You only have one’
‘You’ll be sad when they’re gone’

We owe it to ourselves to live and love the best we can, sometimes that means saying goodbye to people, places and dreams. Sometimes it also involves the heavy task of breaking free of societies expectations of us.

Smooth

smooth

I remember that shy Scottish guy, the sweet one made entirely of self effacing awkwardness. It was part of his charm that he could not hide his blushes, his shaking hands or the darting eyes as he glanced furtively around him. I remember the time he cooked for me and bought wine for the first time, an attempt to woo, an attempt to impress. I remember giggling and attempting to calm his nerves as he realised the wine bottle had a cork, not a screw top as he’d assumed. The thought of trying to ask someone in his dorm to borrow a cork screw was horrifying to him- actual human contact- fuck no. So I went and banged on doors as he cringed in his bedroom berating himself for his ineptitude. Must have been the only dorm where no bugger seemed to drink, so I came back empty handed but with news that his neighbours were friendly- he should speak to them sometime. We watched youtube videos of people showing their methods for opening a bottle of wine, without the obvious means..they all looked sure to make some mess. How did we get into the wine, that part of my memory is blurry, due to the wine or the passing of time- but get in we did. I remember him saying how he just wished he could be more of a smooth guy. I wasn’t sure what it meant to him to be smooth, but I told him he didn’t need to be, to stop trying. If we’d had a perfect meal and perfect wine without bits of cork floating in it, if we’d had fancy wine glasses instead of the colourful plastic beakers to drink out of, if it hadn’t all been so human, so funny and charming I would probably not recall that night as well as I do today or with a fond smile on my face.

Screw being smooth or cool or trying to impress. I’ll have my wine with cork in it over that any day.