Where it breaks

I’ve been letting myself get overwhelmed by emotion a lot lately.

I don’t mean that I’ve been overwhelmed by my own emotions. And neither do I mean that I’ve been overwhelmed in a functional sense. But, when a moment of high emotion is offered to me – and there have been so many lately – I have let the full wave crash into my heart until it floods me and, sometimes, escapes out my eyes.

That metaphor was alive. I am not responsible.

I’ve been trying to pay attention to what breaks my heart the best, so that I can try to be of service there. So that I can at least divert some money in that direction, until I find a better way to contribute.

And the thing that gets me every time is the idea of mothers fighting deplorable circumstances to simply keep their children alive. And failing. Pouring every drop of every single resource that they have, and still losing.

I am sickeningly lucky to be able to ruminate over whether I let my son watch too much Dino Dana. Or counting up the number of vegetables I give him in a day and being proud to reach seven like it was fucking difficult.

We face so little peril that I can’t even speak about it because I have no fucking clue.

But my son dying is the one thing I can think of that I won’t let myself really think of. I float half out of those imaginings before they reach their ultimate conclusion. I pre-empt them with a rational distancing the way I used to prepare myself for the next scene in a horror movie. It’s not real and it’s not really going to happen.

But it’s happening to other people right now. Right fucking now. Sometimes – often – because of things other other people are doing or not doing. And I’m probably one of those other other people.

So maybe I can do or not do some things a little differently.

Lowered sights

This is the first day, this time around, that it’s been tempting to phone it in.

My lower back is a world of pain today. No logical reason for it. In the past few weeks there have been plenty of times I’ve thrown my son around in absurd ways, or completely overexerted myself in the name of entertainment, or not moved anywhere near enough in a day, or sat in bizarre and uncomfortable positions for way too long, and none of that has had any discernable impact on my spine.

But today, after a few sensible days of gentle morning yoga, afternoon walks and no instances of foolhardy overreaching, I was standing in the kitchen and it started to feel like my lumbar vertebrae were falling out.

So there has been too much toddler TV today, just as I was consciously trying to curb it. And I have been snappy and exasperated in the face of physical demands. And the hours stretched out forebodingly ahead of me at 2pm today. And I couldn’t be bothered to think of something to write about once I shut up shop.

But it’s okay. It’s all remarkably okay. I think I may, in fact, be resilient.

Present tense forgiveness

I can do forgiveness. Forgiving things that happened…I have that down, at least most of the time. But how do you forgive the ongoing, unfolding present? How do you forgive when you’re still on the battlefield? How do you forgive when you still, in a very real way, need to protect yourself? That is trickier. It’s a problem I only just realised I have. It’s a problem that my attention keeps getting drawn to.

I didn’t think I had forgiving left to do, honestly. I thought I was there. Still contracted, sure, still guarded, most definitely. But I thought I had forgiven.

If forgiveness wasn’t an issue, however, my mind wouldn’t keep getting stuck on it like there was something left to learn. So what do I need to learn? Time for some examination.

I can forgive the past, but what about the inevitable lurking future? And what about the fact I need to live like this; waiting for the pain of the next transgression? How am I doing forgiving that? Oh, that’s it. Nicely done. That’s where I find my lesson. No answers, but the right question.

Previously unfiltered contaminants

I am, generally speaking, very happy.

But there have been people in my life – there are still people in my life – who do not like to see me happy. That fact passed me by until recently. In the past, when these people have sabotaged my happiness in countless subtle ways, I have looked for the reason, and I have let it get complicated. I should have stopped at step one: They do not want to see me happy.

It may not even be that they don’t want me to be happy. They may be perfectly fine with that, in theory. As long as they don’t have to witness it. But when they see me happy, and strong, and myself, something in them lurches and they do not enjoy it. So they act to not have that happen again.

That is all I need to know.

If I’d understood that in the first place, I could have gracefully sidestepped many attempts to undermine me. But, instead, I got mired in trying to resolve the situation. Trying to find the win-win. Ending up, more often than not, as the loser.

From now on, if someone acts in a way that tells me they do not wish to see me happy, I will try my very hardest to stop there, smile, ask no more questions, and completely ignore their tainted contribution.

Baths

In my adult life, I have never been partial to baths. I didn’t have a shower for most of my childhood, and baths had become a mundane faff rather than a symbol of relaxation.

When my son was still a baby, my then partner almost forced me into the bath on the regular, because he thought that should be my act of self-care. He enjoyed them, his mum enjoyed them, and so to him they were the perfect solution to my exhausted, strung-out problems. They weren’t especially enjoyable and they weren’t what I wanted or needed, but I went along with it because I didn’t know what else to do. They became a kind of passive, sad compromise of me restlessly sitting in my own warm disappointment until it felt appropriate to get out, and then trying to trick myself into believing I felt better because baths are relaxing.

Since then, I haven’t had many baths. I do like a good full moon ritual, so a preparatory cleansing salt bath has been undertaken upon occasion. And there have been a few times I’ve overexerted myself and thought a bath would help ease my ailing muscles. But that has always quickly turned into a sitting-in-my-own-disappointment situation, because after the first 3 seconds of exhilirating relief it just feels the same but now in a hard wet slippery tub that I don’t quite fit in comfortably.

This week, though, I had FIVE baths. FIVE. I don’t exactly know why. The urge was inspired in me one day, and it felt good. And then the urge was inspired the next day, and it felt good. And the next day. And the next day. And the next day. And just talking about it is causing me to consider having a bath.

I have been processing a lot of old emotional debris lately. It stands to reason I’d wish to symbolically cleanse it from my system. But why not a shower?

Maybe I’ve been trying to diffuse it out of me. That’s kind of what it feels like. Like I’m attempting to create some kind of concentration gradient. Draw out the poison. Every fresh tub gets you closer to clean.

Devotion

For a while now, I have been craving a devotional practice.

I am very, very good at devotion. Specifically, I am very, very good at devoting myself to other people. I will pour my life into another human being given half the fucking chance. I will see the God in them, and I will bow to it. Oh yes. That feels good. Relationship as a devotional practice is my paradise. But that is a double edged sword, and I haven’t found a partner to wield it with safely. And I have learned very painfully that it cannot be wielded alone. You’d think that would be obvious, but apparently not to me.

At the beginning of the year, I asked for a practice – a healthy place to pour my devotion. I was pushed toward aikido, and volunteering with Samaritans. When I started to rebel against the ideas, because they involved organised groups, I was guided to ‘trust the container’.

For a few weeks, that was my mantra: ‘trust the container, let it transform you’. And then I fell off the aikido wagon for a while, when I needed to process some things and the idea of being around people was egregious to me. I wondered whether I was being unfaithful or true to myself. I never really figured it out. But I climbed back aboard when I could, proudly and with renewed exuberance. Trust the container, it is transforming you.

And then the container was abruptly dismantled. Aikido was cancelled. Samaritans training was cancelled.

I didn’t mind. If I trusted the container, I trusted its dismantling. But what to do with my devotion now? I could still practice aikido on my own, to a certain extent. But it was no longer a container. It had more the sensation of momentarily joining a river, and that was not what I was seeking.

So my devotion sloshed around for a while, in lockdown. I poured it on my son, I poured it on myself, I poured it on my home, all in a somewhat chaotic fashion, and it was fine. For a while, that worked just fine. But I have so much fucking devotion, it’s starting to overspill. I need more outlets. This life is too small for all this devotion. I don’t have time for all this devotion. What do I do with all my devotion?

One of the things I do now, is this.