Posts Tagged ‘family’

Magical Thinking

August 23, 2016
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Warning: Brevity Ahead:

When I was told of my father’s death I thought I heard a thread snap. The longer you live the more losses we sustain and we develop coping mechanisms to deal with this.  For reasons I find difficult to explain I use magical thinking. So when I viewed my father’s body I found myself thinking  ‘If he is not here, then he must be somewhere else.’  I still cling to that belief.

It was a belief that sustained me throughout the aftermath of my father’s passing.  I did not cry.  I prided myself on my stoicism.  I read aloud during the funeral service and although I was pale and trembling my voice was unwavering.  I received undeserved compliments for this.

But, according to some, I was wrong to react in this way.  I was too cold, too calm.  Later I was told that I had never really grieved properly because I didn’t dissolve into tears every five minutes.  I did not respond because my interlocutor was well meaning. But, deep down, I resented it.  People grieve according to their character. Histrionics aren’t my thing.  And just because I am not an emotional exhibitionist, it doesn’t mean I am not being shredded to pieces inside.
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Mother and Daughter

September 4, 2014

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A Kind of Betrayal

April 8, 2011

No one could ever claim that my mother didn’t do her best.  When I was a pupil at the nearest Catholic day school, seven miles from my home, my mother bought a glossy coffee table book full of ideas for healthy but scrumptious packed lunches.  Each day heralded a new and exotic type of bread: crackers, bagels, pitta bread, baguettes filled with cheeses from all around the world: brie and grape, Wensleydale and honied pickle, avocado salad. Little pots of fruit salad.  All carefully calorie counted, as requested. Just thinking about them made my mouth water.  My fellow students envied me.  It was a sign that I was cared for, that I was loved but I didn’t see it that way.  I saw it as a form of psychological torture. It was like a deadly, poisonous reptile writhing around in my school bag.  The serpent in the garden calling me, tempting me.  And every morning as soon as lessons began I disposed of the enemy.  I gave my carefully constructed lunch box to the morose, heavyset boy who sat next to me in registration, knowing every time I did it that this was a kind of betrayal.

The Drugs Don’t Work

September 30, 2010

I am lost. I am pushing everyone away. My family are distancing themselves from me and I don’t blame them. I feel like there’s nothing tethering me to the world. I cannot relate to others. It’s like I’m imprisoned in a huge invisible glass jar. `it is soundproof and impenetrable. I can see people and I scream out to them but they can’t hear me. Or maybe they pretend not to hear. I don’t blame them for that either. For my birthday I went out for dinner with relatives, including my brother and my niece, but I’ve never felt so alone in my life. It was as though I didn’t even belong on the planet, as though I was not fit to be among ordinary, decent human beings. I have a baby niece who I am reluctant to hold or cuddle because I am terrified that I might contaminate her. I can only think in fragments:

and I will sleep
the deepest sleep of all
and they will remain
undisturbed by my fall

and the waters
they are shark infested
and I have nothing invested
In the world beyond these shores

See? Don’t expect coherence here. And, as the song says, ‘Now the drugs don’t work. They just make you worse.’ Maybe it’s different this time. Maybe there really is such a thing as terminal mental illness.

Damned if You Do…

September 2, 2010

In my family there was an Acknowledged Family Tradition:  The Sunday Picnic or The Sunday Pigout as I called it during the first throes of my eating disorder.   Every Sunday afternoon my mother, my father, Peter  and I would have a picnic on the lawn on top of a Mr Men tarpaulin.  So we would sit on top of Mr Happy and Mr Bounce and Mr Bump and eat all the food we were forbidden during the week: cakes, crisps, chocolates, ice cream

Later, when I developed anorexia I read that some parents could precipitate eating disorders by using food as a reward.  ‘Oh, wonderful,’ my mother muttered.  ‘Next time I have a child I’ll lock her up on a coal shed and feed her on bread and water.’

I’m willing to bet my life savings that the phrase, ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t ‘ pounded through her head.

Protected: Dilemma

April 22, 2010

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My New Niece

March 19, 2010

Time to start buying this little lady some books…

The birth of a child puts everything else into perspective.

The Snow = My Mother

January 20, 2010

The snow we have had recently is like my mother.  When they are here I want them gone but when they are gone I miss them terribly.  I remember waiting for it.  I remember being told ‘The snow is coming, the snow is coming’ and looking to the sky expectantly, hopefully.  Days passed and it never came.  Then one day I awoke and looked out of my bedroom window and there it was like icing on a wedding cake.  I almost felt like I could go out and eat it.  This is how I feel when my mother visits: a lurch of joy and then the novelty wears off.

Both are deceptively appealing.  Both give the illusion of warmth, of comfort of solidity, of comfort, of peace.  Until you touch them.  One of the cliches used to describe snow is ‘blanket’ and that’s what it looks like: a big, old white duvet that you feel like you can crawl beneath and sleep forever.  I’m told that sheep borrow into snow-covered hillsides, seeking solace from the cold. The snow becomes their womb.  Their warm breath creates air holes so they can breathe.  They gnaw at their own wool for protein.  But the snow defeats them eventually.  The ice presses in on them and it becomes their tomb.  Just like my mother.  After a few days she becomes my jailer.  I love both my mother and the snow but sometimes they outstay their welcome.

It Will Only Destroy You if You Let It

October 13, 2009

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From the age of five to nine I lived on a council estate. These were the late seventies/early eighties. I will not allow the incident I am about to describe desecrate my memories of that place because for the most part it was pure paradise. The close in which I lived was nothing short of idyllic. I do not remember any of the adults who lived there being out of work. My own father was a factory worker and my mother was a nurse. Then a family moved into the end of the street. The mother became known throughout the neighbourhood as ‘that strange woman with the seven flea-ridden cats and her two strange, scruffily dressed children’.

I didn’t know it then but that family was going to have a profound effect on the rest of my life. The mother of the clan was, unlike the rest of the street, unemployable. The neighbours ensured her many cats, multiplying by the day, were fed. Their concern did not extend to her children who although they weren’t emaciated, were not the bonniest of creatures. More than mere neglect was happening in that house and I wish I had the wisdom to heed the warnings given by those much older and much more experienced than me never to venture across the threshold. There was no shortage of these warnings.

I chose to obey my own instincts instead. One of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. I had been told never to listen to gossip. The nuns at my Catholic primary school told me never to ‘Give a dog a bad name and hang it.’ That was an expression they used rather frequently.

So I did it. I crossed the threshold. I remember being overwhelmed by the stench of the cat faeces that were scattered across the floor. And then there were the ‘children’: Calvin and Marie. There was another boy who hovered in the background but he barely seemed to register. Calvin was not exactly a child. He was in his late teens – sixteen or seventeen I think. He invited me into his malodorous bedroom. He said that he would make sure I had a ‘good time’. Suffice to say that a ‘good time’ would be the last words I would use to describe my experiences in that room.

I can’t understand why I returned. Maybe it was the threat that if I didn’t my parents wouldn’t love me anymore or that I would be taken into care. That was what he told me and at the age of seven I believed him. My memories of this period of my life are fragmented. I can’t even remember how long it lasted. Could it have been a month? The entire summer? One memory remains intact in my head. Calvin had found a rickety old bridge. Marie and her adult boyfriend stood on one side familiarizing themselves with one another while on the other side Calvin did things to me that he should have been doing with a young woman of his own age..

Every now and then I hear his voice. But I can never see his face. It was the stench than emanated from him that remained with me – a sickly sweet scent. Overpowering. Later I was told that this was probably cannabis.

Sometimes my memories of that time will enter my head uninvited. I focus upon seeing the events of my childhood through a prism of sunlight. I cannot remember how it ended. I told no one. Except my mother. She admitted that the signs were there but she never made the connection. My parents tried their hardest. I know that now. I’m not so angry anymore. It hasn’t destroyed my life because I won’t let it.

Soon after they had moved in Calvin, his siblings and his mother were evicted from their little house at the end of the road. I hope they found every one of those cats loving homes.

Little Chav Brats

January 4, 2009

 Little Chav Brats

I bought my mother an electronic photo frame for Christmas. She unearthed an avalanche of old photographs. The photo above depicts my brother and I, aged nine and three, in the garden of our grandparents’ council house.  The neighbourhood consisted of  ‘streets of ugly 1930s red-brick semis‘.  And no, it’s not in Dewsbury.  They were however similar to the house that my parents spent most of their working lives struggling to buy.  Oh, Mrs Thatcher, you never told us that in your utopia, in your ‘home owning democracy’, you would still be despised if you didn’t own the ‘right’ kind of house. Respectable working class people.  Respectable but most certainly never respected.  Thou shalt not suffer little chav brats to live.

Just an afterthought: the Catholic working classes deter their brats from promiscuity by telling them that God is watching and, if he sees them behaving inappropriately, they’ll roast in the fires of hell for eternity.  Of course, in the long term, this tactic results in some seriously fucked up people but, in the short term, it is highly effective.

Say it loud and say it proud: ich bin ein untermensch.

Finally, oops there goes the neighbourhood.

P.S.  The times they are a changing: illustrated here and here.


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