It had been nearly 6 months since I’d seen her, my ‘therapist’. I actually regard her as more of a ‘wise Aunty’, even though she’s younger than me. Living in Australia, far from older relatives as I am, and with Mum safely tucked up in her Residential Home for people with Dementia, sometimes I simply need to check in with someone objective, smart, and kind, who has my wellbeing paramount.
Yes, #firstworldproblems I know. But I’m doing my best to live gently on the earth, and make conscious choices about my daily behaviour as much as I can; sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed, and need a soothing conversation to re-centre me. I’ve suffered twice in the past from episodes of depression (one was post-natal, and the other when my father died suddenly), so I know I need to manage a slight tendency towards anxiety learnt long ago at the feet of my mother.
And this time, as I stepped into the light-filled office, with wooden bookshelves and curling leafy plants in every corner, I carried a choir of voices with me.
You see, everything is going really well right now. My son ‘18.5’ has finished his exams and schooling, so is enjoying a summer of part time work and surfing, floating between his Dad’s house and mine. I have several exciting performing gigs coming up (small but fun, which is just what I like), plus I’m sort of falling in love… well, definitely/sort of.
All of which is causing a huge kerfuffle in the rowboat of my life. My co-passengers aren’t happy: Ms Anxious is waiting for it all to collapse, Ms Avoidant wants to run away and start a new easy life in Brisbane, Bali, or Berlin, and my sweet inner Little G is sitting confused and pretty scared by this whole new landscape.
Most of the time, I’m enjoying the bobbing of the river, the gentle slap of fresh waves against my side, and the ever-changing outlook. Then my choir of voices get a bit too shrill about how far from home we’ve travelled, and that perhaps we need to turn back now? Or is it far too late for that, which makes them louder?
I can’t stop this river. I can’t make Mum’s brain better, I can’t keep my son safely tucked up at home forever, and I can’t keep my soft heart locked in a box of solitude or casual dating only.
I have to sail on down the river.
I can row, read a book and just drift, watch the dragonflies flit past, invite different passengers aboard (the choir will have to shove up to one end), or even slip myself into the waters and keep one hand on the craft.
But I cannot stop.
So the choir complain, fight amongst themselves, offer me diametrically opposed attitudes or actions, and generally confuse me completely when they get too noisy.
When I’m fighting the urge to have a small weep almost every day, I know I need some ‘wise Aunty’ time. The first thing I usually do is burst into tears, then within 10 minutes I’m feeling a bit better… which is when the real excavation begins.
Yes, I’m in a time of big changes, which feel like rapids: it’s been 10 years since my Dad passed away, and my Mum has just been moved into a permanent Home in Wales, the land on which she was born, and where she will now die. My son has his life in front of him: he’s talking about a year in a van in Europe, or a ski season in Canada; he can go anywhere and do anything, just as I did at his age. Hell, at 19 I emigrated to Australia alone and didn’t see Mum again for 4 years!
Falling in love with another human being, with their own plans, problems, dreams and foibles, is a confronting cocktail of togetherness, separation, power struggles, and vulnerability versus sovereignty.
My choir want to keep me safe and sane, I get that. They just have vastly different approaches, which rock the boat too much, making me feel nauseous.
What do you do when you notice you’re getting overwhelmed?
In gratitude for deep listening, and the power of a long, slow breath into my belly, G xO