Looking Back, Moving On & Holding On To Your Dreams

Once again I find myself packing my stuff up; I’m moving on Sunday. All of about thirty metres down the street. So, in many ways, a minor move. I’m moving into a larger room in what, at least on the surface, looks like a nicer flatshare. Hard to know for sure until you’re actually there. I’m looking forward to moving out of this place. It has, without comparison, been the worst place I have ever lived. And I’ve lived in a lot of places, including spending a night on the streets of London, not knowing where to go next..

So, from that point of view, moving is a good thing. And at the same time, I can’t help but thinking that this is not how I had imagined myself living at age 35. My picture looked more along the lines of a nice flat with my man and my three children. I’d be focusing on my writing, maybe having already had a break or two, literary wise.

Instead, here I am, in a rented room. Utterly single, painfully childless, and my writing.. well, I really don’t know what happened there. So, of course there is sadness in the realisation that there is such a discrepancy between what I had been hoping for and what I’ve got. And of course it hurts to not have those things, to know that I was pretty close to all of those things only a few short years ago.

This is not to say I’ve given up on that dream, that picture. I believe it could still happen. Maybe not in the order I had initially imagined, but still recognisable as an altered version of the original image.

I don’t regret the choices I’ve made in the last few years. I think had Dev and I chosen to stay together, knowing that we ultimately wanted different things, well, I don’t think we would still be friends the way we are now. I think bitterness may have started to sprout between us. And I would never want that to happen.

Moving into the therapeutic community a few years ago was a big decision and although I’m not sure it was ever really going to be quite right for me, I do feel that I got something from being there, even though I struggle to put it into words, exactly what. Maybe space to grow? Maybe to appreciate how strong my need for independence is? Maybe realising that I can be accepted for me, even without being the good girl, without having the great job, without being the most responsible one? Even the decision to move out, I believe, was a step in the direction of feeling allowed to say “This is not good enough for me, this is not acceptable to me”.

Going into therapy? Well, that’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. Yes, I know – I’ve been in therapy before. Some good, some not so good. But this time around is the first time I’ve felt on a very deep level that it’s time to go that extra step, dig a bit deeper, to not run when things get scary, but to stick with it. That, painful and terrifying as it can be, I want to keep at it, want to look at those bits I am most ashamed of, the ones that are the hardest to own, to accept as my own.

So, although I’m not where I thought I’d be, I think it’s been time well spent, hours well invested. And, as I said earlier, those things that I dreamed of; that I still wish for – they could still happen.

I leave you with a few lines from a Dawson’s Creek era song:

“..I’ve got the greatest admiration
for the way that you got through it
couldn’t ask nobody else to do it
better than you do it

stay you
– that’s the toughest thing to do..”

xx

 

Lyrics from Stay You © Wood

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Independence, Community & Cyber-Kiddush

The week spent at my ex’s flat is drawing to an end. It’s been an indescribably luxury to have a place to myself, to be able to come and go as I wish and to have to justify to no one my need for solitude, which I am aware does not exactly fit in the House I am currently living in.

Some time ago I gave my notice to my house mates, saying that I’ve decided the time to leave has come. That said, I gave my notice quite far in advance; I’m  still going to be living in the house for a while – I’ve said I’m leaving at  the end of May. The reason for this is that I didn’t want my moving out to be seen as a direct response to things that were going on in the house at the time, but a decision in its own right. Naturally, things going on in the house is part of my decision, but I think there is a difference between something being a part of a decision and somehing being the cause of it. Also, I felt I needed the time to mentally prepare myself for moving. Because it is a big deal. I’ve been living in this therapeutic community for over two years, and although I am the first admit that I’ve not opted to entirely be part of this House in the way that perhaps people feel I ought to have, moving out is still a big step.

Staying at Dev’s flat, the second time this year, has been helpful in terms of testing the waters, of seeing how well I can cope on my own, to check that I am able to find a good balance of allowing myself time to myself, yet keeping myself from completely shutting myself off to the outside world. While staying here I’ve been taking part in my J-Prep course, I’ve gone to therapy as usual and – as an added extra – I’ve had friends over. This added extra, seeing my friends in the comfort of my home, has really reminded me of how much I have missed it. Back when I was still with Dev and we had our flat that was the place where my friends and I would meet. And I always loved that. While meeting in town, as I have been doing these past two years is fine, it’s simply not the
same as having people round to your own place. It just isn’t.

So, staying at the flat has made me feel very strongly that I am definitely on the right track with moving out. Whilst I’m unlikely to be able to get a place of my own, even just moving out of where I’m staying is a step towards that sense of independence. As much as I don’t regret moving into the House, it has also made me see how much I value my independence, and how much I struggle whenever I feel that that independence is under threat. I’m not a child, and while valid points have been raised regarding my need to keep separate from my housemates, I do feel that safeguarding my right to living my life the way that feels right for me is more important than a lot  of other things.

On to something entirely different.
This Shabbat I wasn’t able to make it to Shabbat morning service owing to ridiculous problems with public transport and an incessant dry cough which I would rather not pass on to the people I normally sit with in shul. Felt quite sad about not going, since it’s such a big part of my Shabbat routine. I love sitting in synagogue, listening to E. leading the choir and congregation in song and praying together with my community. Somehow the idea of saying the prayers and singing the songs on my own felt just not enough to truly celebrate Shabbat the way it should be celebrated. So I had a think and remembered reading about how some synagogues stream their services online, so that housebound congregants can still be part of the service.

Now, I don’t normally use the internet over Shabbat; this is my personal choice, my way of making Shabbat different to the rest of the week when I am always available and always hooked up to some techie-gear or other, but having given it some thought I decided that switching on the computer to be part of Shabbat morning service would enhance my Shabbat experience rather than detract from it.

My shul doesn’t yet broadcast the services online (although it’s apparently in the pipelines) so I had a look on the MRJ website to find a synagogue that does. Found one and with the click of a button I found myself virtually joining another of the reform synagogue congregations for their Shabbat morning service.

This turned out to be a really interesting experience. Having not really visited other synagogues it was really cool to see how in some ways things are very similar, but how each synagogue has its own little tweaks. One thing I really liked about the service I was joining was how the rabbi leading it at one point turned around and asked the members of the congregation to share their thoughts and hopes and prayers out loud, asking what their week had been like and so on. It felt like a very nice touch to make the congregation feel like a real community.

I was amazed at how I really felt I wasn’t just watching the service, but actually being part of it, joining this little community. The angle of the web cam allowed me to feel
like I was sitting in one of the pews of the shul, and – siddur in hand – I stood and sat with the congregation, just as I would have at any other service.

So, I guess my conclusion is that although people sometimes say that technology gives us a way to cut off from the world, it can also be used to do the exact opposite.

That said, I am already looking forward to seeing my J-Prep friends on Wednesday and my Shabbat service gang next Saturday. Somehow cyber-kiddush just isn’t quite the same thing as the real deal!

xx

Library, Community and Therapy – An Entry About Feeling Safe

I am at the library. I’m enjoying it. It’s my safe place, my home away from home – the place I go to when things get too much. I like the semi-calm, the not-quite-quietness of this place. It’s a good place to be; I can think clearly here. I can feel freely.

I’ve only just finished a mini-essay on the topic of happiness, which seems ironic, considering that I am in fact not especially happy at the moment. Oh, there is no need to panic, I’m by no means in a let’s drink a litre of anti-freeze kind of mood. But I am feeling distinctly low.

As you probably know by now I live in a therapeutic community. Only at the moment it seems it is neither particularly therapeutic, nor much of a community. The latter is, naturally, in part down to me. I’m a member of this little household, and as such it is within my power to make this place more of a real community. Only my heart’s not really in it. I’m not all that interested in communal living. I like my independence, I don’t want to go on group shopping trips, nor do I feel a need to have all my meals with my house mates. This is – I feel obliged to point out – in no way a reflection on my house mates, but merely a statement about myself and where I’m at.

The second part [or the first, depending on how you look at it] – the bit about being therapeutic – well – that’s a little more complex. Or at least it feels like it’s somewhat more out of my hands at the moment. Yes, I do have good conversations with, hm, one of my house mates every now and then, and for that I am thankful. But, what I mean when I say that there is very little in the house that is therapeutic, I mean that the thrice-weekly house meetings have become something of a silent battleground. And, it’s not about my house mates, but, rather, about the two house therapists. Perhaps not solely, but certainly to some quite significant degree. At the moment there is an atmosphere in the house meetings which makes it almost impossible to have an open and honest multi-way conversation.

There have been a few incidents lately where the response to expressed emotions have been less than helpful, and in some instances (in my view) directly damaging. The comments from one or both house therapists have sometimes been so exceptionally defensive or dismissive that it appears to have killed off any desire to risk sharing anything even remotely personal in the meetings. In short, it doesn’t feel like a safe place to share things that really matter, because there is no knowing whether or not what you say will be heard with any degree of respect, or if it will merely be shot down.

There are several things going on in my life that I really ought to share in the house meetings – and I’m guessing this may be true for my house mates, too – but I choose not to, because I feel too afraid of what the response may be.

Naturally, therapist or not, a person is a person, and no one can be expected to respond in the right way all the time, but – on the other hand – I suppose my view is that there are some things that any person, therapist or not, ought to be able to offer another person. Respect is one of them. A willingness to listen, to really hear the other person, is another.

So, these two things; that I might not really be the right type of person to live in a community, and feeling that the meetings have become pointless and infertile battleground, makes me wonder if, perhaps, it is time for me to move on. Again, something I should probably be discussing in the meetings, but feel unable to.

Thankfully individual therapy is going really well. Damn hard work at times, but there has been some progress. Like I’ve said many times: I don’t think it’s meant to be easy, I think it’s meant to be worth it. And I believe that I have now got to a point in my relationship with A. where I feel that I can begin to trust her. To let her in a little more than before, perhaps – provided I can find the courage within to do so.

The other week I made A. laugh, and, silly as it may seem, that really was the moment when I felt that Yup, this is the right person for me to work with. I only wish there wasn’t so much time between sessions. When the meetings are good, and I can get something from them, then twice-weekly sessions with A. is just about right, but since they aren’t – well, I do feel that I need something more.

I feel that I need to just talk and talk and talk. Or, rather, I need to be heard and heard and heard. And I need a safe place where that can happen. An emotional sanctuary, a library of sorts.

xx