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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Home & Feeling Homeless

Was meant to move yesterday.
Spent all day Saturday packing and preparing, didn’t even make it to shul for service because I was a too stressed out about the whole thing. Had several moments of panic throughout the day, thinking I don’t really want to move, it’s the wrong decision, I’m not ready for this, it’s too scary, etc etc. You get the picture. But, eventually everything had been packed up and carried downstairs, ready for The Big Move and I tried to get some sleep.

Got up early the following morning as the van was due to arrive around 8.30.

Sat downstairs, surrounded by all my boxed and bagged up things, nervously waiting for the van.

Which didn’t come.

At 9.05 my phone rang, so I picked it up expecting it to be the removal guys. It wasn’t. It was their boss calling to tell me that the van had broken down en route to picking my things up and unfortunately they wouldn’t be able to do the move that day.

Felt absolutely crushed by this. I was already stressed out about the emotional impact of moving, and not feeling too great about the place I was moving to, and then this happened on top of that.

The next several hours, in fact the whole day after that was pretty horrible. I was just crying, feeling absolutely awful. And, yes, I know – of course it wasn’t just about the van; it was the whole thing – having built up towards this move and mentally preparing for how I was going to deal with it. And it just all came crashing down on me.

Called both of my sisters, texted Dev, did lots of things to try to manage the disappointment of it all, sitting in my now empty, echo-ey room with no books, no computer, not even a desk.

I had had the whole day mapped out; how I would move things into the new place in the early morning, then spend time beginning to sort the room out, then meet with a friend, before going back and forth between The House and the new place with little things that needed to be brought over. And in the evening I was to go back to The House for my goodbye dinner which my housemates were holding for me.

Of course that plan went out the window when the move didn’t happen. I was just so sad and disappointed and stressed out I couldn’t really get around to doing much at all. Managed to properly clean out my old room, but that’s about it, and that was done with tears running down my face the entire time. I think, as A. pointed out in session today having heard me talk about all of this; what happened was that I suddenly found myself feeling that I didn’t have a home. I’ve moved around a fair amount, and what’s been constant for me have been the things I take with me everywhere; my books, my journals, my writing, and I’ll create my home around them wherever I am. So, with all those things boxed up and with nowhere to put them, it left me feeling homeless and lost.

Needless to say, by the time I was due to meet my friend S. for lunch, I was pretty emotionally wrecked.

Enter the power of a good friend.

Yes, I cried and I still felt awful, but it was also nice to be able to see that I was able to allow the tears to come, even with my friend around. Or maybe because she was there to support me. We talked about all the worries and fears I have about moving out, what I’m leaving behind. Lots of things, and it helped me see that the tears were actually an absolutely appropriate response to what I was experiencing, and that it was OK. Talking to my friend also helped me to recognise that while all these feelings were valid, they were only what I was feeling that day, not what I would always be feeling.

Went back to The House after seeing my friend and unpacked my bedding to make my bed up again, and that helped a little with making the room feel less bare and naked, and slightly more like the room that had been my safe haven.

A little later M. knocked on my door and asked how I was doing, having heard from another housemate what had happened. So I had another tearful conversation, being allowed to tell someone yet again how horrible I felt. And that was really helpful, too; to both say and show how much I was struggling.

Later I had my farewell dinner with my house mates, which was nice. I was very touched that they wanted to do this for me, especially considering how I’ve often not been very involved with things in The House. Also I felt incredibly thankful that they were allowing me to stay another night at the house, making things a lot easier for me. C. said to me that I’ve been a member of the household for over two years, of course I could stay another night – and that felt really good, because I never feel I can take it for granted that I’ll be welcome in any place.

Stayed up quite late talking with M. after dinner, and again, that was really helpful and made it a lot easier to settle down for the night.

So, I have to say that although living at The House has often been difficult, with many many ups and downs, and there are lots of things to reflect on in the months to come, I was left with the feeling that my housemates have seen me as part of the house; that for a time The House really was my home. And that felt really really good.

xx

Stepping Into The Future; Moving Physically & Emotionally

Not long to go now until The Big Move. Two more days and I’m off into the future.

Got the keys to my new room and swung by it earlier today and I saw both things that I did like and things I didn’t like. The Didn’t Likes include the general condition of the shared spaces; kitchen and bathroom. Pretty unpleasant, if I’m brutally honest, and this is despite the fact that there is a cleaner who comes every week. So, not too keen on that, but as with all places once you’ve lived there for a while you get a bit blind to things, so hopefully I’ll get used to it. Also I emailed my landlord about a few things that I think need to be looked at, so hopefully he’ll sort those things out. Apparently when the person who had my room before me moved in there was a problem with the washing machine and after she pointed it out he went out and bought a new one, so I guess that’s a good sign.

Under the heading of Did Like I’ve got the most important thing: my room. I felt good, stepping into my room. Yes, it is small, but not quite as small as I had begun to imagine. The previous tenant hadn’t done much by way of cleaning the room, found a fair few bits and bobs when pulling out the bed and the desk, and I had to start with some serious hoovering. The desk, by the way, came apart when I pulled it out, and in all honesty I’m sort of glad it did, because I had already told the landlord I’d want to use my own desk, and as this one self-destructed I didn’t feel too bad about hauling it up to the top floor where there is a small space for storage. Although the desk is pretty rickety even after I re-assembled it, the drawers can be used for extra storage I suppose. Other Likes was the fact that there is actually quite a lot more storage in the room than I thought, and there’s a small wardrobe I hadn’t noticed when I went to view the room, and a small space to keep books at the head of my bed.

Anyway, enough about the practical side of the move. Let’s think a little about the emotional side..

So, I’ve spent a little over two years at The House, the therapeutic community, and in some ways I think it’s been time for me to leave for a while now. I don’t feel I fit in particularly well here, the communal living doesn’t really suit me. I don’t mind shared living, but communal, not so much. I was never going to be one to suggest having mandatory meals together on a regular basis or buying our food together as a group. I think I’m just a little too independent for that sort of life. [I’m not implying that the other house mates aren’t independent, they just seem to have more of a wish for those sorts of things].

And as far as the therapeutic side of The House goes, again, it’s not really worked for me. I’ve never really been able to entirely engage in the process of sharing in the meetings. To me it just seems so strange to be sharing my thoughts and feelings in a group, with people who I don’t feel particularly close to or have all that much in common with. They’re all good people, it’s just that it’s always made much more sense to me to chat with my friends or pick up the phone and ring my sisters when things get too much, just as they – both my friends and my sisters – will turn to me when things are hard.

That said, I think it’s really good that this place exists, and I genuinely hope that they’ll be able to find people to move into The House who are more up for this way of life. I can absolutely see how I’ve played a part in making this place be less of a community than it could be, through not lending myself entirely to the experience. Having been one of four housemates for a large part of my stay here, of course my way of doing things has had a direct impact on what sort of house this has been, and I do hope that the people who end up moving in here will be more able than I have been to throw themselves into making this place the community that it may have been meant to be.

Of course, as different as I have often felt, moving away from here is still a pretty major step. One of the things that is good about The House is that everyone knows that everyone else has their reasons for being here, and have some understanding for how life can sometimes feel all too impossible to cope with, and how working on your own difficulties is as hard a job as any other 9-5 job.

Will I regret moving out? I don’t know. I feel that it’s time for me to go. To try to take the next step. Push myself a little. I do expect to dip a bit after I’ve moved; it’s a big change going from a house where – whether I speak to people or not – there is nearly always someone around and there is always the option to knock on someone’s door if things feel too hard, to a place where people lead altogether separate lives and don’t seem to interact at all.

I am trying to keep in mind that this room I’m moving into is not the place I’ll be staying forever. It’s a step into the future, a stepping stone on the way to getting back on track. I don’t think I’ll be staying there for very long, in all honesty – but I thought making a move from The House was needed, and this will be my intermediary dwelling place until I can find something s bit nicer and with a more of a permanent feel to it in about six months’ time. Perhaps a share which is a real share without being too communal.

So here’s to change and stepping into the future!

All the best and more,

xx

Upon Exiting – Early Morning Panic

Friday morning and I’m up early, early, ridiculously early. Apparently our water supply is due to be switched off at 9 am, so anyone wanting to be reasonably clean today needs to perform their (hopefully) daily cleansing ritual before then.

But that’s not the only reason I’m up. No. Of course not. That would be far too simple. No, I’m up since my brain has decided to go into overdrive and repeat thoughts of Therapy Crash at break-neck speed.

Saw A. at the old place for the last time yesterday. It was re-scheduled from today, to – I assume – accommodate The Move. Session went reasonably well, but all through it I kept glancing over at the half-empty bookshelf next to me. For some reason it really got to me, really unsettled me. You see, to me there is nothing that spells The End like the boxing up of books.

I wasn’t born with that nesting gene that so many women seem to be blessed with. I’m not great at creating a cosy atmosphere or a tranquil ambience (or whatever they call it these days). I use books to decorate. Pile ’em up ceiling high, allowing them to cover the walls, fill the window sills and stand to attention on the mantle piece.

Thus, seeing three empty shelves at the bottom of the case in A.’s room, well, it freaked me out. Something like “If the books are going, then the move is happening for sure”. (In all honesty those bottom shelves are usually occupied by randomly stacked camera boxes and folders – but the gaping emptiness of the shelves still created that sense of lacking in books).

I did try to talk to A. about it, but, as often happens – I just couldn’t really get to the feelings in the moment. I knew they were there. Only the words needed to express them weren’t. So all I really said was “The half-empty book case unsettles me”. A. then asked Can you say more? This classic phrase has recently become her favourite way of prompting me, and ‘though I don’t like to admit it, I have to say that I like it. Something about the way she says it manages to acknowledge that talking about feelings isn’t easy for me, and a gentle nudge feels like welcome support.

Only, in this case I couldn’t say more. I said a few things, but, really – they were lacklustre and bland and didn’t at all get to the depth of fear that this move stirs in me.

So, instead I am now sitting in my room, much too early for any sane person to be up, panicking over the doom that this move must certainly spell.

Leaving A.’s flat for what was inevitably and frighteningly the last time, walking out of the door, kissing the mezuzah as I went, that’s when all those feelings suddenly washed over me.

I’m not coming back here. Anything could happen.

And that’s the mode I’m stuck in.

Frightening stuff. Many deep breaths needed.
Happy thoughts, happy thoughts.

Heeeeeeelp!

xx

PS. Didn’t wish A. a happy move before I left, and I feel really bad about the subconscious implications that could be read into that. Contemplating sending her a text now to make up for it. How neurotic am I? Double panic!

Question Marks & Exclamation Points

A. is moving. And though I’ve known ever since she initially told me about the move that I’ll be moving with her, it’s still stressing me out. I know it doesn’t quite make sense, but even that tiny change is rather unsettling to me. The last few sessions the pile of moving boxes in the narrow hallway has grown, and something about it really gets to me. I guess it creates something of a dent in the constant that I want therapy to be.

Adult Me knows that going to a new place won’t really change the therapy or my relationship with A., and that in a few sessions’ time at the new place, it will be absolutely fine. And yet Little S is reacting to this change as were it the onset of the apocalypse.

And I wonder why.

I have a few layman’s theories. Or, two, at least.
The first is that this could be a perceived echo of the fear I may have experienced as a baby, being brought from India to Sweden at the age of six months. A sort of non-accessible memory or fear being triggered by A.’s move. The second theory is also childhood related. It goes as follows: Despite the fact that as a child I was fortunate enough to to grow up in a single home, for a variety of reasons I didn’t form strong enough attachments to my parents to feel that the ties to them were secure, safe and permanent. (Or, as A. typically puts it: I didn’t experience the relationship to my parents as being unconditional.) Therefore it follows that since I, even in a reasonably constant home environment, felt that important relationships could easily break down or even be destroyed, the prospect of an actual move (as is the case with A.) becomes all the more frightening. And I panic.

Of course it’s impossible to know for sure why we react in a certain way, but I do find it helpful to at least consider the different possible reasons. Trying to understand how past experiences may influence us in the here-and-now might not actually change the way we react, but if we can see some sort of underlying reason, it may make it easier to accept the way we feel as something natural. (As opposed to telling ourselves that we ought to be able to control ourselves and our emotional responses, something which tends to be neither helpful nor productive).

Also, I have to admit that I generally find it easier to live with exclamation points than question marks. Even if the exclamation points are somewhat crooked..

All the very best and more,

xx

PS. Winter Olympics rocks. Why can’t people in this silly country getthat? Ice-hockey, figure skating, half-pipe, ski cross, Super G. Ultra-funky stuff. Sincerely.

On My Own – An Entry About Finding New Ways To Cope

I’m at The New Place now. I moved my stuff here on Saturday and myself today. And so far it feels ok. Had a house meeting today and that went well. We had a visitor who’s also looking to come here and after the meeting me, T and C sat in the lounge talking about him, realising that we had all made almost exactly the same observations. I’m not going to go into any details about that, because that’s not really the point – I just mentioned it because it was really nice to sit there together talking. Both T and C have really made me feel very welcome. They had even put up curtains in my room and flowers on my chest of drawers. Very sweet. The other person who lives here hasn’t been around since sometime last week. In fact I’ve only met him at two meetings. T said that he has been finding it difficult being in the house and so he has been away quite a lot lately.

As I mentioned earlier I split the physical moving of things and actually moving in myself over a couple of days. It wasn’t what I had originally planned to do, but the closer I got to the big Moving Day the more stressed out I got about the physical move. So much so that I began to notice that I completely shut off all emotions I had regarding moving away from Dev and into this completely new place. So, that’s why I, in the end, decided to do it this way. Once I had moved my stuff over (and that went ridiculously smoothly) I was able to go back to the flat and spend the weekend with Dev, firstly letting go of the accumulated stress regarding the packing and unpacking etc, and then slowly allowing myself to think about what my feelings are in terms of the mental change this move will mean.

I was saying to my friend (who came over to help me with the move on Saturday) that had I still been in counselling I could probably have managed to deal with both aspects of the move in one go, but since that’s not the case I think it’s a very positive thing that I was able to work out another way to cope with it, without going back to my old habit of simply shutting down.

Having said that, I must admit that I don’t think the move has really sunk in yet. In fact I think it will be quite some time before it does. But, as I said at the house meeting today; I’ll let it take as long as it needs to. There is no need to rush anything. I have all the time in the world to wait for whatever reaction is to come and to deal with it as and when it does.

Had to go back to the flat today to get my duvet and a few bits and pieces I wasn’t able to carry when I came here this morning. Going back to the flat, seeing it looking so empty, now that all my clutter is gone – it was pretty emotional. Just before I left I switched on my iPod, and what comes on if not the piece of music Dev has composed for me. Needless to say I then had to take a moment, to just listen to the music and remember all the things we’ve been through in our five years together. Not just the difficult stuff we were so desperately dealing with for the better part of last year, but also the fun bits. And I realised that more than anything I will miss the laughter we’ve shared. For better or for worse, Dev is the only person in the world who can make me laugh so hard it sets my asthma off.

Anyway, it’s getting rather late now. I really should be going to bed. I’m just finding it a little bit difficult to settle down. There are two main reasons for that. One that it’s a different bed the one I’m used to (don’t ask!), and secondly that there are no locks on the doors. That doesn’t bother me in the day time – and I certainly don’t distrust my house mates in terms of going into my room or anything like that, it’s just that, well, with my background I just find it difficult to relax in a new place at the best of time, and I think I would have found it easier had I been able to lock the door. Again, as I said before, this has absolutely nothing to do with my house mates, it is basically old ghosts that haunt me.

Still I’m sure I’ll be able to deal with it. I remember having similar feelings both when I moved into my first flat in Sweden and the first few nights I stayed at Drayton Park. Sooner or later I’ll get used to it and it won’t bother me anymore.

It’s just a matter of finding a way to tolerate feeling a bit unsettled for a while until normality sets in.

xx

Stress, Random Thoughts & Specific Theories

Tomorrow is Friday. The first one back in the country since counselling finished at the end of December. And it does make a difference..

In the midst of dealing with the hang-over from spending Christmas in Sweden, packing up my stuff at the flat, trying to take it in that I won’t be living with Dev come next week, well, I reckon a session with D. would have been pretty perfect.
Someone who knows and understands the context of the thoughts flying around in my head, and who genuinely cares about what I do with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I am doing reasonably well. It’s just that I’m not entirely sure if that is because I’m holding back on more than I should, or because I simply haven’t begun processing all these things yet. Or maybe, just maybe, because I have actually become better at coping with things. Either way, a session with D. would quite possibly help me to at least understand which of the above guesses is more likely to be accurate. I’m not saying that it would necessarily change anything, but I do think that the clearer I am on what I’m actually dealing with, the better I can find the right balance, emotionally.

Apart from the above worries, I am also quite nervous about this new place I’m moving to. I mean, although I have lived in shared accommodation before this will be a completely new experience. Not only will I be living with people who I actually don’t know at all, but the whole set up is very different from what I have experienced before. I think it’s reasonable to assume that it will be quite a big change to deal with; house meetings with my house mates and two therapists three times a week – well, it’s not exactly the norm, is it? I expect I will struggle quite a lot to find my place in this new situation. Still, having said that, I do believe that it is the right place for me to be. I think that staying in a place where the focus is personal change/insight, and all the challenges that will present me with, I’m certain that I will gain a lot from it.

On to something different..
A book arrived in the post while a was away – Karen J. Maroda’s The Power of Countertransference – and now that I’ve finally been able to start reading it I’m finding it difficult to put it down for long enough to get any packing done.

Maroda’s take on analytic technique is one that I personally find very appealing. To a lay-person such as myself her ideas seem to make perfect sense.

I am, of course, well aware of the traditional stance in psychoanalytic thinking; that the therapist will hold back on his or her immediate thoughts and feelings, in order to allow the patient to use the therapist as a blank canvass and to not burden the patient with the feelings the he or she may have evoked in the therapist etc. This is, in essence, to avoid allowing the patient to repeat past habits and thereby reinforcing his or her set pathology. Maroda’s theory, on the other hand, is – and this is a very general and broad summary – that for real change to take place in a therapy situation the therapist must join the patient in the experience of regression, rather than merely observing it from a safe distance. In other words, the therapist needs to both be able and willing to give more of herself to the patient, so that not only the transference factor is being looked at in the sessions, but also the countertransference factor. This, naturally, means breaking off from the often authoritarian therapist-patient relationship that psychoanalytic thinking typically entails. Maroda highlights the fact that even Freud was not unknown to alter his theories when he found that his experiments didn’t pan out the way he had expected, and that as society has undergone such tremendous change in the past several decades since Freud first introduced his theories to the world, so too psychoanalytic technique needs to change. Needless to say, when Maroda’s book was first published back in 1990 it caused something of a stir amongst the practitioners in this particular field. She was not at all the first to point to what to me seem like obvious flaws in the ‘blank canvas’-approach, however, up until then any attempt to bring about change had been fairly limited and there was no structured concept, such as the one Maroda presents in her book.

Anyway, if you happen to have a bit of spare time, I’d recommend this book. It’s probably one of the most accessible and readable texts around on practical implementation of counter-transference as an active part in the therapist-patient relationship, and a very interesting one at that!

xx

Nail Art & Goodbyes

I’m not a girly-girl. Not really. I don’t think I ever was. I think altogether my make-up kit consists of one mascara and one lip gloss. Neither of which is in regular use. Having said that I do like doing my nail. It’s also something I do when I am feeling a bit too stressed out about something. I think it’s that balance between having to concentrate enough to be able to not think about anything else, and not being too demanding. The stress level goes up, and out comes my big bag of nail polishes.

At the moment my stress level is pretty manageable. Yes, there are a lot of things going on, but, I think I’m handling it fairly well. Still, I did go slightly nuts the other week and ordered myself this nail art set, and now I can’t help but to wonder if perhaps that is a sign that I am under more stress than I care to admit.

As you know Dev and I split up some time ago, but for a lot of complex reasons we have still been living together. But that’s coming to an end reasonably soon. I applied to go into supported accommodation, and last week I was told that they had decided to offer me a place. So, I’ll be moving at the beginning of January. It’s not very far from where I live now – in fact it’s ridiculously close – but it will be a huge change. Going from sharing a brand spanking new flat in a lovely complex with all mod cons, including a 24-hour concierge service, to a shared Victorian house filled with people who also struggle from emotional difficulties – well, it’s bound to take some getting used to. Don’t get me wrong, I am incredibly happy that I’ve been offered a place – but it will be a real challenge adjusting to living there.

Dev is going abroad next week, the day before I head back home for the holidays – and so these next few days are basically the last we will be living together, since although Dev is coming back for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s, he leaves again before I return. So that’s one thing that’s happening.

Tomorrow is my second to last session of counselling with D. I know I go on about it, but really, this is my blog, and it is a big deal for me. As I’ve said before, I’m not very good with endings, so this makes me quite nervous. Having said that, I am working on it – getting better at saying goodbye to people. I remember talking to P. at The Maytree just before leaving there, and she asked me if I’d be able to look her in the eye and say goodbye. And I couldn’t.

There was just something inside me that made it impossible to do. It’s like letting someone get inside the walls I’ve put up to protect myself. And that’s a hard thing to do.

I don’t think I’m the only one to be like that, though. I think it’s fairly common to find it difficult to say a proper goodbye. But, as I said, I’m working on it. Both with D. and with Dev.

Only a little over a week before going home now. And I am really really looking forward to it. I have no idea what it will be like, but I’m definitely excited about going. I was texting back and forth with my youngest sister today, and one thing we talked about doing is reading aloud from a book called Goodnight, Mister Tom (by Michelle Magorian). It’s a book I’ve probably read fifty times – in fact it was one of the very first books I ever read in English, back when I was nine or ten – and I still love it. So I reckon that will be a really nice thing to do. Snuggle up with lots of blankets and read to each other.

Anyway, little sis just came Elaine (online, Elaine – what’s the difference?) so I’m going to sign off now and talk to her for a bit.

Be good – I have a hotline to Father Christmas and I’m not afraid to use it!

xx