on health and safety…

I had a sublime moment the other day at gaelic playgroup. I may be the first person to have ever said that. I was staring at the Tupperware containers which hold the Grown-Up Snacks, as someone carefully filled a giant pot of what would be my first proper coffee in days, when I spotted some choco-liebniz biscuits. I thought , indeed I said, there isn’t anything I want more in the world right now than a coffee and choco-liebniz biscuit, and I can have it. For that moment, life was perfect.

In fact, the actual having of the choco-liebnitz and the coffee was even more blissful than the wanting-it-and-knowing-I-can-have-it, which I would say is pretty rare in the whole fantasy/desire/longing/reality set-up. It was interrupted only by the following conversation with my small son at the kids snack table:

“Mummy, why did you tell me that white rice cakes taste the same as purple rice cakes when they don’t?”

“Mummy lied to you Anthony. I lied because I just wanted you to eat your snack so I could stand here and drink my coffee.”

Small son responded well to this rare showing of inscrutable honesty, and quietly carried on with his snack. And I thought, was I strong enough to be honest because I was being so nice to myself with the biscuit? Maybe…

In a similar way, we were having a picnic in the pissing rain under a tree in Linlithgow last week, at the end of a magical pre-school weekend away. You had had to choose your sandwich in advance, I had gone for BR- CC + J ( Brown Roll, Coronation Chicken + Juice) and the whole thing suited me well as I love sandwich anticipation and I don’t much like surprises. Small son had gone for WR- C + J,  which was a bit problematic as he only actually likes his White Rolls with Cheese and marmite, but of course that wasn’t an option. I had hence had a massive dilemma about the sort of mother I want to be, did I tell him that in real life you sometimes have to just eat cheese sandwiches? Or did I over-bear, and pack a jar of marmite in my handbag? I am aware that about of my dear readers are going to horrified whichever option I picked. In fact I am going to go so far as to insert a poll:

I decided to go down the molly-coddle route although sadly forgot a knife and had to make do with a folded up old train ticket. Sticky and disgusting, but one hopes it was the sort of act of care and love he might just one day reflect favourably on to his therapist.

Anyway after all the carefully coded sandwiches we were asked, did everyone get what they wanted? In this picnic, or more generally? I asked my friend Nicola, and we reflected on this. I think the answer might be ‘yes’ either way I said. She was surprised by this, that I might really have everything I wanted. I used to really want an Aga, I said, but I am not really sure I want one of those anymore, And I used to really want one of those drinks cabinets that look like a globe, but I don’t have space for one and my financial situation only ever runs to one bottle of hard liquor at a time if I am lucky. So, I think I have everything else pretty much sorted, and that BR-CC+J has just been the icing on the cake.

These moments of pure bliss are particularly welcome after a difficult few days. Or a difficult few months I suppose. I have been back to counselling, which I am going to say something about because, well, people don’t say enough about these do they? Its been very interesting and helpful. I had heard before this idea that there was a child, an adult and a parent inside us all. But my basic understanding of this had previously only been used for self-censure, or for the excessive consumption of wispa bars. But it turns out that the parent and child voices have other uses than the promotion or control of unhealthy eating, and moreover there are different types within these voices. There is the free child (who always wants a wispa), the nurturing parent (who will buy me one), the critical parent (who says I am fat and greedy) and the adaptive child ( who has , during the the course of this paragraph, manipulated you to fill a jiffy bag full of wispas and post them to me). Apparently, all these voices have a function and can be listened to, but I am interested to notice where they emerge.

I was also asked to be aware of my body, to ground myself. Where do you feel this? Across my chest, in my shoulders I say. How about your hands and feet? Do you feel anything there? Can you feel them at all? No, I can’t feel them at all. I hadn’t ever thought about this before, I thought it was normal. But now I am getting rather into noticing what my body might be trying to tell me. Anger spreads like osmosis, from my sternum, across my shoulders, down my arms, pulse quickens, breath shallows. It makes me want to say no, this is not ok, I won’t accept this, I will do something about it even if I don’t know what, rather than swallowing it and turning it inward. Sadness starts in the pit of my belly, sore and weighty, then moves up my spine, through my throat, flushes my face and then starts to seep out of my eyes. And painful as it is, this awareness is reassuring, I can tell myself, you know how this works, and you know it passes.

There was an image which triggered this strong reaction in me recently. I was lucky enough to attend a talk by Joy Professor Joy Schaverien about boarding school syndrome. In it, she shared a number of drawings from her new book, which one of her patients had done, a man who had been to boarding school. It was of a man, carrying a little man somewhere inside him, and in child-like writing he had written across the top you are safe with me. On seeing this, I felt the familiar burn pass from stomach to neck to throat to eyes and had a moment of clarity too: that’s what I need, and that’s why I do this, that’s what I have in common with these people and what has drawn me in.

And I suppose that’s what I was realising as I enjoyed my choco-liebnitz and coffee, or BR-CC+J, that I am safe, and I can carry myself with me when I don’t feel it, knowing that the next happy moment is not far away. That I am an adult, and I have built a life for myself that I love, with gaelic playgroups and good friends and rainy picnics. Anything on top of that is a bonus.

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