Written on Nov 8th 2018. Mostly. The draft was saved on the 21st (also Nov ’18) Found and backposted on Nov 4th 2021.
I was on my way home from a holiday in France and Spain, staying in the AirBnB for the second time. The owner had let me leave my bike there for the Spanish part of the trip. Reading through this post, I remember the day, the feelings, the sunlight. After a minute or so, I know it continues with buying posh pastries at a patisserie and having to rush back to the station afterwards; going a different way, and getting frustrated about my inability to go the same way twice, but loving the feeling of riding the hill down to the station. I don’t remember these moments after the post finishes quite as well as I remember the written moments. I’m not sure if the writing or the reading is more responsible for the memories. Whichever it is, I’m grateful to my past self for writing, even if she didn’t finish describing the day.
Back when I wrote this, I didn’t know this song (quoted below) but I think it fits – for the writing and not just because of the literal polaroid pictures 🙂 I need to remember to do this more often. There are so many things I wish I could go back and re-visit as clearly as that morning in France.
But in the stillness of the moment it takes for a Polaroid picture To capture our faces forever The world has turned a touch on its axis And the only thing certain is That everything changes So honey I just need a little time To take a little time today To save all the triumphs and tragedies Before they slip away Before they slip away
I’m cycling along part of the Swedish coast and as usual, packing and getting ready to go was a series of small breakdowns and catastrophes, and as usual, I survived and got to the bus much later than intended but with enough time to be let on 😉 (They were running a little bit late, and then the bikes needed attaching to the bus.. Mine was the last up, and a lady arrived while they were hanging my bike on the hooks and thanked me for getting her the extra time she needed 🙂
“..her nail polish is always chipped,
but ooh-oooh she’s got that thang!”
I’m not exactly sure what a thang is, but I’m assuming it’s a southern American thing.
I’m not exactly sure what I have either, but there’s a lot of it.
Among the things I don’t actually know to be scientifically proven but assume to be true based on observation, risk-addiction doesn’t appear to be genetic.
Some people do a lot of crazy, scary, dangerous, adventurous, amazing, story-worthy things with their lives.
I, unfortunately, am firmly ensconced within the second group, where I am safe from lions and guns and live wires and other such exhilarating things, but am also disappointingly, cringe-inducingly boring and wimpy…and am even scared of the possiblity of having nightmares involving doing the things other people want to do in real life.
“Thank you” he said, wrapping the second tissue around the small stack of slightly soggy crumpets. “That’s really sweet of you.” He looked at me, “this is the sort of thing I’ll still remember in 10 years..” He paused and looked briefly at his feet before looking up again, “..I wonder what I’ll be remembered for, 10 years from now..”
Many, many thanks to Amy for her patience and company while I fried my very first homemade crumpets until the early hours of the morning – I’ll remember this too 🙂
Written January 23rd. Posted now because my back is mostly better 🙂
At face value, eating sausages (and beans) with a wooden spoon is not an undertaking I recommend. As it is, I was very thankful for it, and not in the least willing to do anything to change it.
I’ve been organising my flat. That’s a euphemism for ‘creating complete and utter chaos and devastation’.
It’s a useful kind of chaos, the sort that will hopefully produce tranquillity and calm and lots of free time when I’m finished. In the meantime I am refusing to let people in because I don’t want to be evacuated or end up on an episode of Hoarders..
Once upon a time, way back in spring last year when I still thought I was quitting everything and going cycling, I got rid of most of my cupboards* and bought 60 small book boxes from Ikea instead. They have lids, they stack well and they’re sturdy enough for books. No one is paying me to say that :p.
Anyway. The cupboard buyers came before I’d sorted and got rid of or packed the contents of the cupboards so I emptied them (the cupboards) into piles of things to to deal with later.
‘Later’ is a tricky thing. It doesn’t happen the way you think it will.
In this particular case, I left the piles of things and flew home to see my family, planning to finish packing everything and repaint the flat when I got back…..and then the world closed and none of my plans was a real option anymore.
When life give you lemons, you make lemonade. When the world gives you a pandemic and border closures and cancels all your plans for the indefinite future, you make new plans.
So I made new plans. This time they were plans to make the indefinite future the best it could be, starting with my flat, since I would be spending a lot of time in it..
I decided not to replace the cupboards, partly in an attempt to motivate myself to keep thinking of cycling and downsizing and partly because I liked how big my flat felt without them.
Instead I bought another aquarium and a trampoline. Because who wouldn’t, right? And then I decided to decorate the bare wall behind the new aquarium…which I’d have to do before putting the aquarium in place and setting it up because of the awkward impossibility of trying to work round it.
‘Decorating’ involved cutting the background out of a roll of leafy wallpaper with a tiny craft knife and pinning the remains to the wall with bug-shaped drawing pins. The results are a lot more awesome than the description but it wouldn’t be something I could afford to buy, even if they charged minimum wage for the time.
Working on it required many many many hours and almost my entire sitting room floor, so all my remaining furniture (4 seater sofa, coffee table, CD rack, trampoline) plus the new aquarium, the small aquarium and the contents of my ex-cupboards towered precariously around the edges.
When the wallpaper finally went up on the wall, the towers of things spread into the available space and the aquarium cupboard took up the fight for my time and energy.
Trying to make 8 adjustable feet match floorboards that are off level in all directions at once is a nightmare. Especially when the feet are joined to an unwieldy quarter cylinder of cupboard. They don’t even give in when you glare at them. I eventually admitted defeat and let H sort it out. (He dismantled the cupboard first, which seems vaguely like cheating but I wasn’t going to argue.)
Then I went socially distanced gallivanting for a bit.
Then I had to go back to work and everything else came to a standstill. I have no idea how ‘People On The Internet’ have enough energy to do all the things they do because my batteries are fully depleted after working and eating. Ok, I was also trying to get my time sheet out of negative hours and teach a couple of kids English, but nothing objectively crazy or strenuous… subjectively though, even getting washing done or going food shopping during the week was very hit-and-miss.
At weekends I tried to catch up on sleep and housework and get some km on the bike. I dabbled in boxes of papers and packed clothes for the local clothes swap/donation place. Nothing really made a noticeable dent in the pile. I could have packed it into the cellar but I really wanted to avoid filling it with things I didn’t intend to keep and the things I wanted to keep were generally things I use enough for it to be awkward in the cellar.
In the lead up to Christmas I had the amazing idea of making advent calendars for a good handful of people. It turns out advent has a lot of days, and lots of advent calenders have many lots of days. Miniature packages might be tiny in their own right but somewhere in the region of 200 miniature packages take up a lot of space. And time. And require continuous effort. And I still didn’t get the last ones sent until Christmas Eve…..
In the middle of all that, Ex-DB finally agreed for me to go and collect my remaining belongings from his house. (Wheee!!)
In my memory there were a couple of shelves of books and a sewing machine. In reality there was enough to warrant multiple trips in a not-very-small car.
For various logistical reasons, I ended up borrowing traditional, big moving boxes that I emptied each time I got them here so I could reuse them for the next load and give them back after the last.
Despite 7 months and various lockdowns, I hadn’t found a suitable ‘later’ to properly deal with or find homes for my original stuff, and there really wasn’t a lot of space to pile new things..
..I went back on my decision to remain cupboardless and arranged to pick up a shelf-cupboard-combination that would cover a whole wall.
That would mean losing all the wallspace I wanted for my map of the baltic sea though, so I had a rethink and did some measuring and came up with a whole chain of changes, each reliant on the previous chainlink.
Get rid of the chest of drawers in the hall and replace it with a shoe bench and a stack of box drawers, leaving enough wall free for the white board from the sitting room, which in turn would free up a wall for the map. Then I could get the shrimp from the small aquarium into the new one, sell the table they were on and make space for the new shelf&cupboards. The shelf that used to be under the whiteboard could go up in my room and the computer monitor could go directly onto the wall, freeing up desk space and making the desk useable.
The first bench I bought wouldn’t fit into the space I provided for it, no matter what the tape measure said. I put it aside and got a different bench. Selling it requires too much brain power at the moment.
The new bench is actually just a couple of drawers with a thin lid. I wanted to be able to stand on it to get to my whiteboard and it’s definitely not sturdy enough for me plus my corona-kilos.. H is making, painting and varnishing a thick wooden board to go on top which will be amazing when it’s finished. Until then though, it can’t function as a bench, the wall boxes can’t go up and I can’t use my planning board.
There’s very little point in filling the boxes before they go up so those things and the boxes are wandering around homelessly.
The shelf-cupboard is huge and ridiculously heavy. The pieces are still waiting to be put up properly. Remember how the floor under the aquarium was off level? So’s the floor where this new thing is going. And the wall isn’t flat. And there are no right angles to be found at all. There are adjustable feet though. Yay.
While I muster up the confidence to adjust feet and drill holes, there are other things to keep me busy….
I got a new-to-me bedside table and a couple of matching plant tables this week, and I’ve been (loosely) following Dawn’s Clutterfree January program so there are boxes of plates and cups and clothes and a filing cabinet/bedside-table looking for homes, or at least waiting to go in the cellar or be donated.
I also, in a fit of pre Christmas madness, bought a couple of on-sale amaryllis bulbs which were desperate to be planted. The amaryllis bulbs from previous years were quite suicidal so I wanted to put them into a pot together so they can keep each other company and hopefully not pull each other over.
Cue thoughts about pots. If I’m going to plant things and get compost everywhere, I figure I might as well get all the the plants done in one go. I have window ledge boxes in the sitting room. German windows open inwards though and the boxes were always a pain. Time for new boxes.
There are very few flowerpots in the shape I wanted, so I bought boxes that weren’t designed for flowers. They are like fancy shoeboxes with lids and handle holes. I taped up the handles and melted holes in the bases with a soldering iron. The new amaryllis bulbs got one and I repotted the plants from my boxes into the others.
There are a few more plants to pot on and I need to get a couple more boxes for them. The compost is still in the kitchen with all the balcony plants that need protecting from frost.
The small aquarium needed to be emptied to make space for the new cupboard, requiring the new aquarium to be replanted – it was originally planted in the middle of the night and it showed – and the shrimp caught and transferred. I’d bought a fertiliser layer to go under the sand in the new aquarium. My plan to empty half, add the fertiliser and backfill, completely backfired. Sand is not a helpful accomplice. As I was ready to put the sand back in, I noticed something suspiciously like the leeches I found in the old aquarium last year. I put new sand in. New sand needs washing before it can go in an aquarium. Kilo for kilo. Rinse for rinse. Broken fingernail for broken fingernail.
Also, shrimp aren’t easy to catch.
So anyway, like I said, everything is chaotic.
Today I decided to put things in rows to make the obstacle course slighter more predictable. I made a first-attempt-bench sized space on the rug in my room, cleared a path to the sitting room by piling everything on the bed, and bent down to pick up and drag the bench into place…
“Nope” said my back.
“Really?” I bent down again.
I had barely touched the bench before I gave up on the idea and went to lie down on the rug. (The bed was full of boxes)
After a long time I sat up and sorted through another box.
A long time after that I got up enough to fill a hot water bottle and climb into bed around the boxes.
Several hours later, I was hungry and the hot water bottle was cold.
I threw some sausages at the grill and some beans into a saucepan and refilled the hot water bottle. When everything was done, I scooped the sausages into the saucepan and a cork mat under it, and made my way back to bed, clutching the hot water bottle and wincing.
I only discovered the lack of cutlery once I was back in bed and had manouvered myself into a fairly painfree position. Move again? Nah. I’m here for the duration. Shame I didn’t have a hand free for something to drink…
I hope I’ll be ok tomorrow, I really don’t fancy dying of thirst (or having a ‘serious’ back injury)
Edit, several hours later: made it to the kitchen for a hot water bottle refill and some water 🙂 Now to find a way to sleep between the boxes..
* most cupboards = seven of them. I kept my wardrobe and the chest of drawers in the hall purely because I hadn’t got as far as selling them yet
Hell hath no desire to buy power tools like a woman determined not to be dependent on people who don’t deserve it…
I just bought a drill.
It’s not the exact model I really (really) wanted but it was available and much cheaper and close to where I live. It will do the job. I hope. If it doesn’t, I will get rid of it and move on.
With some of the money I didn’t spend on the posh drill, I bought a set of posh drill bits.
And a set of posh screwdriver bits.
And a posh box of screws.
And an assortment of posh rawl plugs.
And a posh spirit level.
And a posh(ish) bluetooth speaker.
And gave a beggar my last Jammy Dodger* and 51ct.
If I’d given him the theoretical change from the posh drill he wouldn’t have to beg for a while. As it was he only got the actual change in my purse. And a biscuit. Now that Brexit has been fully brexited it’ll be harder to keep the supply chain going, so I hope he appreciated it.
Time to head home now.
This might have been a slightly unorthodox retail therapy trip, but I think I’m now ready to change more than the way my house looks…
* English biscuits with jam in. They’re not really that exciting except that they taste of birthday parties and childhood and I love them.
I have a handful of friends I very (very, very) rarely see in person. We live too far apart and our lives don’t collide on any kind of regular basis. Instead, we write (and now that corona’s struck, we have more time for more in-depth writing). Technology is a wonderful thing.
Except, regardless of all the emojis and jokes and stories of our days and silly photos of things we find share-worthy, sometimes words fail to convey the emotion behind the keyboard.
Things that sound harmless in my head occasionally snowball down my arms and through my fingers, so that by the time they reach the screenpaper several latitude lines away, they’ve built up a dangerous energy and explode through my friends’ eyes and send splitters of bad feelings into the furthest corners of their minds, pressing all the niggly buttons as they go. The buttons I would never intentionally poke. The ones my friends are aware of but still, after all this time, haven’t worked out how to disconnect. The ones that are hard-wired into the central nervous system and which set off their own trails of destruction like dominoes or the mouse-traps in comedy films, except fully lacking the humour.
The same reaction can be sparked by the lack of a response.
I know how well these automatic reactions work because I have enough buttons of my own. Buttons my friends press, as unwittingly and unwillingly as I press theirs.
Harmless isn’t always harmless. Sometimes it really hurts. Sometimes it’s the memories of past hurts that come to haunt us, sometimes, but luckily far less regularly, the hurt is new. The ‘battleground of past hurt’ is one of our most frequently but unintentionally visited places.
That we’re still friends is something of a miracle and I’m grateful for them and their patience and ability to work things out.
My About Page starts with
the following story:
“Once upon a time, someone interrupted my rant about someone else, with the words, “you do that too!”. That stung for a while, but it’s proved helpful since then. It makes me stop and check my position before getting stressed about others.”
accusation feels like an eternity ago. Since then, there have been
(many) other stinging comments from various people, but nothing quite
as soul-shakingly succinct or ‘for general-purpose use’. Things
happen, people say things, we work through them and they’re over.
Rinse and repeat.
Recently I received the following general-purpose slap-round-the-face-with-a-dead-fish type comment:
“… [you] like to win arguments through domination and tone, not solve anything in any factual or sincere way – it’s all unempathetic headfighting.”
would argue (!) that I aim for factual more than dominating, but I
can accept that I miss the mark (and hit the wrong tone) more often
than I’d like to admit.
“Headfighting” is a word I’d never heard before it was thrown at me like a grenade, but it’s a good word, one I can live with. It fits me and the way I argue more perfectly than any other word I can currently think of. The more I think about it, the more I like it.
Of all the uncomfortable words thrown at me in one sentence, it’s the “unempathetic” that really stings.
No matter how much I tell myself it’s unlikely to be true, that I’m probably not completely unempathetic, the idea lingers that it doesn’t really matter how empathetic I am or think I am; if it’s not felt by the people I care about most, and this person I care about is obviously not feeling it or they wouldn’t have found it necessary to say such a thing, then it doesn’t count.
That’s kind of worrying.
Wikipedia says: “Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Definitions of empathy encompass a broad range of emotional states.”
If anyone had asked, I would have said I often sense what people are feeling. I would have said I regularly ‘know’ what kind of mood people are in before they start talking. Once upon a time I was even proud of picking up mood changes by the punctuation people used when writing to me. I would have said I could pick up differences in the atmosphere like a people-y barometer. Sometimes I get so caught up in other people’s emotions that I lose track of my own.
Turns out that none of that’s worth very much if you lack the words or the ability to do anything with that knowledge (thinking of it as “know-ledge” when really it’s “feel-ledge” might be part of the problem…) and I lack both, to varying degrees in varying situations.
When Kate asks me how I feel about things, I tell her what I think about them. I lack vocabulary for feelings and emotions and even when presented with a list (!) I have a hard time matching them to myself or other people. I once told her “I don’t feel.” In return, she sent me a quote that I instantly identified with:
“Others of us come equipped with a somewhat more basic emotional vocabulary that […] consists primarily of ‘good’, ‘not so good: and ‘I already told you’.
When […] asked what they are feeling, they usually say ‘Nothing’, and when they are asked how they are feeling, they usually say, ‘I don’t know.’”
– Stumbling on happiness
This is me.
This is so me, it’s weird reading it from someone else.
I might have a few more words than the person in the book, but it’s not a long list.
I’m working on it, but it’s a sloooow process.
Talking about feelings (and cats)
Luckily, or maybe unluckily, this lack of emotional words is only an issue when it comes to things involving people.
Inanimate objects, with the possible exception of glass, don’t care or talk about feelings. (The washing doesn’t care how aggressively I load it into the machine. My bike doesn’t care how I’m feeling when I cycle it. The weather doesn’t care what anyone thinks of it, it does its thing regardless of who hates it. The wardrobe doesn’t care how indecisively I get dressed. Glass, for reasons I haven’t yet discovered, does care what mood I’m in, at least enough to only cooperate when I’m being nice to it. Even then, it doesn’t talk to me, so words aren’t an issue.)
(Many) animals can sense moods and intents and act as they gauge appropriate. A cat might curl up on your lap and let you stroke it, or it might hide and avoid you, but it won’t talk about feelings, neither its own, nor yours.
People do. Especially people you know. In the best case, they care what you do and feel and they have their own doings and feelings which need considering and reacting or responding to. A while ago, when I was seething about something, but willing to admit that it wasn’t a rational something, and not wishing to explode all over the person I deemed ‘responsible’, a friend suggested I give my hurt a bubble bath. That is an idea I would never have had in a million years.
When it comes down to it, my approach to feelings (and empathy) is much more cat-like than people-like. Approach cautiously, then, if I like you, and/or I think you like/need my company, I’ll stay close and listen and maybe hug depending on the person, or if I don’t like you or I feel disliked or unappreciated or hurt or scared, I’ll distance myself (maybe after I put my hackles up, hiss, scratch or bite). I might well talk, possibly too much, but I am unlikely to talk about feelings.
Private thoughts and Button pressing
I love good words when they’re directed at me, but I’m more likely to return my sentiments in a hug than an equal outpouring. I don’t ‘gush’. It takes me forever to tell people I love them (if I ever do :/). I try not to get angry. I rarely cry in public. I don’t shout at people (in public or otherwise). I don’t (like) kiss(ing) in public. I don’t go in for public displays of anything. Private things are private, and even then, even in private, opening up to what’s more than just below the surface is something I don’t do easily. Stirring up what’s below that, is something I hardly do by myself…
Against that, when my buttons are pressed, and they are unfortunately quite easy to press, especially when I’m tired, and even more especially in writing, I can get hung up on something secondary, something unimportant and not at all the point of what was being said. If I feel hurt (or angry or any of the ‘not-so-good’ emotions) I have two main go-to ‘programs’ either retreat-and-sulk or claws-first, reasons-after. Reasons, especially badly explained written reasons (or any reasons at all when aimed at heart-people), aren’t particularly useful as either bridges or bandages, and sulking doesn’t solve anything. If I’m very aware of myself and my own needs, there’s a third option – to accept that I’m not able to respond to something constructively ‘right now’ and say so, but that is something I’m still working on, very very slowly. (NB: I’m open for advice on further options..)
Awareness is a hard beast to tame. Sometimes, when I try to focus on not stressing, not hurting (you or myself), not getting angry, not being unreasonable, not saying anything that could be misinterpreted, I end up sounding robotic. Getting rid of the perceived negatives sometimes seems to erase the humanity in the positives. I’m sure there’s some way of striking a happy balance, but I haven’t found it yet.
In primary school, we were read a story about someone who built a wall around their garden so they could stay safe and wouldn’t be harmed by anything. It took them quite a long time to realise that they were also keeping out the good things. I don’t remember the details, but at the end they took down the wall, and let everything in. That’s something I’m working on too.. Unfortunately, I still have overly-enthusiastic antibody-like guards to warn me that ‘bad things’ are coming and to defend me from them, and there are far more of them than celebratory-messengers to let me know about ‘good things’.
Dodging deep feelings
a related note, when I’m scared by the deep deep feelings in
myself, I’m liable to skirt round yours, partly because I don’t
know how to help, but also partly so I don’t have to deal with my
own. Sometimes I’ll actively pick out the bits I’m confident I
can handle, and ignore the rest, sometimes it’s more subconscious
than intentional. Sometimes I get stuck on the first bit of new
information and don’t register the rest.
you tell me Ghandi survived on a grain of rice a day and that you
know that it’s possible because you’ve been close to death [by
starvation], there’s a good chance I’ll focus on Ghandi and the
rice. That’s something I don’t know and which causes an instant
“need to know more” reaction. Death (and related suffering) is
not a topic I’m good at talking about, at least not on a personal
level, so I, mostly unconsciously, skip it. I’m not trying to
reduce your experience, or imply that you’re not telling the truth.
If you tell me you’re so scared or worried by what someone told you that you won’t be able to sleep, and then, almost in the same breath, ask me how I prioritise what I keep in my too-small freezer, I’ll be 3 lines deep in frozen soup and fishfood before it even registers that there are deeper and more important issues at stake. By the time I’ve discovered what’s happened, we’re buried in superficialities and the potential for sharing (and possibly eradicating) the “can’t-sleep-tonight,-help-me” moment is gone. I don’t want to think about how many similar moments I’ve missed ;(
Being responsible for other peoples’ unhappiness is one of the worst things I can think of. Yeah, there’s all that stuff about everyone being responsible for their own reactions, but I think if you punch someone, or bash them with your suitcase when you rush past in a packed station, you’re responsible for the physical pain they feel, even if it wasn’t on purpose. I don’t see that it’s all that different for mental pain. If I say something that hurts someone, regardless of whether I did it on purpose or accidentally, it’s still something I did. Apart from not being a good thing to do, it hurts to see other people hurting and if I can avoid it, I will. I think this is kind of normal.
My problem, if it can be called a problem, is that I’m not really sure where ‘actively hurting’ stops and ‘not actively making them happy’ starts. I don’t think it’s my duty (or even actually possible long-term) to make people happy but I still feel bad if I do something they would like me not to do, or could do something but choose not to do it.
This makes it difficult (not impossible) to create and protect my boundaries or organise my own priorities.
It also makes it difficult to know when to object to the way things are said to me, especially if I can appreciate that the person saying them is stressed about something else. Awarding myself the same right to remain unhurt often comes second to being understanding.
Choosing to stand up for myself, at the cost of not siding with the other person, not being accepting, not being ‘nice’, is really hard, especially if that person isn’t happy as a result of it.
The ‘easy’ version of this, as something to practise on, is arguing about things of no consequence.
Self-criticism and slippery slopes
top of that, I am ridiculously self-critical, to the point that if I
think you’ve criticised one thing on my list of
Things-I-criticise-myself-for, I will probably assume you would also
agree with everything else on my list and more, and come to the
conclusion that you think pretty much everything about me needs
changing and that you’d be better off if I wasn’t inflicting
myself on you. This is not logical or rational. I know this when I’m
happy. On a not-so-good day, I can often recognise what’s happening
and think my way out of it. On a bad (or very hormonal) day the slope
is very slippery.
If you, for example, tell me you didn’t enjoy playing a game with me and that you would have preferred to do something else, that is entirely reasonable from your perspective because you’re letting me know something I couldn’t otherwise find out. It’s a knowledge transfer. A sensible reaction is probably to file that information and offer to play a different game next time. And yet, given the right circumstances (tired/hungry/upset/hormonal/whatever) it might well set off a chain of negative thoughts that are almost entirely unrelated to you or the exact game in question but entirely logical in my head, and before either of us know it, I’m having a pity-party that you didn’t see coming, and don’t understand when I try to spell it out, if I even try.
Words, in person and in writing
Words are tricky things. They evoke different feelings and meanings in different people. Nuances aren’t always minor. Explanations don’t always explain anything. What I say isn’t always what you hear (and vice versa).
In ‘real life’ face-to-face interaction it doesn’t really matter so much if we have words for things or if we don’t agree entirely on the meaning. Assuming I can remember the numbers correctly, the actual words people use make up something like 7 % of face-to-face communication, the other 93 % is all the non-verbal stuff; tone, gestures, facial expression, the way you’re breathing and standing and and and… We can wave our arms about and make faces and work out if we’re happy or sad or whatever. Happy is easy. Happy just involves existing and being interested and joining in the rejoicing. Sad (etc) is harder, but when I can’t offer words, I can offer hugs, or ice cream, or sit in the kind of silence that [I hope] isn’t oppressive. If there’s something that needs doing, I can join in with doing it.
It’s (much) harder on the phone, but I’m pretty good at hearing how people say things (I think), which makes it easier to know what they mean, and easier to change track or explain what I originally meant as soon as it’s obvious that something didn’t come across the way I intended it to. It’s instant too, like in ‘real life’, so you can work through things as soon as they happen (that’s simultaneously a potential bad thing, because you have no time to think out an answer, but on the whole still good).
In writing, this becomes horrendously difficult. If you can’t easily express what you’re thinking and feeling in person, when you’re face-to-face, with the whole range of possibilities, you have very little chance in writing, when you’re stripped to nothing but words and a scattering of small, round, yellow faces. Small gaps or differences in understanding can turn into a huge, ravenous canyons seemingly instantaneously. Even emojis, which are supposed to help, are subject to interpretation. I spent a long time using one smily as a ‘guilty-as-charged’ stand-in, later, I was told most people use it to indicate eye-rolling. That’s quite a difference. I use the monkey covering its eyes to represent situations when I would cover my face, apparently there’s a different one for that and the monkey is for ‘see-no-evil’. I can’t even begin a similar list for words. Ice cream doesn’t travel well, and since no-one knows what you’re doing when you’re not writing, silence can be taken as avoidance or lack of interest when you’re actually desperately scrambling to choose a fraction of what you’re thinking and feeling, and arrange it into something that can be read and understood by someone who doesn’t inhabit your head. Or you’ve just been phoned. Or your battery’s just died. Or your computer/phone’s frozen and you can’t make it unfreeze.
After all that introspective rambling, I think this is what I’m trying to say:
When you, whoever you are, are upset about something, I would love to be well-grounded and stable enough to wait out the storm and be an island if you need shelter before heading off again. To put myself aside and make a space for you until things are better. That….is not always a realistic expectation :(.
Sometimes I’m not strong enough for both of us, sometimes I’m in the middle of my own storms. Sometimes the way you talk to me hurts and I concentrate on my pain and not on yours. Sometimes I focus on ‘facts’ and not (your) feelings. Sometimes I try to see the whole story and miss that you need me to see your story. Sometimes I miss the whole point and think we’re talking about something else.
Sometimes I don’t have the words I need, to say what you need to hear.
Sometimes I let my words get in the way.
Sometimes I put them in the way on purpose.
Sometimes I suck at being a good friend, not just at being empathetic.
I’m sorry for the times I’ve been a lousy friend. Will you help me become a better one?
I have a cycling jacket which I wear when I go cycling.
I have a coat which I wear when I go anywhere (outside) without my bike.
If I am likely to be going anywhere after cycling, or cycling when I get somewhere, I wear one and take the other one with me.
Today, I cycled to work, worked, walked to the station and caught a train to where my driving instructor picked me up. I came straight home after my driving lesson.
Guess which coat I was wearing when I got home this evening?
Guess which coat I put my house key in when I set out this morning?
Bonus points if you also guess who was out and who was asleep when I rung their respective phones and doorbells.
I luckily have a
<Ok. Life is crazier than I could make it up. I got to here in my write-up before Unexpected Things happened. I’ll go back to telling the story in the right order tho..>
I luckily have another set of neighbours who don’t have a copy of my key, but DO have a big sofa. L was in and still awake when I phoned (around 9:30pm I guess).
“Yeah, no problem, come in! I’ll find you a duvet.. Do you want anything to eat? What happened?”
Within very few minutes I had a huge sofa, a blanket, a duvet and half a million cushions.
And it was warm and dry and I didn’t have to go back to work to get my key (which would have been my backup option).
And I could finally go to the toilet 🙂
L finished unloading the dishwasher and fed her animals and we yakked for a bit and watched the dog for a bit before it was time for bed (or sofa).
Instead of instantly falling asleep (which my body wanted), I started writing (because obviously the world needs to know about how I lock myself out..) and then this happened:
L knocks on the door and comes back into the sitting room.. “Jess? I’m really sorry about this.. E (her boyfriend) just phoned. He’s bringing a guy from work home for the night and I don’t think there’s enough room on the sofa for both of you…”
Oh. Well that’s great, I guess I’ll go back to work after all….
“…but I phoned the landlord and he was on his way over anyway so I asked him for your key..”
Uh.. What..? He wasn’t there earlier.. But cool! Am I asleep? Did he really just give you my key?!
“..I’m really sorry to wake you up and bother you..normally you would be really welcome to stay..I didn’t know anything about this guy coming over until just now..I’ll put your key on the table and let you get dressed..”
And that’s how I came to be sleeping in my own bed after all.
Once upon a time, a handful of years ago, I learnt to drive. I was given a car by a friend of now ex-DB’s which I drove until it (more-or-less literally) fell to pieces. Then I sold the pieces and started riding my bike instead.
It’s been a couple of years since then, and I haven’t driven more than a few km on a short round trip to the local garden centre for compost. That mini-trip was almost 2 years ago.
Next weekend, I have to hire a car or van to pick up some things I can’t carry on the bike. I’ve been putting it off for a while but I’ve decided it’s time. Having decided that I am finally going, I have to admit to myself that I am also going to be responsible for driving the aforementioned car/van through or round Berlin.
I figured it was a bad idea to just hope for the best.. Especially as I’ve heard people don’t appreciate you closing your eyes while driving.
So… I’m about to have a driving lesson.. with my old driving instructor, just like old times 🙂
I survived and the driving instructor survived and the car is unscathed and no one/thing was hurt at all.