The past week has been insane. Long story short, the whole family has Covid and we’ve all been pretty ill with it. I’ve had a few scary nights with the coughing and up until this afternoon I’ve been thoroughly exhausted, feverish and aching all over. It’s day 7 for me. To add to that, my five year old son developed lymphangitis from a small cut he had on his hand and had to spend a few nights in hospital while he was treated with IV antibiotics. There aren’t the words to adequately express the worry and stress this week has held for me. Sleepless nights in the hospital lying on a fold out bed beside my son, watching his chest rise and fall. Both of us struggling with Covid. In fact it was Covid that compromised his immune system so much that his little body had to choose to fight the virus first and the tiny cut on his hand became infected and the red line rapidly crept up his arm to his lymph node under his armpit. The GP told me not to worry about it when I sent her a picture, effectively said I was overreacting… but when the mottling began to show on his forearm, I took him straight to a&e. The consultant told me it would have been a very different story had I not brought him up when I did. He looked me straight in the eyes and told me I did the right thing and should always trust my maternal instinct.
It was a very scary few days but we’re out the other side of that now and he seems on the mend, though still struggling with Covid symptoms. It makes me so angry to hear people say that kids aren’t affected by the virus… they are! Both of my healthy kids and many of their classmates have struggled with this virus. And both me and my husband have been double vaccinated, and this feels worse than the flu… I don’t want to imagine how ill we’d be without it, because this is hellish! I’ve been mainly existing on autopilot, being a mum and getting through things. There hasn’t been much time to be introspective or dwell on things. I’ve had too much real-time worry to contend with. And it’s been Mark’s third summer break… and to be honest I don’t think I’d have had space for therapy. It’s been the most present, most proactive ‘survival’ type week. There’s been this powerful thread of gratitude running through all of this. I am eternally grateful for the NHS. So grateful for the nurses who cared for us both when we were in hospital. Grateful for the hospital care we received. Grateful we were lucky enough to be born here, in a country that is not at war, I didn’t need to pass my baby over a wall to soldiers to keep him safe this week. Instead, we had free immediate access to high quality health care, friends dropping round home cooked meals, bags of food and fresh fruit and veg and medicine… honestly, so many thoughts and feelings about how lucky I am.
Tonight, has been the first night in a week that I haven’t been sitting with a very ill child and I felt the desire to write. It’s been a rare thing for me to be online over recent months. I’ve missed the connection with the few special people that I got to know online over the years but there has been this strong sense from deep inside me that I really needed to turn towards my ‘real life’ (for want of a better phrase). And ‘real life’ has been busy and full. I’ve taken on a new role at work that involves greater responsibility, more hours and a leadership element that feels really fulfilling. We’re planning the final stages of our new house build which is something that I seriously thought would never happen. My husband has been rehearsing with his band more frequently and I have watched them play live which was a total joy to see him so happy and in his element after so long without playing with other people. I have witnessed a softening inside myself towards my childhood and my parents. Many layers of grief and anger and sadness and regret have gently eroded to leave behind this quiet compassion and seeds of forgiveness. Now THAT is something I never thought possible.
This time last year was a turning point for me. I was coming to the end of 6 intense months of working with Linda in the aftermath of Anna leaving. In august 2020 I took an all-mighty dive into self-advocacy when I realised Linda was not going to be able to do the deeper trauma work with me. Her words, ‘I’ve had to hold a lot for you through this and maybe it’s been too much,’ echoing in my mind as I searched for a new therapist. One that could definitely hold what I have. I knew in my heart that I had to let go of what felt like the last link to Anna, in order to continue on my journey of healing in the direction that I needed to go. I knew in my soul what I really needed and I knew that it wasn’t Linda, nor was it Anna anymore either… it was always going to need to be something that brought me closer to myself… then along came Mark.
In just over a week, I will have been working with Mark for a year. We’ve had close to a hundred sessions and I’m sitting here now trying to find a way to describe the depth and value of the work we’ve done so far and the unfathomable healing that has taken place in such a small space of time. Losing Anna changed me enormously and working with Mark has changed me even more. It was all part of the healing. I can see that now. I have brought all of myself to Mark, uncensored. And he has welcomed it all as if it were the greatest thing he’s ever seen. Which has enabled me to do the same. One of the most profound and life-changing aspects of our work has been talking about, rejoicing and feeling into the ‘good stuff’ and really letting it be there between us. Often, we will turn our attention to the light energy inside me, the empowered, grateful, joyful… the calm and accepting, the love and the compassion. It’s all growing inside me because we tend to it. I spend less of my time in that painful place of inbetween… the fuzzy push pull of grief or anger or attachment, wrestling with resistance and protection and dissociation. It just isn’t there so much anymore because we spent so much time honouring all those terrifying places. They haven’t completely vanished, they never will… but they are far less frequent visitors. What tends to happen these days is I can go into the darkness, accompanied by Mark, without the fearful, shaming, critical pull of resistance. And from there we work on truly witnessing it all together, hand in hand holding the pain. This seems to allow for the joy to be there also. The victories can be celebrated without fear because the once intolerable pain is held and explored. With the repetition of a consistent caregiver, Mark has held me as I’ve fallen into the depths of despair and bore witness to my contraction, the need to close off and disconnect for safety, and not fought against it. And as he has stayed true and patient and ever present, it has allowed a tiny opening to grow, so that now, even when the terror rises, I appear more able to open into some sort of expansion. To let it be here, whatever ‘it’ is. To stay with him and stay with the feelings. All at once. To feel the fear and the faith. To feel the grief and the joy… in one body.
I’m now at a place where I feel I’m able to give companionship and support to myself. And if I sense a need for company or co-regulation, I don’t seem to have the same fear or resistance around asking for help. Unconditional love and limitless possibility… that’s what it feels like inside. Mark told me a poem recently and the following lines he holds in his heart and believes to be true… ‘sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness’… he said that’s all he ever does… just reteach, re-show, hold a mirror to all that is in there already. And that’s exactly what it has felt like. It doesn’t feel like he is the good one and I’m the bad anymore… it feels like he can see clearly whereas sometimes I struggle to see, but always we are equal and always the truth is that there is loveliness even if I am momentarily blind to it. And more often now I am able to see with more clarity, that it is there in us all and in me.
In the last weekend of the summer holidays, I watched my kids practicing some pretty impressive new skills at a climbing centre and it made me think… our journeys include it all – the triumphs, the falls, the scraped knees and the second, third, fourth go. And as my son cheered his sister on when she was able to do a trickier part of the course that he isn’t tall enough for yet, I thought about how important it is to let ourselves be the highest and fullest version we can be, without fear of the falls that may come. And to let others celebrate and surpass too. I have said it more times than I can remember but healing is not linear and actually part of the healing is the fall and the climb, on repeat. Just being where you are in that moment and witnessing and celebrating others for where they are.
I think this is the most stable, settled and secure I’ve ever felt as an adult and it’s been slowly, steadily growing for the past year.. or maybe it’s all been leading up to this, from my first session back in February 2013. I have this deep knowledge inside myself that I’m okay and that I will be okay. And when I say what I’ve just said, I don’t mean I’m happy all the time… far from it. I have moments of grief, moments of sadness, stress (soooo much stress and worry this week), anxiety and the sharp spiky triggers are still all there. But there is something different now about how I contain it all… I think that’s it, my container has grown. I can hold it all now. I remember being in despair saying to Anna, ‘it’s all bigger than me, it’s too much, I can’t cope with it all.’ That’s the difference. It’s not bigger than me anymore. And it kind of blows my mind that I’m in this place… where the stuff that used to floor me, feels manageable. I am so so grateful for that.
So grateful for all the people and moments that show us the loveliness that has always been here all along.
Saint Francis and the Sow by Galway Kinnell
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.