My anxiety is off the charts. It likes to pounce at bedtime. I read myself into sleepiness, sometimes successfully managing to trick my brain into getting lost in a narrative of someone else’s making and not the racing thoughts carrying all this angst, worry and churning despair I seem to get so overwhelmed by. But then, as soon as I switch off the light, even when I genuinely believe I’m going to slip into blissful sleep, my heart starts racing and its pounding inside my ribcage gets me wide awake.
Some things are new, but let’s start with what has remained the same:
- I’m still sober.
- I’m still surrounded by people I love.
Some new things:
- My inner critic/tyrant has a name now: Bible John.
- A new friendship has formed with someone I adore: let’s call her Clippy, because if she ever reads this I think it’ll make her laugh because it’s something only we know.
- A friendship ended. Actually, make that two.
- I discovered that stagnation makes me unhappier than leaving my comfort zone. Fuck.
- My maternal grandmother passed away this week. Although at nearly 95 it’s a bit odd to have her on a list of “new” things. Not cool to make jokes? Oh relax, she is giggling in her heaven, I promise you that.
So as the first list implies, I am happily sober, happily the mother of Bambino who still delights and terrifies me in equal measure, (mostly – we’re fresh out of a row so my attitude is somewhat poor still) happily married to the man with gorgeous pins and doing what I love for a living.
As for the second list, I don’t know why grandma – or mormor – ended up at the bottom. And this will sound insanely insensitive and downright WRONG to say, but I think it’s the part that has caused the least brain activity in terms of the racing thoughts kind. I absolutely 100% feel sad that she’s passed on, she was a grandmother straight out of the most perfect storybook (small, rotund, sweet, parent defying yay-sayer, excellent baker and kickass storyteller) and I love her to pieces. Beyond her grandmother qualities she is also alongside her daughter, my mum, one of the strongest women I know and a true role model. So why is my tone light and jokey? I think what my mum said in a text sums it up: “she’s old, she’s unable to care for herself, her body is worn out and she’s finished with life now – and what a run!” – it’s terribly sad and we all feel her loss, but it was her time. This last year, she’s been in a care home because she was getting so incredibly frail and could no longer do anything for herself. She lost her eyesight almost two years ago (she told me this was her greatest challenge in life) and her hearing was pretty shot too. Death comes to us all, but to mormor it came after a full life packed with love and joy (and sure, hardship too – just like death, this seems pretty inescapable for us humans) and except for these past 3-4 years when she became so frail and helpless, she got over 90 years of good health and independence. No pain, no tragedy. And again, as my mother put in another text message: “what is happening here is life“.
So rest in peace, sweet little mormor. I’m so glad I got to have you and not just through childhood but well into my middle age! A life lived well, followed by a natural and peaceful end. The overwhelming feeling is gratitude. Mormor was at the end of her journey and it was a good one. Her granary rolls were legendary, and try as I might, no matter how closely I follow baking them exactly as she taught me, no one can make them like she did. She must have added some secret magic somehow. Storybook grandmas can do that.
The first and second entry are a bit connected. A friend has come into my life and we discovered we both have really vicious inner critics. Hers has a name. And after pondering mine, we landed on Bible John. And yes, I do realise that’s the name of a Scottish serial killer but that made me feel like I flip him the bird and empowers me a bit. Demean him a little, like he does me so much. That judgemental voice inside feels male and it feels a bit old and it has a righteous, slightly religious nuance to it. So he’s Bible John and I delight in telling him to fuck off on occasion. Still has a huge hold over me but Stockholm wasn’t built in one day.
Lost friendships. One was a curveball because I thought it was a long haul thang we had goin’ on. I distanced myself, but even though it seemed needed and the right thing to do at the time, I’ve thought about her a lot lately and wonder if I could have handled things better. Not wondering actually – I’m quite sure I could have. But hey, we do the best we can with the tools we have and I had to honour myself. Ah, Bible John is HATING how I say that! Another friendship fizzled out. C’est la vie. But yes, the first one I guess I do feel a bit sad about. Bible John is busy telling me I’m a shit friend – this is what he does, see?
Stagnation… Last year I was accepted to further training that I was oh so keen to do and felt so incredibly happy and grateful to be accepted to. (Bible John is wanting me to say I was shocked too – he’s right in that I was, but he also wants to say it was a mistake or I tricked them in the interview somehow). The first stage of three years to get qualified really took all I had and I needed a break. There were also things going on with Bambino that felt urgent and required my available headspace. A big part was also my absolute Richter scale worthy bouts of anxiety and dread around group situations (actually, make that anything that involves “social” and “people”), and the closer I got to the autumn, the more my stomach would fall out any time I thought of it. So I decided to defer for a year, maybe forever. Simply because the counselling training had me on my knees so many times.
What I discovered was the same thing I discovered when I first got sober – stagnation is my enemy. It gets me down with it faster than the opening chords of Mmm-bop. Part of me thought fuck it, I’m qualified, let’s just do this thing and enjoy it, no need to keep moving, just bob along gently and revel in how I now can. Whilst I love doing this and it absolutely fulfils me, not feeding my brain gets me super antsy. Not moving forward or towards something gets me really, really restless and lost. So I had a firm chat with myself and so this autumn I’m jumping right back on. As much as it requires of me, stagnation and bobbing along destroys me more so it’s back to feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
When it comes to dread and anxiety I’d like to add I flew to New Zealand and back and didn’t die again. Nice.
But what is my anxiety up to? A lot of it centres around Bambino. He’s going off-piste and pursuing his passion and has managed to kick down some doors most people can only dream of. It’s getting to a crunch and because it’s his dream I’m having kittens terrified he’ll be crushed. However, the industry he’s kicking doors down in is cut throat and notoriously difficult to make it in, so whilst he’s determined and tough and talented, I pray I’ve managed to equip him with enough resilience to withstand some bruising, because I think that’s an unavoidable part of that business.
As for actual bruises, he got a shiner a couple of weeks back – he works at a dodgy pub and there was a punch-up. His manager got knocked to the ground, another man got punched so bad he ended up with a broken jaw and a woman got in the way of punches too, and as Bambino comes running to check what’s happened someone clocked him right to the side of his face. Police called, trip to A&E, the lot. And if I could find words to describe how I felt seeing Bambino with an eye swollen shut – knowing someone had seriously harmed him – it would be the most gut wrenching thing you’d ever read but words to capture that just don’t exist. But he’s OK and that too has passed.
Right now he’s on his way home and I’m annoyed because he was out Friday and Saturday and I have even less chance of falling asleep if I’m still waiting to hear the door slam shut with Bambino safely inside it. Rat bag. But he’s 18 and the days of being able to shield him from all harm are over. However, the days of me and Hubby outlining what is acceptable in a home shared with others and consideration for said ‘others’ are very much still here. Fuck’s sake, I have a full on morning with clients tomorrow and so I need my sleep.
On balance, I guess I’m OK. And I always will be as long as:
Today I’m not going to drink. Oh look, it’s one minute past midnight. So yesterday I didn’t think and today I won’t either. Hello Monday.