Magical thinking- denotes the belief that one’s thoughts by themselves can bring about effects in the world or that thinking something corresponds with doing it.
I’m not very good at giving advice, this is what I go to others for. But when writing this blog It has been what comes up more and more in the private messages I recieve.
I try to give it but I’m not always sure it helps. The truth is that there is a legacy to any trauma or pain. For me it is extensions of problems before. Before I would have thought nothing of turning up to a bar or party by myself but I could never do it now. I still struggle with large groups and I do try to stick to ‘Safe people’. I’ve even got into trouble for this, for choosing to sit by my friend Marianna once in a large gathering because she was my safe person. I still need levels of patience that not everyone is able to give. I’m not great with new people, but I’m improving here too.
This legacy affects my children too. But with them it manifests itself in other ways. Flynn particularly can’t really handle it when I am ill and once I was heavily sedated by my dentist, he got very upset indeed.
If I leave them for a night out or a few days away, there is often a whole process that needs to come into play. They can become anxious, perhaps worried that another parent may just not come back. So if I go away for more than a night I leave them messages under their pillows each night (much as their father did for me). They are allowed to phone or text whenever they want. I show them beforehand exactly where I am going on a map, photos of the place. How long it will take to get there and then come back. The exact timing of everything, and sometimes I see them relax. This has it drawbacks too as once on a romantic night out in a hotel farmhouse with a dashing young writer, I spent the whole main course at the front-of -house, on the receptionist’s phone trying to quietly sing: “I have naughty monkey in my car, Lesty Loo Loo….” down the public phone to gawks from some pretty hostile (but very well dressed and trendy) onlookers. Thankfully he was still there when I got back.
A note to the grieving- advice, maybe.
I wrote a blog post once called -What To do.
People said – I just can’t imagine, which was mildly irritating. In the first week there were moments when I would randomly and spontaneously need to throw up where the grief actually made me vomit. There are probably few words words that could immediately bring on this reaction. But if you can imagine what words would bring this reaction on in you personally, then you’re there. There were times where I felt that I couldn’t handle the pain for one more minute let alone an hour. I couldn’t see a way through. Partly because there wasn’t a way through- It’s a bit like Celeste’s favourite book- Going On A Bear Hunt- you can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you have to go through it. The gigantic swishy swashy grass, the splishy sploshy river and the thick oozy, squelchy mud
Regardless of how many people are downstairs in your kitchen or cooking in your kitchen, regardless of how long they stay, you are in this alone and that is by far one of the worst things, but something that needs to be addressed and most importantly accepted. Nobody can join you in your mind, or walk beside you in your dreams that night or totally and truly imagine what it is like, although the good ones will try.
So what to do- Initially and immediately it may be enough for a momentary release to remove yourself from the room you are in while experiencing a particular tough pang of pain. You will do anything to get out of the moment, your head, so try to do just that. It’s a band-aid and it will work only for a moment but that’s good enough as far as I’m concerned. So in the initial days this may be as simple as moving out of one room into the next, because what happens is you engage your brain in the navigation of this and so as it’s busy doing this, you will get a brief release from what it was occupied with in the previous room.
Sometimes going outside is good, especially in warm weather, this can have much the same effect. Doing a practical task can help, as simple as making a coffee or lighting a fire. If you want to escape your head then you need to give the brain something else to do. As days become weeks you will become more ambitious with these things, even extend them. You may even look forward to a meal with the friends in your living room, or a long bath or walking by the river or watching a film. As weeks become months these change even more dramatically. And then you remember day one. Nothing is ever as awful as day one, day two is almost as awful but it’s still not.
This next step is called living. This takes awhile and it will catch you up and pinch you on the backside even if you think you’ve banished it. If you want this process sped up further and you’re brave, then try acceptance on for size. I wasted, years really, refusing to accept that this was happening to me, denial is a river in Egypt , my dad used to say. Denial is not your friend and nor is guilt. Survivors’ guilt is the thief of joy. I fought all of this initially. I bought the same food, cooked the same meals, did everything the same but this was trying to prolong and extend something that had truly gone and truly ended. Only when I accepted this, was I truly liberated. It’s sometimes a hard fact to swallow that every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end. Where’s there’s life, there’s hope so the old phrase goes, but for me it was the opposite, where there’s hope there’s life. You know what it looks like, you even know what it smells like, get it back.
“How we spend our days” author Annie Dillard writes “is how we spend our lives.”Instead of waiting to be happy so we can live we should just live and do the small things that make us happy. ‘Happiness is the joy you find on hundreds of forgettable Wednesdays’- as Blogger Tim Urban describes it. There may be one thing that brings this on more so than other things- for me this was writing , my prose-zac (that sounded better in my head- apologies).
The sadness will never leave I suspect, but you may in time, not even want it to. I feel no less sad today than I did two years, or even five years ago but we have learnt to coexist pain and I and It’s ok. It doesn’t own me or control me it simply asks to join me, and I let it.