I’m in need of more onomatopoeias, because I can’t find an appropriate word to summarise the sound I’m making in my soul just now. It’s part sigh, part reease of breath and tension; there’s a little sound that sits somewhere between relief and regret; and there’s a creak in my bones that speaks of anticipation and nervous trepidation for what’s to come.
I’m good in a crisis. Emergencies of a medical, social and even financial nature do not phase me. I do what must be done, and I tend to keep things together, enabling others to either fall apart, or do their part. The last ten years and more have been a roller-coaster consisting of one crisis after another and on the whole I think I’ve met each with a strange mix of stubbornness, resilience, resignation and determination.
My biggest fear is that I have become defined by my crisis management. On the rare occasions that life settles down a little and I find myself with some time alone to think, ponder and reflect, I am often bewildered and lost.
All that being said, crises are temporary affairs. They are intense, precipitated by one critical event, and while the moment can feel eternal and painful it does eventually pass. What happens next determines how life proceeds – either the crisis is resolved and a new version of pre-crisis life resumes, or life is transformed as chronic repercussions of that crisis leave their mark.
Tonight I have reached the end of a little time of crisis: half term. Lack of routine, all three children at home with their range of rather intense special needs, and a husband who is running out of emotional resources to deal with the more chronic stresses that are the residual marks of our more recent crises. In my last post I talked of steering my ship and finding the tiller heavy. I’m very fortunate in that I share my life with Darling Man and we are profoundly in partnership. Part of that partnership sees one or the other of us needing extra support from time to time. Right now, he needs me to do the steering. At other times, he’s taken over when all my strength has gone. And as I said earlier, I’m good in a crisis – so I organised some good outings, enforced some (very) basic expectations of the children and dealt with a few difficult confrontations with Eldest (there’s a whole other blog post in that one!). I was able to organise a day out so that children and grandparents could see each other (the French grandparents will have to come over the channel soon!!) and we had a day out in London which was a fond wish of Darling Man. Largely, no problem. All was done, and there were some really good moments.
How many of you can hear a “but” on its way?
It’s such an enormous but that it’s overpowering all the words that need to give it voice. Today I took Eldest back to school. Because of the lengthy trip, Sweet Girl had to stay at school all day. She managed very well, though came out of school emotionally worn out. Little Man was at Cherry Trees last night, so was taken to school by taxi – such a relief! Today, a semblance of normality resumed. Today, the crisis was over.
At these times, I’m often left thinking of funny cartoons in which a man who has been fighting against the wind falls over as the wind drops. For me, a crisis is like a strong gale: lean into it head on, and chances are that you will remain standing and you will be able to make progress. But when that wind abates, you need to stop leaning or you will end up on your face. No progress, and a lot of healing to be done. The harder the gale, or the longer the length of the storm, the harder it is to lean back in time. I frequently fall. And it takes time to pick myself up and adjust to the new pace of this post crisis life.
Tonight, though, I’m not that funny cartoon character fighting the wind. Tonight I’m hanging onto the edge of a cliff and trying very hard not to let go. I know… I know that I can climb back up on to the ledge. I just need to breathe and to allow myself to hang for a while before finding a new kind of strength which will allow me to get back to the top.
At the same time, it’s a frightening place to be (one of the things I forgot to share about myself in this earlier post is that I’m truly frightened of heights) and as much as I know that I can climb up, the fear of the fall wobbles any determination I may have left.
I’m beginning to get the hang of this, though. Crisis managed, now we move on to post crisis management:
1. Therapy. I have a wonderful psychotherapist who helped me back from the darkest of dark places and who continues to help me sort out those wonderful and terrifying tangles. I love the fact that she gives me freedom to see her less frequently as time goes by, but also has the courage to tell me when she feels an extra session or two might be helpful.
2. Knitting. Well, knitting, sewing, making generally. Knitting is extraordinarily therapeutic for me. It keeps my hands busy, my mind less so and has some amazing sensory effects. Knitting in this instance is absolutely dependent on GOOD yarn. Even if I only make a small project, I need some beautiful soft yarn, in a colour that inspires me. In some cases, the yarn is rather more costly than I would like, so I will often choose a more complicated pattern in order to relish the touch a little longer…
3. Writing, blogging. The act of spilling thoughts, and joys, and hurts onto what I still think of as paper is oddly cathartic. The fact that those pieces of my life and my heart and my soul are out in the world for such spirits as you to read in some way gives them wings. And with those wings, they fly, they soar… and they more truly leave me free to move forward than any writing I might do for purely personal reading.
So, dear readers… Thank you for being part of my process, part of my progress. I do love hearing from you, and the exchange that then follows. So I hope you will click on that little “comment” box and tell me how you manage a crisis, or post crisis!!