Unparenting

What if they don’t live?

Do the safety briefing. Let them go.

I wrote those words just there back in 2016. It was the first time myself, friends and my husband were really discussing the questions and logistics around a bigger question;

What if I give my kid a freedom/responsibility – because they’re growing up fast and needing to detach as part of a new and natural stage – what if I do that and… and…  What if they die? 

The words above, in bold, are the ones I stuck down in a draft post to do a reckoning on;  they were the beginning of an answer we were all kinda formulating and which has crystallised for me in the years since. In that time one of my kids went on a whole holiday to Berlin with his pals (and without me) and then went and completely moved out this summer past.

If I had a pound for the number of times I have pictured said son falling out of any one of his new top floor flat windows while simply admiring a view or opening a blind I would have a decent stack of quids, by now. My brain likes to do this worst-case scenario imagery as a special, massively unwanted, self-horror gifting exercise. It’s part of my hypervigilance which flares from PTSD now and again and I’ve learned through therapy interventions that when I bring it into focus and look hard and lovingly at it, examining where it came from and why my brain would do this kind of thing, it helps to deconstruct unhelpful behaviour or feelings that might otherwise follow, and usually even makes me laugh and feel grounded instead.

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Recently, during a flare, one of my best friends and I sat and listed all the horrific ways we had pictured our fledged kids dying, thanks to the brain CGI movie that the experience of parenting adults often plays in the mind. It seemed like the right thing to do – to lean in fully to the macabre, deeply unlikely possibilities looping in our heads and torturing us, to throw light on them and see exactly what we were dealing with. We ended up in hysterical fits of laughter; hearing how ridiculous I am when I say things like, ‘Ok, well I’ve worked out how it’s possible for him to have a fatal accident while replacing a toilet roll’ is a great needle for puncturing an inflated fear with.

My son has had a word with me about it all too, as has his sister. Their points, paraphrased with swearing removed?

  1. Some credit, please. I am fairly invested in staying alive to enjoy my new found freedom.
  2. Mother, you are frightening me now as well as yourself.
  3. Oh my god, shut up mum.
  4. If you keep this up, I will send you gifs of me running down tenement stairs, wearing flip flops and holding open scissors between my teeth.

And so I have done the safety briefing, done the safety breathing, and let them go in different ways. And it actually feels really good. I’m acknowledging again I can’t control everything for my kids and that’s OK – this is a lesson I seem to revisit in different guises bi-annually, since commencing motherhood. That being the case, I think it might be good to factor this thought and behavioural change catalyst in as a constant point of mediation, for the kids and everything.

Roots and wings, Heather. Roots and wings.

Truth Hurts

I’ve taken the long way around getting to writing this post. A new job, long-awaited, started back in spring last year. My instincts told me not to take it, that it was too good to be true, but I mistook them for fear and shouted them down. I have calibrated my self-listening skills since and so the learning continues.

Ah, but times have been dark.

Ah, but times have been light.

I’m not sure whether to call the last twelve months since I left the job a breakdown or a breakthrough and since there’s no need to choose, I’ll call it both. Hell, I might even go as far as to say you can’t have one without the other.

It has been a newsflash to me that somewhere in this body of wonders I don’t have an amazing superpower which turns things I want to be true into truths. Goddamn.

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So why did I take the job? I took it because we really needed the money. I took it because I trusted the voices of those with greater social and professional standing than my own when they called it A Great Thing. I took it because a fancy job title fed my ego but I didn’t stop to check whether the place and the people and the price would nurture my soul or the world. I took it because I was tired of the hustle and isolation of freelancing and scared that if I didn’t take it I’d regret it forever. And it played out terribly. A front-row seat inside what turned out to be a disaster hitherto disguised as a good, much-validated idea.

Instinct, instinct, instinct.

Now, back freelancing, the hustle and the isolation feel sweet and clean and full of peace and honesty. 

Today is the first day I can say I’m glad it all happened. I guess my fingertips have been waiting to type that, waiting and willing and working for it to at last feel true.

As well as all the breaking, I’ve grown. I’ve taken on some personal boundaries that were long overdue and realised my instincts aren’t something to be cursed for not shouting loudly enough, but that they’re a gift; a gift I’ve overlooked way too readily till now.

In jettisoning the job I waited a decade for I’ve gone on a truth trip too. Dark nights of the soul will do that. There’s been frequent beckoning from the Beelzebub of Bullshit in my brain to be dealt with as part of that; the ego wants it all to be someone else’s fault, of course, to lash out and create a social media trash fire, as is the way of the times; to be a victim, create a dramafest, control the narrative, publically post-mortem the disaster, etc. In the end, quiet truth tastes better in my mouth and doesn’t poison my gratitude for what remains, so I choose that. In so doing the need for social media has dropped away like a stone kicked absent-mindedly from a cliff edge. Strange thing, that, because social media was such a positive in my life until I went off course, P45 in hand, delighted about the prospect of regular pay.  Yet, a small splash and now the inclination is gone, into the blue. Maybe I’ll come across it one day on a beach and pick it up again.

For now, brand new creativity and productivity have replaced phone-screen time. I have a balanced freelance workload, am learning heaps of bigger production skills with podcasting and the house is getting TLC most days; an hour of painting here, a bit of sanding there, accompanied by podcasts that affirm the good shit and call out the batshit. Having the time to speak more with people face to face and down the line is nice too – truly. Now when I check the time it’s two hours behind where I think it’ll be. My phone no longer gets into the bedroom, not even in the mornings, and so I’m getting more time with books and meditation and my favourite souls. I’m no longer melding yesterday with tomorrow and constantly feeling around for a missing today.

Long may all of this version of life – broken down, broken through – continue. I am at home in the muddle of uncertainty sometimes working out into something beautiful once more. Phew.

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52and40/39 Method in the Madness

I’ve been unitasking.  I like that this sounds like unicycling but actually involves zero circus fuckery.  Unitasking’s simply doing one thing at a time.  I can multitask but I make mistakes, get stressed and then there’s frustration about rushing or being a bitch to myself or some poor bystander along the way.  So, no more lunch while checking emails and walking the dog.  Now I’m just having lunch.  Then checking emails.  Then walking the dog. Hardly miraculous, but I’m certainly happier and this way feels pragmatically zen and paced for the times.

 

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More about #52and40 here

52and40/38 Habit Forming

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I read thirteen books this year.  I’m happy about re-establishing reading after years of total drought.  Some say it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  It’s taken me nearer twenty one months.  At first my concentration was so poor I had to read every paragraph repeatedly, forcing myself to put down my phone for twenty minutes at a time.  Then, slowly, I began relishing phone dumping; books morphing into pacifier and portal; a way to slow down time and accelerate perspectives.

How long does it take you to make a change?

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More about the malarky that is #52and40 here

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52and40/37 White Noise

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I love the odd day in Glasgow.  As familiarity grows, I’m beginning to link the city up with maps, memories, family folklore and reference points in the past, present and future.  I like the break from Edinburgh’s tourism too, when I’m off west.  Interactions with people and the pavement feel markedly more real and more easily connected in a context where showmanship’s less prevalent.  I trust myself and my reading of stories I’m collecting better without a backdrop of pressure on a place.  I’ve always been easily influenced; mood is infectious, too.

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More here on what the crack is with #52and40.  

52and40/36 ‘Tis The Season

My mental health’s gone off kilter recently.  As a health-conscious veteran of PMDD,  postnatal and antenatal depressions, I know when my neurochemistry’s recalibrated in an unhelpful direction.  I’m lucky SSRIs work well for me and I feel positive, mainly, about medical interventions.  I like my life in full, balanced colour.  So, while the palette reloads, I’m taking things easier.

Meanwhile, I’m heartened by the stigma around mental health honesty eroding.  I see people responding with less shock when someone owns a decline.  This rise in empathy and emotional courage really helps.

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Wotcha

If you like my soapbox moments or share my passions, grab a coffee or a gin and get comfy as you’ve happened upon my read me here update and it’d be great to have your comments along the way.

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Firstly, I’ve written as a guest blogger on The History Girls Frae Scotland recently.   I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love The History Girls Frae Scotland site for all its content, best described by themselves as ‘History, Heritage and Hilarity’, it’s a total delight.  The post I’ve written for them is about why, pushed by modern and historical politics, I came to create the website and online community I run called The Grantidote.

TheGrantidoteTrioThe Grantidote is a collection  of real women’s stories from people’s knowledge of grandmothers and other women who impacted their lives.  The Grantidote’s purpose is to create an intervention to a male-centric society in which toxic masculinity’s been normalised.  This may sound like heavy work but the reality’s different – it’s a pleasure and change never felt so accessible to me than through this simple but profound portal.  If you think you’ve a story about a woman to tell with me for this important archive, regardless of your gender, please get in touch.  Contributions can be little or large and I’m interested in getting graphic storytelling and spoken word included too.  Basically, the door’s wide open and the mood’s uber welcoming.  Dive in!

Second up, I was recently interviewed by Jane Woods for Changing People.  Changing People works with businesses and individuals to address gender imbalances in workplaces.  As someone who doesn’t have a career, this chat was terrifying and affirming and had me thinking so much about the discomfort and inadequacy I’ve felt over the years about the informality of my work.  My insecurities here are informed by quite extreme anxiety about money and security dating back to my teens, compounded by adult experiences with post-natal depression.  It was therapeutic to be able to step back from anxiety about my identity and see a bigger story I’m tentatively proud to call my own.

Third and last (and really joyfully) I’ve been doing a wee bit of novel writing and nurturing short stories and poems for competitions. Words, words, everywhere…

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