It’s not even 10am and the heat is pounding down on us, temperatures rising rapidly outside while the AC runs softly inside, 75 degrees on a 111 degree day. Another weekend with heat advisories, another weekend where we stay in because the sun outside is unrelenting. Always sensitive to my surroundings, I feel the tension in the air, electric, sizzling down the line, zapping my fingertips, painful behind my eyes. I close them and wish for a moment of pure silence so I can quieten all of the sounds crashing around in the thunderstorm that inhabits my skull right now. Silence. I breathe it in the same way I swallow my coffee, in huge, frantic gulps. Silence, just a few moments. And there it is, those few moments give me the peace of mind to continue and put this week behind me.
This past week has been a week of despondency, a week of wondering why we climb so well in order to stumble back hundreds of steps, clinging to whatever we can grab hold on to along the way. The rational side of my brain tells me that it’s normal, it’s life, we have our ups and downs, and that next week everything will look a lot brighter again. The more emotional side stands in the middle of the room, staring out into nowhere, hoping the tears won’t start falling again, just so I don’t have to explain something that I cannot voice. Emotions wax and wane, coastal tides often swept by high winds and riptides. Sometimes it feels good to cry, even if there is no specific reason for it. Sometimes I laugh through the waves of tears falling down my face, because the tears are just another release, and that throaty laugh is another emotion. It is possible to be overwhelmed and still happy, we are not one-sided but multi-faceted, a book with thousands of lines, hundreds of pages. Everything will be allright, but expressing feelings is normal. We shouldn’t feel the need to hide them, but we do.
We talk about tantrums and meltdowns, of terrible twos and threenagers, but our tantrums are not tantrums. They are earth-shattering moments of brain-melting screams, with punches, kicks, flying objects and finally headbutting the wall, until the inevitable sobs followed by “I love you so much Mummy”. The breathing lessons that we go through don’t always work and I stand there, helpless, waiting for the cloud to pass, and the sunshine to light her eyes again, our balance returning to ripples rather than waves. I am used to this, so used to this, but some weeks hit me harder than others, the lack of sleep, the day-to-day worries about bills and rent and food, the underlying guilt and fears that we messed up, somewhere. We haven’t, I know that, but I am driven by perfection, and embrace the imperfections a lot more than I used to, but cannot help kicking myself. Waking up in the middle of the night, cringing because I yelled too many times again… Yelling is not me, it never has been and never will be, but impatience creates a bubble in front of my eyes, I have to close them and wait for the moment to pass. I don’t understand the anger, I don’t want to feel the anger, I want to breathe through the anger. And then it passes. How can I help my daughter understand her emotions while still giving her the space to unleash them? How can I make sure that she never feels that she has to hide anything? I am slowly, only now, learning that it’s OK not to hide everything I feel. I want her to always know that I am her safe space. She will always know I am her safe space. All three of them will.
Breathe. Just breathe through it all.
I never understood why people complained about feeling “touched out”. Guarding my personal space was never a problem, I was used to pushing back, keeping my distance, surrounding myself with walls. Now I understand the concept, the needing a break from being touched constantly, little hands reaching out, pulling my top down, little hands stroking my cheek, little hands grabbing my hands, looking for guidance and warmth. I cannot build walls around myself any longer, and I cannot push the little hands away, as little hands soon grow into big hands that will no longer look to me for help, love, and a simple embrace. “Mummy I love you SO much”. Those words fill my heart with so many feelings; it grows and grows each day. But while our hearts grow and our arms continue to hold we are still allowed to say “space please, just a little space”. I step into the shower and let the water flow over my face, calming my senses, healing and sealing, relaxing. A daily shower, no matter how fast, is essential to my mental health, soothing, a moment to myself, even when little faces are watching me, talking to me.
It’s the simple things: the shower, the warm coffee with its perfect smell, the sunlight first thing in the morning, the silence late at night. The warmth of the baby in my arms, looking up at me with his big, brown eyes, and the soft sound of a toddler breathing next to me, dreaming of all the things that little children dream of, blown into the night time air by the BFG. It’s the knowledge that some days are better than others, and that no matter what, we will always be together. It’s the sound of my partner’s voice, his smile that I can hear, and always picture when he’s at work. The email that a friend sends at just the right time, making your heart sing, it’s the video of the ocean and the sun setting that your best friend sends you to calm your mind. And it’s the thoughts that these long days are only long for a very short time, and even over the space of a few weeks everything changes. Even the tantrums and the meltdowns deserve their place in the sun, making us both tougher and more empathetic, better humans in the long run.
Looking forward, this week will be one of positivity and hope. I do dislike the saying “count your blessings”, but I do, I always do. I am insanely blessed, and lucky. But it is OK to not be OK, even when those around us are even less than OK. And it is OK to be happy, so happy that our hearts burst towards the sky. As long as we continue to hold hands and reach out, always. Sometimes a smile hides a barrel of sadness, and tears cloud a hundred smiles.