My day job is supporting families who are fire fighting all the time due to their circumstances. I do this because for a long time it is where we were. Functioning, but not thriving. It feels good to be able support families through difficult times, knowing we have come through them by luck, privilege and a lot of Duct tape.
Part of our survival was about carving out space for myself and the lovely Mr Hunt as individuals and a couple as well as working parents and carers. There was tons of advice and training, most of which felt hugely trite at the time, but contained tiny fragments of useable information that helped.
We needed to identify our sunshine, find our freedom and land on a few flowers.
My sunshine is being able to trust.
I have PDA, pathological demand avoidance, which is a type of autism that I have to manage constantly or I will cease to purposefully function. Any demand, however nicely or gently phrased, or a passive demand from washing up beside the sink waiting to be washed- or a blog deadline just sitting there- creates anxiety which has to be managed and rationalised. People with PDA are perceived as control freaks because to control the demands means to control everything, to plan for and manage several versions of every aspect of every action every day. This is exhausting.
Conversely, the relaxation coming from complete trust and complete submission to the lovely Mr Hunt is amazing. I can let go of all the strings I so frantically grasp at through the day. There is only one instruction, to follow, and I have chosen to do that.
By building moments of trust into every day, I can have precious moments of rest.
My freedom is to read.
Opening a book and joining someone else’s world is an amazing escape. I can be male or female or neither. Any sexual orientation. Any age in any age. Good books give me experience of feelings I have never felt myself, or the vocabulary to explain something I knew but couldn’t say. Less well written books give me the chance to question and shape how I would have felt or reacted as a certain character. To put ideas into practice.
I probably read for two to three hours a day. I read rather than watching television or movies because I find it far more immersive. I clock through everything from classics and translations of myths and legends to speedy romances which I like to think of as the soap operas of the book world. I do read biographies and histories and studies, but fiction is my freedom.
My flowers are specific favourite practices that centre me and bring me calm. I don’t land on my flowers everyday, or even every week because we both have to be in tune and have time, but that makes them more precious.
I think it’s probably six weeks since I last had a quiet moment in rope. A couple of weeks since we set up to take some photos. 10 days since we set up a specific scene.
But we will make time.
My flowers regenerate me. Empty out residual stress. Add highlights to the picture of my life.
We went years when the children were little and struggling without ever having flowers in our life and the layers and layers of stress caused by the lack of sunshine and flowers in our life took their toll.
I am very lucky that none of these things are reliant on being able to go out and mix with others beyond my household. I remember the pits of despair I felt when I was alone and had no appropriate coping mechanisms. Like many people with PDA, I turned to very inappropriate forms of release including self harm, both deliberate and neglectful. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be trapped in that situation this year.
When I work with families, I will remember this quote. When you are barely surviving, making time for flowers, sunshine and freedom seem so completely trivial and distant to your experience that it can make you feel angry when people try to steer you to search for your time and space, but in the end they are vital to your wellbeing, and a parent’s wellbeing is vital to supporting and developing as a thriving family.