Whodunnit? Xmas Special

28 December, 2009

I had a fantastic Christmas. The kids loved their presents. Asha (2) spent the morning playing with a 10p party blower and a balloon, he refused to open his ball, truck or stocking. Amba (4)  refused to wear the special sparkly dress I bought her – “You see, it’s a summer dress mummy”. She left the house wrapped up for winter, in a sequinned vest and sparkly shorts. Sami (7) took his trophy with him to Mr. Ex’s – that was really sweet. We piled out in a rush at noon, headed in different destinations. Hats and coats tossed between our cars, until Mr. Ex had basic winter apparel for each of the children.

I went to Oxford, to meet friends for a pre-xmas-lunch, lunch. In the city there were quite a lot of people out, on their way to special dinners in smart winter coats.

Blackfriars

It was chucking out time as I passed Blackfriars, (Catholic seminary) a lot of very clean, happy people, fresh from Church, were chatting together, next to a girl sitting on the pavement, asking for change. I offered her Xmas lunch instead of cash, she turned me down. When I came back an hour or so later the streets were pretty bare and she was gone. Everyone had arrived where they were going, turkeys and trimmings no doubt being devoured. But I did notice a few single souls in the distance, as I walked along. An old woman with her walking stick. A unusual looking woman with some bags, again on her own. I wondered if these people were out and about so that they didn’t have to spend a long day at home, alone. Just noticing them, made me feel so grateful to have so much going on at Xmas. The children all morning, lunch with friends in town and overnight at my friend’s (Earth Mother) house.

So on to Earth Mother’s, lovingly crafted, organically home made, Christmas. Full of festive spirit and good tidings to all. As in previous years we’ve split the cooking between us to make it fairer. I made a big bowl of roast potatoes and prepared all the brussel sprouts. She made, nut roast, apricot stuffing, fresh cranberry sauce, roast parsnips, real bread sauce, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, mashed swede, veggie gravy, a Xmas cake, mince pies, steamed date pudding and her very own chocolate truffles. I did remind her later that she’d forgotten to do the yorkshire puddings.

Earth Mother’s husband, “Forester Father”, manages a woodland and he made extra Christmas money this year by selling handmade items at the Oxford green fair. He’d whittled lovely wooden catapults for kids. Made traditional fire-lighting sets which were either a bow drill set

Bow Drill firelighter

(wooden bow), or a little tin filled with flint and kindling. He prepared his own charcoal and assembled it into drawing gift-sets and carved wooden spoons. His stall sold out because his stuff is just so lovely. Then with the proceeds he asked his own children what they would like for Christmas. They asked for, a pair of Nike trainers, a Ben Ten scooter and a game for the Wii. I walked round his house with him, to see some of the other things he’d been up to. He’d renovated the bathroom in reclaimed wood. And made amazing shelving from green oak with the bark still on it. Then, with mischievous eyes he said, “Look what I made my mother-in-law for Christmas” and proudly held up a full size witches broomstick.

Earth Mother’s Mother is a witch. She is a member of a proper Coven Imagine the typical cliché of a witch – long, flowing, velvety clothes, waist length salt and pepper hair, a pocket full of herbs and odd trinkets – well that’s not her. She arrives in a silver thigh high mini dress and gray leopard print tights. She works out three times a week and has the body and spirit of a rebellious teenager (and at times the language too). The youngest of her four, adult, children, Tobias, accompanies her.

Tobias is one of this year’s incredible Christmas gifts, returned to us from lost inside his mind. I look into his shining eyes and I see a light that has been gone for so long. It is just brilliant to be able to talk to him and find him present in the conversation. He and I chat about his incredible recovery and I ask him what it was like when he was ill. It’s interesting how he describes it. He says it was as if his mind progressively began to slow down. It got slower and slower, until it got to a point when people spoke to him he was no longer able to reply in their time frame. He entered a different time, a world within a world. He said he’d know that people had come into the room and had spoken to him, but while he was still deciding if a reply was needed, they would have left. At that stage, they were probably spending an hour or more visiting him. Then he said, it was as if it eventually just got so slow that it stopped altogether. He just wasn’t able to physically move for periods of time, or think thoughts, they didn’t go anywhere any more. His mind simply didn’t work. I have to say that I really didn’t think I’d ever have a conversation like this with him. I really didn’t think he had much quality of life ahead of him at times this year. It is the most amazing thing to see him so much better. He tells me about his plans to return to education. It’s a very moving lesson in just how incredibly resilient and resourceful we human beings are, when it comes to healing and living.

I leave on Boxing Day, and collect the kids from Mr. Ex’s boat. I catch him doing a Rihanna impression on the deck outside. He is uncannily like her  – if you take into account he is a six foot bloke who can neither sing or dance. The kids and I get home and find, to my shock, that our front door is wide open. In our happy absence, I can see we have been burgled – at Christmas. I shout to the them to stay in the car and I rush inside. I can’t believe it. It feels icy cold in the house and so does my heart. The hall is strewn with stuff, I trip towards the living room – their lovely gifts and toys, under my feet. I’d left it all in neat piles under the tree. In there it’s worse, everything’s been thrown all over the place and the tree is barely upright, the lights are all over the floor. It’s unbelievable chaos. Someone’s deranged mind has torn through my house. They must have come the night before, Christmas Night. I wonder what it’s like upstairs and I try to think if we have anything of value to steal – only my laptop. Sadly I walk into the kitchen – it’s a mess, but it was when I left. Then I see, to my absolute amazement, my laptop is still on the kitchen table. How can it still be here? It’s so visible, so available, sitting pretty in the middle of the room, but they didn’t take it. What the hell did they want? Slowly I realise the truth, it’s hard to believe. This isn’t a burglary. The kids have wrecked the living room, deranged on Cadburys selection packs and over excited at Mr. Ex.’s arrival. I bet cute little Asha did the tree over – when he discovered Santa had covered it in chocolates. I had no idea, I was calmly doing roast potatoes in the kitchen.

But who the hell has been round and left the door wide open? Slowly, a hazy memory comes to me – didn’t I leave the front door ajar, while I checked for my car keys? Surely, I went back to slam it?

Honestly, we did make it ourselves. Bet you thought we'd bought it.

The Other Woman

15 November, 2009

I’m sitting in the hairdressers reading a Tatler article on how some posh skinny woman found “The One”. He isn’t her boyfriend or husband, but her hairdresser, and according to her, every woman must change hairdressers until we find “The One”. He will not only be a hairdresser, but a psychic and have a qualification in speed counseling too. Once we find him neither our hair, or our life, will ever be the same again. He will lift us in times of despair and in his eyes we are truly beautiful. She doesn’t mention how much we tip him. I notice Nerf glance down at the page I’m scanning. He still hasn’t said a word to me. To be honest if he wasn’t the best hairdresser in the whole of Oxfordshire, then I would search for another. I’d find one who never shut up, who pryed unnecessarily into my private life, who would know my kids names and who would keep digging till she has me in tears each visit. And of course, then she would step in as my rock, and bring my joy and hope back with her encouraging salon wisdom, borrowed from the glossies. Yes, I long for a hairdresser full of twisted curiosity and fake kindness. But till then, I have no choice. No other hairdresser has ever made my hair look so, well, normal. Normal isn’t really what he does with it, he makes it look abnormal, like proper TV hair.   When I leave the salon people mutter “Maybe she’s born with it?”, and men stop their expensive sports cars to give me bunches of flowers.

The girl washing my hair is telling me all about her “blended” family. She is the second youngest of six kids. Her father brought one  child to the relationship, her mother already had three and then they had another two together. Then he left this wife and moved in with his new wife.  Hair washing girl went with her dad to live with his new wife and her two kids. That’s eight children if you’re having trouble keeping up.  Apparently, there was a lot of disharmony in his new family unit, until he did the right thing and left the evil stepmother. I love every moment of it, but I wonder what her manager would say if she knew what I’d learned in five minutes.  Anyway, we’re in luck and no one else is interested. Life really is better than fiction. Then she tells me how her mum bought itching powder for her to put in the step mother’s clothes. And you know what? She used it. To this day the stepmother has no idea that her pants, clothes and sheets were laced with itching powder. I am amazed.

I think about Mr. Ex’s woman – we’ll just call her Mrs Ex. (Although technically she’s married to her own husband). I look at the hair washing girl and I realise how different it is for me and mine. And I tell her how grateful I am to Mrs. Ex. who takes such good care of my children. It was a struggle not to slate her to my kids, to tolerate her when I was pregnant. But it’s paid off.

“The fact is, it’s Saturday. She has five children to look after and I”, I pause mid sentance and hairwash girl interrupts with a sly smile,  “And you are at the hairdressers” she says.  Sniggering like a couple of kids, she leads me back to Nerf for the silent cut.  I dont mind, I’ve had my dose of gossip and enlightenment at the salon.

I am greateful to Mrs Ex., the so-called “Other Woman”. You are the one that fills this rainy Saturday entertaining five children, changing nappies and cooking meals which will be half eaten.  You’re doing a great job, keep it up.

I am the Other Woman. The one with Tatler on her lap and TV hair.

stanwyck 2

Resentments

3 November, 2009

He walks away. My children hand in hand with him, my baby in my sling but now wrapped around his waist. Not even a “bye”, I sit in the now empty car, the invisible woman. Anger rises inside me, my mind races, hurting itself with the shrapnel wounds of pains now past. Rage boils at all that I have been through. He walks away, oblivious. With our happy children beside him, excited at his Sunday company.  I need to do something to calm down.

The Doctor is running an hour late.  I read “Hello” magazine in the waiting room, feeling fatter and poorer than when I arrived.  There’s a book called  “I can mend your broken heart” by Paul McKenna in a box on the floor. I can mend It’s in the secondhand pile, which means he’ll mend it for nominal fee, it seems like a reasonable deal. I throw my lefty principles aside and invest 50p in private healthcare.

Dr Late asks me how I’m feeling – “Totally fine, except for odd outbursts of overwhelming anger and resentment”. I don’t mention how the Hello magazine has just destroyed the last of my self-esteem – now is not the time to criticize the NHS. I explain that everyone else has recovered and moved on from the break up. The children are much happier now Mr. Ex is finally having them one night a week. But I find myself looking back over the pregnancy wondering why Mr. Ex made it so hard. I feel angry. I want to be Mrs. Cool. I want the moral high ground, the dignified position. But I’m struggling to hold it together. I ask for counseling on the NHS. Dr. Late is a kind gentleman who listens when his patients talk, he thinks about his patients’ needs. He gives everyone the time it takes to hear them out, hence he is called “Dr. Late”. He probably hasn’t had a lunch hour in 30 years. He writes me a letter of referral, by hand, with an ink pen. Then he tells me that there is only a slim chance I’ll actually get any help, but he’ll give it his best shot.

The days roll on and nothing much changes, except I clean the car out and find Paul McKenna under some crisp packets. His nose is now a yellow boiled lolly, licked to stick and dusted with dirt. I settle down in the driver’s seat for my first appointment. I do as he instructs and read the book in one go. The exercise for resentment is simple – so simple in fact that it’s a bit of a joke, here it is. When I feel resentful, I have to freeze the image, put it on an imaginary TV screen and turn up the whiteness until the picture disappears. That’s it – well at least I only paid 50p. Private medicine is obviously not all it’s cracked up to be.  I decide not to use the CD – it’s in brand new condition.  If I don’t scratch it, I’ll get more for it on ebay, the lolly has left him in dire need of a nose-job though.

The next time I see Mr. Ex he is in newly aquired smart casual attire for his newly aquired job.  I am in something from ebay customized with custard and ketchup. He leaves the casual house but stays with me. He’s in my mind, and I feel the irritation, the anger the resentment. The jealousy – he is so free and I am so trapped. I stop it there, time to call in McKenna. I freeze the thought and hold the image of him in my angry mind’s eye. Slowly I turn up the whiteness and I blast him out of my inner vision. I blast him with brilliant white light and add some sparkles to it and keep it going until there is not trace of him. But there is no epiphany, I get on with my day as if nothing has happened.

But something has happened.  Something different has been going on and I haven’t even been aware of it.   It’s not until the evening that I notice it. I haven’t given Mr. Ex. a single thought for the entire day. I have thought nothing about him whatsoever. I have completely forgotten to feel resentful of him. I have forgotten to feel hard done by. I am amazed, I can’t believe it’s actually worked. I am shocked. I search for the resentment in my head and I find it, but it is dormant, no longer charging round my mind kicking off. I leave it resting and creep away.

It happens again the next time I see him. I blast his irritating image from my mind and forget all about it until hours later.  Same magical result as before.  It’s happened twice and I am speechless (almost). But then the time after that when I see him, it is different again. I dont blast him with light this time.  I dont need to because I don’t feel resentful anymore. It’s stopped, it’s over, it’s gone.  grateful am I to have my peace again. I cannot believe that it has happened so simply.  My best friend or worst enemy mind, I am glad to have it back on my side.  As I think about the changes, I have realizations about the break up, and these help me to take more responsibility for what happened. I suspect these have been triggered by Mr. McKenna. I have searched my mind for them in the past, but not been able to find the answers, now they are clear to me. I am less of a victim, I understand what I got out of marrying Mr. Ex and why it didn’t work. The results are so amazing that I take McKenna’s book off ebay.

About three months later, I get a phone,call out of the blue. It’s Mrs Psychotherapist from the NHS calling to assess me for her “list”. My referral has finally come through, and she wants to find out just how nuts I am so she can decide how long I can wait to get her help. Obviously she says it a lot nicer than that on the phone. I tell her that I think I’m OK, I get a slightly patronising, “Really?”, in response. It’s the voice of someone who doesn’t want to rain on my parade, but who also clearly doesn’t believe that I am able to get well without a lot of intervention. I tell her about the whitening-out exercise and how well it worked. She is listening, she is curious. I share with her my realization about the marriage; I explain how I got to an age when I wanted a baby, so I looked around and found a really nice baby and married him. How I loved that baby. I bought him nice clothes and cooked him nice meals. I sent him to the best college. But as that baby grew up, he became a teenager and got very difficult. Then he started hanging out with the bad boys in the local pub, and coming home late. He started arguments and picked fights and didn’t want to go out with me anymore, he’d rather be with his friends. Finally, he took some money from my purse and left home blaming all of his problems on me.

There is a pause at the other end of the line.  I wait for the verdict on my mental health.  She  calmly says that she is taking me off her list.  That in her professional opinion I don’t need psychotherapy. Then she asks for the name of the book, because she wants to write it down.

And as she wrote, she said to me, “I wish I could get results like that with my clients”.


heart

Dr Late asks me how I’m feeling – “Totally fine, except for odd outbursts of overwhelming anger and resentment”. I don’t mention how the Hello magazine has just destroyed the last of my self-esteem – now is not the time to criticize the NHS. I explain that everyone else has recovered and moved on from the break up. The children are much happier now Mr. Ex is finally having them one night a week. But I find myself looking back over the pregnancy wondering why Mr. Ex made it so hard. I feel angry. I want to be Mrs. Cool. I want the moral high ground, the dignified position. But I’m struggling to hold it together. I ask for counseling on the NHS. Dr. Late is a kind gentleman who listens when his patients talk, who thinks about his patients’ needs. He gives everyone the time it takes to hear them out, hence he is called “Dr. Late”. He probably hasn’t had a lunch hour in 30 years. He writes me a letter of referral, by hand, with an ink pen. Then he tells me that there is only a slim chance I’ll actually get any help, but he’ll give it his best shot.

The days roll on and nothing much changes, except I clean the car out and find Paul McKenna under some crisp packets. His nose is now a yellow boiled lolly, licked to stick and dusted with dirt. I settle down in the driver’s seat for my first appointment. I do as he instructs and read the book in one go. The exercise for resentment is simple – so simple in fact that it’s a bit of a joke, here it is. When I feel resentful, I have to freeze the image, put it on an imaginary TV screen and turn up the whiteness until the picture disappears. That’s it – well at least I only paid 50p. Private medicine is obviously not all it’s cracked up to be.

The next time I see Mr. Ex he is in one of his new outfits for the office, I am in something customized with custard and ketchup. He leaves the house but stays with me. He’s in my mind, and I feel the irritation, the anger the resentment. The jealousy – he is so free. I am so trapped. I stop it there, time to call McKenna. I freeze the thought and hold the image of him in my angry mind’s eye. Slowly I turn up the whiteness and I blast him out of my inner vision. I blast him with brilliant white light and add some sparkles to it and keep it going until there is not trace of him. But there is no epiphany, nothing else happens, I get on with my day. That evening I a thought crosses my mind. I reflect on what’s happened. I haven’t given Mr. Ex. a single thought for the entire day. I have completely forgotten to feel resentful of him. I am amazed, I can’t believe it’s actually worked. I am shocked. I search for the resentment in my mind and I find it, but it is dormant, not alive and kicking me. I leave it resting and creep away.

It happens again the next time I see him. I blast his irritating image from my mind and forget all about it until hours later. I dont even remember I’ve done the exercise for hours. Then the time after that I dont need to blast him with light. Because I don’t feel resentful anymore. It’s stopped, it’s over, it’s gone. I am amazed and grateful. I have my mind back, I have my peace. I cannot believe that it has happened so simply. As they say, the mind can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I am so glad to have mine back on my side. As I think about the change, I have realizations about the break up that help me to take more responsibility for what happened. I suspect these have been triggered by Mr. McKenna. I have searched for this in the past, but not been able to find the answers, now it is clear to me. I am less of a victim, I understand what I got out of marrying Mr. Ex and why it didn’t work. I resolve not to sell McKenna’s book on Ebay.

About three months later, I get a phone,call out of the blue. It’s Mrs Psychotherapist from the NHS calling to assess me for her “list”. My referral has finally come through and she wants to find out just how nuts I am so she can decide how long I can wait to get her help. Obviously she says it a lot nicer than that on the phone. I tell her that I think I’m OK, I get a slightly patronising, “Really?”, back from her. It’s the voice of someone who doesn’t want to rain on my parade, but clearly doesn’t believe that I am able to get well without a lot of intervention. I tell her about the whitening-out exercise and how well it worked. She is amazed. I share with her my realization about the marriage; I explain how I got to an age when I wanted a baby, so I looked around and found a really nice baby and married him. How I loved that baby. I bought him nice clothes and cooked him nice meals. I sent him to the best college. But as that baby grew up, he became a teenager and got very difficult. Then he started hanging out with the bad boys in the local pub, and coming home late. He started arguments and picked fights and didn’t want to go out with me anymore, he’d rather be with his friends. Finally, he took some money from my purse and left home blaming all of his problems on me.

Mrs. Psychotherapist, crosses me off her list. In her professional opinion I don’t need psychotherapy. Then she asks for the name of the book, writing it down she says, “I wish I could get results like that with my clients”.