On Sunday I mentioned that I’ve had impulses to burn down my house. I’ve been struggling.
I used to have this science teacher, who taught me in Year 10. Every Friday we would have a science class in the last lesson of the day.
Every Friday, at the start of class, she would remind us that we were in Mission Impossible, hanging along the outside of a train, going 200 kilometres an hour, all week. And, as it was Friday, we were coming into the station. And all we had to do, for 40 more minutes, was hold onto the outside of that train. By the tips of our fingernails if we had to.
I’ve always remembered that – holding on by my fingernails. Doing my best to concentrate.
And for the past two years, I have held on. By my fingernails. To the edge of that train.
And I’ve written before, about how when you are just coping, there is also just no help. No one wants to help someone when they seem to be doing so well.
Even holding onto a thread, you’ve got too much for anyone to want to step in and say: “Hey, how you doing? Need help climbing back over the edge?”
I guess they are worried about implying that you aren’t coping.
Because I guess there is a sense of shame, when you don’t cope. Because everyone else seems to be able to hold onto all of their threads, and you only have one left and you don’t know how long until it slips through your fingers.
My thread, it’s gone. I’ve gone from barely holding on by my fingernails to falling down on the tracks.
And what that looks like from the outside is that I’m perfectly fine.
But what that feels like from the inside is like I’ve got a weight sitting on my chest. My breath is tighter, shallower. My head hurts and my eyes well and it’s only a matter of time before one of the children does something relatively minor and I am going to completely snap.
But I have coping mechanisms. Things that bring me down to earth. Stop me from exploding.
I’ve become fond of hanging out and bringing in the washing. Concentrating on hanging things just right, with the right coloured pegs, next to their outfit or set mates.
When the line is full, I sit back and look at it flapping in the breeze and the children play and squabble and fall down and get back up again.
And when the clothes are dry, I take my basket out and I take the pegs off, put them in the bag carefully. Concentrating carefully on each piece of clothing as I fold it just right, in the right order.
And just writing that I see how OCD that sounds.
But I fold those clothes like they are of national importance. Like it really matters that the boys’ shorts all come off and get folded before their t-shirts.
Because the breeze hits my face and pulls at my hair, and my shoulders relax and I imagine myself in a field of wheat*, running my fingers through the stalks.
And the smell of the clean washing reminds me of being a child in a much smaller country town than I live in now, and the dry backyard that resisted all my mother’s attempts at veggie patches. Except for the pumpkins and the watermelons.
And the cool grass beneath my bare feet makes me feel grounded.
And the freshly folded matching t-shirts, sitting next to one another in the basket, make me feel like burning down the house would be a bad idea – because then all this folding would have been for nothing.
And then I can breathe.
Then I can get back up, run after the train and jump. Grab onto the side and get a good grip, just for a few hours.
*Recently at a blogging event held by the fabulous Inner B (which I have a post coming up on eventually!) I was introduced to the luminous Nicky Arthur, author of How to be a Happier Mum. She ran a meditation and asked us to envisage ourselves in a field of wheat. And I’ve been using it ever since to calm myself. You can follow Nicky on Twitter, Facebook or find her on her blog.