Love and Fear

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Nothing teaches you about fear like becoming a parent. Nothing.

I recall the first night we brought our baby home. We took it in turns to stay awake through the night as she slept. Just in case.

And I recall that same night, around three am, when she wouldn’t sleep unless snuggled next to me as I fought to keep my eyes open and then, little by little, failed to do so. I remember how I berated myself for taking such a risk! I admit, I had an awful lot to learn.

Today, she has a rash. Red patches that can settle on neither spots nor splodges and leave me dashing to google for a diagnosis. She is fine.

Ultimately, I am terrified of losing her and it takes almost more than I have to keep that in check every day as we deal with all the big bad world dares to offer.

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But the fear I have found is so much more than this. It is a fear of myself and all the damage I will undoubtedly do. I dread the thought of breaking her.

And the only thing that scares me more is that thought that I might not be around to see just how misplaced all my fears might be.

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Therapy

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Sat across from you I desperately began my search. I was longing for a different life and you felt like my last chance. But I was still unsure.

I tried to trust you, to trust myself. Inevitably, it felt impossible.

Week by week we waded through my thoughts; thick, tangled, twisted. Alongside you I allowed myself to face the darkness. My darkness.

For so long I had feared what I might find. Was it the truth? I am still unsure.

Fragments of feelings flashed burning and bright rather than the dim and distant memories I dreamed I might discover. They hurt. They still do.

And what am I left with? What might I make of these broken parts? How will I fix them together to form my future?

Learning To Let Go

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I had carried it with me for longer than I could remember. I clung to it before I was even aware of what it was. Or what it might become. I was unaware of the potential danger. I guess, I needed it more than I knew.

For a long time I hid it away. I didn’t want the world to see. What might they think? But, it was always there. It was once all I had. So, somehow I befriended it. To whisper words of comfort late at night and feed it all it needed to grow. But protecting it was too much for me to bear alone. It almost killed me.┬áIt had become more than a metaphorical part of me, it now defined every decision I made and all I did.

So I showed you. I revealed it slowly, piece by piece. You listened and, little by little, learned of my secret too. And then you told me what to do. Gave me the answer I claimed I so desperately needed.

Let it go.

But there was something in this that felt like a betrayal. As much as I wanted to believe it might be better, to trust and find faith in your words, I was afraid. Of course I was.

How could I simply lose something that had meant so much for so long?

The first sign of fear

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If popular culture is to be believed (and, let’s face it, it isn’t) then every woman has that moment; that moment when their heart sinks, their eyes widen in disbelief, when they break out in a cold sweat as panic takes over before locking the bathroom door to cry in front of the mirror. That moment when they realise things will never be the same again.

The moment when they discover their first grey hair.

Obviously this is not the case for every woman. Most of us are lucky to get five minutes alone in the bathroom let alone enough time to embark upon our own existential crisis there! That lone, wiry, grey hair has simply become an unwanted symbol.

But with the UK beauty industry valued at fifteen billion pounds and a considerable amount of this made up by the sale of products and services designed to keep us ‘looking young’, can we really deny that this symbol has become highly effective in speaking of, and in turn to, many women’s fear of growing old?

This is, of course, due in part to the media’s representation of women. Women shown to be of any value are presented as thin, pretty and, of course, young. And there may be Dames Helen Mirren and Judy Dench showing us that this doesn’t have to be the case but, sadly, they have become examples of the rare exceptions that prove the rule. Fabulous actresses and women in general, they are still hailed as the solution to the portrayal of older women in the media (and yes, I appreciate the irony of mentioning them here!).

However, I truly believe that most women in the twenty first century, despite buying in to the latest fad or quick fix, are, ultimately, savvy enough to see through these models for manipulation. So why then does the prospect of ageing fill so many of us with fear? Surely it can’t be beauty alone?

Might it be the futility of and failure in attempting to avoid the inevitable – a sense of being powerless that only serves to reinforce many other doubts and fears? Or simply a sadness in mourning the loss of childhood hopes and dreams – a realisation that that reality is often a difficult place to reside?

A grey hair most certainly does not mark the end. But maybe women can be too insightful.

And maybe in this symbol they see the start of the long search for something more meaningful. And taking that first step can often be very scary indeed.

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