Wednesday, 23 April 2014

I Love My Sons

My younger son's most frequently asked question at the moment is, "Mum, who's your favourite child?"  He's nearly 14, and smiling.

I could give the obvious answer, "I don't have a favourite", but his question makes me want to do better.

Loving my sons is like being a traveler in an infinitely beautiful and varied landscape.  I don't know how big the scope of it is, because when I look to the horizon, I see no limits.  Some days, I walk through grassy meadows, some days I stumble across windswept uplands, some days I hurtle through streets of the city, some days I wander along the shore, some days I pick my way across floors strewn with damp towels.  There is no path, but there is a sense of purpose. The signposts are in a language we choose to ignore.

My sons travel together, but often in opposite directions.  When they come across each other, they tussle and they laugh.  They do not need to greet each other, but they wish each other good night.

When I look back over my shoulder, I see where we've come from and where we are going.  When I look up, I feel a surge of gratitude.  When I look ahead, I am curious, and run to catch up with them.

Both of my sons are my favourite child.  Each of them occupies his own space and dimension. There is no contradiction in this, as you'll know.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I Think About Smacking

I've been reflecting on my strong reactions to the threat of violence prompted by watching Shaun of the Dead yesterday evening. 

My psychotherapist, peace be upon him, taught me to recognise that strong emotional reactions are rooted in childhood experience.  I'm still slow to catch on to this, so it took me twelve hours to realise that last night's fear of zombies linked directly to my fear of my father.

Growing up, I lived under the threat of smacking.  The terror was not in the smack: physical pain sucks, but my father never delivered anything that left a bruise.  I lived in a state of wariness, of trying to work out whether his anger was on its way.  He would rarely lash out - the punishment was delivered as ritual:  "Come into my study, repent and say sorry, bend over.  Thwack."  There was a zombie-like, slow, deliberate inevitability about it all which terrified me.

I can understand my father better intellectually now I'm older.  He needed to work at home.  He was tired.  Four children create a lot of noise and energy.  He was hemiplegic.  That doesn't negate the ongoing impact of my experience.

People talk about forgiveness as a solve-all for the injuries of childhood.  It's never worked for me.  I think awareness of ourselves and our emotions, and compassion for ourselves, is where it's at, and where we can move on and grow.  The rest follows.

Once, I played deliberately noisily outside my father's study with one of my brothers.  I think we wanted to provoke his anger so that we were in control for a change.  We bounced balls, sang songs and jumped down the stairs, and sure enough, he emerged to tell us off.  I can't remember if he smacked us on that occasion, but I felt triumphant.

I Hide Behind Cushions

Shaun of the Dead, rated 15, is a zombie comedy film -  I watched it this evening.  I did laugh, especially at a scene of multiple zombies choreographed to 'Don't Stop Me Now!' but at times I had to hide my eyes behind a cushion.

The threat of violence, especially when mixed with suspense, scares me.  I knew I was being manipulated, I knew it wasn't real, but film a zombie from behind and then make her turn round really, really slowly, add a menacing soundtrack with a rising bass line, and my heart starts beating faster.

Marathon Man was my first 15. I watched it on TV during the long school summer holiday after O levels.  I was bored, and in love with Dustin Hoffman.  I wasn't in love with him enough to watch the dentist scene to its conclusion.

I'm not scared of much.  I can pick up spiders and slugs if necessary.  I can do heights, flying and standing in front of a class; I don't mind injections, and I camp on my own.  But I've hardly ever watched a film certified as 18.

There's something about the visual limits of a film screen, about facial expressions and gestures combined with mood-altering music - something about what is suggested as happening just out of shot - that plays havoc with my imagination.  At times this evening, zombies were in the sitting room, or just outside the window, about to force entry.

Monday, 14 April 2014

I Hammer My Thumb

I was titivating the garden fence yesterday, when I hammered my thumb.  The incident had a cartoon-like quality: as soon as I'd hit my thumb, I knew it was going to happen.  Fortunately, it didn't swell to the size of a tennis ball and turn purple.

Half the fence blew over in the winter winds and last week this section was replaced by fencing professionals.  The new half looks almost IKEA in its fresh, uncluttered, linear perfection, whilst the old half looks a shambles.

I decided to disguise the join with a piece of trellis. I sawed the trellis to the size of the first old panel, then nailed it to the fence posts either side.  The business of hammering was very loud and, for a moment, I was worried about disturbing the neighbours on a Sunday afternoon as clear and fresh as Scandinavia.  Then I remembered that someone a few doors down had been singing along to ABBA with the windows open earlier in the day.  Then the hammer slipped, and I swore.

The trellis piece looks like an over-sized, vertical waffle.  I've threaded it with honeysuckle, virginia creeper, and a few strands of a giant breed of periwinkle which I was given years ago, and which returns every spring, despite my attempts to dig it out.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

I Reach My Peak

"Look at it this way, mum," advised my son after badminton club today.  "You're nearly fifty, and the only way is down, so each day is your peak from now on."  This after a comment from me about his play improving week on week and mine staying pretty much the same.

I've been thinking since then about when I might have peaked, and what peaking might involve: if it extends beyond the physical and intellectual and, if not, what signs would indicate emotional, psychological or spiritual peaking; why we talk about 'peaking' when most states of being are hugely complex; whether anyone ever knows they've peaked other than in retrospect; how, if we were aware of peaking, this would surely cause a sense of loss which would detract from any sense of peaking being a triumph.

On reflection, I decided to take my son's comment as wisdom: as a thirteen year old's version of Carpe Diem.  

And on this basis I went out this evening instead of staying in.

Friday, 4 April 2014

I Grow My Hair

I've never had long hair.  What I mean is that I've never had hair that ends about halfway between my shoulders and waist, or halfway between my shoulders and the point halfway between my shoulders and waist.  

It may have been my mother who first told me that human hair grows half an inch a month.  I checked this with Paul recently and found that, forty years later, this is one thing that hasn't speeded up.  By this reckoning, my hair will reach a reasonable definition of long by December.  

At school, I envied the confidence of girls with long plaits.  I noticed the way three strands of hair could be interwoven to form something with the look of the weight of rope. I admired the way darker shades of hair were brought to the surface. 

Having my hair cut by Paul is one of my chief pleasures.  Over the past twenty years, I must have spent eighty or so hours chatting with him.   When I leave his salon, my hair feels like it's meant to.

WikiAnswers makes many suggestions about  how to promote hair growth.  As with most self-help advice, the tips include eating nuts and seeds, avoiding bleach and taking regular exercise.  

I mentioned my hair-growing plans to Paul in January.  His advice about growing my hair longer was to have less cut off.