26 January 2014

mess at the beginning middle and end

This will start a mess and end up a mess. I’ve tried to write it many times. I’ve wanted to be clever and disguise it as a piece of fiction writing, and I am in awe of the people out there who could do that. I want to write it to help me try and understand and process at least for a few minutes. But mostly out from the inside and onto the page.

I’ve alluded to the fact before on this blog that my Dad and I have a tricky relationship. I know I’m not the only one out there and I reckon many of us walk with a bit of a limp when it comes to parent child relationships that never come to full, healthy fruition for whatever reason. In this sense the reasons don’t really matter and to be honest I’m not sure I fully understand them all either.

I have read somewhere about older men whose wives pre-decease them, as they carry on through life they often shrivel and die inside. He will ask me often what the weather has been like locally to me, not because he is interested, but because he wants to tell me what the weather is like where he lives. And most of the conversations go that way. I don’t know how to change them to make them like exchanges you have with other people, to make them more fun, more interactive so I give up trying mostly.

So last night as often happens something particular he said got under my skin and triggered a regular chain reaction of thoughts. Mostly this escalates into an intense irritation. Afterwards a primal scream, a debrief with the Scotsman or a slug of wine can help me vent/make a bit of sense afterwards.

Sometimes the feelings in my head continue on and mirror Dad’s outlook. They hurtle round with abandon like gleeful recalcitrant toddlers in their small circles. I know it’s out of control. Dad’s trying to control me in his way, I’m trying to make sense of things by trying to get inside his head and control him back. 

Patterns, habits.

Dad is one of those text book people that people advocate that you give a wide berth or de-friend on facebook because they are hard emotional work and you can choose to walk away. Toxic is a bit too strong, but elements of that are there. I don’t feel I can walk away completely because he is Dad, but I can try and maintain healthy boundaries by limiting visits.

I would love to be able to write and say there has been forgiveness and reconciliation. I love to read stories of when that happens, but it is usually with a heavy heart because I just don’t see it on the cards. And each time the mess wreaks its havoc (which is pretty much each time I see or speak to him) there is an abject sense of failure again on my part that I have not done what I can or cannot do what I can to show love and to fix things.

It is in this broken and messy state that God continuously invites me to share the pain, lean on Him. Or I can choose to medicate the pain in unhealthy ways and He will wait for me. It’s rare when I do share with others that there is a ‘me too’, but I have a hunch there are a lot of ‘me too’ people out there. It’s hard when the parent is still alive to acknowledge and voice to others without feeling disrespectful. (Heck, a friend of mine with professional knowledge after a long conversation even ended up recommending alcohol when I asked advice on how to deal with the situation.)

One of our leaders shared a photo of a stained glass window in church this morning. It depicts a child with unknown hands on their shoulders. One hand is in a protective position the other poised to gently push the child on their way. God will always be gently encouraging me to pick up and press on with regards to my Dad, but as I do so His protection will never, ever leave my side for a moment. Especially in those moments when it really doesn’t feel like it is there.

I am grateful for the safety of Selina & Ruth’s space to write.

Just because.

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #unprompted (at Sabrina's place this week)

9 January 2014

A letter to home

To me home, you are sometimes a funny old thing. Which town to put as ‘home’ on social media when you have moved from place to place? Where you are living currently, where you were born, where you spent secondary school (if you managed constancy during these years?)

I haven’t got the foggiest which postcode I belong to. Place attachment feels about as definite as my grandfather’s birthplace in ‘the cottages near the village pub’.

I’m certainly not from round here. After all this particular physical house was only ever intended to be a temporary, rental stepping stone towards a house that is for the first time fully ours. But temporary has turned into three years and onward progress sees patient patience hanging on by a thread at times.

We have found ourselves in but not of the community. Partly through choice we have not invested time and energy in getting to know people in the neighbourhood that well.  We assumed we would sneak in unobtrusively and move on fairly quickly. A kerfuffle with the front door lock when we moved in lured Bob at No.1 and his watchful eye over the road to investigate.

When I was young, unafraid and newly married I knew that an itinerant lifestyle was on the cards with the Scotsman going into church ministry. Then I found the prospect tantalising, going where God was leading and all the great, exciting things that would follow. It didn't take long for that bubble to burst because the child-like expectations I had in the early days of marriage were actually quite childish and soon developed into demands that others would somehow fulfil long buried unhappiness I didn't know I had buried as I was growing up.

Years have taught me that I really don’t like moving that much. Along the way I have lost confidence when it comes to making new friendships, trying to break into familiar, long established circles. I have also resented friends whose children have had lifelong friends because they have lived in one place - their way looks easy and mine hard especially when I have compared and not been grateful. 

It is still all where God has been leading, just not what I envisaged it would be all those years ago. 

We are all slowly but surely taking the long way home.

This evening I’m following the poet Ian McMillan’s (@IMcMillan) tortuously slow but poetic train journey home this evening via twitter “Back to Manchester. I left here at 1820. Still, time's an elastic concept. Going home via Huddersfield.” Yep, Huddersfield has been one of our staging posts along the way too.

Stability and home have been the greatest gifts to me from those who know and love me for who I am. Jesus, family, friends, a safe stronghold, the Kingdom and not a building of bricks or stone. 

Most of all a place where no-one has to impress anyone.

I had a work colleague who recounted how a leading actress in a TV series once used the loo in her house while filming was taking place in the area. The nub of the story was not that someone famous had peed in her loo but that the cat being in charge of all the comings and goings had been keeping a firm beady eye on all the proceeedings in the bathroom. An observation not lost on the actress either. (Lateral thinking led me back to this particular story because the TV series was ‘Where the heart is’. Home ..)

At the end of the day it’s the little ordinary things like this that really matter. The outworking of home in the every day and in the heart.

For the record on facebook I use the Midlands town where I went to secondary school as ‘home’ even though I was born in the South East and we and all of our children have lived in both the South and the North of England. Very soon we hope to become bone fide adopted northerners as we will own cobbles!

As far as I know I have never been watched by a cat while on the loo.

Linking up with Ruth & Sabrina at #LettersTo (at Ruth's place this week)