My younger sister saved my life last night.
Of course, she doesn't know it. How could she? Sometimes there aren't words to express the tsunami of emotion, the ocean of tears reflecting the trauma within. We talked for the longest time on the telephone. We share such a close connection she can usually feel instinctively something is wrong, even when we're not immediately in contact. On this occasion I called her ... it could have been a final farewell. No-one can know how that feels unless they have plummeted those depths and lost all hope, all feeling, experiencing a vast emptiness around and within, yet at the same time, a depth of emotion impossible to describe. It's the reason that, tens of years ago, I began what I call 'Spirit Art', a way of connecting with my soul, drawing out what cannot be put into words. The above is the first I ever drew which, when in therapy, became my symbol of hopelessness. By drawing it on a whiteboard as I entered the therapist's room, it was an unspoken message: 'Help me! I feel this bad ...'
The picture speaks of a dark place, caught between one place and another in a kind of no-man's land, not knowing how to cope, To Be, to even present a public face to the world outside. It speaks also of Child ... a child who is lost without anyone looking for her, no-one has heard her silent scream. She resides in a place of uncertainty and self-doubt, following a trauma from which there is no escape. The Child carries torment and grief, a lethal concoction of panic and fear, and a tragic aloneness, where there is no past, no present, no future, simply What Is.
The events of this year has brought this Child to this bubble of darkness, without and within from which she cannot move on.
Christmas. Somehow something was missing, and even as we entered 2015 I kept asking Tony my husband what was wrong. My instincts have never failed me. I might not always have listened nor acted on them, but my internal warning system was definitely sounding the alarm ... yet his response irritably indicted only that all was well. What would be wrong? Whatever I felt was paranoia.
The month of March brought a new contract of work in London, so many many miles away from the north where we lived. I'd grown accustomed to waiting ... a Lady in Waiting, I laughingly referred to myself. But it didn't seem funny any more ... only lonely, living life alone, when all I wanted was to be with him to share our life together. Work it seemed was taking him more and more away from me, building a wall between us. Yes, he came home. But then again, more and more infrequently ... first after three days working, then five ... finally there was only Saturdays we shared together. And instead of bringing something back as a surprise to his faithful wife waiting at home with a warm welcome, or taking her to dinner, celebrating our reunion; Saturdays became a mad rush of getting everything done ... ending with me slaving over an ironing board with so many white shirts.
I think back and wonder how I could have been so blind, so willing to please! Yet hope spurred me on ... hope that one day that man I married would return, showing he'd missed me, replacing my loneliness with specialness helping me once more know I had the greatest gift of all ... to love and to be loved. Such a precious gem, but which needs constant polishing and refinement to keep it fresh and new, something to which we could all aspire.
Yet even when home, his mind was obviously elsewhere ... his mobile always beeping, insisting it be answered, while he sat at the computer various times of the day, and later and later at night before coming to bed. Where was the conversation ... the sharing ... a meal out ... a chance to dress up ... the laughter and love which had been such an intrinsic part of our union in days of yore ... even intimacy had gone. I waited, willing myself to be patient, sharing concerns when moments allowed until inevitably that point arrived when he upped and left particularly early one Sunday morning in July for London. I wrote an email trying to put feelings into words. He's a black and white person, a man of logic not emotion. So I put in a plea asking that, if this was to be our future, travelling up and down the country for just one precious day of togetherness, maybe we should move closer to his work. I used to travel with him, writing during the day, meeting up at night for a meal. Happy days! They could easily happen again ...
His response caught me off-guard, and yet immediately gelled with instincts which had kicked in and remained since the beginning of the year. One Sunday morning, his email arrived. I was to blame! I had pushed him into this! Basically his email defined the end of our marriage. A line had been drawn. He wouldn't be home again. He had a house in London and ... as I was to discover because he inadvertently called me by her name ... a lady he'd met in the north. He'd been leading a double life and I have no idea how long it had been going on.
Lies ... deceit ... betrayal.
I had a breakdown. I'm just recovering from bronchitis/pneumonia. Our divorce is approaching finalisation. The year is coming to an end. Christmas, always special, is now a season of dread. Six months after that first defining email, it's like going full circle, back to the place the tsunami of emotion first began. Again, I feel broken, abandoned, rejected ... the lost and frightened child.
Inside, my fragile world is filled with pain. Memories of the past fall like a string of dominoes, cascading all the pain on top of me while I cry oceans of tears for all the wasted years. Yet, at the same time, because he keeps hammering home how much more he could have done, how much more he could have taken from me, from our home, I can't help but be haunted by what I must have done that was so wrong to justify being treated this way. An old quotation comes to mind: 'If I've been a good girl, why would all these people want to hurt me?' I was brought up to believe that only good things happen to good people. Only if you stray off the path, like Red Riding Hood, does the big bad wolf come to get you. Yet my PhD in Life had already taught me this was not so ... that evil preys on the vulnerable, the naive, the uninitiated, the unprotected, those who choose to see the good in others rather than reflect on the bad.
I recognise I've been in this place before, even though I vowed I would never be again. I feel controlled, threatened, especially as texts come through that I could lose so much more. Words can be powerful weapons, as can the manner in which words are spoken. And so it is that I exist. Period. But then, last night, I reached the edge ... looking into the abyss as the abyss stared back at me. Darkness. Somehow it seemed inviting. Could that darkness offer peace? It was the kind of thought that was sucking me in, drawing me ever closer. I'd completed the book for veterans. Job done. Yes, I am contracted for one further book by another publisher, the second in a two-part series about RAF 100 Group, 1945 operations, the aftermath of war, and a discussion about why they never received either the recognition or reward they were due. The first of the series is due out in January. But I just felt so alone, so vulnerable, so abandoned and useless. It was as if somehow I'd walked into a trap over five years ago, and now someone else controlled me.
What is a Life worth? Or rather, what is MY life really worth?
I was a Counsellor for tens of years. I know what I would be saying to me. But it wasn't words I needed, rather warm arms wrapped around me, embracing, enveloping me in protective love, letting me know I am needed, I still have something to offer, my job is not yet over, I am not yet done.
I telephoned my younger sister. Closing my eyes, it was like she was right there with me in the room. Into the silence we talked and shared our hopes, our dreams, past times, happy memories, speaking from the heart, reaching out across the miles, knowing instinctively we were each there for one another. We talked for the longest time, the ebb and flow of the tide of emotion spilling out words, endlessly pushing darkness to one side until, finally, her phone died. I had lost that connection. But she had brought me peace. Soon after, I curled up like a fetus in the womb of my bed, closing my eyes to thank God for bringing me through.
The Child was safe and warm, drifting into dreams, free of the nightmare of the past.
My sister, knowing these days leading up to Christmas would be particularly lonely and difficult for me to cope with, had sent a box of advent gifts, one for each day of December. Little brown pots were numbered with the days marked on small pegs, and in each was a note offering me words of comfort, with a corresponding gift to open on that day. As I woke to a new day, a panic attack already gnawing at my stomach, tears streaking down my cheeks, I sat with my first cuppa of the day, drawing Number 10 to me, reading the precious note within. With loving words it bid me open a gift with the same number ... and with trembling fingers, I uncovered a beautiful grey fluffy jumper, reaching out to me like a warm hug.
Thanks Sis for being there for me with gifts and words of comfort, strength and support. You are very precious and valued.
I love you xxx