Since Sam flew off over 3 weeks ago I have had time for ‘me’. Actually, I remember it started the day after Jessa went – on the evening of 11.10.11. Having negotiated all the practical and emotional challenges that had led up to Monday 10th October – what had been meant to happen that day and what actually did happen, the trauma of reversing all our best laid plans while helping Sam move in and Jess get away… and with all that apparently behind us, I found myself with an appointment with God and the gift of some space to ask, ‘how am I?‘
I’d made the arrangement to meet with a friend to pray – to pray for me – and I think when we fixed it it was going to be the day after my son’s wedding – a time of relief and fulfilment rather than brokenness and pain… but all the more reason to take some time out. Surely we all need those seasons of introspection and assessment – like an appraisal with your boss; if we don’t examine ourselves how can we know if we are on track, working out the inner journey from which everything else flows? If we don’t get other’s opinions and open up our lives to the scrutiny of friends, allowing accountability and criticism we cannot grow: in our church it is called ‘discipleship’. Martin thinks I am too ‘self-obsessed’ – perhaps you do too! – and perhaps I am… but it’s allowed! Not over-analysis and hole-digging leading to self-condemnation, neither ‘blowing my own trumpet’ and showing off, but a constructive process and sharing of a real-life story out of an honest heart – walking in the light with the aim of walking free while encouraging and empathising with those on a similar journey. Weblog=diary so ‘read ’em and weep’: alternatively, stop reading now if you are emotionally challenged – or perhaps listen and learn!
So… as I sat with my interested and loving friend and reflected, I realised there have been 3 different things going on inside me – as if in layers – each one squashed out by the one above. Top layer: Sally Ann is doing really well, coping amazingly, juggling everything, mothering everyone, keeping it all under control: I feel OK. Somewhere under that, a hidden layer – a bit squashed and squeezed out, a bit frustrated – it’s me the ‘prayer warrior’ persona: despite being rather shut down by family events, Deborah knows everything is fine and is really at peace about whatever happens, alert to what God is going to do through all this and holding Him to His promises to work it all for good! At bottom? Somewhere down in the pit is a little girl, hiding and hurting in silent grief, screaming soundlessly, ‘What about meeeee!!??!’
Ah, yes… it’s true. And how long has she been there? Since my mummy died when I was 12? (Byllie is the first story in the SftS archives). I did manage to bury a lot of grief then – I just went numb and and got on with life as I was sent away to boarding school to be independent and start a new life. Now it feels as if I have handled the grief over Samuel in the same way – brave and stoic, not too many tears, mostly acceptance and coping mechanisms. Am I hard-hearted, suppressing something? I don’t think so and if it needs to come out – owch! – I am willing to go with that: after all there is still time. Anyway, it’s not wrong to react one way or another – it just is. Holding things together is perhaps better than falling apart – but better for whom? Well, certain family members praise us all for ‘being strong’ but that’s probably because it makes it so much less embarrassing, challenging or difficult for them if we are! Of course I know a huge part of it is peace and grace and heavenly strength – but nevertheless, that little girl does need some attention and encouragement and this seems to be a time to give it to her 🙂 Jesus specialises in helping to mend broken hearts or as Bono says in one of U2’s songs, ‘I’m not broke but you can see the cracks; You can make me perfect again’ (from ‘Yaweh’ on the fabulous album ‘How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb’)
Having asked for the Lord’s help to acknowledge and reconcile these 3 aspects of who I am and what the months of journeying with Sam have done to them, good and bad, I thought I should take it a bit further and get a professional counsellor to talk to. It is such a relief to discover there are bona-fide branches of psychology devoted to helping people come to terms with the inner child, adult and parent in each one of us and how they relate together and with others around them: Freud named them the id, ego and super-ego. It is too easy to think all this inner work is ‘navel-gazing’, selfish and unproductive – especially if we find it embarrassing or irrelevant to where we are at. Another favourite songwriter, Don Henley, goes to an extreme in pointing out the all-too-prevelant victim-mentality and blame-culture in the US in no uncertain terms in his song ‘Get over it’: ‘Complain about the present and blame it on the past, I’d like to find your inner child and kick its little ass’!
Whether physical or emotional, if we recognise an old wound there has to be a call for restoration and healing if we are to grow to maturity. I have been pleased to find that once through the pain that always comes when I look back to childhood days, this has quickly become an enjoyable experience, building my self-worth and happiness. As an adult and mother I can actually talk to the little girl part of me as I would any child who has been courageous and responsible beyond their years; I can tell her she is safe and that I am the mummy now.
I’ve spent a month since that first evening listening and talking to little Sally – giving her some space, letting her say what she wants and what she would like to do. Turns out she loves the seaside, the sunshine, the beauty of nature and light and colour: no wonder gardening and photography are so satisfying to me. Little Becca, my daughter, loves to make a mess with paints or plasticine or in the kitchen creating some amazing recipe – but I am not like that: I wonder if it’s because I was not allowed to be when I was young? I don’t know… and it’s not helpful to dig for answers. What is helpful is to tell little Sally she did really well to get me this far and I am proud of her. Then she feels warm and loved and safe – the joy of approval seems to bubble up within – and that is an incredible feeling for this ‘old’ lady after all these years.