Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The aftermath

from here

My anxiety has recently grown from a low-level, easily ignorable hum to a deafening, intolerable buzzing that comes in increasingly regular but unpredictable waves and feels like it could very well kill me. My psychiatrist told me that in the same way I took a tablet twice daily to function like a normal adult human being, I also needed to incorporate some kind of practice into my weeks that involved “being present in the here and now” rather than preparing for every possible thing that could go wrong in both the near and distant futures and thinking of the various things I was constantly failing to do that needed to be done.

“What does ‘being present’ even meeeeeean?!” I wailed at him, to which he replied that Paula, my psychologist, would probably have some good tips for me, and that would be $270 for today thank you very much. (He didn’t say this exactly, and we had run out of time, having spent far too long bonding over our shared views on same-sex marriage [pro], but still: seeing a psychiatrist is super expensive and therefore such a marker of privilege, and does not help with the intense guilt I feel over how grossly privileged I am. We also have a cleaner now, in part because our house has three toilets. THREE. *hyperventilates into paper bag*)

Anyway, Paula very kindly reminded me that a key way I used to cope with all the thoughts and feelings that clogged up my brain and heart was to write, at which point I wailed, “But I don’t have tiiiiiiime to write!” She then performed her regular magic, which leaves me feeling that she is absolutely right and I should do what she says immediately, despite her never having suggested such things to me; I left the appointment with a couple of writing sessions booked into my diary so that it was scheduled and therefore felt more official and slightly less time-wastey than if I was just to sit down and do it spontaneously. (I KNOW.) So I’m writing. Because my psychologist and then my calendar told me to. Dammit.

And I’m writing specifically about the move, because Paula also suggested I needed to allow myself to express all of my feelings about it, in the same way I’d allowed Mo and Hazel to, without judging or dismissing them. So.

Finding a place to live ended up being okay – as in the past, Alan and I agreed on The One as soon as we saw it. We decided on renting rather than buying, which was the right decision (thank you, past me, for stressing so ridiculously hard about this it became clear we needed to postpone). And then we moved, and remembered with horror that the front door of the house we’d chosen (we signed an 18 month contract for it after a 15 minute “inspection”) was down two narrow flights of stairs (it’s on a steep hill), and that there was an extra flight of stairs within the house, down which all of our beds needed to go. Previous moves (with the same amount of furniture) have been over and done with by lunchtime; this one took eight hours. We felt so sorry for the removalists we ended up leaving pots and furniture in the garage at the top of the hill, deciding we’d move them down ourselves once our legs had regained feeling. 

Also, our new fridge – bought when we were sure we’d live in Oatley forever – didn’t fit in the fridge cavity in the kitchen (yay renting!), which meant that for the next couple of weeks we were trekking up and down two flights of stairs (sometimes twice if you forgot to grab the coriander) for every snack and meal. A friend arrived with three blocks of chocolate (she didn’t know which flavour we preferred), and there were a couple of times I weighed it up and decided to eat large chunks of them for lunch rather than tackling the fricking steps yet a-fricking-gain to find a more protein-filled option. I’ve found there’s also something weirdly depressing about forced stair-climbing, especially in the morning; it feels like one is living out a metaphor about uphill battles, and all the puffing and pain doesn’t leave one feeling much hope for one’s ability to conquer in said battles, so WHY BOTHER. (I went through this thought process every morning around 8:40 for at least the first month.) 

During the inspection, we noticed all the cool things about the house: the spacious garage (which would be Alan’s office), the spectacular view from the upstairs windows, the green house outside the main bedroom, the veggie patch at the bottom of the yard. After moving in we noticed all the things that didn’t work for us at all: most notably, there’s no bath, and Hazel (it turns out) passionately hates showers. Also, the two storeys mean that if we’re upstairs, the backyard basically feels like another planet to the kids (“nearby” now means “same number of metres above sea level”), and so they were less inclined to entertain themselves outside as they’d done at the old place. 

So. Hazel was screaming whenever anyone suggested a wash, Moses kept getting teary while talking about missing our old house with its climbable trees and Chloe, the young girl who lived next door, with whom Moses had spent hours chatting and writing stories. Both kids were messes at school drop offs, which I wanted to cope fine with (knowing from last year that it would pass) but did not; it’s a sucky and draining way to start the day, even if you’re fairly sure it’ll be temporary.

Alan knew his way around Penrith when we moved out that way so I was the only one feeling lost that time; this time neither of us were at all enthusiastic about our new surroundings. The whole decision and move had happened so quickly (with uni and work always chugging along in the background) that we hadn’t had time to process the bigness of leaving Sydney with all its routines and comforts; the general vibe for the first month or so was a steaming combination of “HOLY SHIT,” “WHAT HAVE WE DONE,” “AAAAAAAAARGH,” and

On top of all of this, I’ve been battling my expectations of what I can and should be providing for my children. One of these (quite high on the list, I’ve now discovered) is constant stability, and choosing upheaval for Mo and Hazel for a bit brought on an unexpected storm of guilt and feelings of failure. It’s not been much fun here.

BUT. We’re heading to a birthday party this weekend, at which we’ll hopefully meet some school families. Moses is mentioning names which suggest new friendships are blossoming, and he’s talking less about the things he misses about Sydney. Alan has prepared the plots for our future veggie patch, and the green house has brought our fern back from the dead. We bought a trampoline, which seems to have (somewhat) solved the kids-playing-outside problem (for now), and we’re no longer using maps to get to and from the school and shops. Things are slowly becoming normal, and it’s easier to imagine ourselves feeling settled and well at some point in future. Also, we have a cleaner now. *reaches for paper bag*

And I’m writing again.


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