A while ago I wrote an update on the Dafter; this will be a wee update on how I’m doing. Here in Scotland they have a wonderful expression, usually used in the context of asking after someone’s health: “How are you feeling – in yourself?” It’s a searching question that points to an experience of reality beyond physical problems, and I like that.
How am I doing, in myself, as the full-time carer of a very unwell teenager, adjusting to life in a new city? Recently I had the chance for some Reiki and a week later reflexology (courtesy of the marvellous Carers’ Centre here). Both the practitioners asked me afterwards if I’d recently suffered a bereavement or if I had cardiac problems. I replied that my ticker is just fine, but that yes, I am recovering from a broken heart.
I’m brokenhearted – at times – over what’s happened to my child, and over having to leave the one place where, since leaving Portland years ago, I really put down roots. I still feel a bit amputated sometimes, I still miss dear friends very keenly, life can be quite lonely, and I am still very, very tired. I probably don’t know how tired I actually am.
BUT – things are slowly getting better, and my heart is healing.
For one thing, the Dafter is making progress. Not as much as I’d hoped by now, but the time-scale doesn’t matter. She’s been able to leave the house three days a week for three weeks now, and her total time out of bed each day is usually more than two and a half hours. The bad days aren’t nearly so dreadful as they once were. She still needs a lot of help, but she isn’t collapsed on the floor crying with exhaustion on a regular basis. She’s starting to meet other people, including kids her own age at a local youth group. As much as her illness allows, she’s been building her expertise as a photographer and she recently received her first paid commission! I’m so very proud of her, and she continues to be an absolute delight.
She made me laugh the other day when she quipped, “You know, you and I should really spend more quality time together.” We truly enjoy each other’s company and have a good laugh. As horrendous as this illness has been, our family has been brought even closer by the experience. I was very struck by her Christmas cookie, with the single word “Unconditional”. She sometimes says things like, “Looking after me is like looking after a baby!” Yes, but a fascinating baby who’s able to articulate some amazing thoughts and insights about life. The feeling of unconditional love is very strong.
I’m also very aware that there are parents out there who would give anything to trade places with me. I recently met someone whose son committed suicide a few years ago. I told her of my minister’s advice to enjoy the Dafter during this time, and this woman couldn’t agree more.
Although my caring duties are still pretty full-on, I’ve recently been able to do a few more things for myself. Michael has been able to work from home more often, so I’ve been able to go for walks and meet people for a coffee. I have started to make some friends in Glasgow, and having my former neighbour J nearby is a great blessing. Michael is far happier here, as is the Dafter. “I just LOVE it here!” she often says.
I’ve joined a Community Choir, which has been just the best fun. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t require a rock-solid commitment, so that if I weren’t able at the last minute to go to a rehearsal or concert, that would be fine. Although I miss my friends in Aberdeen, it’s also true that some of my friendships have strengthened and taken on a new form. And we’ve continued to receive great support from friends all over, including from you my blog friends, with your wonderful comments and good thoughts. I’m so very grateful for the many kindnesses that have come our way.
I’m happy to tell you that after quite a bit of visiting various churches here (though all Church of Scotland congregations), I think I have probably found the church that I’ll be joining. I’ll give it a bit more time, but I leave the service feeling fortified in the same way I did after church in Aberdeen. So I’m starting to recover that weekly time of anchoring and re-orientation, which I had lost for a while.
For those of you who like hymns, I’ve found this one to be very soothing. It’s started me off on a bit of an a cappella music kick. (Listening mostly, rather than singing – although the Community Choir did perform a cappella the other day.)
So the pain is subsiding, spring is coming to the garden and the city, and I’m more conscious of the tremendous opportunities there can be here. I sometimes get frightened about the Dafter’s future, seeing as she’s now missed three years of schooling, but I hold fast to the conviction that she will regain her health, no matter how long it takes. Our Son recently came for a visit, and he is doing very well, after an inexpressibly awful start in life before we adopted him. So: anything is possible!
Knitting continues to be a great solace. Here is something I recently finished, a present for my friend Catrìona:
I really like the heart design, though the cosy itself isn’t particularly thick. Perhaps it’s a summer tea cosy?
Which brings me to a great piece of news: I’m taking it with me on a trip! Yes, the woman who has only been absent from her family for three separate nights in the past ten years is going away for four nights in a row. The Dafter and I have been training Michael in all that needs to be done, and lists have been written out. Will I just sleep the entire time? Will I be consumed with guilt? I don’t think so – the novelty of being able to please myself and only think of my own needs will be quite delicious.
I plan to be as happy as possible, enjoy every minute, and take some photos to show you when I get back. Have a great weekend, whatever you’re up to!