It’s a holiday today. I’m very, very grateful for this, because at this point I’m also feeling extremely sick. Not dangerously so. Just tired and achy and miserable. I came home last night after the school football finals, ate the leftovers I could scrape together, and fell asleep. I was awake for a bit in the middle of the night, but I more or less slept from 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. I’ve been sick for about 3 weeks—since classes started. Not with the same thing. Different things. Every virus circulating among my students—and there are many—I have had my share of. The upside is I am not sick for as long as I used to get with these things. Gone are the days of the 7-10 day cold. I have 3 day colds now, which would be wonderful except that there seem to be so many more to get next. Anyway, the current one has settled into my chest and making me think that sleep as a permanent state would be a lovely, lovely future to try to make happen. I’m thinking this one isn’t viral and started myself up on a course of antibiotics and hoping it’s the right one. I could see the doctor, but the hospital always seems so far and the wait so long and I’m so tired and anyway I think the doctor is with the rest of the town just now getting His Holiness’s blessing.

That aside, I’m thinking about Charlie. I probably shouldn’t start there. I should probably back up a bit and talk about Ruthie. The edge seems to be off of some things now and she’s more able to cope and what it has meant is that her personality has started to emerge more clearly in a very surprising way.

And maybe I shouldn’t even start there. Maybe I should start even before that with the parts popping out periodically when I’m teaching—not noticeably coming out and taking charge, although with Anna it was like an enormous brain fart. What am I doing? What page is that on? Where does she keep that? How do I respond to that behaviour? And maybe that was noticeable.

But I have these interesting thoughts when the other parts come out and see what I’m doing. I mean, they have thoughts I get to hear that are interesting. Anna popped out and thought, She’s really good at this. She’s a very good teacher.

And Ruthie likes that I take care of my students. I mean, that is her opinion. She thinks I’m a good person because of it.

Anna thinks I’m competent and Ruthie thinks I have value as a person, and it’s just interesting to have that perspective on myself coming from these bits of me that still feel not-me.

A few nights ago, Ruthie started to become aware of some of the sexual abuse from my childhood—it came up in the context of the baby and why the baby had been taken away, and it was hard to explain this without touching on sex trafficking. I couldn’t completely avoid it. It wasn’t something she was really aware of before, and her response was somehow very Ruthie, but very surprising.

She became very protective of me. She said, Nobody hurt mommy no more. She my mommy. Nobody hurt my mommy.

She was clear that she is little and that she can’t exactly fend off attackers. But she is loud—or imagines she can be—and her plan was to scream. She is sure, in fact, that if she screams Maths Sir will coming running and save us. Her faith in my friends is a little bit touching, but actually he does live in the next building from mine.

But it was very interesting to feel this sense of a little, little body climbing on mine and clutching at me in a protective way.

This starts to bring me to an actual point. Which is that I set her to work on Charlie this morning. I was making breakfast and I just told her to ask him what he needs. He’s sad. What would help him?

So she got out of him that he would like tea. He would like tea with ginger. Okay. That’s something. What else?

Some feelings started to emerge, and I began to be able to see that he needed to feel that the grief he is feeling is survivable. It is okay. From time to time, that degree of excruciating loss occurs to people, and they live through it. You don’t need to push it aside or try to let it go or in some other way get rid of. You can just deal with it gently until it subsides. This is true even when the grief is so great that life itself feels so unbearable you want to die and even when you cannot imagine any reason to even try to live through the pain—which is how he feels. It’s how I feel.

The grief was exacerbated for me because, on the one hand, a big chunk of me was organized entirely around trying to protect my family and when the baby was taken away and then Natalya died, I was overcome with a sense of failure. I had one thing to do in life, it felt, and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t keep us together. I couldn’t keep everyone alive and unharmed.

On the other hand, Natalya is the only person who seemed to really value me as a person. She’s the only person with whom I can really feel a sense of regard and genuine warmth.

So the regard was gone permanently and I felt like a failure. On top of everything else.

Yes, that feels like a black hole. And that can be lived through.

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