Yesterday was a long day. It was kind of nice, but it was long.
There was class and then a story telling contest in the National Language. Then I went home for lunch. VP Ma’am and I had some work to do with our club and so I came back. The kids made posters and it was sort of pleasant.
In between this though, in between the structure of the day, I was thinking about C, because she had been reaching earlier in the week. Maybe that was on Tuesday or something. She missed me. She said she missed me.
Actually, I don’t know how to explain my logic around this. Just that the weekend was upon us, and she will think about whether or not she will see me. Stuff will happen in her head. Either she will be afraid, or she will feel rejected. I felt like bringing the issue out in the open.
So at lunchtime I sent her a text asking whether she had an outing. It seemed to me she did, and she would be allowed to come down from school into the town for the day or some part of the day. If I don’t tell her to come to my house, she will not feel she can come. She would have to reach very far to tell me she wants to see me, and that seemed like it would be very destabilizing for her. Maybe I ought to have left it alone, but I didn’t. I brought the issue out into the open. I said I miss you and I want to see you, but you can choose, and I wrote a rather long explanation about why she needs to have choices.
While I was sitting watching the kids make posters, I saw she had seen the text and I wrote another one. I said she might feel afraid to tell me her feelings and to take a deep breath and remember I love her for who she really is. She did not respond to that or to the first text either, although she read it. I didn’t really have an opinion about it. I went back to paying attention to the kids and what they were doing.
Then I went back with VP Ma’am to her house for tea. She wanted to come down to the bazaar to buy some things and to go to the bank, so we would have tea and go together—I live in the bazaar. That was the plan.
We had tea and sat for a while and then it began to rain. As the afternoon turned into evening, it rained harder. By seven, it was absolutely pouring down rain, so I stayed for dinner. All this while, I was checking my phone. By seven, I had pretty much decided she won’t reply. She won’t come and she won’t reply. She can’t. And tomorrow I will have to think what to do, whether to reach past her defenses and force contact because she needs it and can’t do it for herself or whether to let silence mean no.
Anyway, I ate dinner. Then, as I was leaving, I began to text C. I said I love you and I will really not be angry at you. Something like that. Then, “You are loved and wanted and safe.”
The thought I had about that as I was writing it was that if I understand where she is emotionally then what I am writing is exactly the right thing. And if she isn’t, I sound completely insane. And I just took the risk. I wrote it. If I sound insane or even am insane, so be it. I don’t get more information about her than this, and this is my best guess at what she needs at this moment.
A while later, I asked if she was okay. That’s, of course, different for me to write. That creates anxiety, but it requires a response. My other texts I know she is there and I know she reads, but I don’t expect any reply and I don’t feel anxious about it. She did not reply for a while, and I began to feel she is not okay. Maybe she was and maybe she wasn’t. Maybe I was just anxious in my own mind for my own reasons. After maybe 20 minutes or more I got, “M C plz recharge me in 100 I wil cme down tomorrow bt nt sure I wil tel u.” This was from someone else’s phone.
For some reason, that struck me as being kind of not right. I suppose I asked her what had happened. I got up and put clothes on. (I was lying in bed at this point.) Then I went around to the shops, looking for vouchers. We had an exchange the whole time. “What happened?” “Nothing.” Mostly that. Also, a certain amount of, “Are you going to do this or not?” “Faster….” Eventually I got the answer that some cousin of hers was in the hospital, which I did not really believe. By then I had recharged her and I got a “thanks” which is actually promising, because it suggests she felt safe enough to make herself vulnerable again. “Faster” sounds controlling to me. It sounds like a very frightened Detached Mode who is grasping for control because it is too scary to be perched on the abyss of rejection until the recharge actually appears.
In the morning, I got a text from her, “Can you bring something for me.” So I was really surprised by that.
“Yes, tell me.”
There was a long pause. I think I wrote something else about being glad she asked. Eventually I got the list, “3 plates momos, one calculator a packed [sic] of Mitsubishi pens, some junk food, 3 recharge vouchers, and 1000.”
From there until the time I arrived I got variations on “Are you coming? Come faster. If you are not coming, just tell me.”
I cannot totally process that in real time still, it seems. I kept thinking what the fuck is so important about momos, and I felt more worried myself, like there was some kind of ulterior motive about the behaviour. Also, I felt widgety, which is not the best feeling. I am not as bothered about it as I might be, because there is a power difference between us. I am not sure how to explain that, but it is entirely my choice whether to allow her to treat me in a widgety way or not. In an equal, reciprocal relationship, I don’t know that I would feel so free to choose, and I would feel my rights as a person were being infringed upon. It would piss me off quite a lot more in an adult, because it’s a kind of power move. In relation to a child, my power seems unassailable. It’s not an attractive move, but I know it’s coming from fear and so I think I did my best to soothe that fear. “I am coming.”
I got to the hostel and she was sitting on her bed finishing the fringe of a national dress that must be new. I gave her the junk food, explained no one had momos at 10 in the morning, and gave her the vouchers and 2000 in local currency.
She wanted me to leave just then, but it wasn’t hostile or angry. I actually don’t know why she wanted me to go. She kept saying her friends were going and I should go with them. I know she didn’t want me to stay, because sitting with me for too long creates too much anxiety. But going with her friends I could not really decipher. I think it might have been a caring act. It’s a long walk down, Country X-ers don’t really do things alone, and she feels kind of worried.
I asked her a few things, about tests and marks. I explained how I look at tests, that I am trying to see how to help. She had taken a test and failed it, but not kept the test. I asked her who she has been talking to at night. This older boy she calls brother and has mentioned before. Not a boyfriend, a confidante. So that made me feel better actually. She is getting activated and turning to a friend she feels she can trust. I felt like I had something important to say, but could not remember anything at all. Her arms were bare—she was wearing pants and shirt—and there were no marks on them. She didn’t seem to be cutting herself. I asked her about yesterday’s race. “How did you do?” “Bad.” I said she can’t run. She is good at sports, but she cannot run. I guess after a few more minutes, I said I would go. I could see the anxiety mounting. Not a lot, but so that she was not able to make eye contact anymore, and there was a feeling of buzzing about her body, like she didn’t quite want to be in it.
There was a minute, too, when I looked away from her to look at some of the other girls who were talking to her, and when I looked at C, it felt like there was no connection between us, like she was a total stranger to me. It felt to me like my own warning signal. I am too activated. I don’t know what I might do next, but I will not be able to attune to her.
Leaving, I happened to knock over a pile of clothes folded on top of someone’s suitcase. She dove for it, “I will get it.” She wouldn’t allow me to touch them.
She seemed, though, through the time I was there, kind of settled, the most settled and Healthy Adult I have seen her look since she came back to Y-town in February. And it was lovely for me. That is my little girl. It felt like her.
Five minutes after I leave, she might become very activated and very unsettled again, but just for those few minutes, she seemed okay. It was a nice feeling, to have the sense that something can be okay, even just for five minutes.
When I got home, I sent her a text about getting tuitions from a new teacher that has just come to our school—she teaches the subject C failed the test in. She didn’t read it. The whole time I walked up, she had been texting me from other numbers, and I hadn’t realized she hadn’t read the texts I had sent most recently on her phone. Maybe it had come down the hill in the hands of one of her friends. Anyway, I will see what she says to that. In the meantime, there is nothing else I need to do. Just my own stuff.
I know the whole experience is hard for her. This is actually the work: the anxiety over the reaching and over whether or not I will be there, and being able to tolerate that anxiety. Being soothed enough by herself or me or others that it doesn’t overwhelm her. I want her to be settled, because she is a child, and I feel like the more time she spends in a settled place, the more chance she has to develop and grow. Outside of it, she is just coping. She isn’t doing the teenage things she needs to do to grow up. But the anxiety over whether an attachment figure is there or not is the work for her, and it will have to be done. It will have to be done over and over. And I have to keep letting her do it, without letting my own anxiety about it unsettle me.