Sunday was kind of a dreadful day. Dreadful in the sense of misfortune-ridden. Nothing serious, but one mishap after another. Saturday, I asked the matron if the girls had an outing on Sunday. She said yes. I assumed it would be at the usual time—11—and went up to meet C, because I knew she wouldn’t have the courage to come to my house without me. I was running a bit late—it was 10:30 when I left, and it’s a 40 minute walk. C gets panicky if I am late, which would be okay, except that then I arrive and she is in a state, and it’s also hard for me, for much the same reasons. Everything is easier if we are both less triggered. That’s real. Then I also feel worried because I am meeting her and that’s sort of less real. I mean, that is the past intruding on the present. That is trauma. Which doesn’t, as it turns out, mean I ignore it. Just I know that is also going on.
So I felt kind of frantic, and when I got to a point where I know there is a shortcut, but I can’t quite remember the way, I took it. And probably I didn’t remember the way partly because I was frantic.
I ended up kind of hiking through a bit of brambles, through someone’s garden and managed to break their fence. Yippee for me. Idiot foreigner.
Also, I got to the end of it and dropped my purse. I had to hike through brambles and walk through someone’s garden all over again. It wasn’t my happiest moment. Also I did not find my purse, which had my phone inside it, my work visa, my house keys, and money to give C. But walking back, I left my umbrella to make it easier to search. Then I didn’t go back for it in the interest of time. One purse down, one umbrella. Hurrah.
When I got to the school, the hostel room where C stays was shut from the outside. Not locked, but clearly there was no one inside. They were in the multi-purpose hall, listening to something.
So I went there, rather embarrassed. I saw C’s cousin and asked her to get C. When she saw me and smiled. It was, again, a normal smile.
We talked about the outing, about my lost purse, about what to do. She got very distressed about the outing, and this time I couldn’t comfort her that easily. She switched very quickly into Detached Mode—very hard. The thing is that I have found I can still reach her when she is in that mode. She won’t display any vulnerability. She doesn’t respond to anything, but she takes it in.
We came up with some kind of plan and then I went to ask the matron to keep her longer. In fact, it was the same time she was going to give them permission to stay out anyway. None of this mattered. But I think it all goes into this pot of “Someone responds to me. Someone takes steps to care for me. Someone sees my vulnerability and tries to protect it or soothe it.”
Then I went down and looked for the purse. This time, I took the right shortcut and eventually the path I had veered off onto that did not take me where I wanted to go. And the purse.
No umbrella, but the purse got sorted. I got home and sent C a text that I found the purse and then some things about coming down and getting a taxi. By this time it was raining hard. At school, she had asked me to send a taxi for her, because time would be limited. At that point, time didn’t seem to be limited particularly, but I didn’t like the idea of her walking 40 minutes in pouring-down rain. It might be that nothing would happen to her, but it seemed rather inhuman. And she had shopping to do. And she needed to see me. First I said, there must be taxis at the gate. Take one and I will pay when you get down. She said she didn’t have any money. I gave her 700 last week, no idea what she did with it, but the idea is that she gets an allowance and she can spend it on whatever she wants. Her purchases do not need to be cleared by me. I am hoping this will reduce her sense of vulnerability and maybe also give her some sense of how to handle money. I don’t know if it is working or not—it’s not working out as planned exactly, but she does seem to feel more secure.
I sent about four texts regarding the taxi situation and I also said if you don’t feel like coming down, I will do your shopping and come in the evening when (perhaps) it won’t be raining. There wasn’t any response, but I don’t really expect one. I left her in Detached Mode. She would need to come down out of that state, which is an extremely fearful one. It’s a fearful state hidden behind a hard shell so that no one sees how afraid you are, and you don’t have to know either. If I keep being gentle and warm and not scary to her, it helps. So that’s why I just kept sending texts as different thoughts came to mind. They were caring thoughts, not scary ones, and they might help to hear.
Finally, she asked if I would send a taxi. “I want to come.”
I called a number from a taxi driver I took on one of my “emergency” visits up to the high school, and he was free but eating lunch. He said he would go up in ten minutes. Well, it would take me ten minutes to walk down to the bazaar and organize a different one. I thanked him and told him C’s name, then sent a text to C that he was coming in ten minutes and gave her his phone number. She said to tell him “faster” and I explained about lunch. Then I said tell me when the taxi reaches.
She did that, surprisingly enough.
I was cleaning something when she came, and she did that Country X thing where they knock louder and louder until you come. I had kind of forgotten door pounding is a major trigger for me, and maybe it isn’t anymore, but it might not have made things any smoother. She came in and took her friends into the livingroom. It felt very awkward. I gave C money and told her and her friends to eat pancakes. She asked me for her shopping list. She had evidently forgotten hers.
I went then into the bedroom to look for it—it was in my purse. She came with me. The money I was giving her wasn’t enough she said. We went over the list and totted up the amounts. Indeed it wasn’t. It would cover only about half of it and she also had the taxi to pay still—he was going to take her back up. I gave her 2000, which was about 500 more than she needed. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but it’s my own issue. I can’t stand her having the vulnerability of not having enough money, and I didn’t really have change to cover exactly her costs.
But as I said, the allowance seems to help her feel more secure. Money management can wait. The other thing is that her parents ought to be well off. If her dad did not have a gambling problem and both of her parents have drinking problems, they would be firmly middle class. And I am middle class. I want her to feel a member of the social class she would belong to if her parents didn’t have (probably) mental illnesses or if she were really my daughter. So if she wants expensive soaps and lotions and shit like that, which middle class girls do, it’s okay with me. I don’t use them, and I think they are a waste of money, but my colleagues all use them and C’s friends of the same social class as she ought to be in use them. If she can’t buy them, it will feel either very sad for her that her parents are fucked up or that I begrudge her the money I spend on her. She is going to feel like that girl in the story (what was it called?) who is allowed to stay on at her former school after her rich father dies in India only on the condition that she cleans the rooms of the other girls. I have money in my bank account saved up from the last two years, and if it goes to face creams that allow her to feel like she is just as good as anyone else and has nothing to be ashamed of, it’s fine.
Anyway, that’s my reasoning about it. Just as Country X is the cheapest therapy I’ve ever had, if face creams help C achieve a sense of security and worth, then it’s 40 dollars well spent. If it doesn’t do that, well, it’s just face cream.
I told C to see if her friends wanted anything, and she went in the kitchen to make (it turned out) coffee. She brought coffee for her friends first, and then for the two of us. There was this moment when I didn’t know which cup to choose—she seemed to offering me one in particular, but it is a cup I know she likes, and it wasn’t clear that she was. So I hesitated, and she kind of laughed. It was a warm moment. Then everyone had coffee and the girls watched a video on C’s phone. I didn’t really say anything all this time.
She said something about keeping her phone until Monday. I didn’t get the reason exactly. It had to do with using Internet Explorer. In that moment, I had the idea I ought to be flexible. There need to be limits, but they have to be human limits. And there also needs to be trust. I can’t really control her. When I become controlling, she gets dysregulated and frightened and acts out. She does lie—I am always reminded of something I read about foster and adopted kids and their parents’ concerns about them: preoccupation with needs provision. Yup. If she lies, it’s because she feels her needs will not get met if she is honest—either physical needs or emotional ones. I can’t do much about that, except try to meet her needs. Anyway, I agreed to that too.
They stayed a bit longer and then C went in the kitchen to wash up. Leaving, C stood in the hallway and said goodbye to me. She had kind of a question mark on her face. I pulled her to me and hugged her and kissed her and she put her arm around me—it turned out to be another side hug. It was a rather firm hug from her. It was the firmest hug she has ever given me.
This week is also the first time she has called me in a very long time—like 9 or 10 months probably. She called and asked me to recharge her phone and to recharge her friend’s phone—another reason the allowance is not really working, because I would have taken it out and of that and felt like it was okay. Only she had over 1000 she also wanted for other things.
But she called me. She has probably not had the courage to do that since I adopted her, and it makes sense to me she would express vulnerability over something tangible and monetary. She would be looking for a tangible, ordinary cause for her feeling of vulnerability. “I want my mom,” would be too scary a thought. Recharges don’t reject you. It’s possible your mom will say no to you, but then you can get mad at her over it. It’s not your whole sense of worth at stake.
Anyway, she hugged me and left. Not very long after, the paranoia set in. I began to think she wheedled out of me 2000 in local currency and her phone an extra day and I was about to feel rather played. Only I realized, although it is possible she is playing me, I am in a state where I am going to feel paranoid. I felt very close to her, and it will be easy for me to feel paranoid now. So I just kind of let that go.
I know that what happens for me is that I feel warmth and then I anticipate loss. Anything that might be interpreted as loss, is experienced as a complete loss, and that loss is understood in the light of how I tried to understand the repeated loss of my parents’ regard and warmth for me when I was four, which was to think I don’t deserve love anyway. The next step beyond that is to see any love as not having been genuine, but as a kind of mental trick. It can’t really have been love. I must have been imagining things. There is otherwise no other reasonable explanation for it. C has only gone up a hill to her school, but after a warm, connected visit, it would feel that way to me. It would feel like loss, and my memory of other losses would be triggered, including how I tried to make sense of those losses. So the idea that the love I experienced and the trust I felt in C when she was at my house would be recast in my mind as delusions.
That’s where I am. It was a connected visit. Now I have to deal with the trauma it brings up.
Oh, and I forgot to mention the leach. I came home from searching for my purse and realized after a while there was blood all over the floor. Where the hell am I bleeding from? That place where the leach is currently sucking my blood between my toes….