Alone

Everyone is gone. I am at home alone. The Boy went home yesterday. He said at first he would go for the afternoon and come home in the evening. Then later he said he would stay for three or four days. The Girl went as soon as we returned from the Village. She said she wanted to return, but her mom was going to be away today and she needed to feed the chickens and look after the cows.

It’s not that I like them gone, but I so badly need some kind of break. It’s harder because of this assumption other people have that they keep me company or help me with my work. They hide under blankets for mysterious reasons. They throw books across the room, because they don’t want to do what I tell them. They continually ask what happened when nothing remarkable has happened because they are hypervigilant and I have to struggle to think what micro-expression I might have had and why.

I am not especially worried that they are gone. The Girl’s mother was not drunk yesterday when I saw her. The last time I saw her, she was. She seemed to be functioning, unless the fact that I did not take a meal with her set her off. People here are so weird about food.

The Boy seems less in a state than he used to be. It’s possible that I am just used to it, but his anxiety about coming and going seems slightly less frantic, like maybe he won’t be so dissociated by leaving that he makes life-threateningly poor decisions.

So I’m a bit free.

Probably only another introvert would understand how good it feels to be alone.

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I was making pancake batter in the morning–C is leaving and these are her farewell pancakes.  I felt sad. I began to think about how the sadness doesn’t end, that it just goes on. Life becomes like walking through mud, and I realized how in other situations this was true.

I want to distinguish between some things now–we often tell ourselves this isn’t happening now. It happened in the past. As in, don’t give it so much attention. That’s no longer relevant.

But I had the thought–oh, this was the past. This is what I am looking at now. My feelings were real, and I know what they were now and why I had them. When I left foster care and when Nata died, I felt that way, and it went on for years. Not days or weeks, but years.

It suddenly crossed my mind that I can do this, because I have the resources to make my brain work well enough to form connections. If I had fewer resources, I would shut it down.

 

Disorder

C is leaving in the morning. She was first going to spend around 2 weeks with me, then when she came, it was five days. Now three.

What was unexpected about this is that I cried. In fact, I could not stop crying. She told me her sister was not happy and crying for her, and I said if you go, then I will cry. You can’t make everyone happy. But I did not expect to cry in front of her or so much.

I went for a little walk to calm down, but then I began to think that if I were gone for a long time, The Girl would think I was angry. So I came back before I was really calmed down, and being in the house made it worse. I did not sob, but I also could not stop.

I had thoughts about this and after a while, I realized that none of them especially helped. They neither felt satisfyingly explanatory nor soothing. After that, I didn’t really try to think about anything. I just wondered how to stop. I had a coffee. I tried reading a book. I could not think of anything else to do.

I logged in to Facebook and realized that, although we were in the same house, C had been messaging me. She mostly wanted to tell me that The Boy and The Girl were with me, and there was no reason to cry so much. This sounds really invalidating when I write it down, but it didn’t feel that way when I read it. It felt she honestly did not understand herself as a unique person, who could not be replaced by other children, and as though people felt sad when they had a need not being met, which could be met by another person or in some other way.

I tried to talk to her about this, but I don’t think she understood. I realized if you don’t see yourself as someone more than an object, you can’t understand someone else seeing you as more than an object.

This didn’t explain why I cried, but it explained why The Boy and The Girl couldn’t fix it.

I still don’t know why I cried so much. I know I did not like it. I think it might happen again when she actually does leave.

I could see while she was here that she felt profound things–she had very young expressions quite often, babylike. I wonder if this happens because she remembers being hurt by someone else, or if I have actually hurt her, and she is afraid of my hurting her again. I don’t know what the babylike expression feels like to have or what emotion or state it expresses. It’s new to me. I have seen it in pictures, but not in person.

It’s now morning. I am still sad. We spent the evening retreated from each other. They were binge watching a soap opera—something I don’t normally allow, but I didn’t intervene or set boundaries mainly because I was tired. Someone was shot and dying and I had flashbacks of Nata dying and physically I could feel the screaming. I thought when someone dies violently like that, you don’t stand over them gently pleading. You scream. I think this is probably true even if you don’t know them that well. Maybe not everyone screams, but the process of death is so shocking to see that I think most people have intense reactions.

This has not really ever happened to me before. I suppose I must normally have the internal resources to make this stop, but last night I couldn’t.

So that was awful.

 

Morning

G was planning to leave today by bus, but the bus was full. The driver wouldn’t take him. Someone said that there was an official car going there in the morning, but he didn’t know who. I called the principal, because the man works in her husband’s department and I thought she might know who is going. Well, she didn’t, but in the morning she called me around 5:15 in the morning and said she was driving part of the way there.

So he left. Then J woke up and began to play with the remote control car he had borrowed from his friend. The car worries me, because he usually breaks toys. They are cheaply made, something stops working, he takes it apart to try to discover the problem, and completely destroys it. I don’t know how hand’s on to be about this car. He has already begun to call it “my car.” Given his lack of object constancy, I don’t think he can remember his friend exists still, or what may happen to his friendship if he breaks the car.

I suspect he runs through friendships, being acquisitive this way. The last time I saw him with one particular friend, he persuaded him to give him some money and I have not seen them play together since. Maybe that’s coincidence or maybe it’s The Boy being that annoying kid who always wants something. It’s not that you can’t say no,  but you get tired of it and don’t want to be around him at all anymore.

Then The Girl’s father came to the house. She is not here, but he came and brought vegetables. He didn’t want anything–not tea or breakfast. Just brought vegetables and left. I am not at the moment feeding his daughter, so I don’t know why he brought them exactly.

It’s 7 am now. The most eventful morning I have had in a long time.

The Big Kids

The Big Kids have come home–C and G. C is not with me. She stopped off at her grandparents’ house and won’t come here until next week. G is here and will leave the day after tomorrow.

I have lots of feelings about this. I find journeys very stressful, and the kids have been on a journey for days. G went to Border Metropolis to meet C a week ago, but C was with her mother and stepfather in Timbuktu until Saturday. Saturday, her stepfather drove her part of the way there, and she came to meet G only on Sunday. They were supposed to depart on Sunday by bus, but C claimed there were no taxis to get there. I find this unlikely, but C seemed to believe it.

Anyway, I had asked G to wait for her, despite having wasted money on a bus ticket he can’t return. Everyone assured me it was perfectly safe for C to travel alone in a taxi across the country, but I realized (after a long think) that I still felt worried and while I couldn’t quite decipher whether C felt safe alone or not, it didn’t feel safe to me. People use denial to cope a lot here. I am not sure they consider sexual assault and harassment accurately.

So all day I did not hear from either one of them. C does this and G slept through my calls and did not have enough balance on his phone to reply. As they came closer, G told me on Facebook where he was. He did not tell me where C was, and so I began to worry that C wasn’t with him.

Worrying about young people is normal, but I know I worry when I can’t find people because I assume death is a real possibility. I couldn’t find someone and when I found her, she was dead, so these two ideas are linked in my mind. It’s not something I want to teach impressionable young people, who are learning how to cope with danger.

I was aware this was tricky for me. When C did begin to message me, I didn’t know at first where she was. I could have, but I wasn’t thinking rationally enough to do that. There were some dots I didn’t connect.

Because of that, we had this difficult conversation, where she became defensive and rude to me. I carried on with my own agenda–we will not be rude to each other. I said there is something missing in what you are telling me and I am confused. She was rude about this too.

Finally, G told me that C had come with him until the turnout for C’s village. Ah, well, a logical person might have worked this out, but I was not one of them. C calmed down pretty much immediately. C had not been able to imagine what I didn’t know.

I called C a short while later. She was still in the car and it was hard to hear her. She said she would call me when she got home. Unlike other times, she did call me after she arrived at her grandparents’ house. I told her I was very happy she got there safely, which is true.

One of the issues I have been aware of recently is jealousy–The Girl is extremely jealous, and it has made me aware that jealousy is real and motivating for people. Not that I don’t ever feel jealous myself, but I have become aware that there are situations when I don’t feel jealous, but someone else would be and this can create a gap in our communication. I imagine it may mean something to C that I care more about whether she arrives safely or not than whether or not I have her attention.

The other thing is G is here, and I feel something I can’t describe–a pride in his existence, somehow. It’s something new.

 

Anxiety

The kids went home yesterday afternoon. In the morning, The Boy was sick–he had been vomiting the previous night and not told me. So he didn’t want to go to football, and The Girl says there are no girls to play with. It’s only boys. I think they are both actually frustrated not to experience immediate success. They don’t have the emotion-regulation skills or the self-compassion to persist.

It made for an interesting morning, because they were both home and we had nothing in particular to do. Without the schedule, things are free-form, but I don’t have great ideas about what teenagers ought to do with their spare time. Tuesday, I had to go to school to do some work, and they went downstrairs to the neighbour’s house and watched violent movies on television for hours. That was clearly not a good idea. So I had the Girl work in the garden for about an hour and a half and the Boy stayed inside and read books and drew pictures.

It was very interesting, because The Boy is sometimes naturally very interesting to talk to and to be with. At other times, he makes unfunny jokes and plays up to get attention and I end up feeling sort of mechanical. (That’s nice dear….) But at other times, the back and forth flows very naturally.

This is interesting, because The Girl cannot do this. She cannot do something of her own and bring it back to show me or be looking at something and point out something that interests me. When she tries to do this, she imitates The Boy and does whatever he did last that interested me. She does not have her own ideas. When she is looking at something and points it out to me, I usually have a hard time understanding why it has any interest for her. Yesterday, she was pointing out that some boys seemed to be on their way to go swimming. (Swimming during the monsoon is quite dangerous.) I agreed that the river was their destination. They are not students at our school, although they used to be. I had a hard time understanding why she cared if they went swimming or not or why I should care. I recall one day when some boys were walking down the road–I think it may have been the same boys–and she said, “Look, there is X walking with his friends.” Indeed, there he was, walking with his friends.

Why does she care that he is walking with his friends?

So she strikes out with me much of the time, and it was sad to see this. It was sad for me to see how naturally the boy could interest me in his activities and how hard it is for her to do the same thing. I felt sad that she was losing out on this kind of interaction.

The thing about being anxious is that it leaves her unable to develop her own interests very fully. She is very good at helping me when I need help, but she does not know how to have her own interests and then share them with me. It may be that she’s simply wrong about imagining my mind and in time she will improve. But I think it may also be the anxiety–she can’t leave me and my interests long enough to explore the world.

Of course, in Country X, where people don’t go to the shop alone, exploring the world is less done, but I still think everyone needs some of this. Everyone needs to have things that they like to do and that they get some satisfaction and joy out of doing.

I was watching a video about anxious-ambivalent attachment–it’s a strange situation clip. In it, the mother starts off playing with her baby. He’s found a phone and he offers her the receiver to pretend to talk. She says, “Is this the best toy you could find?” and offers him a different toy. Now, it’s hard for me to understand why a mother playing with her baby would reject the toy she offers him. They are, after all, baby toys.

But I can imagine something like this playing into the Girl’s make-up. You can’t develop your own interests with a parent who seems bent on destroying them.

The thing is that, although I have trouble imagining the mother’s motives, I don’t think she is bent on destroying him as a separate person from her. I don’t think she probably realizes this is the likely outcome.

Anxiety usually makes you present-focused and concerned with short-term results. It also makes you self-focused, because your own survival seems to be at stake. Given that I believe this about anxiety and I am guessing an anxious baby results from an anxious mother, then the mother’s reasons for rejecting her child seem to me to be more likely to have something to do with her feelings in this moment.

What would they be?

Because my own mother interfered with me quite often. I don’t think this began at 7 or 10 or 11, or only in the years when I was old enough to make note of it and remember it later. It began with my saying, “Mommy, bird,” and my mom not understanding why I might want to look at a bird, just as I don’t understand why I might want to look at some boys walking down a road.