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.

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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.

 

So Bad

When I woke up this morning and sat down to write, I felt so bad. Dirty and disgusting and horrible.

What I have been trying to do in these situations is to remind myself this is something that happened or a perception of something that happened. It’s a social sense. It isn’t me. My idea is based on the assumption that my difficulties come from disruptions in processing information, and these disruptions have led to problems with forming a continuous self, so that there is no sense of connection between the self in different moments. I feel ashamed now and I am the same person now as at other times when I don’t feel ashamed.

In a shorter term sense, it limits the bad feelings to the present moment. I feel like I am bad now, but I am not always going to feel that way. I suppose there is a motivation to believing that feeling bad is a part of the self–it gives the illusion of some control, even though that control is not real. If external events lead to feelings internally and those feelings are not very often good feelings, it’s quite frightening.

I have an image of a rubber ball being bounced. That’s how a child with callous parents feels. A child with caring parents still does not have much control over what happens inside themselves, but the people around her are helping that child to have good feelings. There is this layer of protection, like swaddling, which are the caring people around her.

That’s one piece.

Unsteady

Things are not very stable at home at the moment.

The Girl tends to express a lot of anger, some of it overtly, but much of it covertly. I mentioned her punching animals in the nose. She reports her own dog bit her. Well, I wonder why….

Her main solution to this is to move on to someone else. I won’t give her her own way, and she wants to go home again. So yesterday, she went home to find her mother drunk, fought with her mother, and went to stay with her brother instead.

This would all be fine, except that she said hurtful things to The Boy, which I had shared with her and evidently should not have, because her motive for repeating it was to wound him.

So the Boy came home, but in a guarded state. This was alright, except that the anxiety overwhelmed him and by evening he felt like running away. I kind of get how the pressure builds up, because it happens to me too. So in the evening when he asked to stay overnight with his friend, I let him. It’s Friday night, I am not sure how much kids are normally allowed to stay overnight with their friends, but a sleepover sounds ok to me.

After he left, I realized he had stolen money from me. I went to look for him, and he was not at his friend’s house. I don’t know where he is or what his plan actually had been.

The Girl is still at her brother’s house, which is fine. I suppose in a few days, she will get angry at him too and want to come back. I don’t know how to help her with her anger exactly. If I had an idea, I would try it. It doesn’t bode well for her future, but I don’t really know what to do. You cannot rage at people to get your way, and if you use abandonment to exact revenge on people (which is what she is trying to do), then generally they lose interest in you. It doesn’t keep working.

At some point, you have to accept the boundaries other people set for you, and learn to work within them. You cannot continually ramp up aggression and live any kind of decent life.

Meanwhile, I am home alone and starting on a project of my own. I am trying to write out a memoir kind of thing about my traumatic past while weaving in what is happening in the present–somewhat like my blog, but more coherent. It’s possible it may turn out to be readable, but I also think writing will help me to make sense of it more deeply.

It’s quite difficult, to put it mildly, and yesterday in the middle it seems that I switched. I left a message for C’s dad that I loved him. I came back from going to the bathroom and saw that I had done this. I don’t know how it happened–if I had simply typed into the wrong window (I tell C I love her all the time) or if some part of me couldn’t hold in the impulse anymore.

It is something I periodically want to say to him. I feel it. But for adult men and women who are not related, I suspect, “I love you” is always romantic, and that isn’t what I am trying to say. My brain is a confusing place, and it’s not very clear to me what I do feel.

It’s possible I was writing, and felt overwhelmed, and I just wanted to reach out. That expectation that there will be a reward on the other end of reaching out does feel like love. There is this gratitude you feel in anticipation of receiving support.

Anyway, he came back online later and said, “I love you too.” Life moved on.

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.

 

Anger

Anxious-preoccupied people are reported to express more anger than other attachment types. It begins in infancy with a neglectful and inconsistent parent whose attention you can finally capture if you really scream. So that implicit memory of getting your needs met by raging can come back later, although in other relationships it does not work as well.

I was thinking about this because The Girl is frequently very angry, and I think it happens at times when she wants soothing. Of course, if she’s angry, I don’t particularly think to or even want to offer soothing. I want to distance myself both from the mysteriousness of her emotion, which is not really immediately comprehensible to me. It’s not a good strategy for a teenager.

There is something else: a neglected baby or a baby with very inconsistently responsive parents (like a drug or alcohol addicted parent) may receive care if they learn to intensify their emotions rather than suppress them–they can’t regulate them, because they don’t know how.

Later, the baby grows up and their brain still intensifies emotions. It’s quite horrible, if you think about it. I think about my borderline mother, and this combination of using anger to get attention (when anger drives people away from you or elicits combative rather than caring responses) and the tendency to intensify emotions. Your brain fries. It seems very selfish and it is selfish, but this is what you have learned to do.