Black and White

If only a certain book and movie hadn’t ruined the expression ‘shades of grey’… that might have been my title. But ‘Black and White’ is just as useful. It’s top of my mind because it was a photo prompt for today. I took this picture of the hands of John and Mary.

#photoaday #fatmumslimphotoaday …these two have been married for 61 years 🙂

A photo posted by Rachel Cox (@rachelfaithcox) on

I know people who are very black and white. They think in polarities, have pretty fixed views and don’t mind sharing them. I’m more of a shades of grey girl. I see things in their complexity. I feel differently about them the more I think about them. My opinion is often strong, but it changes the more I know about something. I don’t mind admitting to being wrong (eventually!) which somewhat diminishes the victory for the hubster when we fight and I concede! Of course, it’s VERY rare (!) but you know, it happens.

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Most of the time I think in shades of grey. But I felt very black and white about a few things in 2015. I held them tightly, more tightly than most things because they offended my sense of justice greatly. I kept them in my fists until the pressure turned them into dark stones, those offences I felt. I don’t always deal well with conflict, especially when I am conflicting with men I find arrogant. My usually broad mind strobes itself into sharp contrasts. Painful flashes of black and white. But time is useful to the wounded sensibility. Time brings perspective and a different way of looking at things. Time ameliorates the damage until the harsh difference between black and white softens into grey. Another way of seeing things. A whiter shade of pale.

And there I am at last, in the rain and wind. Fighting the elements on the edge of Mercury Bay. Shouting into the gale because it whips my words away and I can let the last vestiges of anger out. Let it out in the freedom of knowing that the expression of it is all I really need. All I ever needed. The tide is pulling the beach from under my feet, dragging the last year under. And I am ready to see it go. I let the hot stones of anger tumble out of my fists and away with the tide. I fill my lungs with cold, salty air. Spinning round and round in the blustery chaos, arms wide. Hands open to the air.

Then, the wind quiets enough so I can hear my own voice again. My feet slap out a regular rhythm on the hard sand. Lace scallops of foam edge the tide’s retreat. I notice that I am humming. The remnants of a Christmas carol, a song for Mary… breath of heaven… hold me together… light up my darkness… it has a pretty melody. I hum the words I don’t know. I think about the rhythm of the waves being the breath of life itself. Inhaling, exhaling. I think about the water, crashing onto the shore, or falling in raindrops from the clouds, rendering the sand into a carpet. I notice that the lace edge of sea is beaded with shells and seaweed. It is beautiful.

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I turn away from the breaking surf, away from the grievances. I turn my face upward to the rain, to the skies clouded with grey.

Catharsis.

Calm.

Hello 2016. I think I like you already.

Inheritance

“…comme-ci, comme-ca”  my son’s small hand wavers horizontally in the manner of telling me he’s feeling, well, middling.  Not this, not that. He’s into language, currently French.  Much easier to comprehend than some of the made up languages he used to speak in! I have to say, I concur with his sentiments, but for different reasons. Today is Christmas day and he’s been gorging on christmas stocking treats, so faced with the prospect of Christmas dinner, he’s non committal. But my middling feelings are not about food. No. I’m feeling middling about Christmas itself. A holiday I have always loved is so much more complex now.  I don’t think I can explain it to him, and anyway, he bounds off to do something busy. I’m left to myself to prepare the salad, left to my own middling thoughts, my own sweet and sour, light and shade. My own shadow dance.

This time of year is reminiscing time, and I try really hard every year not to fall into the murky depths of melancholy. I think a LOT about my mum. About my childhood. And about how I wish I could just tell her that I get it.  All the stuff I didn’t get when I was a clueless kid, an angst-ridden teen and a self-absorbed young woman. All the stuff about being a Mum, and the efforts that go unnoticed. All the stuff about the importance of having family traditions, how crucial manners and generosity are. How hard you have to work to help the family with that stuff. I want to look her deep in the eyes and make sure she knows that I finally get it, and I am so thankful to her. If she were here, she’d probably shrug me off, in her trademark bluster. But I’d put my hands back on her shoulders and say “MUM! I get it!” and she might laugh and tell me there is still waaay more for me to get. I’m a long way off knowing it all.

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Grief reaches across the years, never really releasing me. And it’s not just because of the aching chasm that exists where her love used to be. But because of the lost opportunity to love her back. She’s gone. No more chances to let her know that I appreciated all of that self sacrifice and hard graft. With every decoration I hung on my tree this year, my heart keened for her like it was her last day all over again. I can’t have Christmas without memories of her that ghost through every song, every ritual, all the ways we do things. For me, there is no joy to all men without sadness for one woman.

I just miss my Mumma… you know?

The tsunami of feeling inundated me mid-morning. The hubster was having a nap. The kids were playing amongst the drifts of wrapping paper on the living room carpet.  I decided it would be good to take my tears out into the wind and I strapped on my helmet and climbed on my bike. Even with my legs burning and the rush of air against my face, the sadness enveloped me. Chased me around the quiet streets. Followed me through the park. Settled in my chest where I knew it would weigh on me for the rest of Christmas Day.

It occurs to me that the only way I can love my Mum without her here, is to pour the love I have for her into my kids. Her grandbabies. She would probably have liked that.  I look at my girl, lying next to the cat in a sunny patch of the floor, so young-old it hurts. I hear my little guy, shadow fighting an imaginary opponent with his light sabre, he’s bound to be victorious any moment now.  I will love these kids with all the love that belongs to you Mumma.

An extra serve straight from my mother heart, the one I inherited from you. x

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PS.  We watched Inkheart tonight. Tom Baxter’s song ‘My Declaration’ is the theme song. I loved it and thought I’d share it here. It’s a good anthem for carrying on, for doing your best.

Drowning in the Wake.

I hear footfalls, voices.  Light shifts the shadows on my eyelids.  But I cannot move. I am suspended, somewhere between asleep and awake. Is it night? No, I can feel the warmth of the sun, a band of warmth pinning my legs to the bed.  It slides through the window, deceptively light. How does it imprison me here, a concrete statue, prone? I try to lift my head but it won’t move; my mouth will breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, but will not make words.  I cannot cry out.  I try to calm myself by listening to my heart; it is panicky fast, I try to slow it down with my mind. Count it out. Calm down. Settle, girl. You’ll be alright. I listen, numbed, to the sounds of people who cannot hear me. The air is heavy, thick with exhaustion. Gravitational pull beckons me deeper into the mattress, further into the earth, I am sure I can feel the world turn, I am deep enough in to hear the thrum and lullaby of life itself.  I acquiesce. The grey forgetfulness of sleep is soft around me.

The morning waking is difficult, always a transition of struggle. At first I become aware of myself again; the feel of the sheets against my skin, the ambient sounds around me. I check to see if I can move. And then I am wading out into the waves of waking, pushing my legs against the tide of light and life. Daylight foams around me.  The cold air smarts against my skin.  I am fighting to stay upright on the shifting sands, eyes open, forging forward into the wakeful time. Into the white light of morning.

 

Ivan Aivazovsky (Armenian Painter) 1895
Ivan Aivazovsky (Armenian Painter) 1895

“How are you today?” he asks me, hopeful.  Hopeful that today might be one of the good ones. I always know, in this moment.  If the waves of wakefulness break high and the sea spray drowns out his voice, I know that I am in the path of the storm for another day.  If the seas are calm, and pushing into the day is easier, I might smile, roll onto my back and float into the sunshine.

Becoming vertical takes time. Walking the short distance to our bathroom is like controlling a marionette from the rafters.  The strings are loosely tied and my gait comical. My legs are heavy and unresponsive in the mornings. The messages seem to take so long, the feet on the ends of my legs don’t feel like they are owned by me. They drag.  I walk by employing a swing and heft of the hips. I keep my head down, hobbled over, reaching for the walls, doors, furniture. As fast as I can I swing and shuffle myself into the bathroom and sink down onto the toilet seat; head on the bath to still the oscillations of vertigo and nausea.

I have learned to take the mornings slowly. To find the gentlest pathway into the upright world. It isn’t easy to stay afloat among the surging tide and rush of a busy family. They are preparing to cast off from the jetty, speed boat engines revving. I tread water, take my medications, open my arms for morning snuggles before the children eat and dress. I manage my horizontal hairdressing duties and tie adjusting. I am the director of movements while my husband shoulders the load. I am the strident voice of mother; teeth-brushing reminder, final inspector.  And then they are gone and I sink into the peace of my quiet house, letting the day arrive on my time scale. Letting what will be, be.

When finally, my head has given me more clear stretches than dizzy, I swallow back on the nausea and swing my legs out of bed for the second time. I sit there for a bit, bracing for the stand.

I am surrounded by the water.
It swings strong around my legs, trying to pull me under. I kick, cycling against the current. I will not drown in the wake. Not this day.