Flat on the Mat

I’m tired from things I had to do – that you didn’t make me – you were just being you.

I’m all used up from pushing so hard – to get there, to be there, to go the nine yards.

Again and again the pull of the norm; the done thing, tradition, weathering each storm.

No one knowing how unnatural it felt to never have nothing but what’s in my head.

So quiet now is needed more than before to make up for years of locking its door.

Taking what’s needed like a famine starved hound and taking extra while hitting the ground.

How long can I lie here? Can it please be forever?

I don’t want to be like That again ever –

That busy and shaky and buzzy and tired, and hopelessly desperate because I’m not wired

Like you and like them and the ones who set rules. Who mingle in parties and offices and schools.

Applaud me for trying, for getting a first on how to behave though it made me feel worse.

But please understand it took more than too much and I’m not even me now it sapped me such

That here I am begging: “I can’t carry on but I can’t even tell you because it feels so wrong – To crave that much quiet and empty and slow.
And will you understand?
I really don’t know.”

How to Live a Life

I have been struck by crushing and excruciating exhaustion. Completely floored. I felt it coming and fought it. I shouldn’t have. Now I have to consider each move, each step, each job and each rest. I have to allow myself to surrender. 

Plans? No. None of them. Cancel everything. 

I’m never completely sure what’s going on in my body but sometimes it says “enough” and “no”, and it’s always after trying to act like a regular person, after anxiety, after peopling, after a run of events that other people would find normal but that I find consuming and often scary – or at least worrying – and that use up so much of my thinking. My life, my energy, my brain, my thought process are all geared towards what is expected of me next and I drown in a combination of planning, organising, imagining, visualising, fearing. Downtime, breaks are futile because What is Happening Next is looming on the horizon. Rest can only come when there are gaps. 

Right now I need a big gap. I need quiet, space, peace, open spaces, periods of silence, freedom to move instinctively, a break from expectations, from my own standards. I need to feel security from intrusion. And that includes unexpected noises or things breaking into my safe space.

January is a particularly difficult time after pushing myself repeatedly to be all things to everyone when I’m a person who needs long and regular periods of still and quiet and lost-in-my-head-ness. 

I know who I am and it is not this person. 

Who I am has been pushed to the side, smothered, hidden under a huge pile of “Being Normal”* 

Every wadge of “Being Normal” that is piled on top of all the others I haven’t managed to escape from yet crushes me a little more until I find I am shouting for help. Wanting escape. 

In bed, I am dreaming of intrusion, fear, expectation, of eyelids unable to open, of calling for help, of feeling trapped. 

It’s not that this world was not meant for me or me for it, it’s just that variations are so difficult to live by when they are so poorly absorbed by the latest ideals of how to live a life and my own how to live a life doesn’t suit those who rely on me. 

How much of this is anxiety? How much of this is from years of trying to fit and fighting my real self? How much of this is autism spectrum? How much of this is middle age? How much of this is a commonly-felt dose of post-Christmas, midwinter, light-deficiency tiredness? How much of this is sadness and frustration that I’m still not living the mellow, creative life I’ve always dreamed of? How much of this is ridiculous perfectionism and unattainable high standards? 
All of the above. 
There is a pill. It’s called accepting variations from the norm and absorbing them into society. 

*I use the word “normal” to suggest I and others like me are not normal. But I use it tongue in cheek. We are all human. We are not freaks of nature. Neurodiversity is about the variations within the human and is normal. 

Perpetual Tigers

shutterstock_322463783Tiredness leapt upon me and pinned me down. “You shall neither rest nor achieve,” it growled. It had come to take advantage of a body and mind left vulnerable by Anxiety who was still watching me from the darkness, plotting and sharpening its claws. 

Fighting for their turns to tear at me; to feed from my body, their potency has grown as I have weakened. They have sucked away the vitamins and minerals I need for energy, thought and deed. Anxiety at my head, my back, my heart, my belly and my skin; Tiredness at my lungs, my muscles, my brain matter and my bones. Clawing, draining, claiming me until I fear I no longer belong to myself. 

Not vultures politely waiting for the peace of a spent body, but murderous carnivores attracted to a living being with fight and the potential to rejuvenate. Parasites slowly depleting and giving nothing in return. 

The weapons to defeat these monsters are complex and many, yet they are short-lived. They are made of paper and candy and smiles, of dreams, of songs and laughter. They can all too easily wash away in a storm. But we who have learnt how to, fold them, sing them, dream them up, write them into our lives; can conjure pictures with no monsters, and pictures where monsters are defeated. You cannot turn away from these monsters, they curl like a snake around and around but if you squeeze your eyes tight shut, balloon your chest full out with air, and hold your weapons close, you can see beyond them to all that you have that they cannot hold; all the space that they cannot fill, all the good dreams and good words. You can see sleep and a calm body. You can see paths to the light and the future. Good things are there if you can reach them.

They will come again, the monsters, they fight me still because they are part of me, within me. But I win. I will always win. Scratched, scarred, exhausted and traumatised, I always make it out alive into the light where my words and my smiles and my dreams are my own.  I own my body – even the scars. 

No Bench

The 8-year-old girl in the playground sat on the bench between lessons and zoned out. She watched, she dreamt, she observed. She heard the games, she heard the shouting, she refused to join in. She wasn’t rude, she wasn’t unhappy. She wanted to sit still and watch. Yesterday she had joined in. Tomorrow she would play a skipping game. It was just fine to have sitting time. She would do this often. When sitting in groups at tables in class she would look longingly over at the empty book corner and imagine herself alone there. She wrote a piece for her teacher about sitting quietly alone and her teacher read it to the class. It was okay to be her, to be like that.

But sometime after that it became not okay to be like that. It was the last time she felt proud to be her. It became necessary to be always in the game, never sitting it out. Life was never that way again.

And yet I am still that girl.

Sometimes I can’t deal with some moments. Some moments are hugely loaded with too much expectation, too much thinking, too based around the speed of others’ lives and thoughts. Sometimes a moment in time can send me into a spin and my heart races painfully. I panic, I long to call on help from somewhere somehow but there’s nothing and no one. And no bench. The breeze banging the door scares me. A voice outside terrifies me. All at once I know I can’t have things at my pace with my idea of peace and I am panicked. It’s so hard to explain to anyone how after a while I just want to mend in a place where time doesn’t matter. I feel especially aware of the different human constructs – supposedly designed to help society tick over and how they grate against my own natural rhythms. I find myself making the most of a snippet of time perhaps just a minute where nothing is going on and getting lost in it; reverting back to my time on the bench and my world of quiet observation. But slipping into my zone isn’t good when it’s not backed up by other things; if it’s not made safe.

I don’t know who’s outside making noises or why or how long they’ll be there. I don’t know who is at the door. I don’t know if I am safe to walk around the house from room to room. I don’t know if I am safe to let it be known I am in. I want my time out. I need it.

Like a migraine or a virus or a broken limb or maybe a Sunday morning after a hectic week, this is a call for less action, for time out, for healing. It’s not a constant but it’s necessary and it’s necessary that it is understood.

I need so much not to be *misunderstood* though, that I hide and run and ignore because the basic need for peace and space and simple no-expectation-just-for-now-please seems too difficult to explain without misunderstanding. This is about no one and no thing but a woman trying to fit herself into a world that can often feel like a constantly spinning roundabout and wanting the time to cope with the dizziness it brings.

It is simple: I am not a machine. But I have fired on all cylinders like a machine; I have to work myself like a machine in order to be part of this damn playground. It’s a big game with a grand set of rules and I play it well, I’ve got it all sussed, but I can’t keep doing that nonstop.

So I have moments. When I’m not playing anymore. But I don’t feel proud. I don’t have anyone telling me it’s beautiful and reading it to the class and making me feel okay.

Treading Water

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“It takes so much more strength to plough with all your effort through a difficult day and to keep going than it does to surge with little toil or exertion through a healthy day appearing brighter and more victorious,” I thought to myself today.

A difficult day is all about prioritising despite a struggle to think straight, to remain upright. It’s about finding the courage to choose what is best to do and say, about when to slog on, and when and how to stop and make time to recharge.
These are the battle days.
These are the finding the strong within me days.

The other days are simply about sailing on a tide with the wind in my favour.

What did you do today?
Today I walked through a storm and I kept walking.

Three cheers for anyone treading water. Getting through these days where achievements are invisible deserves the biggest medals of all.