A Motherly Invisible Conflict

Conflicted

Everyone argues with people that raised them.

It’s inevitable. Being different characters, having differing traits and different opinions and yet sharing the same four walls will always result in one or two polite disagreements a month… and maybe the odd heavier conflict.

Having that one heavier conflict with my mother is an intensely annoying experience.

I have never known anyone argue like my mum.

An argument with my mum is highlighted with a change of tone. It gets louder and suddenly you are shouting at one another. Then it gets harsher and meaner and more personal. And then my mum leaves the room or the house.

Around ten to fifteen minutes later my mum comes back in, her tone having completely changed and her whole temperament calmed. She’ll walk up to her verbal combatant and ask a polite question or begin a completely irrelevant conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with what has just occurred between you.

When I was younger I believed that my mum was faking it, that really she was simply repressing everything to do with the argument in order to stop it escalating any further. I believed she was bottling it up and pretending to be calm again.

However as I’ve got older I’ve realised that she isn’t pretending.

She has genuinely filed away that conflict. She’s filed away all the negative emotions that had her seething and moved on.

I am completely unable to feel that way. If an argument is unresolved I am still full of anger. I want discussions, apologies and explanations. That is my conflict resolution. For my mother, it is to forget that the conflict ever happened and move on.

Which unfortunately means that if my mum and I have an argument, I’m left wanting to hear more about it and air all that negativity vocally, whilst my mum has calmed completely and simply ignores the topic as though the conflict never happened. She’s able to move on within seconds. She’s able to not only act as though the argument never happened, she’s able to truly feel that.

With my mum, it becomes The Invisible Conflict.

With no lingering resentment, no snide whispered comments. Nothing. It’s the conflict that definitely did happen, but, due to her ability to remove hostility from her own mind, it becomes invisible.

Annoyingly Invisible.

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A Villainous Job Snob

Upturned Noses

I have spent my entire life in the education system. And have been very successful throughout it. Not with natural innate cleverness I might add, but instead through consistent hard work at every level of qualification.

All of this was for a reason, of course. I had spent the entirety of my teen years and my early twenties with the resounding dream of teaching. Preferably Secondary School or High School English. And then suddenly, with all the As and A*s in the bag keeping the Degree cosy, I hit a hole in the road.

Well more like a crater.

I was told ever so politely that my dream wasn’t going to be a possibility. Epilepsy, you see. Now of course there are conditions to epileptic teachers leading a classroom. Completely understandable. However, unfortunately for me, I don’t fit under any of those conditions.

So then, after all the years of effort, essays and exams, everything that I had worked towards had been brutally dismantled before my eyes.

That left me with the awkward question of ‘What am I going to do now?’

It was when I started browsing job opportunities that I realised that I had become a Villainous Job Snob. I began deciding that I wasn’t going to do ‘that type of job’ before I’d even read the requirements or the full nature of the employment.

Now, supermarket work, which seems to be available at will, has always been off the counter for me, because of the correlation between my presence inside of one and the amount of seizures that occur. But retail wouldn’t have been.

Now, one thing that everyone here has to understand, I do not judge those people that work in retail, restaurants or call centres. Fair enough on every count. If you enjoy the work itself, the people, being able to provide for yourself and your family or even just being in a stable nine to five. That isn’t what I judge. What I judge truly is myself in that position.

I see myself in those uniforms and feel such a heavy wave of disappointment. As though all those years, all that pushing, all those well earned certificates were and are wasted. And if I began stacking shelves every day then I may as well take all those glittering bits of paper to the back of my house and burn them.

I sound like a horrific human being and I know it. I sound like a judgemental snob and I know it.

But I can’t help but judge myself by a certain standard. The standard representative of my hard work, the results and qualifications that came as a result of it and therefore the level of employment that would be expected to follow.

The Reality of Adulthood

All Grown Up

What was the first time I really felt like an adult?

There have been quite a few instances when others have told me that I’m an adult.

The logic of children is, of course, completely accurate as always. After finding out that I didn’t have a teacher as I was no longer at school, I was therefore diagnosed as an adult.

But if we’re honest, going from education to work isn’t the real transition.

And so the question returns – When does someone know they are an adult?

I have an answer.

The first time I knew for certain that I was an adult was the first time I felt fear and depression, and knew that no one beside myself could do anything about it.

I think the days you are happy are too much like childhood for anyone’s own good. You forget you are an adult, lost in childish grins and giggles.

Then something happens. Something adult.

You lose a job. You get repeatedly rejected in your chosen field. Friends have drifted away. Then it hits.

Then it hits that, even if you aren’t directly responsible for these events, they affect you and there is nothing you can do beside wait for the storm to pass.

You are an adult now. And you fend for yourself. You deal with the horrible things that inflict themselves upon you and hope that you come out the other side in one piece.

I’ve read others stating that awareness of money and financial obligations mark adulthood. That understanding the notion and amount of ‘The Water Bill’ must mean that you are fully grown up. And so earning a wage, paying taxes and repaying student loans should be the things to bring about the thoroughly adult mature mind-set.

I disagree.

It’s the emotions that smother and wrap themselves around the money and around those bills that reveal you as a grown up. Whether it’s stress or pleasure, worry or contentment. It’s there.

The adding up with excitement… or disappointment… how many sweets are affordable, is a picture of childhood. If that picture were to be edited, and suddenly the ten pound note was being looked down upon with a shaken worried expression, that hand would no long be the hand of a child. The age of innocence would have departed.

It would be the hand of an adult.

 

Learning the Language of the Deaf

Learning

After university I was left with no employment and so wanted to fill my days as best I could. Voluntary work was fantastic but, after so many years of exams and essays, I missed the challenging learning environment.

I decided I needed to get back in there, and so took up a course in something that had always fascinated me.

Sign Language

Although expensive, I began a British Sign Language Course.

I’ve always been fairly confident when it comes to going to places and doing things on my own, because, of course, for someone with restrictive disabilities and lack of social life, it is inevitable.

It began brilliantly…

I pushed the doorbell and waited. No one came to the door. I am obsessively early for everything and so had time to check that I was in the right place, at the right time. I was.

Then the door opened and an incredibly enthusiastic woman opened the door. I started apologising for being early, and although her lip reading ability was fantastic, she still had to stop me in order to point of the fact she was deaf. I felt so embarrassed. I had been hammering at this woman’s door, peeking through her windows and tapping on the glass. Being uselessly loud.

She invited me in and through the garden where a small and very well equipped building, that was now the classroom, waited. Inside stood the teacher, also deaf.

And so now I’m stood, the too-early-bird, looking at two deaf people who are happily signing to each other, having a full conversation whilst I’m stood in between the pair of them watching… and waiting for someone else to turn up, anyone really.

And then they did.

They say the pupils make the classroom.

I got on well with two individuals, as well as the teacher who turned out to be very funny.

One of the two was a middle aged gentleman with a young deaf daughter. He was taking the course out of desperation, desperation to communicate with his daughter. He was originally from Slovakia and still held the accent quite heavily. He laughed at my ‘Queen’s English’ accent. Even surrounded at home by the traditional East London twang, I still spoke unintentionally like part of the monarchy. And I laughed at the Slovakian spelling of almost everything.

We both found the other’s sarcasm funny, which was a requirement in a signing partner. In fact after all my cynical sarcasm, he turned up one week with a Slovakian/English Translation Dictionary, and three of us started giggling like school children as I tried to pronounce the words he pointing out. Impossible.

The third in our group was another middle aged man, who, although not quite as sarcastic as myself, was polite in a friendly way, non-confrontational, able to laugh at himself and just easy to be around. Another good choice for a signing partner when the teacher separated us up to practice.

Back to prompt in hand – Learning.

I did pass the course and did gain a Level One Qualification in BSL. But it was one of the only courses that, when awaiting the exam results, I genuinely thought to myself ‘I’m not going to pass this’. It was genuinely difficult. Worse than my ‘Olde English’ modules at University. Not even just remembering the hand movements, but also what order to use them in.

To be honest I was shocked I passed. Proud of myself, but shocked nonetheless.

 

Brian’s Home #5

Brian finally came out of the kiln in one piece… well two pieces.

snail

Although he doesn’t have the block coloured cartoon Brian appearance, I think he looks like a snail you’d be happy to have sat in the garden, a snail that wouldn’t look so terrible in the rain or slightly muddy.

Brian the Garden Snail.

Anger at Parental Silence

Angry

Parents make me angry.

I have organised two outings for the girls in the Kid’s Group that I run. One as a treat in two weeks and a themed party on Saturday.

I began posting information about these events a full month ago, feeling as though by giving the parents such a thorough level of information that far in advance, I was giving them enough time to make up their minds, check their diaries and get back to me.

I was wrong. I heard nothing.

Instead I carried on posting information on the Private Facebook page, at least once a week. Repeating the dates, times, and events over and over. Two out of the twenty replied.

Then a week ago I decided it was getting desperate. Instead I printed out twenty letters about each trip. One even had a named confirmation slip attached. All I needed was a signature. Not only this, but listed on both letters were five ways in which the parents could get back to me. Nothing.

I have to book these trips, select the venues, buy the food, prepare the crafts and other activities. But now I have to do it without any concrete numbers. So I’ve paid it all out, and as everybody knows, everything costs.

So now three days before, feeling a bit more desperate I put a slight threat up on the page, saying that if we don’t hear back and don’t have at least ten then the entire day will be cancelled. Literally within an hour I had nine replies. Was it that difficult??

I understand that non-school related trips and activities often get pushed to the bottom of the pile, that they lose rank in terms of importance. I also understand that these parents and their daughters have other commitments, that they go to other clubs and groups. That they may be taking part in a School Street Parade, be part of a Church Group or have a Dance show – however as a parent you would know about these events at least a week in advance. That would be all I needed. A single week.

So now I’m angry.

I’ve given all these parents equal opportunity to get back to me in a number of different ways, and yet I hear nothing. It seems only when threats of cancellation come out that I suddenly get replies. However, now it seems for the Saturday Party, it will be too little too late.

Now I may have to cancel it and upset the girls who wanted to come. This will be viewed by those parents as my own fault. It is not. It is the parents who don’t get back to me until the last possible second. It is their lack of confirmation that causes the other girls to be upset.

It makes me angry.

I think to myself, imagine if you are throwing your daughter a birthday party, and the other parents weren’t confirming whether or not they could come until the day before.

Imagine how frustrated you’d be. Imagine how angry you’d get.

The Mistaken Kindness of a Stranger

The Kindness of Strangers

Epilepsy means bruises. A seizure involves an inevitable fall. Sometimes those falls are on to another person, making the bruises appear like finger prints. Other times hard surfaces are given the opportunity to paint my skin with an array of colours.

Once I was sat in a Coffee Shop waiting for a friend to turn up, late as always, when a complete stranger came and sat in the seat directly opposite me.

“You don’t have to live with it”

I had absolutely no idea what this woman was talking about. I began to scan her face, hoping that I would recognise her in some way.

“There are people that can help you”

Her kind caring eyes were piercing into mine as I desperately tried to string two words together. I was beginning to wonder whether she’d mistaken me for someone else, but there was such confidence along with the compassion in her voice that I dismissed this as a possibility.

It was at this point that she reached out her hand and rested it on the top of mine. This was getting uncomfortable. I was in a state of complete confusion looking at this woman’s hand and trying to process the sentences she was approaching me with.

“This type of relationship isn’t healthy for you”

My eyes lifted from her hand to her face.

“No one should do that to you. You don’t deserve it”

And suddenly it clicked. The Bruises. I had a particularly violent array of bruises on my arms, chin and cheekbone from a harsh unlucky encounter with a concrete step during a seizure. She had looked at these purple, brown and black patches and assumed that I was in a violent relationship.

I was shocked. I didn’t know what to say. But she didn’t give me a chance, instead she started rummaging around in the bag she had brought over with her.

“Listen to me, you don’t need to live like this”

By this time she had retrieved a pen from her bag and had begun to scribble on the napkin on the table between us.

“I know you probably don’t want to talk about it here with me, but call this number. People can help you through this. Remember you don’t deserve it”

She handed me the napkin, now covered in digits, left the table, left the empty coffee mug from which she had been drinking and walked out of the café.

This woman, a complete stranger to me, looked at the marks on my face and felt as though she could help me. She tried to help me.

This compassionate, caring stranger still has no idea that I am epileptic. She must still assume that I am or was in an abusive relationship.

But nevertheless, without any confirmation, this stranger came up and cared.

The phone number was a helpline for Victims of Domestic Abuse.

If I was one of those unfortunate individuals suffering at the hand of another, maybe she would have helped. Maybe she would have made the difference.

Mistaken in her conclusion, but still encouraged by pure kindness.