lightbulb moments

Looking back through posts on this blog there have been a procession of “aha!” moments. Lots of small jolts of recognition as the booze fog clears and I can see more clearly what works for me.

There was a major shift for me just after three months, which I wrote about here, as I really internalised the fact that I wasn’t missing out on anything by not drinking.

It feels as if there is another shift coming now, as I approach five months, to do with more general negative thought patterns.

I was helped in recognising this by Christy’s post about photographs. A few years back my parents went through their photograph albums of our childhood – including slides. remember those? am dating myself now 😉 – and very sweetly took the trouble to convert a selection of the best to hard copy albums, with captions, a couple for each child.

There were a couple of photographs of me that made me wince. They were studio photographs taken at the ages of, perhaps, 10 and then again at 12. In the 10 year old photograph I am looking out, clear eyed, at the camera. Freckle faced, tousle haired, sure of myself. In the later photograph I am smirking uncertainly, lips closed over teeth, pudgy faced, pale and uncomfortable in my own skin. I wish I had the confidence to post them here.

There were no massive intervening childhood traumas, I hasten to add. The hormone swings of adolescence hit me hard and for me resulted in a spiral of negative thought patterns (too tall, too fat, not popular enough ow ow ow this still hurts! ridiculous I know) that perpetuated into adulthood. After a slew of fairly rubbish boyfriends I was lucky enough to end up with a husband who told me I was beautiful so many times that I started to believe it. And then with three children who love me deeply, so perhaps I may be loveable after all.

But the propensity for negative thoughts never really went away. Motherhood brings its own potential for guilt – a mother’s place is in the wrong. Work, don’t work? Why isn’t he on solids/walking/potty trained/talking/reading yet? Am I spending enough time with them? Is the house clean enough, are they eating well enough, why aren’t they making friends, which school should they be going to? And when we work, are we giving enough attention to that? Stories told to ourselves about what we could have done better at the end of every day. A litany of ‘not good enough’ that can feel like water rising in an underground chamber, while we paddle desperately to hold out our chins above the tide.

And just when I thought I was coming out of those woods, getting a balance between home and work, I was wrong, because I went down the wrong path and Wolfie got me. Gently at first and then not so gently. It has taken a lot of effort to become free of him. I am not clear yet but I can see my way ahead.

So in pushing away Wolfie, I thought I was achieving everything I could possibly expect. But there turns out to be more. In learning to ignore the Wolfie voice, I am also switching off those other negative voices, that have been with me all my teenaged and adult life, without, it seems, too great an effort.

It is as if the house in which I live had been gatecrashed by a gang of party goers. That roar of a drinks party in full swing has been deafening me. But by pushing Wolfie out of the door he has led them all away, like the Pied Piper, and I am left with the house to myself. I just cannot tell you the bliss of the quiet now they are gone.

I am still finding the occasional negative thought asleep under a pile of coats, and there is the odd knock at the door from a late arrival who doesn’t know the party is over. But I am starting to believe that the storm troopers have left the building, and the relief is immense.

I am thinking of framing that photograph of the 10 year old me and putting it on my desk. If anyone asks me whether that is my daughter, I will smile, and say, “No. It’s me.”