The madness outside and frustrations within

I have been staying away from the news, to protect my mental health, but I flicked absentmindedly onto the BBC News website just now and got sucked in again. Apparently Labour have now drawn level with the Tories in the polls. Well, they might have done. One poll suggests it, though it remains very close. I initially felt pleased and relieved but then despair set in. How on earth could it still be so close? This is the worst government we have ever had, and that is not an exaggeration. Corrupt, incompetent, and murderously negligent. People are dead, lives are ruined. And they don’t give a toss. I now know why. They don’t give a toss because they don’t have to. Loads of people keep voting for them anyway, despite it all. It blows my mind.

And of course COP26 is underway. All those delegates, but no citizen voice (not inside anyway), some mealy mouthed promises. I know negotiations are hard. I know compromise is usually a thing I advocate for. But this is too big and too urgent for caution and compromise. We need big, bold leadership. I am sad to say that Prince Charles, with his talk of us needing to be on a “war footing” and Joanna Lumley, talking about rationing, are the ones who are talking sense. This is a bigger catastrophe than the second world war. More people will die. The damage will be longer lasting and irreplaceable (and more will be lost than human lives). What intrigues and depresses me is that those who talk bullshit about the “good old days” of WW2 (yeah, millions of dead, what wondrous times….) are the first to complain at any mention of ‘make do and mend’, or rationing, or trading their car in for a bicycle.

I can sense I am getting pissy here. I am in a bad mood and it’s spilling into my blog. I started a new job last week. In some ways it’s great. The people are lovely and I have of course already spent a great deal of time chatting, which is how you find out about people and find out what’s going on. But of course the doubts crowd in. Imposter syndrome can be a killer. It’s a higher level job than I’ve been in before. I am in charge of lots of stuff, and a lot of it I don’t understand. I try to read documents that will explain what’s going on, but I can’t focus, and I just get more confused. I am going to have to ask someone. If someone can explain it verbally then I have a chance of understanding.

I left a job I loved, which played to my strengths more than any job I have ever had. So I have left the safety of that and thrown myself into a new situation. Why? Mainly to stop my commute. I was driving for almost two hours a day just to get myself to and from work. Public transport wouldn’t get me there in time so I had to drive. Me on my own in a petrol car. I just couldn’t live with the guilt of that anymore. I had been promising myself for four years that if a suitable job came up nearer home I would take it. I now have a job where I can realistically walk to work once a week, and cycle on another two. And, above all, I can get the kids to school in the morning without getting us up way too early to race to breakfast club before my commute.

But the kids honestly don’t seem to give a shit. And we are still rushed and stressed and grouchy in the mornings, just as we were before. And for all my efforts at cutting down my carbon footprint, I still have to drive two days a week because there are multiple locations, I can’t afford an electric car, and I finally caved in and put the heating on. We’re not even into the second half of November. So I continue to be part of the problem.

But what to do?

I am not parenting my kids very well at all. I am doing better than their dad who is a shouty disciplinarian, but I am the opposite end. My permissive parenting helps my younger son to grow, but my older son just becomes naughty and obliterates all boundaries, so I find myself, at wits end, becoming like their father. There must be ways. There must be strategies and things that I can do to make it work. But nothing I do works. He seems to want boundaries to push against and fights, physical and verbal. Or maybe he expects them, because that’s what he gets from his dad. But that still doesn’t tell me what I should do. Every night last week I fell asleep with a book about parenting autistic children in my hands. I have given up on it now, only five pages in.

I am trying to learn about all this. About neurodiversity (my own, my son’s, and other people’s) and how to create a safe, enabling environment. But all that has happened so far is that I’ve waded into a row on facebook about Gabor Maté (because as far as I can see everyone either adores him like he’s Jesus and he can do no wrong, or despises him like he’s the devil and his books should be banned). One friend of mine begged me to read ‘Scattered Minds’ because it changed her life and outlook for the better. Another said it made her so angry she still gets stressed thinking about it. Of the two of them it’s the latter person whose opinion generally carries more weight with me, so I am approaching the book with trepidation. But I cannot comment on the disagreement until I have read the book. I always say to students “go to the original source and make up your own mind”.

The book remains on my bedside table, along with a big chunky novel someone recommended, and both are unopened. Being at work every day and doing a job is the hardest, most challenging thing. It drains every bit of intelligence, energy, optimism, patience and goodwill out of me, which is utterly ridiculous. It’s not even a hard job. But I have nothing left for the evenings except to do the bare minimum: cook, provide the kids with clean clothes, get them to swimming class and back, go for a cold, soggy wander in the woods with them, sit at the kitchen table clutching a large coffee while they colour and stick stuff.

And when my son, seemingly unprovoked, tells me he wishes I was dead or suddenly leaps across the table to punch his brother hard in the face, all I do is yell and tell him to sit on the stairs until he’s calmed down. I’ve done years of listening and explaining and it made no difference. So shout is all my fractured, drained, impulsive, hurt self can manage in that moment. I know I am doing it wrong. I know I am falling short. But it keeps on happening.

I don’t have the time or headspace to do the thing that would rescue me (read novels) or the thing that I have an obligation to do (read Gabor Maté) or the thing that is crucial above all else (learn how to understand and parent my older son before I ruin his life).

So I run out of time, I run out of patience, life runs away from me, life runs away with me. And I feel really, really shit about it.

The End.

EDIT: Since writing this I have spent 4 hours watching gigs on YouTube (REM, Green Day, Frank Turner & the Sleeping Souls). The dopamine in my system now is wild. I feel like I could conquer the world. I know it will all be gone by tomorrow, which is why I don’t want to go to sleep.

And I am still none the wiser about Gabor Maté. Or my son.

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