Facebook tells me that two years ago yesterday I broke my ankle. At the time it was inconvenient but the circumstances that caused it were quite amusing. I’ve always said that exercise is bad for your health. I’ve proved that at least twice now.
Why then did I find it so difficult to read it? Why has it been playing on my mind all day today?
The truth is that as a result of the break, I wasn’t able to drive. I therefore wasn’t able to take my daughter to school. That meant I had to get a lift to work, and find an alternative way to do the school run. The person who stepped up without considering the inconvenience was my dad. He picked both of us up each day and dropped us off. Whatever the weather. No matter what he had planned for the day.
It was only a few short months after that he died. Less than two years. I thought I had dealt with it.
Turns out I haven’t.
I’ve been sad today. I’ve realised a lot of things. Things that have always been there, but for one reason or another haven’t been fully dealt with. You probably know me to be a smile and carry-on sort of a person. I seem to take most things in my stride. But the truth is that this is often a mask, a persona that I use to cope with life. I spend a lot of time thinking about things. Even more over thinking things.
What I don’t do is spend a lot of time talking about things – especially feelings. Part of the reason for that is that I struggle to open up to people. Psychologists would probably tell you that because I was brought up in a country not of my birth, I have adopted what became a third culture. Not fully Scottish, not fully Papua New Guinean, but a mixture of the two. Add in the Australian and American influences and my brain didn’t really know where home was. I convinced myself that wherever I was I would call home. That has worked well for years. The problem is that my head has struggled to identify with any one culture as a result. I hold lots of things inside – because I don’t have the tools to explain them. And then I think some more.
I “know” a lot of people. If honest, there are only a handful that I would call close friends. (sorry if that surprises you). There are even fewer that really know me, and that I can open up completely to.
Lockdown has meant that catching up with even that few has been challenging. I feel that I’m either at work or getting ready to go to work. Spare time (what is that I hear you say) is at a premium, and energy to actually do productive things almost non-existent. Even if I had the mental energy to meet up – it’s against the law. (unless we exercise – and as I’ve already said, that can be bad for your health.)
Talking does help. We men are invariably bad at it anyway. Much more in lockdown. It is almost impossible to open up and share significantly on a Zoom call. What I’ve realised though (a long walk, good music helped) is that when I actually verbalise the issue, it suddenly gets smaller. It’s as if as it leaves my mouth it gets further away and less impressive. The space that it has taken up in my head is free – and life seems significantly more manageable. I’m still not very good at actually opening up to people, but writing has helped me to ‘verbalise’.
I still miss my dad. Memories of him still make me sad. I wrote the first draft of this yesterday – and felt a little better having done it. (believe me you didn’t want to read that version) It gave me the strength to re-word it. I feel more positive than I did.
Lockdown is hard – but maybe, if we can learn to really talk to people, we can find a way to unlock the padlock, and stay free in these difficult times.