My session today was what I needed, what I hoped it would be, as Christmas descends and I work hard not to lose myself. I’ve had a really bad sore throat since Thursday so I text K this morning to check it was still okay to go, as the last thing I would want is to pass some kind of viral yuk to her at this time of year. We had a special session planned watching the new Lion King film on DVD so I was dreading that she would say she would prefer to work by phone, but I wanted to give her the option and luckily she replied immediately and said ‘do come CB’. Young parts have been excited about this session for ages, and it’s been nice to have something safe and fun to focus on in the build up to Christmas to take the attention away from the days that will follow. As we said at the end of the session, next time we see K it will all be over for another year, and we both agreed that this is very good news.
We did an extra 30 minutes today, so a two and a half hour session, so we would have time to check in properly and read the entries in the parts’ journal from this week, and then time at the end to check out too, once we’d watched the film. Last week we had made cards for each other with A LOT of glitter glue [this is young parts’ favourite thing EVER to do with K, they get so much joy and excitement from peeking at the one she is making for us as we make ours, and it’s always so nice bringing home our card she has made us] so they were dry and ready to exchange and there was a small gift for me too which K said I could open then or take home to open on Christmas Day. I chose to take it home – it will be something nice and connecting for young parts to do in a quiet time on Christmas Day. Then K lit a fire and brought through more tea and a vegan mince pie with vegan cream for each of us and we settled to watch the film with blankets and one of her dogs.
It was so cosy and warm. It used to hurt so much to have times like that and to feel all I never had growing up, and it used to feel as though it would never be enough, but it doesn’t feel like that now because I can take it in and hold it in my heart when I am not there. Young parts asked questions during the film and laughed out loud and hid under the blanket at scary parts, and it is so nice that all that can be expressed without huge swirls of shame engulfing more grown up parts now. It is our fifth Christmas working together and it is incredible to look back on the changes that have happened during that time. I wouldn’t say I find Christmas any easier now, but it has a very different quality – I don’t get swept up in other people’s stories of how things should be, I hold true to how I want it to be, the expectations and pressure I put on myself have drastically reduced, and I am okay (mostly) with it not being an enjoyable time of year for me. I don’t beat myself up for this and I take in small joys where I can – nice food, a break from work, some good books, cosy times with Nina, time for peaceful walks and being by the sea. It is tough still, but it is not how it used to be. I am not how I used to be.
And it hurts less to be leaving K’s warm home the day before Christmas Eve now because I know that her life is not the perfect fantasy I used to imagine, and I know she finds Christmas a tough time of year too. It’s partly why I am so grateful to have a therapist who brings so much of herself to the therapy space, whilst at the same time being so clear and careful around boundaries and expectations, because I know enough to know her life is shaped by pain and loss too, and I know all the consumerism and consumption and societal expectations make her sad like they do me, but I also know she takes care to make it what she needs it to be and doesn’t pretend it is something that it isn’t for her. In the run up to the awful, suicidal Christmas I had shortly after we started work in 2015, she asked me how I would want Christmas to be. I replied by talking about my need for space and that I just wanted to spend the day by the sea. At that time it felt so unattainable and yet shortly after Christmas that year I booked a cottage in Cornwall for Nina and I to go to for a week for Christmas 2016, and that year was the beginning of doing things differently. We walked by the sea every single day and I realised Nina’s Christmas expectations were so low, so easy to meet – a big telly, nice food, new books, playing games, and walks on the beach left her so content. It was so peaceful and calm and I realised all the BS my mum had fed me about what a child needed was all for her, not Nina. I’d always feared that without my family of origin, however positive that loss of toxicity was in the bigger picture of our lives, I would never be enough for Nina at this time of year, but it turns out what she needs to make her happy is so simple. Who knew?!
Anyway, back to today… After the film K talked about some of the lessons we could take from it (not in a cringey way – she said she was genuinely surprised by how good it was and I have to admit the Lion King genuinely is excellent and has lots of lessons for how we need to tend to our dying planet too) and someone small said how much they liked the film. K encouraged us all to hold on to the film and the special time we had shared together and make it part of our internal safe space this Christmas. She said how special it was to have that time sitting together being still, and how even though it is something so simple not many people achieve that at this time of year, and she is so right – there is no one else I will feel that connected to whilst watching a film this festive season; ‘repatriating young children, young parts’ she said this evening, and that it so true. She also started talking about how we will both need to look out for a super amazing film for next year ‘without making a fuss, obviously, about Christmas early on, sorry, re-enacting something there right at the last minute…’ which made us both laugh a lot because my mum’s Christmas demands always started in September and made it not just a stressful time, but a really, long, drawn out stressful time. It was nice to know we have another year working together though, that whatever happens that is our intention. And I never could have dared to believe she would still be here now, yet she is.
I would say that overall the past few months have been AWFUL, but somehow I’ve found my way back to K over the past few weeks and it helps so much being able to reach her and know she is there when I am here. I have a GP appointment in the morning to check my throat as it is so painful, and then Nina and I have our traditional Christmas Eve walk in our favourite forest (which is now only a 10 minute drive from the house since our house move, which is part of the reason we wanted to move to where we are) and trip to the cinema (Frozen II, which neither of us are hugely excited to see, but going to the cinema is something really nice to do on Christmas Eve and we are both keen to stick to the traditions we’ve begun since becoming estranged from my mum who had a lot of traditions she used to manipulate and control us). And we will go to the beach and walk by the sea on Christmas Day, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do at Christmas really and is something we’ve been able to do for 4 years’ running now. So it will be a quiet few days, and it is undeniably painful when I think of how many people will be spending time in big groups of close family and friends, but it will be authentic, and that feels a lot more important after years of pretending to be someone I am not.
For those who’ve not seen The Lion King, there’s a beautiful line about the stars that Simba’s dad says to him early on in the film: ‘look at the stars. The great kings of the past look down on us from those stars… So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those kings will always be there to guide you’. And K said at the end of our session to remember the stars are always there – always, even when we can’t see them. And of course she is the brightest star in the sky for me so much of the time, but there are so many other stars too. I’ve had to cancel some plans with friends the past few days because of my throat, but I am seeing my two best friends from my PhD and raving days at the weekend, and I have made such a good friend who lives a 3 minute walk from the new house who is also a vegan and a mother and who brings such joy and solace to my life during these troubled times, and I have my beautiful daughter and other friends to see next week also. I imagine the next few days will feel lonely at times, but that is okay. I have some books to read and films to watch and the days will pass. And K says we can work by phone on Friday afternoon if I need to and then we are meeting on Monday as normal, so I feel as safe as it is probably possible for me to feel ahead of Christmas.