I finally moved in here on the 20th December last year, around the Winter Solstice and two days before the start of my birth sign, Capricorn.
Now, on the first day of Taurus – and close to another festival, Beltane – I reach the four month anniversary of my, in many ways, traumatised arrival.
It didn’t show. Not really. But then I have long had the ability to present a loud and cheery front – until I really know and trust people, that is. This is no reflection upon, or insult to, those I meet; it is simply one of the wounds of divorce and the months/years leading up to it.
I was excited, of course, and relieved – but I was also terrified and heart-wrenched and, in a very literal way, lost. I did not know whether I would make friends, find outlets for my passions and interests. I feared all the utility bill and mortgage side of things and was genuinely frightened that I would not survive financially. I feared that the friends I had made already, in other places, would leap off the bonding train the way one or two actually already had.
But mostly, I had lost almost all confidence in me, Ali. My world had been so circumscribed, so small and mean and fear-inducing, so wrought with daily (and often day-long) panic attacks and stress-related pains that I was more reminiscent of an injured wild animal, curled into a protective ball, than a fully-functioning human being.
Yesterday marked a wonderful and magical return of the old Ali, thanks to this lovely place, thanks to new friends – and the continuing love and support of old. I taught all day, about which more in a moment, and had a truly glorious evening of hilarious, but focused, rehearsal with the Shadow of the Tor team in my back garden.
I felt so happy and light and delighted to be involved. The setting was lovely – and the lights in the garden came on in time for most of my fellow thespians to see them. I realised, as I hugged my friends farewell, how far I have come in four months.
Mornings are invariably difficult, however, a physical and emotional scarring from mornings gone by – and it hit me, full force, on this four month anniversary wakening, how scared I am of happiness, of being liked even, of trusting. There was a glitch in my teaching day yesterday which caused me to go into full panic attack mode. The urge to run away was almost unbearable in its intensity and my certainty that I could no longer teach very real and horribly distressing.
But, no work having been set for the final two lessons, I was forced to dig into the old Ali way of teaching, and relating to, kids – and I pulled, from that capacious bag of somewhat dusty treasures, an imagination exercise (rather like a guided path-working but suitable for younger people). This involved instructing the Young Things to close their eyes and listen to me droning on for about twenty minutes.
It was a huge risk, of course. I have only ever done this with children I know, those I have established a working relationship with. Due to a lack of seating plan, I had no idea which name was affixed to which kid – and there was, of course, the possibility that I would not be able to exert sufficient control for such an enterprise to actually be born.
‘Today,’ I announced, pacing up and down in my stripy DMs, ‘we are going to do something completely different!’
With the first group, I had to be very firm initially – embarrassment often makes the buggers giggly and silly, and we kept being interrupted by blighters from another class coming in! – but they loved it. The second group, last lesson of the day, were a far more naturally biddable crew – and the actual exercise proceeded without a hitch. They, too, were excited and delighted by this strange magical journey.
All day, prior to that, I had had my hair up in a tight pony tail, so that my turquoise and copper sparks were invisible. But, last two lessons, I literally and, I guess, metaphorically, let my hair down and became, for two hours, the Miss Browning/Mrs Taylor I once was – and it hit me, like a tsunami: One of the reasons I have struggled so mightily with supply teaching has been that I have tried to be a conventional, smartly-dressed teacher – to please the establishment, I suppose, and out of fear of being told off.
But, my strengths as a teacher came from being a maverick, from being a bit of a wild spirit and a lot of a rebel. I did not conform to uniform rules then – and, to be frank, it made no difference to my ability in the classroom. I am not, by nature, a formal person – and, while I accept that I do need to tone my usual look down, I cannot be other than who I actually am.
I’ll tell you what is both weird and sad, though: My own inner resistance to compliments, to doing things well, to being joyful and overcoming difficulties. I know that a lot of this is the result of massive, and sustained, gaslighting attacks; of being told, in so many ways, that I am an awful human being and a talentless failure. It is for this reason, I think, that I have yet to acquire a new A string for my beloved fiddle so that I can play it once more.
But under these crises of confidence, these days when I do shiver and shudder and cry, there is a strong person battling to emerge, a person who knows how to befriend, to join in, to be social, to be happy in an almost childlike way.
And, one day, I will take out my fiddle, dress once again the liberating Red Costume, tune up, rosin the bow – maybe even plug the instrument into one of the Lad’s amps – and, standing proud, will, once again, bring Irish music out from head to air!
Four months in, the scabs are beginning to drop off – but some, unhealed as yet, catch on things and bleed afresh. I have moments of paralysing uncertainty and almost cosmic insecurity: Days when I hold my stomach, as if keeping something in, and rock and feel unutterably forlorn and sad; days when listening to my favourite records and CDs brings storms of weeping.
I cannot scratch such days off my emotional calendar or pretend that they do not exist. Nor can I prevent the lunges of uncertainty and the sudden dips in confidence. Everything has it shadow side.
But – and this is the gift these sixteen weeks have conferred upon me – I am, for the most part, far more me than I have been for years, if not decades. And, for all that those who no longer like me would see this as a bad thing, I daresay, I am immensely relieved and happy to welcome home this being who was lost for so long: The Orange-Haired Delight of an (Ex)-Wife, as one of my close friends has christened me.