Thursday, 23 September 2010
I don't often cry at work. I might think about it. I might feel that sudden sting - but the tears almost never fall. I walk home sometimes and stamp my feet to distract myself, feeling the pressure of the hard ground tingle up my feet and legs, and I forget for a bit. Or I go to the gym and run or ride or lift weights until everything burns, until all that I can think about is that muscular sting. And sleep like the dead.
But sometimes it won't hold back, and I stand in the shower and let the spray hit my cheeks and mingle with the salt until it's all gone, until I'm empty and can just keep on going. But I almost never cry at work.
Some days I hear stories, or I hold a hand and watch the tears well up and escape and I bite my lip until it bleeds. Sucking that pain as the metallic taste fills my mouth until I'm in control again and able to play care giver instead of breaking down. Talking, or not talking, my voice dropping an octave and slightly musical, soothing, just like with an overtired baby or an unwell preschooler until the tears dry up and the cathartic relaxation of muscles tells me I've done my job. And I hand over the tissues that I don't need myself, because I almost never cry at work.
And some days I over identify, or I over empathise, and the sheer horror of what someone is going through pricks my imagination, or that part of me that tries to picture my family, my parents or my children in those shoes, and I have to stop, suck in a deep breath, all the way to the base of my lungs until the tell tale prickle goes away. And I remove myself emotionally, stop imagining, because I can't do my job when I am as lost as that person, who is experiencing that unimaginable thing. So I almost never cry at work.
But some days a perfect storm occurs, when a sleepless night followed by a terse argument with Bingley sees me sapped before I've even started. And then I meet someone who's barely older than me, who has children the same age as me. A little boy who is just about to have his 4th birthday, Tuesday next week, that she is supposed to be planning. A day that's supposed to be about rainbow cakes and balloons and that singular joy that 4 year olds have. That time of creating the memories that you hope will cling, because when your 4 year old is all grown up they won't remember a lot about being 4.
And she may not make Tuesday. She may not get to the weekend. Her baby boy wants to crawl into bed with her and have cuddles like they do at home and doesn't understand why Mummy is in bed with all the weird attachments. Her other children are barely old enough to understand either. And the memories they have will be so many but so few. And so crowded with this, this death, this decay. This sadness.
I think of my own babies having that as my legacy. Of not planning a rainbow party with cupcakes and fruit platters and favourite cheeses and ripping open the perfect gifts. But instead of hoping that they remember me. Of having something more than pain.
And it didn't mean shit that I normally don't cry at work. Because today I couldn't help it. Couldn't dissociate. And I have no one to talk to. I'm desperate to talk but there's no one who knows me well enough to understand the depth of this, or the way that I need to talk. Not Bingley who will try and fix it, or friends that will recoil a bit in horror and say "I don't know how you do it" while I want to scream that it's not like it's a fucking choice. You just do.
But mostly I just feel for this woman, this fucked up situation and those poor little babies who are going to lose their Mum. And I cry.