4.30 am : My daughter wakes up, cries a bit and gets back to sleep. I don’t.
I lay awake, exhausted, and beat, my defences are worn and the past comes flooding in.
A year ago, it was T’s birthday, he worked a 24h shift, came home to rest, all but refused to have any of the cake I’d baked and eventually went out with some colleagues in the evening. He had become so miserable, obnoxious at times, and all so suddenly, so unaccountably, for the last few weeks…
Because of his own difficult past, T tends to be down this time of year, so I tried to swallow my frustration, and be there for him in any way I could, while I worked from home, looked after the children, ran the household, and he worked stupendously long hours at the ambulance service.
Things were tense, I could sense I was being shut-out, but put it down to T being depressed.
On December 24, we gave the children a bath before driving up in the mountains to celebrate Christmas with T’s family. I remember the blue tiles, and the heat, wiping steam off the mirror and lagging behind to put some make-up on, when he shut the door and said: ” You’ve been asking me what was wrong, and it’s us. Things are wrong between us”. It floored me as surely as if he’d punched me in the stomach, the stomach that carried his daughter the year before, the stomach he’d revered and stroked a few months ago. I felt so shocked and then so threatened, that I hit back.
I told him to sort his head out and stop blaming a relationship, which was perfectly adequate, thank you very much. I said that I was tired of his moods, and that I wasn’t responsible for his happiness. I said all the wrong things, but how could I possibly be rational and level-headed, while an ice-sheet was forming around my heart, while a terrified child inside me faced the deepest, darkest fear of being abandoned?
I suspect that nothing I could have said or done by that stage would have derailed the train of destruction anyway. T knows me well, and knew the blow he’d delivered would hurt in ways that are hard to describe. By then, he’d already hardened his heart against me. It is part of his job to tend to people deep in pain and grief day-in, day-out. Somehow, I think it’s made him a master at shutting it all out.
I remember bravely rallying, talking my inner child down with rational thoughts such as “we must have hit another rough patch, all couples do, and we have more reasons than most couples to experience one, but things will get better”.
I re-applied some make-up with trembling hands, picked my own children up, bags, snails, and presents to set-off on the absurd drive up to celebrate Christmas with my in-laws.
The Pixies – I bleed