Some days I wake in an uncertain light. Oh, the light without is as normal but not the light within. It flickers on an off like a dodgy bulb, predicting eventual out-ness for ever. I rise quickly, wondering in my half sleep if the dodgy light is only here with me beneath the covers. Unfortunately not. Going through the ordinary process of washing, dressing, opening curtains and pulling back the covers to give the innocent bed a good airing, the uncertainty stays close. I cannot explain it, never could and now, with my ageing knowledge, I never will because it always, without exception, leads me down the path of self-beration. Or, is it self-beratement? Or self-berateness? None, or all of those?
Whatever I choose to name it, it is entirely itself. My inner judge who has been sleeping for a while now is really a slumbering beast with teeth and claws and is a tremendously accurate portrait painter. Before the first snarl I know what it is going to say and how it will say it. Accusations of failure, neglect, foolishness and downright sin are all in its mouth, just busting to breathe out poison darts on a swoosh of stale air. I no longer engage. The fact that these judgements are always the same without a trace of compassion or effective guidance have numbed me to their supposed power. In short, I have learned that it is not the beast that scares me at all, but only my own apparent determination to allow the beast room at all inside my head.
The tactics I have employed are most effective. If I, the carer of this inner beast keep caring for it, feeding it with attention and other nourishments, it will never leave me. Why would it? It is cosy in there, safe and most importantly, unchallenged by other kings and principles, beliefs and choices. It reigns, or reigned, supreme. Right, Mate, I tell it. I need to do some work on this, on you and on me. So I begin at the beginning, in childhood. I don’t trawl back through memories to find anything in particular for the memory is a fickle friend as the above makes clear. Instead I study, under guidance from an online course, how to love myself better. Actually, how to love myself at all, given that most of us don’t love ourselves anyway, me included. If I take the hand of my imagination and we go together into the fun of childhood, the play and the games, the innocence and the laughter, we find plenty of it. Remembering only the hard times is very unfair of me and not the whole truth by a long shot, but I am not alone in making this choice. Invariably when someone is asked about their childhood, they will recall the hard times, the tough mother, the absent father, the bullying at school, the spots, the fat, the teasing, the shame of being alive at all. Why? Well, I cannot answer that beyond saying that our default as humans is usually to see the worst, remember the worst, speak it out as if it was all we ever experienced.
Back home, rain threatens. In Africa, where people and animals die of thirst every day, rain promises. Same rain, different view of it. Simples. if I can take a day like yesterday feeling out of sorts, scratched and snarled at and just move gently through it, then it passes. If I can tell myself that I am a true survivor, a strong and beautiful woman who has lived her life to the full from the year dot, then the beast gets bored and goes back to sleep. If I can consider how to spend my time on such a day, outside my thoughts, reading, perhaps, sewing, asking questions of others who may well be very much in need of such attention, then the beast is ignored and neglected. Eventually, with practice and allowing no thoughts of self-criticism to arise, not even one, during such a day, the beast will leave the building. I know this, because I am practising just that.
And the days will be as they will be. I never know what a day will bring, but, by golly, I am ready, like a sharp witted warrior, and the ones that set out to bring me down are no match for me at all.