Stealing

In the 2,587 days since I first heard CHT’s name, stuff has vanished.

Precious, irreplaceable things. Money. Stupid, irrelevant stuff, food.

I find piles of dry pasta and walnuts hidden by her pillow. Egg boxes full of cocoa powder under her bed, packets of unopened green cheese in her covers.  Once, a vast haul of 24 empty bags of crisps wedged under the sofa cushions. Pots of jam – empty; sugar bowls – drained. Hoards of hair bands, my perfume. My christening bracelet; gone forever. And the money; it runs into hundreds of pounds, perhaps thousands.  I think it gets mostly given away, or spent on sweets and shared with friends.

The stealing cycles through peaks and troughs in intensity, but never goes away.

My intuition, my reading and research on the topic lend insight that fuels my empathy. I have not once punished her for it; never set up a consequence. I have calmly discussed it, come up with plans to navigate this stealing. Tried to side step it, handle it, reduce it, end it; none have ever worked. I have also – surprise surprise – snapped. Lost it, shouted, ranted, cried, said terrible, regretful things. In other words, totally screwed up.

Over the seven years, this is the thing that has consumed me with frustration, with fear, with concern. Living with it has taken it’s toll: on our relationship, and on my resilience. It pushes me way out of that essential TP Zone, and leaves me dipping into the Magic Porridge Pot of empathy, only to find it empty. It has eroded our trust in each other. Worse, it has hardwired me to a sensory hyper vigilance that – wherever I am in the house – I register that sudden quiet of deceit. The creeping; the slow creak of a cupboard door, the zip on my bag. These sounds buzz like a wasp; leaving me on edge, and questioning her every move. I react to her as if she has become like an intruder in her own house.

A call for help; answered. One tweet to @janeparenting suggested talking in a new way; to ask what she feels taking things – before, during, after.

Immediately, words were there where before there have been none.

“All the stealing makes the same feeling as being taken from my Mum”. And then “I want you to know this pain of being stolen from my Mum”.

Showstopper.

Empathy pot now overflowing, I tell her how sorry I am; sorry that she was stolen like that. Sorry for the times when my pain from this stealing made me cross. Sorry for not always being understanding. She puts her hand on mine, tells me it’s ok. Tells me it wasn’t me who stole her. Tells me she wants so bad for me to trust her, and my heart crumples at the stark-faced truth of how much I have let the problem take my focus, and not the child. Tears rolling, I tell her I love her.  That I always knew there was a message in her stealing, and I am so proud and honoured that she could share it with me so clearly. I ask her what she wants to do, and she decides to try and tell me when it happens, and asks me to simply tell her if I feel suspicious. We decide to put our trust in each other, and look at the problem as separate from us. We embrace. The whole conversation lasted just a few minutes.

I walk away. Reach up, grab hold of those horrid, problem seeking sensory antennae, and rip them from my head.

They will try to grow back. But I’ll be waiting.

Follow the amazing @janeparenting

Read her linked blog on Stealing.

All about Love

CHT often says, “Love isn’t all about Love”.

And I’ve come to recognise she is absolutely right. Love is a doing word, a verb, over and above that most primal of feelings. Love is the unabashed truth that conquers fear and bathes us in understanding and acceptance.

Love is about opening up to our vulnerabilities, about loving the ‘warts’ because without them there would be no ‘all’.

The love of something can make us fearful: of “the sword hidden amongst his pinions”, and of the penetrating light it pours into our darkest parts, throwing them up for all to see. Love gives us the choice to turn and cover our eyes, or to stare back at ourselves with deeper acceptance of our intricacies and foibles.

Taking my place in an adoptive family has taught me much about Love. There is no question that Love can leave us fractured and vulnerable; our children show us that every day. What I am suggesting is that Love is an invitation to open ourselves up to that vulnerability, and to see it differently: as the vital essence that makes each of us uniquely and gloriously – us.

Growth – building resilience – does not mean fixing our cracks; or even healing them. It means learning how to carry them, to scaffold and protect them; to stride out and embrace the world all the better because of them. The more I take my focus away from ‘fixing’ and move into ‘accepting’, the stronger we both become. I ‘adopted’ an ‘adoptee’, with all the nooks and crannies that trauma and attachment brings – no ‘fixing’ required. In my acceptance of the whole of her, she sees the open door to accept herself.

We should embrace our vulnerabilities – all of them. Love ourselves all the more for them.  Look at them with open, unjudgemental eyes, and see the truth they hold in how much bigger and better a person they make us. And in accepting ourselves, give others the permission to so the same.

That is when Love becomes … Agape.

Life is too short

Life is too short to be down on someone who is struggling;

… too short not to leave a kindly, warm glowing footprint wherever we can.

Life is too short not to embrace others in all their shortcomings, with equal hope to be accepted for our own;

… too short to let anger last more than the flare of its first flame, too long to let it fester and burn away at our hearts.

Life is too short to let the chips weigh heavy on our shoulders; and just long enough to let them inspire us to live light;

… too short to let fear inform our decisions or shroud our hearts and divide us from love.

Life is too short not to share what we have of ourselves with others;

… too short to miss to the challenge held in every breath, without hesitation for the times we stumble and fall.

Life is too short to choose only to walk in straight lines, and never to turn brave corners that shield our future;

… too short not to take the plunge, because how ever many times we dive in and come up gasping for air, there will always be ‘if onlys’.

Life is too short not to notice the little things, to be busy all the time, and allow our gaze to fall only on the struggle;

… too short to not make a difference with whatever we can; a smile, a helping hand, with our truth.

Life is too short to shun every rough part of the ride in favour of safety in a life half lived;

… too short to fail to recognize that hardship is simply a lesson taught differently in the school of happiness.

Life is too short and yet … so big.

For Auntie G, and for all of us x