Hot smoked mackerel

Hot smoked mackerel.

Two mackerel, hot smoked in my bucket smoker. A boiled egg, laid by my girls just this morning. Three salads with a slice of tough sourdough smothered in homemade butter. Tonight, this meal is a reminder of who I am.

The swallows my ears tell me are swirling high above. The newts i watched with a contented smile, busy in my squatted shadow over a newly cleared pond. The single stem of cuckoo smock carefully left to stand  in the lawn freshly moved. Today, these are the moments that I let define me.

The kindness a neighbour sought from me. The help a friend asked for on a deep worry. The trust that was placed upon my loyalty. This morning, this was the reassurance of who mumdrah is.

Self care for me is no treat; no simple indulgence or tidbit. Self care is a reset; a reminder of who I am, away from the chaos of adoption. Some reminders I seek out and create for myself; some come unbidden through the eyes and mouths of others.

This is who mumdrah is.

Away from the shaking, sweaty palmed sense of failure during the crisis. Away from the self doubt and the questioning and the fear. Away from the worries, the dilemmas, the quandaries. Away from the insults and raised voices and the threats that come when she cannot cope. Away from the challenge which – however high you climb to meet it – has little or no feedback of success, or progress.

Reminders are needed. Of who I am. Of what I am worth.

And the hearty taste of those smoky mackerel on my tongue – the first of the season – are reminder enough.

Three legged stool

I realize mumdrah is a three legged stool; with each leg distinct in it’s character.

The first is ‘therapeutic mumdrah’.

She understands. She needs little, and she’s happy to give. She moves naturally and empathically – from the heart and mind – with ease. She soothes even in the maelstrom of a scathing attack. She is patient, and calm. She sees things through the eyes of a yogi. She plays the long game. She makes hot chocolate while objects fly, covers post it notes with heart shapes. She sees the trauma for what it is. She is the amygdala tamer to a little girl who hurts.

The second is ‘stepford mumdrah’.

She labours. She uses huge amounts of energy. She goes through the motions; does what is expected and hopes it is enough. She wears thick protective armour. Her lips are tight in attempt not to let anything slip out. She is not natural, or flowing, or easy. She is tightly in control, forced and robotic. She is born out of sympathy, but also of exhaustion and self-protectiveness. She clings to knowing what is right, but she doesn’t get it right. She is sometimes a little withdrawn. She survives. She is the amygdala tamer to herself.

The third has no name.

She hurts. She is the traumatized wounded sister to cht. She is deeply hidden. She rises to the surface rarely and explosively. She craves the signs that everything is – or will be – okay. She buckles under the pressure of getting everything right while being pilloried for getting it all wrong. She comes when she can no longer ignore the hurt, or the blame, or the selflessness. She is needy, and can no longer put other people before her self. She cries out for acknowledgement, for help, for understanding. She is the amygdala tamer to no one. She is her own amygdala gone bad.

The stool doesn’t stand right without accepting all three parts of mumdrah. They each rely on and inform each other in some way, and they each help me understand my role as an adoptive parent that little bit more.

Each and every aspect needs acknowledgement, and love, and nurturing. Perhaps some forgiveness too.

Sensory reset

A week can get under your skin. Time for a sensory reset.

Walk along the river that fills my ears with the steady, rushing babble of the water. Choose the muddiest paths and let my feet sink right in, dark peaty soil sucking and slurping at each step until it seeps into my boots. Duck as the budding branches pull and scrape along my jacket and lock into my hair. Wait a while sat on the woodland floor and graze my palm over the soft comfort of the moss and the tiny ferns. Watch as the nuthatch scales the trunk, then sits ‘doinking’ at the crown.

Feel the muscle ache scaling the rocks and exploring the forgotten mines. The whisper of my dog’s warm happy breath on my cheek as we stop and crouch at the whirring flight of two goosander. Stoop low to take in the tiny sharp spears of the crocus as they push through the surface.

Sometimes I forget; mistake the impulse to ‘let all the difficulty out’ with the real need to ‘let all the wonder back in’.

I entered the woods with ants crawling beneath my skin from a week of self control.           I leave them with all my senses freed; blown open and filled up, to remember who I am.

And then home.