Well here I am.
Please pardon my ramblings. I intend to write ultimately for myself, simply taking advantage of a forum which will *hopefully* keep me on track.
Today I finished 29 Gifts. It took me longer than intended - I powered through the first 170 pages in a few days of reading on the tube and then loaned it to the guy I sit next to at work because I got so excited about the story and he was so keen to read it that I left it with him to read whilst I went traveling for a week with my mum who was visiting me in London from home in Australia. She bought the book while she was here having heard about it from a fellow pilgrim she met whilst journeying the Camino de Santiago prior to visiting me (a whole other story - my mum is amazing!) and although she had already finished it, it was hers and I wanted to be able to return it to her before she left for home. So from a timing point of view the only way both Lee and I could read the book before Mum left for home was to lend it to him before I finished it. As it happened, Mum left the book with me and insisted she would buy her own copy when she got home. Lucky for me! So, having read another book in the mean time and trying another, which I couldn't get it to, this morning I returned to 29 Gifts and, as I said, finished it today.
When I first started reading 29 Gifts I was so inspired and enthusiastic that I wanted to start the Challenge there and then, although I knew I wouldn't. I mentioned this to Mum who said "I'll start mine when I get home." I commented that it seems a funny thing that we should put it off when really, there are opportunities to give everyday - simple things that don't take a lot of effort. I learned the joy of smiling at strangers (namely the old and/or up-market demographic in which I grew up) back when I was a rebellious wannabe gothic teenager with pink hair and a nose ring and wanted to "prove that I wasn't the stereotype they would be expecting". But when people smiled back it didn't take long before I dropped the rebellion and the attitude and just smiled at people for the sake of smiling - just to see them smile too, instead of spitefully trying to prove a point. Smiles, kind words, generous thoughts, loose change. Why is it that giving these seemingly insignificant, and yet potentially so powerful, gestures away is something that we feel we need to gear ourselves up for? ...to prepare to start at a later date?
It occurs to me that I, knowing what I'm like at starting things and not seeing them through, am afraid to start something that really resonantes and is important to me, lest I don't see it through. So, I find that 'fear' is perhaps an answer to my above questions.
In fact, now that I think about it, I believe 'fear' to be the only possible answer. For me, at least. Fear that I won't make it through 29 days... fear of making a comittment... fear that I'll be confronted (humiliated?) with a recipient who isn't interested in my gift... fear of making a human connection with a beggar - the people whose eye contact I have been avoiding my entire life... fear that I'll get to a day and won't have anything to give... fear of the unknown...
Intellectually I'm all too aware of the ridiculousness of these fears. But, I'm only human, just like the rest of you.
To indulge myself for a moment:
I didn't think that Mum leaving would hurt so much. Having only moved to London a short time before she arrived, I hadn't really had the chance to sink my teeth into this city, or make new friends before I was channelling all my energy into making the most of her presence.
When I left Australia, although I was petrified and cursed myself for not having tissues on hand as I sat in the airport departure lounge with an unstoppable flood of tears, it was I who had chosen to leave. And, after a near terrifying but somewhat liberating week in Paris, I arrive in Valencia, Spain to surprise my brother on his birthday and proceeded to live with him and three good mates from home for the next six months.
Arriving in London with a seriously depleted bank account, no home, no job and only a couple of people I knew from home was a challenge in itself. And then, having just sorted myself out, my mum - my pillar, my confidante, my everything - showed up.
The day I took her to the station - her on her way to the airport to go home, me on my way to work - the tears flowed again, although at least this time I had tissues.
In the week that she's been gone I've drunk a lot. Actually, we drank a lot while she was here, but drinking is never so bad when it's "social". Having struggled with substance abuse in the past, recognising this behaviour and desire to numb the pain frightens me. If I was able to disguise a heroin addiction from everyone in my life for an extended period of time, I could certainly hide a problem with alcohol.
A couple of days ago I identified a feeling of abandonment. When I left to jet off into the world that was my choice. When Mum left, although I know she couldn't stay forever and probably would if she could, it was out of my control - she was leaving me. And this is a feeling which harks back to being a tender and confused 14 year old when my dad left my family for another woman.
Last night I finally aired all this with a good friend, having told Mum, who knew something was up, that I wasn't prepared to talk about it just yet. I divulged my pit of despair, my fear of falling back into the grips of substance abuse, my sadness around Mum going home, the dredged up feelings of abandonment. I confess I was not entirely sober as I broke down the barriers and gave everything away. I'm grateful for his compassion and empathy. A little tipsy, I was already feeling what felt like the world's problems lift off my shoulders. His closing words were: get a hobby, tell your mum [about the drinking], tell Sam (my brother and one of his best mates) to see a shrink (about the dad-abandonment issues which I'm convinced he has never addressed) and use wetwipes if you poop more than three times a day, it's nice for your bumhole. He makes me laugh.
And today, I am here. Admittedly, writing this over a gin and tonic or two, but bare with me - I believe I will get to a place where I don't need to drink to feel safe. And I know I need to do my part, but I need to go easy on myself too. I'm on a happier path already and I'm all set, if not a fraction apprehensive, for whatever comes as a result.
I think my first gift will be to have a copy of 29 Gifts shipped to Mum for her birthday on the 6th of September.