It can be hard to do the kind of casual chatter which you (I) feel people expect, when your head is crammed full of The Big Stuff. There are days (weeks, months) when your Issues, whatever they may be, can take over to such an overwhelming extent that there is nothing else to say. I worry that sounds dangerously like competitive woe (It’s all about me! My life is so much more tragic than yours!) I don’t think misery counts for more, but it’s undeniably so much more all-consuming than happyness. And far harder to share, particularly in a casual-exchange-of-pleasantries kind of way.
Casual griping (preferably about school, or your partner, providing you make it clear you’d never do anything to rock the boat), local gossip and, of course, absolutely anything to do with The Weather are all socially acceptable. Admitting that you’ve been wrestling all day with thoughts of hurting yourself, or that you’re worried sick about That Person You Love who has the life-threatening illness, and the treatment which is supposed to cure her, if it doesn’t kill her first, or that you’re tearing yourself apart pondering whether doing The Thing which you believe would make you all happier in the end can be justified if it hurts someone else now… decidedly not so good as conversational gambits.
Sometimes I think I’ve forgotten how to talk. Words spin round and round my head, but don’t find a way out. I realise there’s a small helping of arrogance in here (nobody could ever understand me!), but I also know how much it hurts if you accidentally do give an honest answer to the ubiquitous How Are You? and the questioner turns away, out of fear or embarassment. I also hate(hatehate) the idea of being labelled: the mad one, the domestic violence victim, the only lesbian* in the village. I loathe the idea of labels even more for my children, but fear they might have to learn to live with them.
This is the blessing of working with small children. They don’t care if you’re a bit silent, so long as you listen to what they have to say, and respond to their needs.
I know I don’t want all my conversations to be heavy ones. I love it when people distract me, amuse me, entertain me. Depression doesn’t require a sombre face all the time; it definitely doesn’t remove your ability to scream with laughter, in the right company. But I also appreciate it when someone takes time to call up, come round, cross over the playground, and ask how things really are, how me and my children are doing.
Mostly, we’re doing all right. I am strangely reassured by their school reports. Somehow, despite enduring a long winter of a mother sunk too far inside her own head to help anyone else, despite witnessing my father’s violence, despite the fact that I’m moving inexorably towards ripping their little world apart, they seem to be doing pretty well. They all three appear to be maturing into confident caring balanced human beings. I’m more grateful for this than I can express.
This is my small(er) girl. She is the Queen of Small Talk. If you ever find yourself in a tricky social situation, she’s the one you want by your side. Long lost relatives are invariably charmed by her. Those who have to spend more time in her company may wilt with exhaustion, as the conversation never ceases. She is so very like her late paternal grandmother, right down to the sudden irrational rages, followed just as swiftly by sunny charm, that I am boggled they never actually met.
*Oops, accidental coming out post. I hadn’t planned on that, but ne’er mind, if you didn’t know by now, you’ll probably get over it. If it bothers you, don’t read. And bi might be a more accurate label, because I’m sure attractive men do exist, it’s just been a while…