On the Waltzers

Over the last year I’ve developed an involuntary emotional reaction. I don’t know what to call it, a craff or a lafry, a kind of scream-sob of sorts. The sensation is a sudden rush to cry and laugh at precisely the same time.

Last week during our weekly exorcism in Tescos, my two year old threw himself onto the floor and started head butting a metal rail while trying to peel off their dirty nappy. This was triggered by my refusal to buy them a kitchen knife. I felt the panic rise up as I tried to work out how to protect his precious nugget and get everyone out of the line of nappy-fire without breaking either of us. 

As I tried to pick him up he did the classic move of tantrum-back-flip combined with a paranormal leap into the air and as his skull crashes into my nose I hear the sickening sound of bone on bone. I feel the blood drip past my mouth and I just sob. I’m not sure what it was, a cry or a laugh, a bovine noise comes out of me. 

Apparently this is the sound I make when it feels like the world flips 180 degrees and you’re feeling emotions that exist on opposite ends of the spectrum.

The sanitised statistical-survey version of this experience is that being a parent under Covid-19 is a bitter sweet promise of more quality time with your kids but only if you’re not a single parent or poor or (quite likely) both. 70% of parents feel judged by others for their parenting during this crisis with 48% saying that the last 10 months has ‘taken an emotional toll’. Nice neat graphics and data analysis in one free-to-download report.

There is of course a darker version of this.

The lack of certainty about who gets cared for in this next stage of the crisis means we are being stretched between polar opposites. Diametric drives to generosity blended with a withdrawal into a state of un-care. The social and economic depression we’re in is driving us to take more than we need, despite the big neon flashing sign over our dependencies and responsibilities to each other. Deprivation and the fear of it spins us into a state of constant emotional and moral flux. Like a ride on the Waltzers we’re being flung between a profound understanding of our needs and a fearful selfish greed. Round and round as self-destruction and self-preseveration slug it out, safe in the knowledge that the smoking feral teenagers left in charge only know how to accelerate the spinning.

One of the striking things for me about this last year is how many carers talk about themselves as failures. Dizzy from the spin into extreme vulnerability that follows when our reserves have gone, we have become disassociated from our own brilliance.

After another year of talking to people about surviving work, I want to remind you that even as we are laughing and crying on the waltzers, your caring, your activism, your loving designates you an emotional warrior. And it is for this reason that other people are not a waste of time.  

Surviving Work will be back in the new year. Our websites www.survivingwork.org, thefutureoftherapy.org, survivingworkinhealth.org and theresiliencespace.com are being redesigned over the holidays to be relaunched in 2021. 

Leave a Reply