A few days in the Life

Yesterday was stressful at work but it’s not really stuff that I can blog openly about. Maybe I’ll just store it up for my memoirs. Suffice to say I spent a large chunk of the morning playing with toys with a little boy to distract him from the police and paramedics who were in and out of the building, caring for his mother who had simply reached breaking point.

That and the fall out from it. Others coming in to chat. Rumours about the police presence (or the Poll-eece, as many pronounce it). And just more despair as I sat with a young person and discussed his fears about being removed to Kabul. Then trying to work through and detangle interlinked homeless, debt, immigration, health, displacement issues, prepare some training, while keeping an eye out generally and debriefing the day with others when needed. Blugh. Wondering if broken things can really be fixed and feeling the weight of hopelessness that many people carry.

Some good things too. Normality and reality at the heart of the confusion. A sense of home and community. Asalam alekum. Team working as people just got on with it and looked out for each other.  A grownuply teenage conversation with Q about politics, parenting, prayer and cricket. Spontaneous laughter. Angela popping to the Fish & Chip Shop and bringing back lunch. Genuine smiles, even if the teeth are chipped and the face is scarred. 

In a bit of a daze at the end of the day, I eventually stumbled out onto Magdalen Road, bumped into Tom and popped to his place for a glass of water. Under the the sunny vine in his back garden I was, for a moment, in the south of France. Chillaxing. Then, on my way to Kitty’s I bumped into some of da yoof. Stood around in their front yard area just joking and chatting in the light evening warmth about this, that, and the other. Then I hung out with little Naama, discussing what it feels like to be newly 8  and being introduced to  her two new rabbits, Hokey Pokey and Beano. Ate some pasta salad and a gorgeous savoury tarte made by Hélène which only someone French could pull off. Tea and biscuits.

I move in many worlds.

Andy picked me up this morning to go to my temporary freelance other job and I was overly-excited at the prospect of a day in the office, likening it to a visit to a spa. He laughed when I said that, knowing that the reason I stopped working there years ago was the fact that the office environment more or less crushed the life out of me. But today it’s what I need. Predicatable and uncomplicated and pleasantly sedantary.

I threw myself into my work, loving the engrossing simplicity of the projects. Read, write, edit. I spend so much of my life exploring complex and emotional subjects in simplisitic English with troubled individuals. This is in stark contrast and it feels like a bit of a holiday. Of course there’s office politics, stresses and issues here too, but I’ve parachuted in and don’t need to get entangled in them. Today I can just write, create, play with words, and make someone else’s jolting sentences flow. I can craft a document and finish it. No loose ends. No homelessness. No hopelessness. No stabbings. No self harm. No fear. Just an office with humming comptuters, background chatter, pot plants and a water cooler.

My head hurts a bit as I adjust my organisational focus. I take a moment to remember where I am today, and make the cultural and linguistic adjustments required to fit in and be at home. It’s like this every day as I wake up and re-align myself to the day’s location and context.  After a few weeks of doing 3 jobs, while also planning for next year’s change, it’s all a bit higgledy-piggledy. My life these days is like the colourful mosaic table I made – not very uniform or polished, but functional and beautiful and very ‘me’. And, just like the table, it took a bit of time, experimentation, creativity and messiness to get there.

Around lunchtime, I did need a leg stretch and a change of scene so I popped into the corridor to stand by a window and look up at the forboding clouds, with their silver-lined dark weightiness. And then it started to rain. Heavy, bouncing, cathartic rain. As the sky released a fortnight’s stored-up water, I felt myself relax. Everything in me just wanted to run outside and get wet and let all the pent-up tension just wash away. I shut my eyes, breathed out sighingly, and mentally splashed around in the puddles.

That helped.


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