I found myself mid-almost-panic attack in Morrison’s yesterday, experiencing an inappropriate level of rage towards the four different-sized, erratically priced bags of dried mango I had sourced from different corners of the shop.
I was trying to work out which one was the best value per 100grams. Livid that the supermarket has not only moved its layout around beyond recognition (dear Morrison’s, this does not make me buy more, it makes me have a meltdown mid-shopping trip and abandon my trolley and end up living on bananas until I calm myself down and try again). It also makes it a real challenge to buy the best value packet of dried mango.
Serious first world problems, I know.
Awareness of the ridiculousness of my sky-rocketing mango-related anger only compacted how pathetic I was feeling. I start hating myself, and the mango, right there and then.
But, you know, I don’t drink. I don’t eat refined sugar. If Morrison’s try to hide the dried mango or Lavazza coffee (my two main food groups) from me at the end of the nappy aisle, and I WILL lose my shit.
I am so lucky to get the summer holidays with my children. And I look forward to it all year. And I know that I am very blessed to have these healthy children and to be healthy myself.
And yet, I find the summer holidays the hardest time of year. Harder than the busiest, most stressful week of term, harder than interviews or auditions or dealing with loss or a 7 day working week in the run up to Christmas and the oppressive endless task of juggling childcare around a changing work routine.
My life during the summer holidays is SO EASY and so blessed compared to so many people’s.
Yet this time of year, this time that I ‘should’ love so much, is the time when I feel like my sanity, and the person I want to be, is disappearing into the cracks in the floorboards. Like the very worst in me comes out. I have thoughts and feelings that I find repugnant, like I wish I could be away from my family, by myself. I feel like I don’t deserve my family, like they would be better off without me. I want my children to leave me alone. I wish I was back at work, where I know who I am and where and when I need to be each day.
The theme of the above repetitive unhelpful ruminations is boring and predictable to me these days, like a song I don’t enjoy but is somehow stuck on full volume in my head. I do break out from it and press ‘pause’ on the song; I meditate every day and it helps, but the relief is temporary. I wonder if I need to take medication. I even wonder if taking up vaping or smoking weed would help. I won’t, these are just errant, unhelpful thoughts too. I think about cutting down the caffeine and feeding myself bigger, better meals. Now there’s a sensible thought I might return to.
Then I look at these gorgeous little weirdos, and I’m swamped with love. Sometimes I escape from my dark, nonsensical ruminations, the wrong feelings subside and we get on with our day.
The point I want to make is this: I’m only struggling so much with this mood and these feelings and thoughts because, well, I’m actively STRUGGLING WITH THEM. I’m trying to wrestle them into submission, because they aren’t in line with what I believe, or the type of person I want to be. The fact is, we all have times we struggle with, things or situations that trigger unpleasant feelings or thoughts that we find distressing and not in line with our sense of identity. It’s not all that unusual to feel a bit crazy and have weird thoughts every now and then. It only really becomes a big problem when you start to mistake these thoughts or feelings as concrete facts, rather than as clouds passing across the sky of your mind.
So anyway. Sick of living on bananas and peanut butter, and knowing I probably should buy this trolley full of food for the children to eat, rather than abandon it, I stoically persevered, and breathing deeply by the bread aisle in Morrison’s, I drew this question to mind (vaguely paraphrased from my current self-help read, “Mindful Compassion”, by Gilbert & Choden):
“What would you say to yourself in this moment, if you were in your calmest and most wise frame of mind?”
The answer that came from within me was this.
“Hold on. This storm will pass.
It’s ok to find the summer holidays difficult. What can you do to make tomorrow easier?
Let go of the guilt. Finding the summer hard doesn’t make you a bad person.
So you’re lucky and blessed? It’s true, but you are allowed to not enjoy things. Some people don’t enjoy tomatoes. Or dried mango (I mean, THAT’S crazy).
You are allowed to not love every single moment of August. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO FIND IT HARD. You’ve always felt distressed and drowned a little in the abyss of the summer holidays, even as a child. Why are you still surprised by it? You will still find moments of joy, even if it’s a hard month.
Oh, and Violet?…
What the hell are you doing in a supermarket when you know you hate them so much?
There’s this mysterious thing called ‘online grocery shopping’. GET ON THAT. Go and compare dried mango prices at the click of a button, to your little heart’s content. “