Mum was the first to read How I Met My Mother. She texted me almost instantly. “I can’t help but shed tears reading your past experience. Now I know. I’m sorry for the pain you suffered. I’m glad you turned out stronger. Lots of love Mum”
I hadn’t given it much thought; I’d simply written a story. As I rummaged through the fridge looking for the marmalade, the enormity of outing my abusive childhood hit me. “Shit.” I realised, flopping down on the kitchen floor, still clutching the margarine.
For twenty years my conscience had ignored my suffering. Now the shameful truth was public, my body ached. The pain grew: sharp and blinding. I needed “space”, to recover and grieve.
I decided to take the week off. Yes, I skipped last week’s blog post. My intent was to observe mindfulness. I wanted to set aside the time to embrace the present, and free myself of judgement. Domestic and work practicalities aside, I was on holiday.
Of course my mind wandered. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know what you were going through as a teenager,” concerned messages pinged, on Facebook messenger. “I’m going to investigate,” skeptical WhatsApp messages promised. I named my emotions: “Anxiety.” “Sorrow.” Then gently brought my focus back to the present moment.
Spring had arrived at last! And I wasn’t the only idiot who’d turned up at the garden centre, an hour early on Monday morning. A suited exec, on a sturdy black omafiets, stared at Intratuin’s opening times confused. “Yep, it said 9am on the website.” I confirmed with a nod.
Two hours later, I loaded my bakfiets with: a Japanese garden pot, daffodil and muscari bulbs, a 10L watering can, a bag of clay pebbles, and a shade loving hydrangea. I’d also picked up a Himalayan crystal and a large piece of pink quartz, for no particular reason.
“Mooie planten,” said a friendly cyclist, peering into my cargo-bike as she waited for the light to turn green. I smiled back, then took the scenic route: past the De Gooyer windmill, down boho Czaar Peterstraat, and across the Eastern docklands.
Armed with Michael’s Black & Decker drill, I pierced holes through the black plastic container. Whizz, whizz, I was immersed in my task. “How many drainage holes does the hydrangea need?” Nine, I decided. I ripped open the bag of clay pebbles. Hands deep in dirt and perlite, I started to remember my forgotten childhood.
I recalled how I spent hours day-dreaming.
I’d observe everything with wonderment, in the most precise detail. I’d gaze at the sunbeams bounce off the squeaky-clean windows. I’d sink into the comfort of a book, or the pleasure of a smell. I remembered the sunflower seeds I’d sown with my sister. The stalks had soared high above our girlish ponytails, then scattered their fruit: thousands of tiny grey teardrops.
“How could I forget?” I wept.
I felt cleansed; I no longer harboured any dark secrets.
I was proud of the teenager who’d dared to stand-up to her father. I shuddered at the alternative. I was grateful for my intuition, empathy, and resilience. By loving myself, I’d taken control of my life. And more recently, in embracing my childhood trauma, I had freed myself from an invisible prison.
Was I finally whole?