Friday, 10 October 2008

Tea and Tigers

This week's been pretty rough. I say that, and yet I am not entirely comfortable with starting out my post on that basis. I feel quite content actually. I have a welcome breeze at my side, as part of the best of Autumn weather series that we're currently enjoying, and I have a conference paper to edit before meeting a friend for a hot chocolate on North Parade this evening. I have just received an email from Apple to say that my iPhoto book of family photographs has been shipped. I have been working on it for a while now, an epic family album for my parents, and I am quietly pleased that they can only send it to me (in the U.K.) which means that I can take a quick squiz before sending it on to its home in Australia. It's a surprise present from all the kids, so don't tell them.

But it has been rough, I've got to say. My Mum is seriously ill in hospital and it is uncertain how long she will be there and whether there will be a full recovery. I was told on Monday night. I feel like a small bird making quick darts into a caged wall. Add a family emergency and some jumpy sleeps, and Oxford can shift very quickly from haven of liberal scholars to prison of self-important shits. There have been some other difficult things to deal with as well, but I don't feel like writing about them here.

Nevertheless, after a massage yesterday, and a more restful sleep last night, I feel far less overwhelmed. I am trying to keep it manageable - one day or even one step at a time, as two friends (one in Oxford, one in Oz) have reminded me. My priorities are: (1) To do what I can to make my mum feel more comfortable, loved and positive (phonecalls, flowers, iPod of her favourite music, open communication with rest of family); (2) To finish my paper for next week's conference; (3) To give myself what I need to feel less alarmed (or ready for a tiger to swipe then munch me and my babies in the night): good food, fresh air, routine, the presence of older friends, and some space from the College scene.

One of my friends here told me that things in Oxford are far more tangible and secure than they appear when you're in crisis mode. He said that I just have to reach out and lean against its walls. It's true - a lovely friend from College treated me to tea and sympathy yesterday, my College has offered to pay for a flight if necessary, and even someone whom I have known for only a few days offered to run errands for me. Note to self: just as I would always try to help out someone else in need, most people would do the same for me. I just have to ask.


Kate said...

Ahh monkey, I understand the tiger-at-the-gate feeling. I think you're doing superbly. All you can do is to breathe in and breathe out again.

And ask for help - even in Oz!

John Flood said...

I went through the same type of thing with my mum when I was a grad student in the States. I knew time was limited and I had to wait for the phone call to say come home quickly. I just about made it in time. There's nothing gentle about this process, but stilling the mind does help. I wish you well and hope that things don't detiorate for you.