Meltdowns and Moodlifters

What is the boy now, who has lost his ball.
What, what is he to do? I saw it go
Merrily bouncing, down the street, and then
Merrily over—there it is in the water!
No use to say ‘O there are other balls’ …
‘The Ball Poem’, John Berryman

A child’s cry out in the street, not of pain or fear,
rather one of those vividly inarticulate
yet perfectly expressive trumpet thumps of indignation:
something wished for has been denied,
something wanted now delayed.
‘Tantrum’, C. K. Williams

  … but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
‘In Memoriam’, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Seeing her reactions to things brings it home to me at times that whatever I feel, I have to be the adult now. There’s no one else to run to, at least in the immediate present. I have to be that person, for someone else. I have to do it now. 

I can’t say this is easy. I’ve never found it easy to manage my moods, or worked out a way of doing this that I can potentially stick to, despite the fact that they seem to do the rounds and return to me like a dogged shadow. I’m left feeling a bit stumped by these returns, with the feeling sometimes of being back to square one, but without any recourse to those ports of call that I’ve already sought out or dismissed previously.

It’s often only by doing something that I remember that actually there are things that can make me feel better. This comes with an edge of surprise that is compounded by the fact that to begin with, like a child, I just want the help to come to me. I want to be fed, heard or comforted, by food, words or touch. I want to be sung to, spoken to, addressed. I want to hide away and be found. 

It’s actually quite good though to be able to jumpstart things for myself. And I’m learning that these things may just be helpful to my daughter too. She will have no concept, at sixteen months, of navigating her emotions, but that is what we are working on together, and it is my job to map out a path to safety at least by the end of each day. 

So this is a gathering together of some of the things that, for me, do tangibly make a difference:

  1. Going for a walk:
    Getting into a steady rhythm. Registering the difference in the air. Looking at the world in 360° again, after getting stuck looking straight ahead, or just across the room. There are days when the effort of getting ready and getting out falls away almost as soon as we hit the pavement. 
  2. A change of scene:
    Upstairs instead of downstairs. Out of the window instead of down on the floor. Finding busyness in shop windows and city streets, in supermarket queues and lanes of traffic. Leaving the toys at home and going out to play with another, similar set somewhere else. I guess it is a law of nature that things are ever-changing, and perhaps it is hard-wired into us to need to find this in our surroundings? 
  3. Making eye contact, or greeting someone else
    Sometimes this can feel as good as the sense of touch: like a touch on the arm or a hand meeting a hand. Now and then she looks directly into my eyes and a stillness comes between us. I cannot know what she is thinking but at the same time this feels like more than thinking: it is looking in.  
  4. Letting the mess out
    It feels quite good to accept and even welcome the mess. Better out than in, as they say. But why is it? Because then you can see all the contents? I guess seeing it all gives you an element of control, but also of choice: now you can choose what to pick up and look at more closely. You can decide what is of value and what feels rather worthless. And finally you can distinguish between you and the mess: it will not stay like this forever. 
  5. Creating order
    It’s funny, isn’t it, how everyone has their own version of what this looks like, but everyone seems to need it in their own particular way? I use numerous lists, drawers and boxes, but there’s always a point when I give up and let the rest sit. Further down the line, my husband sometimes picks up where I had left off, having given up hope of ever being tidy and forgotten about it.  
  6. Making or crafting something
    It is the small creative acts that bring life to the daily routine. Finding and trying out a new recipe. Deciding how to wrap a present. Building a tower, or making a collection of whatever loose items Mummy has left within reach. I have to remember that it is in doing the apparently non-essential things that I feel more truly productive, regardless of how far I have got down the to-do list. 
  7. Making a tuneful noise 
    My relationship with music feels somewhat like a language that I’ve forgotten how to speak. I must be a very backward person but the technology has changed too quickly over the past decade or so for me to keep up. And it’s not just that I don’t know how to play things; I don’t know how to find out what I like. Most of the technology seems based on the idea that you at least know that: once you can select a category, you’re ok. Well, as a result, I’ve stopped listening somewhere along the way, and worse than that, there are times when I haven’t even noticed. So when I do find ways to let music back in, establishing that point of reconnection feels really powerful. Switching on the radio instead of the TV. Going back to the last song I searched for. Turning it up loud so it’s not just in the background. Singing whatever comes to mind whenever there’s a dull moment. But this is all a work in progress: rediscovering a lost love always is.
  8. Switching off
    This is pretty hard to do, but it doesn’t seem any easier for a toddler, and of course she needs help to be able to do it. I need to switch off when I’m tired, and when I’m bored; when I’m overwhelmed and when I’ve had enough. She needs her nap, but also I think sometimes enjoys the quiet time of looking out of the car window, or listening to the different sounds around her as she goes along in the pushchair. We switch off by switching on to something else: laying ourselves open to the blessed influences of sleep, and the present good.

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s