It actually exists…
Myself and MM have a bad cold so not much running happening in the monkey house this week. So I thought I would tell you a little bit more about how I manage my monkeys.
Welcome to the quiet place in my brain. After my last post I thought I would invite you in to have a look. Lovely isn’t it? It didn’t always look like this. Once upon a time it was a dark place. Warm but dark. After a big family holiday earlier this year this became the place instead. This is the place I go to, to quiet my thoughts and cope with the things that the monkeys throw at me. I’ll explain…
The origins of the dark place: The tantrum
In the dark past when MM was a baby and TM was 2, I had to deal with some of the worst tantrums ever known. Headstrong and angry TM would fight me every day. Over food, sleep, clothes, you name it we fought over it.
One day during these dark times, I had decided to visit friends without children. It was an hours drive and I foolishly believed that the monkeys would sleep on the way there and wake well rested and well behaved. To this day, I am not sure why I thought this would be the case. On arrival, TM refused to get out of the car. I then had to carry him in to the house fireman style, to which he responded by screaming. He had done this to me before, but on this occasion he really screamed, and continued to scream for almost the entire visit.
The screaming was so bad that MM joined in. In desperation, I was forced to put TM in the garden. I was a sensible grown up and completed a full risk assessment before putting him out there. Nothing available to throw or break and the garden gate was locked tight. With a now muffled TM in my eyeline, I proceeded to settle MM. Suddenly there was a knock at the door.
My friend went off to answer it and, to my astonishment, their neighbour had come round to express his concern for the young man in the garden. (Sadly at this point TM, realising he had nothing to throw, had removed his trousers and underpants). The man at the door went on to suggest that my parenting needed addressing. Now I know that I wasn’t coping well, but in that moment I would have happily handed over both screaming monkeys, to this complete stranger, and suggest he take them away and do a better job. Although my friend politely suggested this man jog on, his comments demolished the remaining shreds of my confidence. I left that day completely demoralised. I love TM to pieces but he had destroyed me. For a very long time afterwards I refused to go out to anywhere new for fear of what might happen. After time however, I knew this could not go on and so the quiet place in my brain was born.
Just breath in and out
Sometimes the monkeys will corner you and you need to escape but can’t. Your temperature rises and you know you are soon going to loose it. You know this is not going to help as then they have you. They have won. Firstly, breath. Just breath in and out. Place imaginary earplugs in and retreat into a place where the shouting cannot reach. Leave the negative image of you throttling the monkey Homer Simpson style outside the quiet place too. It isn’t welcome in the quiet place.
Once inside, sit tight until the bad thoughts feel less overwhelming. Then have a peek and see if it is safe to come out. It takes time and practice, but the quiet place becomes an invaluable tool. I know my crack pot mind trick is a mishmash of meditation, mindfulness and visualisation. But as I am an expert of none of these, what little knowledge I do have has evolved into this.
How my quiet place was found
As time passed, I became better and better at using the quiet place. I could be in there at the same time as making dinner, driving the car and doing the shopping! Obviously I had to start doing it with my eyes open. I would warn TM, and later MM, that if they didn’t speak to me in a quiet voice I would no longer be able to hear them. Soon the threat of it alone could ensure improved behaviour. It doesn’t always work but it helps.
Soon the quiet place began to take on features and atmosphere. Sometimes a beach or a huge meadow, all imaginary, but peaceful. It’s current location, however, was found on holiday in Menorca. A big family holiday with my parents, all my siblings and their partners.
Included were my sister’s two daughters, roughly the same age as my monkeys. We spend enough time with each other for them to have developed the bonds of siblings. The good the bad and the downright ugly. As the only ones with children, we had been hired a mini bus to get about. We were the only ones who could fit in and we soon discovered that nobody really wanted to spend much time with us, or as we had hoped, babysit. As such, we dealt with a number of stressful trips to the beach, the market and child friendly sights. We would return stressed and hot following another argument about where the monkeys wanted to sit in the bus. We would then be told stories of leisurely lunches, nice wine and tapas, sightseeing and peaceful afternoons. We would inwardly seeth, remembering our lunches of repeated ham and cheese sandwiches and fries.
Despite this we did have an amazing holiday and the picture above was taken from my bed in our little room. Surrounded by fields, we stayed in a converted barn with walls so thick you couldn’t be disturbed by each other. In the early hours, before the monkeys woke up, I would lie there in perfect peace. 6 months pregnant at the time I would lie quietly with my own thoughts. It was perfect. Soon afterwards during antenatal yoga I used this as part of a visualisation exercise. When I went into labour suddenly with BM, I used it to cope with very very quick contractions. Therefore, my quiet place became that lovely, basic room. Far enough away from home that the usual cares couldn’t reach me. Knowing the sun was shining just beyond the threshold and my lovely family was nearby. Perfect.
As TM has grown older, his behaviour has improved so the visits to the quiet place were reduced. However, since BM arrived, it has been needed again to support me through the transition to mother of three. Throughout my parenting to date, it has become one of my most important tools. In fact, I often visit it when I’m not even stressed. Just to take a moment away from my ever moving life. This is where I plan and get my confidence to say “I can do it”. My little piece of freedom.
Now go away and find your own quiet place it’s getting crowded in here…