This is a post I’ve thought about writing for a while now. I decided to do it eventually because my lovely Twitter friend @CatEleven posted this amazingly eloquent post about the same thing. Putting a face on.
When I was a child I used to be woken up by my Dad every day. I’d splash some water on my face, have some Shreddies and get ready for school. Then I put my game face on. I’ve done this my entire life. I fluff my hair up, grin at myself in the mirror and ask which deity it is up there to give me strength and perseverance and bravery. It’s become a little part of my routine. When I wash my face or my hands I take a moment to ask for a little strength. If I have to make a difficult phone call, write a particularly heinous essay or whatever particular trial I’m dealing with at that moment I stop, take a breath and say (often aloud): “give me strength.”
Recently, my mother was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour – she’s been very ill since 2010 but is really truly nearing the end. At the age of 55 my cheeky, funny, wonderful mother is going to die. I’ve come to terms with that fact. It doesn’t make it easier but I’ve come to terms with it. At 21 years old I am having to deal with one of the most difficult things that many people ever have to deal with. What makes it infinitely more difficult is that her medication is making her pretty much immobile. As I write this, I am currently nursing a strained back muscle from having to physically lift her up the stairs with the help of my brother, aunt and dad. If we lower the medication levels and make her more mobile again, she becomes hysterical. The tumour is putting an immense pressure on her brain. She can’t help it. As a result, I’m finding myself taking a step back more than ever, clasping my hands and almost shouting out for something, anything to give me some fucking strength, some perseverance, some bravery.
Then I go to work. I go to University. People ask me how I am, how my Christmas was. I give them a wry smile. “Yeah, not too bad thanks” I reply. “Yourself? Do anything interesting for New Year? Oh, you know, same old.”
Most people I’m acquainted with do know about what’s happening to my mother. Those that I haven’t told have heard it through the grapevine. I get looks of sympathy as I walk through the department, mere acquaintances giving my shoulder a squeeze or a lingering hug that goes on that little bit too long. People look me in the face and say with all sincerity “If I can help at all, please just let me know.” I smile. “I’m fine, really I am. Don’t you worry about me!” For the most part, I am fine. I have a wonderful friendship network, my department have been absolutely fantastic, work have been so understanding and my boyfriend… well, I don’t know what I’d do without him to be honest. He is the only person that I don’t have to put a face on for. I am not a particularly religious person. I wouldn’t say I’m an atheist as such but I certainly don’t attach myself to any particular religion. It’s just that, as Cat says in her absolutely amazing piece: we put our game faces on.
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