Cold Comfort

I love snow. Proper thick snow that brings everything to a halt. I recognise some hate it and that for the vulnerable it presents real problems. But we can’t prevent it, so my choice is to embrace it. I am up really early, for once quite enthusiastic. K comes into my room, fully dressed in her school uniform, looking sullen. I tell her to look out of the window, then go back to bed. She squeals with delight and skips off. Her school is closed. I wake L up. A taxi is due to arrive, but our roads are hazardous – we live on a steep hill, in a back street never reached by gritters. I call they it and cancel. I spend the early morning reviewing the four offices I manage, making decisions about closures – only one is to close, the one I planned to visit as the closest to me. I work at home and as usual am twice as productive. The woodburner is lit as is the fire in the front room. The house glows with cosiness. L and K meet a friend for sledging down the hill in the nearby park. They build a snowman outside, Atticus. We have homemade soup and bread for lunch. At 5, I switch off the work laptop and go out to our local shop. The world is quiet and still, with children playing in the road, pulling sledges back from the park. The air is bitterly cold, but I have my new Cossack hat, which has been too warm to wear. I buy extra dry Prosecco and good Rioja and three different types of luxury chocolate. I plan an evening of reading or knitting, with chocolate and good wine. This is why I love the winter – because the cold makes us want to be kind to ourselves, to wrap up warm, sit cosily by the fire, eat stews and baked puddings and sleep through long nights in beds piled up with blankets.

And what of L and my new strategy of leaving food decisions to her. It is so much harder than I thought. I guess I hoped that she would rise to the challenge and choose her own meals, regular snacks and show me that I was fussing over nothing. But this is not happening. She is eating a little and not very often. It is true that her mouth hurts, but I also think she is just revelling in the chance to restrict. Perhaps she tells herself she will get back on track, but just cheer herself up a bit by losing some weight. Last night I stood in front of the mirror and urged her to really look at herself and tell me what she saw – and this tall, thin young woman told me she saw Fat. I asked her to point where it was and she pointed to her long, impossibly slim legs. I cannot comprehend it, I just can’t and my attempts to correct her are interpreted as me not believing her or thinking she is stupid.

While I know this is an illness of the brain, I am continually struck by how hard it is for women to be kinder to themselves. ‘Being Worth It’ has nothing to do with hair products – we should all believe we have a right to take care of ourselves, to like our bodies and more importantly our minds. While the idiot boy Gove might want Classics brought back into schools, what about self-esteem, being taught that we are good enough and how to avoid beating ourselves up?
I don’t feel guilty about my plans to loll about the house drinking wine and eating chocolate – it is cold and I am going to ‘wrap up warm’ both physically and mentally.

Somehow, we ended up thinking everyone around us needed looking after except us. I manage a team of women managers and we beat ourselves up and then build ourselves back up again. Some months ago, I decided that if we think women deserve support and respect, we have to stop the self-flagellation and give ourselves that support. I know that L’s destructive behaviour and self loathing stems from a mental illness beyond her control – but the problem is, the world outside tells her that this is perfectly sane. K read my last blog post and said “Y’know Mum, it’s all about the patriarchy”. I laughed, but I suspect she’s right. In a world where women are second best or even actively oppressed , no wonder we think we are never good enough.

Tonight I am good enough. Tonight I choose Prosecco and chocolate. Because I, and every other woman, are bloody well worth it.

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2 responses to “Cold Comfort

  1. I feel there is some balance here in this post, between what is good for you and what is good for L. It’s so good to read!

    I expect L will have a period of exploiting the ‘freedom’ you’ve given her with her food choices. That’s not her, as you well know, it’s Ed running riot. But, I believe L is a pensive young woman. She has had a lot of positive input through her treatment and the support from you and her family over the last months. Now it’s time for her to call on it and find her own courage to follow it. That’s her personal internal battle.

    In the meantime though, it’s lovely to read that you’re taking time to indulge in the things you enjoy and relax. Well deserved quality time.

  2. This is so amazing and lovely and i actually have goosebumps!
    You write so beautiful and it’s crafted in such a way that is so easy to connect to!
    Thank you and i really hope L chooses the right path and away from this horrible, torturous disease xxx

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