The Teardrop Explodes

Everyone looks softer, have you noticed?

Maybe it’s the fluffy, longer hair, or the beards, or the slight weight gain. But we all seem to have lost some of our harder edges. I like it. I hope I stay like this.

I mean, without my hard edges, but ideally I suppose I would like to lose the third chin and the second tummy once I no longer see walking to the charcuterie a hundred yards away for a delicious sourdough loaf to slather with butter and a tasty wine and garlic sausage as enough exercise for the week…

But there are some things I don’t want to change. It would be wrong, of course to describe the past few months as a blessing. It would be an insult to people who have lost loved ones, people who have the big sore red faces from frontline work, people in small flats on the ninth floor of tower blocks trying to entertain their children, partners being battered more, children being abused more, all the other horrors of this period.

But for me, for me personally, it has been a blessing. Not that there have not been moments where I have sat and sobbed on the kitchen floor.

I think it all comes back to the toaster.

What, that toaster?

Which toaster?

You know, the toaster, the rotary one like at Premier Inn, where you had to turn the speed down rather than turning the heat up to brown the toast and hence discovered the whole mystery of how life works and how God works and…

Oh no, another toaster. There’s always another toaster…

In fact I think this one came first, this one was my toaster. It had stopped working, only I didn’t know because I didn’t usually have breakfast with my family. Then one morning I tried to, tried to, go and join them, only I went to make myself a piece of toast and the toaster didn’t work and I cried. I cried so much. Big, heart-broken, tears.

I was in therapy at the time and I tried to tell the therapist about it and even that made me cry, big sobs again. And she said whatever was happening with the toaster and the breakfast was obviously a big deal and I had to work at it. She said I had to have breakfast every morning for the week and tell her about it at the next session.

I did and it was really, really hard. Each morning I can hardly describe this force that built up inside me that made it feel impossible, like a force field around the cereal bowls and the table and my heart all at once - a force field that I had to push past with all my strength. I had to keep it up for weeks, often it made me cry and it was a long, long time before I had even the slightest insight into what was going on.

But did you get there in the end?

Yes sort of. I was struggling to get close to people, struggling to connect. Knowing it helped a bit, but I never really got passed it, not completely. I feel like I should be standing in a circle somewhere saying, “My name is Sally Fraser and I avoid intimacy.”

Avoid it by finding a thousand hopeless causes, and brick walls to bang my head off, or by working or drinking or chasing love where it isn’t instead of accepting it where it is and generally with all the busy-ness and STUFF.

Until now. Until a global crisis and a lock down damn well forced me to just stay home and be close to the people I love and enjoy it, to not be afraid anymore, and to not have a choice.

It’s not an uncommon thing I suppose, messed up, traumatised people - which we all are to a degree - shut people out because we are scared of losing them. Or because we don’t believe we are worthy. Don’t believe we ‘deserve it’.

Connection hurts, it is salty in our wounds. But running away is not just sad it’s also ungrateful, entitled even. Who are we to be so fearful of loss we don’t enjoy what is precious and fleeting, to believe we can cling to it, not to see the sheer gift of it all? Who are we to criticise ourselves so fearfully and wonderfully made?

So I am thankful that, kicking and screaming I have finally been dragged to just where I needed to be and found that I love it. That in fact, my name is Sally Fraser and I am a wife and mummy and I like to sit on the sofa and cuddle the cat and read Harry Potter. I like to make things out of building blocks. I like to sit in my pyjamas all day on Saturdays watching programmes where people cook with too much butter. And it’s okay to be me and I like it.

And I wish you your own toaster moment in whatever form it takes, should you need it. That you would know the peace and joy of the smallness of your life when you stop trying so hard.

That if you weren’t sure before, you would know that it’s definitely okay to be you, just as you are.

Sally Fraser

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Is walking to the charcuterie a 100 yards away for a sourdough loaf and garlic sausage enough exercise for the week?