Parental Guidance

They f**k you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

The year before last, I had a short course of counseling with a psychologist. It’s something I probably should have done long ago, and something that I probably should still be doing. I signed on for six weeks. About three weeks in, as often happens, I struggled out of the depressive mire I had fallen into. By week four, it was clear that I was pretty happy again, despite the fact that our sessions had prodded some rather difficult aspects of my life that we definitely hadn’t worked through enough to resolve. I was, however, writing again, and really, that’s the only thing I cared about. When I’m writing, I can cope with anything. When I’m not writing, the world feels like a weight just waiting to crush me the first chance it gets.

To her credit – and I still think this shows that she was both genuine and genuinely good, she asked me if I wanted to halt the sessions early, even though I had signed a contract for six weeks. She said she didn’t want to disturb the equilibrium I seemed to have regained, and since I had come to her specifically because I was having trouble writing, she felt she had done as I had asked.

“I do, however, think that you should seek more help in the future,” she said. “I think there are still some issues that you need to resolve.”

“You’re probably right,” I said, smiling, perfectly at ease and a long way from being in any form of emotional distress. “Though I can’t think of any at the moment.”

She nodded, smiled, and then after a moment said, calmly, “What about if I ask you to talk about your parents?”

I burst into tears. Literally, just like that. It was the most concise example of anyone seeing right through me I think I’ve ever had.

“Yes,” she said. “Not now, but in the future, I think that might be something you want to address.”

Like I said, she was genuinely good.

Yesterday, I got an email from an American publisher, asking me if I would like to submit a non-fiction essay to an anthology of work by YA writers about their ‘coming of age’ experiences. It could be something that had been published online before, as long as it hadn’t been published in hardcopy print. The first thing that sprang to mind was a blog I wrote three or four years ago for Mothers’ Day, about my mum.

You might think, from the story I told above, that I have a bad relationship with my parents. I don’t, at all – quite the opposite. My angst in that direction comes from guilt and fear about not being able to look after them the way I would like and the way they deserve.

Anyway, this morning I dug out this old blog and started editing it into something that I might submit to the anthology, if I can get it into better shape and if, when I give it to my parents to read, they don’t completely freak out about the idea of it being in print.

Somewhat inevitably, I’ve also spent most of this morning in tears, which is about a million miles away from how I was feeling when I woke up this morning.

Yeah. I should probably do something about that.

Incidentally, the stanza above is the most remembered from Philip Larkin’s famous poem, This Be The Verse, but it’s not my favourite of the piece. That would be his parting shot, which is:

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.



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