Tiny schoolgirl me hates slow progress

Most of us have some interesting past experiences that have left us with some sad scared selves needing attention in the present. A lot of mine stem from my strange education. Happy Noodle Girl is a product of school 1. The me who doesn’t like slow progress, it turns out, is a product of school 2. This was the school where I started at age four and everyone else was at least seven.

I was chatting to a friend about my pattern of having to change HUGELY AND IMMEDIATELY or not at all (which usually = not at all) and I realised that at school 2, I was either great or terrible at all subjects, to the extent that I wasn’t really learning in any class. I was either mucking about while people learned things I already knew, or mucking about while people learned things I couldn’t imagine being able to do. Which was painful, but it also gave me a sense of specialness because I was the only kid allowed to spend music lessons sitting under the grand piano or netball lessons collecting conkers.

I realised that my fear of slow progress might be a fear of not getting to be special and not getting to play while everyone else works – which is interesting, because progress would actually lead to MORE of those things. My friend invited me to talk to the me who didn’t like slow progress, right there in the chatbox. So I did. :)

She came out talking in ALL CAPS and quoting everything, from Mary Poppins and Winnie-the-Pooh to some very grown-up books that she definitely had not read (Wuthering Heights and Stephen Fry’s Making History, which gave us the line, ‘Oh sure, like on Mars…’) I thought about putting in ‘me:’s and ‘her:’s after the fact, but it’s very obvious who’s talking without them!

so, could I talk to the part of me who doesn’t like slow progress?

YES PLEASE DO!

oh, you’re going to talk in all caps? That makes it easier to tell who’s who, and it sounds like you really, really want to talk to me!

YES BECAUSE YOU WON’T LISTEN!

Oh, I’m sorry I haven’t been listening to you. I’m listening now, please tell me what’s up

THIS IS
YOU HAVE A GREAT LIFE RIGHT NOW. REALLY!! EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO KEEP MOVING AND YOU GET TO STAY THE SAME
EVERYONE ELSE HAS TO MOVE UP A YEAR AT THE END OF THE YEAR
YOU GET TO STAY IN YOUR CLASS DOING YOUR LESSONS
SITTING ON YOUR SPECIAL CHAIR THAT’S SMALLER THAN EVERYONE ELSE’S

wow, okay, so it sounds like you really need, um… consistency? Things staying the same?

ME STAYING THE SAME
YOU STAYING THE SAME
OTHER CHILDREN LEARN, YOU STAY THE SAME AND DO YOUR OWN SPECIAL EVE THINGS AND DON’T HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES
AND DON’T HAVE TO GET RED PEN AND CROSSES ALL OVER YOUR WORK BECAUSE YOU’VE DONE THESE LESSONS THREE TIMES AND YOU COULD DO THEM THE FIRST TIME

so it sounds like you really don’t like rules and being corrected?

RULES AND BEING BAD AT THINGS
EXCEPT WHEN YOU’RE SO BAD YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRY BECAUSE NOBODY EXPECTS ANYTHING OF YOU

oh, bing!
in my current life, as a grown-up, nobody (mostly) expects me to cope with time or money or work, because I’m ‘Eve’

EXACTLY!!!
YOU WANT TO BE NOT ONLY A GROWN-UP BUT A D-GRADE GROWN-UP WITH RED PEN ALL OVER YOUR GROWNUPNESS BOOK!?
IT’S SO MUCH HARDER! AND SHAMEFUL AND EMBARRASSING, I MEAN OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK IS REALLY BAD!
HAVING SPECIAL PERMISSION TO NOT TRY MAKES IT OKAY!

okay <3 I’m noticing something as you say that
there were times when it wasn’t okay for you, weren’t there?
I remember one games lesson when you just crawled under a bench and hid and people ran past and pulled your knickers down
and why were you under the piano in music lessons?

I LIKED FEELING THE VIBRATIONS

did you also want to feel safe and away from everyone else?

OKAY YES
I FORGOT THAT
ALL THIS TIME I THOUGHT IT WAS REALLY NICE UNDER THE PIANO

well, I think it was, because outside the piano was not so nice
right?

WELL IT’S NOT GREAT BEING UNABLE TO SING A NOTE IN TUNE. BUT BEING YOUR OWN SPECIAL PERSON IS BETTER

are you afraid that if you try, you’ll lose your identity?

YES, I’LL BE THE WORST DIRTIEST SHEEP IN A GREAT BIG FLOCK OF SHEEP
INSTEAD OF RIGHT NOW, WHEN I’M A GOAT. OR A DOG.
AND OKAY SO IT’S NO FUN BEING THE ONLY PERSON OF MY SPECIES, BUT ALSO, I’M THE ONLY PERSON OF MY SPECIES!!
AND THE WONDERFUL THING ABOUT TIGGERS IS I’M THE ONLY ONE… RIGHT?!

oh, love :/
you’re lonely!!

IS A DOG FURRY?!

would you like to be able to connect with other people, and be part of a group, while also being special and unique and the only one of you?

WELL SURE, LIKE ON MARS, IN THE VALLEY OF THE BIG ROCK CANDY MOUNTAIN WHERE EVERYBODY SKIPS AND JUMPS AND BAKES CHERRY PIE FOR STRANGERS!

you don’t think that’s possible for you?

I’M SCARED IT’S NOT. HOW WOULD I KNOW, I DON’T CHANGE!!

so not changing is really keeping you from getting this thing that you really want
let’s think about it in your terms…
when Tigger comes to the Hundred Acre Wood and makes friends with all the other animals, he’s still the only Tigger, isn’t he?
and everyone is happy to work with him to find out what Tiggers like, and to give him what he needs

EXTRACT OF MALT!

yes!
and he still bounces, doesn’t he??

YES!!! BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE!!

sounds like you’re happy about that :D

YES BUT HOW DO I… I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PROCEED. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO LEARN!!

you learned loads before you were at school, that was part of why you felt so alone AT school

OKAY BUT THAT WAS BACK ON MARS WHEN CHILDREN WERE ALLOWED TO LEARN WHAT THEY FELT LIKE BECAUSE THEY FELT LIKE IT
ADULT LIFE IS SO MUCH MORE LIKE SCHOOL

that’s because…

WHY ARE YOU CRYING?

because most adults don’t know any better
they got so thoroughly sent to school that they sent themselves to school for the rest of their lives
and OF COURSE you don’t want that for me!
I don’t want that for me either, in fact I don’t want that for anyone!
I want everyone to be free from school for ever and ever!!

ME TOO!!! OH GOD ME TOO. IT’S NOT FAIR. PEOPLE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO WORK LIKE THAT AND I WANT TO STOP IT!
I WANT TO THROW DOWN ALL THE SCHOOLS AND BUILD HOUSES. FARM HOUSES WHERE PEOPLE CAN PLAY AND LEARN ABOUT ANIMALS FROM THE ANIMALS THEMSELVES
NOW WE’RE BOTH CRYING!!!

we both want the same thing, don’t we?

YES OF COURSE BUT I WAS SO LITTLE, HOW COULD I CHANGE IT? ALL I COULD DO WAS NOT JOIN IN

well, now we have all this power that we can wield

BECAUSE OF BEING A GROWN-UP?

yes

SOMETHING IS BREWING

yes, something is brewing, about to begin!

CAN’T PUT MY FINGER ON WHAT LIES IN STORE…

but I feel what’s to happen all happened before!!

THE WIND’S CHANGING AND MARY POPPINS IS COMING BACK!!!… WHY DID I SAY BACK?

we’re going back to how it used to be, ‘on Mars’ if you like :)

YES I DO LIKE!

learning like there is no school
and no red pen
ever, okay?
there are no bad marks
nobody is marking you
it’s not about doing it well or doing it badly

NO IT’S NOT!! DID MUMMY EVER GIVE ME A TICK OR A STAR FOR READING A BOOK OR LEARNING ABOUT SOMETHING? NO BECAUSE I WANTED TO DO IT!! I DIDN’T NEED A STUPID PAPER STICKER TO ENCOURAGE ME1!

okay, so we’re going to learn what we want, how we want, right?

WHAT IF WE DON’T WANT TO LEARN ABOUT MONEY?

well.. we’ll get an accountant :D

HAHA.. A WIZARD OF FINANCE!!

yes, that’s exactly it!!
and.. you know what else?

THIS IS HOW WE TEAR DOWN THE SCHOOLS!
THIS IS HOW WE TEAR DOWN THE SCHOOLS INSIDE PEOPLE!
IF PEOPLE SEE ONE PERSON WHO IS NOT AT SCHOOL, THEY’LL SEE THAT IT’S POSSIBLE TO NOT BE AT SCHOOL FOREVER!!
AND!!! AND!!!!!
BEING UNDER THE PIANO IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!!
BEING IN THE SAME CLASS OVER AND OVER IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!!
GETTING LOTS OF TICKS AND TEN OUT OF TEN IS STILL BEING AT SCHOOL!
IT’S TIME TO LEAVE THIS SCHOOL!! FOREVER!!

omg… yes!! Thank you so much!!

YOU LISTENED!!
I KNEW WHAT TO SAY
AND YOU LISTENED!!

you’re really happy that I finally listened, aren’t you?

I’VE BEEN A WAIF FOR THIRTY YEARS!!!

love, I’m so sorry

IT DOESN’T MATTER NOW, LET’S GO FLY A KITE!!

woohoo!!!! Let’s go!!!

(epic tearful and excited hugs)

Sad Rage Basset

Sad Rage Basset is sad! And full of rage!

Basset Hound Zazzle card
Card Image from Zazzle

Recently I’ve been filled with rage at doing anything at all that wasn’t exactly what I felt like doing in that moment. This rage attached itself to my current obsession with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I just wanted to throw off all responsibility and run away to the stars, or failing that, get very drunk.

I DEFINITELY needed one or two members of my headcast to act as negotiators on this one. Mr. H is my go-to guy for dealing with fierce, angry monsters, and also the one who’s best at getting through to me when I’m in a horrible mood, for reasons I have yet to understand. So this happened.

Mr. H: So, we’re gonna talk to some rage. That’s cool (cracks knuckles) I’m good at talking to rage. Hiiiii, rage!

(A very large and dismal basset-hound-thing appears)

Sad Rage Basset: (slumps on ground) …Bleurgh. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: You’re huh?

Sad Rage Basset: You want me to come in here all huge and screaming so you can amusingly defy me. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction.

Mr. H: (smiles) That’s okay. This isn’t really about me getting to do my comedy turn. This is about finding out what makes you tick.

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t tick. I’m too angry to tick. I – what’s a much angrier noise than tick?

Mr. H: (mad eyes) GrrRRrrRrrrrr!

Sad Rage Basset: (disarmed, almost-laughter turning into almost-tears) Oh God everything sucks.

Mr. H: (sitting down next to Sad Rage Basset on the ground) Wanna tell me about it?

Sad Rage Basset: (plonks its head on his lap) Okay. But you won’t be able to fix it.

Mr. H: You know what’s funny? You sound a bit like Marvin. I mean, I was expecting a bit of Ford here. All the wanderlust and wanting to just get drunk and goof off with no responsibilities. But what I’m hearing sounds more like a depressed robot.

Sad Rage Basset: Depressed definitely. Robot, kind of what I’m fighting. I mean, not that I’m fighting robots -

Mr. H: That would be cool! I’d pay money to see a giant basset hound fight robots!

Sad Rage Basset: (rolls a bassety eye upwards at him) I mean that I’m fighting robotification. And I’m depressed because it seems like such a pointless fight.

Mr. H: So -  it seems it’s inevitable that Eve must become a robot?

Sad Rage Basset: Not LITERALLY! But, aargh!! It’s impossible for her to do just what she wants! I mean, it’s POSSIBLE, but at too much cost! I need this to be taken seriously!

Mr. H: I always take you guys seriously. It’s myself I don’t. (smiles)

Sad Rage Basset: …Not sure if serious.

Mr. H: …Are you trying to get me to -

Sad Rage Basset: I AM TRYING TO GET YOU TO REASSURE ME THAT YOU’LL TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. Stop looking like that. WHY AM I STILL SEEING MISCHIEF IN YOUR EYES. (slumps again) Why do I get the feeling there’s an important point here that I’m not quite getting?

Mr. H: (pets basset ears) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. Believe me, you’re talking to a man who’s learned this in some very… weird… ways.

Sad Rage Basset: …okay. I’ll tell you. Ugh, I still don’t wanna tell you. I’ll tell you. The problem is that Eve is stuck between a… rock and a hard place. She has all these wonderful things she wants to achieve, but they all involve forcing and doing things she doesn’t wanna do. Even basic survival involves some of that. Even beggars have to do that, you think they want to get up and beg every morning? There’s basically no hope. And I’m like Antigone, I continue to say No, No, No long after there’s no hope and no reason.

Mr. H: Wow, what a self-aware and literate monster.

Sad Rage Basset: (thumps tail weakly)

Mr. H: What was it Antigone said – ‘I don’t want to understand. That’s all right for you. I’m not here to understand, I’m here to say No and to die.’ Or something like that.

Sad Rage Basset: I’m here to say No and – oh.

Mr. H: What?

Sad Rage Basset: I refuse to let Eve be forced. I refuse to let her force herself. No matter what. I refuse, I refuse, I refuse. And the only way, really – the only way a human being can escape forcing is to get off the planet. That’s what all that wanderlust for the stars is about. It’s not about space adventures. It’s about death.

Mr. H: You want Eve to die?

Sad Rage Basset: Not really. It’s just that I refuse to let her be forced, even at the cost of her life.

Mr. H: Being forced is a fate worse than death?

Sad Rage Basset: Akin. It’s akin to death. If one is forced, one might as well be dead. At least, if one is being forced every day with no realistic hope of it ever ending, one might as well be dead.

Mr. H: Oh. Ouch.

Sad Rage Basset: I think you ought to know I’m feeling very depressed.

Mr. H: I can see why!

Sad Rage Basset: (sighs)

Mr. H: You said earlier, ‘It’s possible, but at too much cost’. What did you mean by that?

Sad Rage Basset: That was something a friend said to her the other day. That sure, you COULD just piss off on a permanent drunken hitch-hike round the world, if you were prepared to face the cost, but the cost would be tremendous. That you’d lose friends and such. But actually, now I think about it that’s not relevant. In order to survive, even in a life like that, you would have to sometimes force yourself to do things you didn’t wanna do. Perhaps especially in a life like that. So close to desperation, so close to the bone. But there’s a certain appeal in that for me because if she was doing it for raw survival maybe it wouldn’t be such a drag.

Mr. H: Okay, so what you really want for her is for nothing to be a drag?

Sad Rage Basset: YES! I want her NEVER TO DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! But I don’t see how that’s possible because UGH UGH UGH!

Mr. H: Even though you’re quoting a book that says that very thing is possible, you don’t see how it’s possible?

Sad Rage Basset: Yes, because there’s always some forcing! Even if there’s not outright forcing, there’s always gentle-suggesting-hinting-nudging UGH UGH UGH! There’s always an expectation that the person will see sense and do the sensible thing. There’s always an expectation that you have to talk to yourself nice and sensibly to work that out. Which is in itself probably something you have to force yourself to do. It’s like a freedom that is no freedom because OF COURSE YOU WILL DO THE SENSIBLE FUCKING THING! Just, where is the darkness? Where is the craziness? Where is the doing things for NO FUCKING REASON? Why couldn’t she have died when she was three? (tearing up) She was so beautiful and so happy. She never needed a reason – (head on paws) Oh, crap. I was being really, really serious and I just accidentally quoted ‘Step in Time’.

Mr. H: (soft voice) Everything is serious. Everything is a joke. It’s okay.

Sad Rage Basset: I’ve never heard you be like this before.

Mr. H: It’s never come up before. Everything is serious, everything is a joke. I promise you. Even if you can’t understand it right now. I don’t even really understand it myself, I just know it in my bones by now. (Sad Rage Basset looks uneasy) Are you… Are you afraid of that? Are you needing seriousness to be over here and jokes to be over there?

Sad Rage Basset: I don’t know. Got a wall. (pause) I just need her to not be patronised! I don’t need stupid fake permission that’s just giving her the space to hang herself! I need her to have ACTUAL PERMISSION! And that includes permission to do the stupid, wrong, destructive thing! So yeah – I guess I need there to be right things and wrong things, you know – Batman and Joker things, right-sensible-grim-forcey-willpower things and wrong-mad-chaotic-Dionysiac-ecstasy things… because doing those wrong things is the only way Eve can have a moment of freedom. And if she doesn’t know it’s wrong, how does she know she’s free?

Mr. H: (long pause) Oh. I see. She needs to give herself actual permission to do absolutely anything. Because right now, she’s dividing stuff into ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things and only giving herself actual, sincere permission to do the ‘right’ things. And then needing to do the ‘wrong’ things because she doesn’t have permission to.

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah, but I don’t see how that can change because she’s a loving person and has moral standards and she’s never going to think murder is as permissible as patting a dog.

Mr. H: It’s not that it’s not permissible. It’s that she doesn’t want to do it.

Sad Rage Basset: So wait, the feeling of ‘wrong’ is actually a feeling of ‘don’t wanna’? But I’ve somehow twisted it to where she does wanna​? This is challenging my brain.

Mr. H: I think you’ve read her natural reluctance to do un-loving things as being the same as some bossy parent or teacher telling her what to do. It’s totally different. But I still feel like there’s a piece of this puzzle we’re both missing. Hmmm. This is a very intellectual one! Maybe we need backup. Big Sister?

Big Sister: Oh, thanks for the compliment to my intellect! (to Sad Rage Basset) Hi. Okay, the backup is going to back up a step. You don’t think she can give herself permission to do the ‘wrong’ things because she is a loving person? So because she’s loving, she can’t give herself permission to do anything that’s not loving?

Sad Rage Basset: I guess everyone does things that aren’t loving sometimes, unless they’re Jesus.

Big Sister: Right. And if she gave herself permission to do those things, how would she be treating herself?

Sad Rage Basset: With… love. So wait, love really is the Hound of Heaven and you really can’t get away from it whichEVER way you twist it? (crying)

Big Sister: Mmm-hmm.

Sad Rage Basset: No, I can’t accept that! You can’t say that murder is okay because the murderer is being loving to themselves!

Big Sister: Murder is a huge tragedy. And even at the roots of murder is love. Even at the roots of hate is love. Somewhere in there is a scared child trying to protect itself. We run away from love so hard, and there literally is nowhere else to run.

Sad Rage Basset: (howls)

Big Sister: What you have is a choice to make love conscious. You know you said, ‘The feeling of ‘wrong’ is a feeling of don’t wanna, but I’ve somehow twisted that to where she does wanna?’

Sad Rage Basset: Yeah.

Big Sister: You need her to have absolute freedom, you believe having absolute freedom would be wrong, therefore you believe she can only have freedom by doing wrong. Therefore you label certain things as wrong – often things the love in her recoils from – and try to make her want to do them. You take the things she would least want to do and call them freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: No!!

Big Sister: It’s okay. The great thing is that like I said, it’s all love. She’s all love. You just need to give her a chance to make it conscious. And freedom is essential for that. If you want to talk right and wrong, absolute freedom is right.

Sad Rage Basset: Really?

Big Sister: Absolutely. (to Mr. H) Back me up here?

Mr. H: Yeah, I agree. And it’s great that you’re trying to help her find freedom. Just you’re doing it by setting up categories of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things – in other words, things for which there is permission and things for which there isn’t. In other words, your attempt to give her permission -

Sad Rage Basset: – is taking permission away! Crap, I’m one of those monsters?

Mr. H: Yeah, I’m sorry. You’ve set up all these things as ‘forbidden temptations’ so she can taste freedom by giving in to them. And they’re actually not what she wants. She wants a way more positive life than that. And she’s trying to go after the things she really wants with these ‘forbidden temptations’ dragging on her heels, making it hard, and the result is -

Sad Rage Basset: – forcing! NOOOOOOOOO! (howls)

Mr. H: I’m sorry. (pets) I’m sorry, pup. It’s okay. You can change this.

Sad Rage Basset: How? Isn’t it TOO STUPID LATE?

Mr. H: Never. (smiles) You’ve read your NVC book, haven’t you? Knock off the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Remind her that those words are static generalisations and reality is complex and always changing. And remind her that she’s not only free when she’s getting drunk and goofing off, she’s free when she’s helping someone, she’s free when she’s creating stuff, she’s free when she’s doing her taxes, she’s just – free. Always. She just forgets that sometimes and needs reminding. You can be the one to remind her. You can be the Basset of Freedom.

Sad Rage Basset: Mmmwhrrrr? (ears perk up)

Mr. H: You think you can fly with those ears?

(The Sad Rage Basset, who must now be called the Basset of Freedom, stands up, shakes its enormous ears, goes into a lumbering run, and takes off, flolloping through the air like a canine Dumbo.)

Basset of Freedom: I’m a serious joke! I’m a profound truth with ludicrous ears!

Mr. H: (laughing) Yeah! Now you get it!

Basset of Freedom: You mean, now I get myself!

Mr. H: Yeah!!

Basset of Freedom: I say, NEVER DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T PLAY! It’s easy – just notice that you’re free! And if you think the idea of you being free is ridiculous – LOOK AT ME! Bassets might fly! And they do! Wheeeeee….

(Mr. H wipes a surreptitious tear. I feel the need to run onto the scene.)

Me: Thank you so much! All three of you! Hugpile!

(There is a hugpile.)

Things I realised afterwards!

As well as the dichotomy between ‘right things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘wrong things’, there was this huge dichotomy going on between ‘serious things’ and ‘jokes’, which baffled me at the time because it was clearly deep and meaningful and connected but – how?

Afterwards it hit me. The opposite of seriousness is fun. So what we had was a dichotomy between ‘serious things’ (that I don’t wanna do) and ‘fun things’. And it somehow got completely dissolved without ever being directly discussed. And the flying basset is a living picture of serious-fun. The job’s a game.

Also, this is the SECOND monster who’s brought up a quote from the play ‘Antigone’ by Jean Anouilh! See also Big No and Big Yes.

Introducing LITTLE SISTER!

I was still stuck on tidying my room, despite doing lots of work on it. It occurred to me that I needed a monster conversation, but there was no obvious voice of doom making its presence felt. So I thought maybe it was a wall (a wall! In my room!) What would this wall be protecting me from?

The mess in my room is one of the main ways I keep myself stuck. No matter how much I achieve during the day, I always come home to this sty. A huge ever-present reminder of my stuckness, shame, and despair. It’s like a big sign saying YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE. And yet it’s also curiously reassuring.

The mess says YOU’LL NEVER CHANGE, and it’s reassuring.

Oh, right. The wall is yet another thing protecting me from growing up.

Me: Oh, wall. I understand how desperately you want to protect me from growing up. I’m sorry, but you can’t protect me from that, because I’m already an adult. But I can have all the best qualities of being a child, like playfulness, curiosity, fun, wonder, a strong sense of self, safe boundaries, comfort in my body… and you can help me have those things by letting me through.

Wall: No! Not good enough. You have to actually stay a child! Not just pick and choose the best bits. I have to keep you as a literal child!

Me:  I’m so sorry, I know this hurts, but you can’t keep me as a child. It’s too late. I haven’t been a child for years. I grew up long ago.

Wall: YOU PROMISED NOT TO!

Me: I couldn’t help it.

And the wall turned into a little girl screaming and bawling her eyes out. It wasn’t really a wall at all, but a sad scared self. She was about four. I picked her up and she continued to howl.

Me: Hey, what’s the matter?

Her: I DON’T WANT TO DISAPPEAR!

Me: I’ll never let you disappear! You’ll always be part of me and I’ll always love you!

Her: Waah!

Me: Just like I have a big sister who’s a future me – you’re my little sister. You’re just as important.

Her: Waaah!!

Me: I need you to work with me to help me tidy my room. I promise you’ll be safe.

Her: I’m scared!!

At this point I called in Big Sister, who appeared at her most radiant and Mary Poppins-ish. Little Sister stopped crying and gazed at her adoringly.

Me: See, there’s nothing to be frightened of. You’re not going to disappear. You’re just going to get more big sisters!

Big Sister held out her arms and I passed Little Sister over to her, and we walked along like that.

Me: How about if we find a different way for my room to make you feel safe? How about if, instead of mess, we just make it really childlike and playful?

Little Sister: Maybe…

Me: And restful. Make it look like a place for resting and not working all the time. A place where you don’t have to try hard…

Little Sister: Yeah!

In saying this, I reminded myself of Kyo and Asu from  the anime Poor Sisters Story. These two characters are young sisters struggling to survive without parents, and each wants to be this for the other – ‘the one place where you don’t have to try hard.’

It’s occurred to me before that I’d like my relationship with my inner child to be more like Kyo’s relationship with Asu – one of loving, supportive teamwork - but now I realised there was a third dimension. This radiant spirit guiding the two of us. For Kyo and Asu it’s the spirit of their dead mother, for us it’s Big Sister, our future self. This is my new phone wallpaper:

Kyo and Asu hugging with the spirit of their mother holding both of them. Caption: 'Because I've left you two... a small promise.'

(At this point we had a long digression about the Japanese words for big sister and little sister and how they’re used. I was surprised that Little Sister seemed to know Japanese as well as I did, and she said, ‘I have access to everything you know. I just see it differently.’)

Me: So I’m tidying my room with a child. A scared, four-year-old child. And I need to make it fun and non-scary for her. Big Sister, do you have any ideas?

Big Sister: *just shines*

Me: Okay, more God. But anything else?

Big Sister: *shine, shine*

Me: Well, yes, I guess I could ask Little Sister. What would make tidying more fun for you?

Little Sister: Ice-cream! We have to have ice-cream when we’ve finished. And when we’re half way through!

Me: Okay! Anything else?

Little Sister. Colours. I need more colours!

Me: Like how?

Little Sister: You’re the big sister, you work something out!

Me: Okay, I’ll work something out.

Little Sister: And I want the dogs to help.

Me: Right. How about each dog gets to be in charge of a category of stuff, and the dog who ends up with the most bags and boxes packed wins?

Little Sister: And the dog who wins gets ice cream!

Me: Okay, but let’s try not to get it in their fur…

Little Sister: And I want you to put your posters up NOW! Not after we move!

Me: That’s fine. I kind of want to as well.

Little Sister: Yay! And please brush your hair less.

Me: Huh?

Little Sister: I don’t like hairbrushing. I like messy hair! I don’t feel like me otherwise!

Me: Hmm… maybe we can find another way instead of being messy? Would it help if I wore pigtails?

Little Sister: …I don’t think I’d like that. You wouldn’t look like my big sister. (Pause) I’m realising that it’s my hair I don’t want brushing. Not yours. You can brush your hair. (Pause) I need to think about what this means.

How about that?!? At this point I arrived at work so we had to stop, but I’m sure she’ll inform me of what it means when she’s ready… I suspect she’s realising she doesn’t need me to behave exactly like her to feel secure in her own existence. Whew!!