Well it was certainly an interesting weekend. We have coalesced into a group of ten, half of whom smoke so a natural subdivision has formed. There is a feeling that we are down to the core group, that no one else will now leave before the end and that we have bonded.
The weekend in itself was a bit of a mess and we have moaned about it far too much in feedback and in PD after. It was supposed to happen in the Autumn term and be about breaking barriers and bonding, or some such. Since we’d already got that it was more about going over skills and doing our first recordings of skills practice. The sessions were badly arranged (I hadn’t realised until then that it was our tutor’s first teaching experience) and a very full on Saturday left us exhausted such that when we reassembled on Sunday after lunch our desire was to go home early, which we did. There was also an awful lot of tension before the weekend as to whether it would go ahead due to the snow (which in fairness was the biggest snow since the last biggest snow). Some of us did go for a lovely walk through the snow on Saturday, with some lovely untouched snow that crunched loudly with every footstep. We stayed up on Saturday night talking nonsense and drinking. We bonded some more.
We played several little ice breakers and warm ups that were interesting to participate in and to note the thought with which some of us had prepared them. I got assertive and I note that this is not the first time on the course that this has happened and it is as if a new voice is emerging that is confident to speak out. Our tutor was not going to participate in these little sessions and I insisted that she did, especially as she had joined with the first one that I led. She wanted to sit back and observe us and I said no, she was part of the group and had therefore to join in. My peers supported this viewpoint. As I write this I realise the similarities with my father writing about his mountain climbing experience but refusing to bond with the team members. The difference of course is that our tutor decided to join in and turned out to be incredibly competitive.
Our tutor’s opener was to invite us all to pick up a felt tip and then fill in the sentence our colour belonged to. My purple sentence was “The thing I am most proud of is…”. My immediate reaction was to fill it with “my children” which came as no surprise to many. What was surprising was how uncomfortable that made me feel. Stepford Wives sprang to mind with this image of the perfect housewife who cooks and cleans, is house proud, bakes for the cake sale and has no personality of her own. Being proud of being a good parent is not the same as being a proud housewife but for me the two are linked, no doubt a reflection on my mother’s attempt to be both. Being proud of my parenting and my sons is still new to me and I did find saying it out loud difficult but I hadn’t expected the housewife side effect. On discussing this with my therapist she suggested that what I should be most proud of is me. She is of course right and it is about time I acknowledged that the journey I have gone through, am still going through and the immense changes that have occurred. If last year was about accepting that I have done well by my children, this year should be about acknowledging that I have done well by me. In addition, I have to write an assignment on my personal development over the last year so will need to reflect on it for that anyway. I had also suggested to school that they reflect with 2son on the changes he’s made since he got there so it is a recurring theme.
I played a simple little game that my children had learned when they did their drama sessions some years ago. It was about feeling the mood of the room an sensing the quality of the silences. It’s a game to be played with some consideration and I was really quite annoyed that no one tried it seriously and there was laughter throughout. All subsequent games played were much lighter.
One of the games that stumped me was a person would offer four choices about herself, “my favourite colour is…” “I have never…” and you rush to the corner of the choice you think is correct. That was fine but my mind went absolutely blank when I had to come up with my own four choices about something. I needed everyone else to shout out ideas to me before going for type of books. I find it so difficult to put myself out there in any shape or form. I could have selected favourite colour or something equally innocuous that gave nothing away or something deeper that was revealing. But my mind went blank and I realise that this too is a hangover from childhood. It is not a defence mechanism as such but an avoidance mechanism whereby my brain simply shuts down when it fears ridicule from an inappropriate answer. I can remember the exact same feeling when Mme Van de Steen would ask me a question in French class and I knew that she would pick my answer to pieces so I would sit there and refuse to answer. That same blank feeling came across to me and I fully recognised it. It also matches many a conversation with my father when I would struggle to explain something he couldn’t understand or when I would just sit there passively waiting for it to be over. I only recently realised that this was a pattern. Playing Trivial Pursuit at Christmas I couldn’t come up with a word I knew that I knew. I cannot do pub quizzes because even when I know the answer it won’t surface. I’m not good at thinking of words which often reside on the tip of my tongue. One of the ways I am trying to work with this is to do the Guardian quick crossword (now available on the app in a very neat form). I’m trying to not bother about completing it or feeling stupid for not knowing answers but to simply exercise the power of recall and bring the answers to the surface in the hope that this will help break the pattern.
Lastly, and I realised I haven’t even mentioned the work and practice skills recording we did, we spent the weekend in a convent. I did not realise that would be so triggering. I suspect I should write a whole piece on faith but I have a mix of negative and positive experiences like many I suppose. What I found really irritating was the amount of propaganda or publicity about god. A great number of poor artwork decorated the halls depicting one saint or another, Jesus surrounded by his followers etc. None of them were attractive or had any artistic merit. There was lots of reading material left everywhere although surprisingly no bibles in the bedrooms. I almost got saddled with a small bedroom which had a cross hanging over the bed which would not have worked. The nuns were perfectly nice and helpful but I felt beholden to them in a way I wouldn’t staying at a B&B even though the services offered are very similar. It’s that feeling of being on your very best behaviour as you would with a grandparent when you’re very young. On a very practical basis I resent some of my money going towards to the church in payment, however little.