Clever old me! There I was. Perched above the cupboard door, legs outstretched, back and feet poised strategically between two walls. Waiting.
I was 22 years old and with my boyfriend at the time and his group of friends. They were at art college together and renting an old vicarage just off the Old Kent Road. It was ginormous inside, rambling with bellies of rooms, 12ft ceilings, the stuff of old black and white movies. And of course the perfect destination for Hide and Seek.
Some of us were to hide, the others to find. Excited, I scampered off and discovered an oversized cupboard. How smart, I thought, to shimmy my bum up the far-side wall, with legs extended to the opposite side and prize myself in the space above the door, cartoon-like, a scene from Tom and Jerry. No one will ever find me here, I marvelled.
And so the game unfolded. Several times the door beneath me was opened with a soul glancing around below and then swiftly shut again. And over time, I could hear, one by one, everyone being found and starting to gather in the lounge downstairs. I could hear them beginning to laugh, play music, have fun.
After a hefty ten minutes of waiting for my seemingly genius spot of hiding to be uncovered, I realised, piercingly, the party was carrying on without me and I had been forgotten. What about me? I cried inside. What about me?
Hide and Seek. Yes! The never-tired of game, adored and loved by our children, 7 and 4 years of age. I find it hard to envisage a time when they will out grow the fun and joy it brings. I love our daughter’s squeal of delight as she turns on foot, runs and calls, Come Find Me!, her ‘Me’ growing higher and higher in pitch as she hop foots it to an often well-known hidey hole, those that it took me a while to learn however glaringly obvious to me they hold time and again the same allure to snucker down in. I love the sniggers I hear as she and her brother realise they’ve been found and their giggles of delight as I play the fool to elongate the thrill of the chase.
Will they find me? Will they find me? Will they find me?
A game that offers so much security to a child when we grab them in our arms, claiming, after mountains climbed and quarries dugout, we have finally located our treasure. The reassurance it offers as their much-needed power-play of the fear of being abandoned plays out with fun, love and warmth.
But what happens when they don’t find us?
What happens, when you’re 22 years of age and have wedged yourself above a doorway waiting for your boyfriend’s friends to find you and everyone gives up?
And what happens when you’re 44 years of age, are two weeks into a shitty virus and are lying in bed and feeling the need for some company and no one comes?
Funnily enough, the same words.
Will they find me?
I have noticed over the years, especially since being a parent with little time to truly rest, how illness can find my mind down a negative cul-de-sac. It’s the time when alone-ness turns to loneliness and I long for the warmth of kindness to sit at the foot of my bed and listen to my woes. I am learning to tread carefully with my thinking when I find I’m here and gently remind myself not to buy in to a kick me down low mind-set.
It’s been a long journey in this respect. Chest infections a plenty. Severe asthma attacks. Meningitis. Two hospital admissions. One operation. Pleurisy. And an exhausted and fraught husband trying to hold the fort whilst I’ve tried to recover. It’s not been easy for either of us and my need to surrender into the struggles my body and being have experienced has mostly been succeeded by the needs of two small young folk.
BUT it’s a glorious two years ago now since I detoxed from my reliance on antibiotics to get me through and this currently is the first time over the past winter that I’ve been unwell. Not only my health, but too my faith and trust in it, are growing stronger and more robust each year and I am learning the places of self-abandonment and where I can step back in and love. It’s a heroic step in wellness, generosity and life and I am so, so proud of this.
And so I listen. To my internal whispering, What about me? To the visions I continue to experience, as if tempering a fever, with our ancestors since the Human Reunion. To each of my ribs being laid, one by one, in a circle and flames rising, bursting up and out of the centre. To the familiar irksome sense of loneliness lying here today and my often fed-up-ness of coming back to this place, despite it’s often rich and fertile ground of insight and giving. It is a space I know well. The one in which I retreat and hide in. And the one in which I seek and continue to find in.
What about me? no longer leaves me with a well-trodden sense of being unloved. Will they find me? the same. These are old questions that have persisted in finding opportunities to be asked time and again. They have often waited patiently and then hollered so loudly that they cannot be ignored. They have requested me to hear, to be met with grace and to be integrated into my whole.
I don’t doubt for one minute that these questions won’t continue to rise and beckon me to withdraw back in. But I do feel far more greatly assured of the loving voice they will be met with as they do coz, rumbling up from my underbelly, is a humungous purr of I’M HERE!
Image: Barbara Firth