phantym: (ed - sleeeepy)
[personal profile] phantym

Ohhh... how long does it take for a body to catch up on missed sleep?! Still tiiiiired!

Speaking of things that drag on, how long does it take to import LJ stuff onto Dreamwidth? It's been sitting in the queue since Sunday morning and it's now Wednesday evening! That's slow!

I think I have two things to talk about today. Let's start with food phobia.

 

Food is frequently a problem. Not for me, but for other people I know. I've talked it all out before a couple of times so I'm not going to rehash it. Have a look under my food tag if you want the details. It's particularly at the forefront of my mind at the moment because 1) I had a bad self-hating day yesterday when I felt like everything about me was just wrong and bad and so on 2) I watched Saturday Kitchen this week and my favourite (famous) person in the world is looking like a very strong candidate to also be one of My People. I know that awkwardness when they gave him the bowl of olives.

I went for years and years (foolishly) believing myself to be alone in this. So much so that it was sort of embarrassing to have it pointed out back in December that there are others in the world. I modified my worldview accordingly. So it wasn't just me being a freak, it was an eating disorder of some sort.
My little wander around the internet this morning led me food phobias, and to the idea that it's not an eating disorder. It's a mental disorder which happens to be accompanied by disordered eating. I'm not sure whether that's better or worse than plain eating disorder but it's a phrase I can throw at people who hassle me about it. If I'm brave enough. I'm not terribly assertive anyway and being targeted for food-related things either makes me angry and defensive or scared and upset. Neither are really states in which I can "assert myself". That's what I've always wanted - a phrase, a few simple words. I don't care if it's not strictly accurate or if there's a whole load of detail not covered by it, anything's better than "I don't know, I just.... don't like it."

So I've been thinking about it. Most websites seem to think food phobia starts because you eat something, you have a bad reaction (it makes you violently and/or unpleasantly ill) and then you can't eat it in case it happens again. I think this is bullshit. Food falls into a few categories for me.

1) I can eat it. Cheese, chocolate, pineapple etc

2) I can eat it but it doesn't like me. Pasta and ice cream fall into this one. I love pasta, I can eat pasta but I know it's liable to give me agonising stomach cramps so I don't eat it. This is what the internet seems to think food phobias are about.

3) I don't like it. Carrots are the first to come to mind here. I want to like carrots but I expect them to be like apples, all juicy and they're not. I can scrape my teeth on them - can't put an entire piece in my mouth but nonetheless, I can try carrot. And I don't like it.

4) I can't eat it. Most things. There are two sub-categories:
4a) Things I can't eat but can touch. I can happily slice tomatoes but even the idea of putting one in my mouth makes me shudder. 4b) Things I can neither eat nor touch. Meat. Tomato gloop, like puree or ketchup.

And of course, in its own little bubble at the far end of the universe - tuna.

As for people, well... Jess and Annie used to be good about it but Annie's recently got into this thing of there must be something wrong with me, or at the very least I must be missing out on a huge part of life. Jess worked for a couple of years on an eating disorders ward and is convinced I'm anorexic. Which I'm not.
My Magpie was good - he was the first person in my entire life (and it took until I was about eighteen for this to happen) to tell someone to just drop the subject and leave me alone. If I didn't already adore him, I'd have worshipped him for that moment. However, in my final year at uni, he got drunk one night. Fair enough. And one of the caving girls started on me pretty much every time she saw me and we got into a yelling match - we were in a pub and I'd lost my temper. It's very rare to see me yell outside of my own house. And Magpie, being drunk, decided to join in the needling. So I punched him. Shy, meek little 5'3" chicken-girl punched a 6'1" guy who'd just got back from Iraq and who had been for four years a god in my eyes. (It didn't put me off him. I was a little disappointed but I still adore him to this day). And him being big and drunk and me being little and weedy, I'm not sure he even noticed.
Anyway. I digress. Tank was brilliant about it - he's vegetarian and he thinks (he thinks! How wrong he can be!) that the two issues are comparable. He's wrong but it was nice for it be treated with sympathy and understanding and not as if it's some huge massive deal. And Silvery-boy... I don't know what he makes of it. I certainly don't remember him ever acting like it was a problem.

I texted him yesterday. We keep meaning to get together, since he's back from Afghanistan and I'm back from Lithuania and no longer in a state of coldy-not-feeling-well-enough-to-go-out. He's in the Canaries for the rest of this week, then he's off to Korea for ten days. I don't know if he's trying to outdo me for holiday destinations or if this is an army thing or a band thing but anyway, he said how weird it was that I'd texted him, he was only thinking of me yesterday and finished with Xxx. Admittedly, he's always done the kisses at the end of a text - he's an incorrigeable flirt - but it was enough to make me run off to Facebook and just check that girlfriend of his is still listed on his profile. It is. (There. I'm jealous enough to not treat it like a human being. I'm a bitch.) I do sometimes wonder if it actually exists - the "anniversary" date is smack-bang between the two dates we had over the summer, and it's a couple of days before I pushed him away. I would completely understand if he got with her two days after but before? Surely he pretty much thought he was in there. Stupid, stupid. A large part of me really regrets letting him go like that but I can't do what he wants - can't be what he wants - any more than I could eat a steak. And therefore I'm always going to be pining for him in a way and I'm always going to be jealous of girls who can be and do what he wants.

 

But Silver wasn't my second subject. My second was this song:

Well... I was going to embed a video but it's not on YouTube. Have the lyrics instead. The song is bouncy London-accented boyband and it just radiates summer.

 

As a kid, your dad took you fishing
On the pier, you cast off wishing you could dive right in
Out at sea, always there floating
The plastic buoy, and you could hold it if you dive right

You'd lie awake in the lonely nights
and one day, you glide away
Till then, you'd simply say...

Buoy, don't go sinking
And don't go thinking
You're gonna go under the waves
Buoy, you keep on floating
And I'll be holding you
One of these days

One day, it barely took a second
You grew up, the big world beckoned and you dived right in
All you felt was pain and disorder
You did your best to keep your head above water and you dived right in

You lie awake so alone at night
Just hoping to slide away
Meanwhile I try to say

Buoy, don't go sinking
And don't go thinking
You're gonna go under the waves
Buoy, you keep on floating
Cos I'll be holding you
One of these days

etc etc.
 


It's not quite the end but there's nothing new. This is one of my favourite songs ever and yes, I'm aware that my inner music snob should be ashamed. Luckily, I don't have one.

So, the chorus. Honestly, their accent and pronunciation - I know what it says the words are inside the cover but they sing "don't go thinking you've gotta go under the waves". You don't have to do this. Every time I hear this, and I mean every time, I'm taken back to a cave called Swildon's Hole, in Somerset. It's a lovely cave, it goes on for hours, there's literally something for everyone there. It's a brilliant cave.
The classic trip is down to Sump 1, through and then back up, at least for beginners. The sump is a section of flooded passage. It's less than a metre long. You can put your foot through and it comes up into fresh air on the other side. Every fresher that ever went through my club lay in the water, took a deep breath and pulled themself through this thing. Except me. It petrifies me. It's icy cold, it's brown and murky and full of grit, it's flat on your back with your head turned to the side. I know the reality is that I'd be underwater for all of five seconds but I can't do it. Call it a phobia if you must.

 

I'm using Sump 1 as my example here but it covers many things. Caves are scary places and while I love them more than anywhere else on earth, I can't deny there are plenty of things in there which scare me. Sumps. "Bold steps". Climbing down things when there's an overhang and I can't see where my feet are going to go. I don't care if there's someone underneath patiently telling me my feet will hit the ground in half an inch, it still scares me. There's a particular chasm in the top end of OFD. You keep your feet on one side and lean your hands on the other and walk across like that with several hundred metres of nothingness underneath you. Under other circumstances I'd positively enjoy it - there's something immensely fun about making a crossing like that, knowing that none of your friends above-ground can - but in this case it's just a bit too wide for me to be comfortable with. The boys are fine but the boys are nearly a foot taller than me. They can reach the other side without having to worry about falling down the hole. I don't remember how many times I've done it now. The first time, the boys eventually rigged me with a rope and sent me across. I may have been doing an Arts degree but even I could see the physics of that one and I could see that if I did slip, at best I would pendulum straight into the rock fifty metres down. I got to the other side, sat down on solid rock and cried. Not my finest caving moment but god, I was frightened. I've just read about that bit in my logbook. Mr LongLegs (who rescued me from the rift that I mentioned last week) apparently held onto my belt and we crossed together and on getting to the other side, they told me I'd done it ten times as quickly and easily as... well, someone I'd never met but who was a bit of a club nemesis.

(He was, by all accounts, and I do mean all, a dickhead. Lovely combination of arrogance and incompetence. He was apparently the sort of person who'd tell paramedics they were doing their job wrong and show them how to do it properly and then they'd push him away because they suddenly had to save the life of a person who had been relatively fine up until that point. Someone who'd tell cave-divers how to do cave-dive and then need rescuing after five minutes. That sort of thing. Best caver in the world, criticise the others and then be even less capable than someone like me. It seems he had the opposite problem - his confidence far outstripped his ability.) 

Those are all examples and this is my point. There are different ways of dealing with me when I get to something like that. Moony, the chairman and my accidental-boyfriend for all of three weeks, took the approach of "You can do this". Which is nice, to know that someone else has confidence in you but it's hugely unhelpful. To be scared out of my wits and have him looking blankly at me, unable to comprehend not just why I'm scared but indeed just that I am scared. "You're good enough, you're competent enough, you've done worse things, why is this a problem?" I tend to have a problem whereby confidence and ability never quite match. Generally the confidence levels are lower than the ability levels but pointing this out doesn't help. It doesn't increase my confidence to be told it. He was also the person who used this technique to guilt me to into doing the Cwm Dwr to Top trip, which I was convinced was way beyond both my ability and my stamina. I did not enjoy the first hour or two of that trip, just waiting to be proved right. Especially as my glasses steamed up so I was half-blind and I was wearing a wetsuit. Wetsuits are great in water but three-quarters of that trip is dry and wetsuits in dry caves just restrict your movement and make you really hot and cranky, especially when you're not in a good mood to begin with.

Magpie was good. Magpie knew how far he could push me and when he had to stop. And by doing that, he could coax me into a great many things Moony never would have been able to. In a sense, he could trick me into it. Magpie would allow me to not do that sump. He'd sit with me and watch me and gently get me to lie in the water and then put my face in the water and I'd get to the point where I was sitting at the entrance to the sump and then... I'd bottle it and he would see that I'd reached my limit and trying anymore would likely just cause hysteria. "You don't have to do this" is apparently far more likely to get me to do it than "I don't get why you think you can't do it".

Mind you, like I said earlier, I hero-worshipped Magpie. He was my mentor, my teacher. I would bring him books and ask him to explain things and he would sit there for hours and tell me. I'd ask him to teach me things and he'd teach me. He had endless patience with the freshers, especially those that showed promise and commitment. He brought out my enthusiasm and my ability and I miss the hell out of him. In the years since I graduated I've emailed, texted and Facebooked him. Believe me, I haven't just let this god disappear from my life. But he's married now with a wife who hates caving and apparently won't let him do it and he seems to have disappeared from the entire club's lives. He's uncontactable.

He was the person who told me I'm "technically excellent" and it's only confidence that's my problem. "Technically excellent" meaning I've got all the techniques, rather than him trying to wiggle out of saying I'm good. I'd go further and try harder just to impress him or keep up with him. I remember a fun little climb I did down into the stream in OFD and him hanging on the rocks up the top watching me and commentating. "What's she doing?! How's she doing that?! She's sticking to the walls! I'm not doing that!" My logbook tells me I had to do some "pretty hairy manoeuvring" because I'm small whereas for him, "it was just a step". And further into the cave was a very narrow windy bit which he said was just like the Mendips (renowned for being tight, awkward caves in general). "There's plenty of room" said little me cheerily. And there was a silence before he thought of a comeback. "... well, at least I don't struggle with climbs, because I'm tall."

Aww, I'm so lucky. I know that. I have three years of memories of spending time underground with Magpie, and various other people who were good friends at the time, and even more people who were just club members. You do forge a certain bond with people underground and I definitely had that with him. In my second year, the two of us spent a lot of time learning OFD. It's a massive cave and it's got miles and miles of passageway and we made it our mission to become the club authorities on it. And for a while, I was. I still have a survey of the relevant bits taped to my door and I still go and stare at it from time to time. If there was a Wales trip going, the two of us would go up to Top and spend a few hours exploring and learning a new part. And other people would generally come with us; we only did a just me-and-him trip once but we were the only ones who did it time after time after time. I don't think anyone in the club knew me as well as he did or anyone knew him as well as I did. Caving soulmates. He just got me and I got him. The trouble was that he didn't make a good first impression. People tended to think he was a bit of an idiot until they got to know him. I could see all this was an act, a cover. I could see when he was scared and being extra-blustery to cover it. I could see when things hurt him. He knew how my mind worked. And he alone knew how to treat me the weekend when it all started to go wrong, when I was asked not to come in the cave.

I spend the day in Moony's warm sleeping bag trying not to cry, or to at least smother it when I did, but I knew I'd have to come out eventually. When they got back, I went downstairs and offered to make coffee and tried to make myself useful. My logbook says "there not being a lot to do apart from wait, I went back to my bed but [Magpie] found me and gave me one of his trademark looks and his special tone of voice and sent me off to fetch the washing up". Wish I'd written precisely what he'd said in that special tone of voice but I bet that's in my diary, on the corrupted remains of my smallest hard drive. And he was the one who noticed that I barely said a word in the minibus on the way back and drew me out gently until I was reasonably sociable. And he was the one who pretty much coaxed me into not abandoning caving there and then. When I was looking at upcoming trips and going "No, I can't do it, I'm not good enough" or "They won't let me, I'm not good enough", he was the one who managed to make me feel like maybe I was and he was the one who fought for me when I got thrown off the Yorkshire trip.

My long, rambling and nostalgic point being - that song makes me think of Magpie and Magpie was such a force for good in my life.

 

The second thing that song makes me think of is the second verse:

One day, it barely took a second
You grew up, the big world beckoned and you dived right in

I graduated, I got a job and suddenly - there's a world out there. I've got money now, I've got access to it. I took up snowboarding, I wrote a book, I flew off to Finland, Romania, the French Alps, Lithuania, Norway etc. I dived right in. I have bad days from time to time - rarer than it used to be, but generally I love this world and this life of mine. It would be nice if my friends would play in it occasionally but I'd rather play on my own than sit with my nose against the window looking out at it passing me by. I don't think that's a bad attitude to have to a fairly lonely life.

So umm.... that's what that song means to me. As if anyone actually cared.

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phantym

July 2011

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