Allow Me to Explain Myself

Let me explain my absence—the absence of an entire month, I am not unaware. And in the process, let me have a good moan about everything that’s stressing me out at the moment.

Indifference kept me away from all thought of writing for an entire fortnight. Another fortnight I spent entertaining my cousins, who come over to stay with me every holiday. They’re no burden, but they do snatch me from the internet world for a time. A good break, sometimes, methinks. This week I began Sixth Form, and stress and painkillers have both overpowered and deadened my senses to the exclusion of all other concerns.

On Wednesday I accustomed myself to sharing a yeargroup with two hundred and fifty other students, at least half of whom were strangers to me.

On Thursday I embarked on our first teaching day. Embarrassment and disappointment clouds much of the day, but no more than the anticipation of hard work to come. I’ve never had to work hard, and the very idea of it terrifies me. I received scarcely any homework, and what I had was simple, but the helpless inactivity of every breaktime, knowing work would soon inundate me, but knowing simultaneously I could do nothing about it but wait in idleness, plagued my every thought. I’ve been more stressed this week than I was throughout my GCSE exams.

And since the Sixth Form Centre refectory was built to accommodate a mere hundred and fifty students, there’s no respite from the noise and bustle and strange disinterested faces.

Friday was better; in tutor groups we adopted a theme (ours was ‘army’), dressed up and participated in a day of team-building activities. Unfortunately my tutor is very quiet and not very interested in creating a team identity based upon mutual trust and combined value. There being only three boys in my group, they were forced to do all the manual work. The girls just squealed and said nothing.

And the very first event of the day prophesised well for the rest. We were instructed to cross a web of string interposed between two tree trunks without touching the string, more points awarded for the more remote holes in the web. Before nine o’clock I was bodily swung into the air by a seventeen-year-old boy, lifted a metre and a half into the air and bunged through the gap worth the most points. Being tall, skinny and light, roles such as these were mine throughout the day. So though I’m glad I wasn’t the guy doing the lifting, it disconcerted me to spend an entire day being manhandled by a boy I’ve hardly addressed in all the five years we’ve been at school together.

teambuildingday

(If anyone desires this to be removed, I am willing to comply.)

I’d looked forward to that first week. I’d hoped to make a better stab at deceiving people into thinking I was a nice person: make new friends (all the people I normally ‘hang out’ with are doing the International Baccalaureate instead of A-Levels, and thus have no free periods—I haven’t spoken to them above twice all week).

Instead I’ve renewed acquaintances in an awkward and abrupt manner—acquaintances that were broken painfully and ought to have been renewed with a shaking of hands. My tense hyperactivity on Wednesday earned me the post of loudest person in tutor on Wednesday (that’s saying a lot, for me), and estranged me from an old friend on Thursday. A girl who did better than me on her GCSEs has joined the Sixth Form from another school, and her appearance of good sense and efficiency as she moved away the doorstop and closed the door of the Maths classroom convinced me I’m probably going to hate her. Out of jealousy, of course. And that in itself is a nasty thought.

Personal and family worries have kept me awake half the week, and when I last slept I dreamed I killed thirty people.

Even yesterday (Saturday) was no relief. At nine I returned to school for my music groups (the awesome angst of Toccata and Fugue in D Minor has flooded my mind ever since); at eleven some of us left early and ran down to church to play at a wedding. Since we couldn’t see or hear anything from where we sat, and ten verses of Amazing Grace destroyed our interest in the music, that proved duller than expected.

The evening constituted the highlight of my week so far: some of my friends from my youth group came over on a whim and we put the hot-tub at my ‘new’ house to good use. One of them, and one of the most active, committed and valued by all of us, is going off to university in less than two weeks, and we mayn’t see him again before, so that was great.

Except the evening finished with their pressing me to tell them who I fancied, which wasn’t so great. Not that I don’t trust them—my Catholic friends are the kindest, most accepting people I know, whose judgement of me does not affect their behaviour towards me—but it’s a question I tend to shun at all possible costs. And now I feel bad for turning them away.

Today? I stayed in bed till midday, still shuddering at my dream. Then I watched the 2007 version of Persuasion, which upset my nerves for inexplicable reasons. (Seriously, my hormones are on a riot this week.) But the comparative quietness has improved my spirits to some extent, despite the looming threats of the week to come.

In the meantime, I have a decade of unfinished blog posts sitting in My Documents, have been nominated for two blog awards by two wonderful and inspiring bloggers, and have shockingly neglected just about everything I promised myself I’d complete before school recommenced.

But having got all this off my mind, and probably bored any kind and conscientious readers witless, I feel a lot better.

And by the way, my blisters still haven’t healed. My feet are scarred. I dread October half-term, when I do my qualifying expedition…

Advertisements

I Just Received a Letter From Myself

I just received a letter from myself.

I just received a letter from myself!

At the end of September last year I attended Celebrate, a Catholic conference held in various places about the country every year. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

The previous March my wonderful youth group went to Flame, a massive Catholic youth event in Wembley Arena. It was incredible! The singing and dancing…miraculous testimonies…God and the Olympics…drama, a glee flash mob, appearances from David Wells, Jason Gardener and Fr Timothy Radcliffe, among many others…and the silence! I’ll bet Wembley has never before seen eight thousand teenage Catholics joined in silent prayer.

flamelogo2012

(My youth group was inspired by this to hold a long service of singing and silence every three or four months. We market it as ‘loud praise and silent adoration’—and we’ve kept it up ever since. There’s nothing like it for restoring passion to faith.)

I’ll never forget the comment Alex posted on my Protagonize profile two days after the event: ‘…the sign. ‘8000+ people; who have you met before?’ Me: umm…this looks like nobody. In retrospect: Bazzzz!!’ (Baz being another of my internet names.) She was sitting in the block behind mine. No; we didn’t run into one another—heck, we’d only met over the internet!—but the marvel is there.

We were so pumped after this experience (though the hotel in which we stayed in Piccadilly was recently closed down for its atrocious quality!) my youth group determined we’d go away together more often.

The epic praise-song singalong! And this photo was taken from halfway down the arena!

The epic praise-song sing-along! And this photo was taken from halfway down the arena!

So in September last year we went to Celebrate. And that was completely different. Kind of like a summer school sort of thing, because we overran the top floor of a school building and did all sorts of awesome things linked to God, and had Mass both days, but we actually got to talk to the other people there.

It was much smaller than Flame—only twenty or thirty people in our age-group (Years7-10). Yes; I was too old for it, but the two girls I’m most friendly with in my youth group are younger than me (though rather more spiritually mature, I might add!). So I made some wonderful and gorgeous friends, Catholics like myself, who go to Celebrate every year and only meet one another then. So strange—but so lovely!

One of the activities we did there was writing letters to ourselves, which they promised to send us sometime in the next year. I’m not sure how seriously I took it; I don’t even remember writing the letter, not to mention expecting it back.

But this morning I received two letters. One a birthday card…and the other an envelope addressed to me in a green felt-tip pen, in my own handwriting!

I wondered if I’d sent one of my cousins an envelope with my address on it. But when I ripped the back off and slid out the letter, that, too, was penned in the green felt-tip, and in my writing. Eesh, I thought, this person is good at imitation.

‘Dear Lillie’, it began, and so I read.

The flyer for this year.

The flyer for this year.

It was my work without a doubt. The phrasing, the imagery…and the letter-writer knew things about me that I’ve never dared tell anyone. I mean the writing was flowery and awful, but still.

I expect I scribbled whatever first came to mind and just shoved it in the envelope as soon as I’d signed it ‘Yourself’ at the bottom.

But every single line I wrote is exactly what I need right now. ‘Can’t I implore you to remain adamant in all you love and believe in now? Keep love as your stimulus, Jesus your nucleus. Be good and patient so that Jesus can be seen in your soul—through you!—yes, you’re worthy when he’s shining inside you.’

I won’t give you any more; the letter is, after all, addressed to me, and is accordingly very personal. But how can I express what this means to me?

Was I wiser last September than I am now, to write such things that would help me in months to come? I may claim I’ve existed in the same way these past three years, but there’s no doubt I’ve changed. We’re constantly processing fresh and powerful emotions, and as we do we forget the old mantras. There are some which may stay with me forever; others fade.

As me ten months ago tells me now, ‘old wounds don’t hurt forever’. Since I’ve no experience of forever, I can’t vouch for that, but to be sure, some things grow less as we learn to forgive those who perpetrated them—myself included. My letter tells me to forgive myself. And today, that’s what I’m going to do.

Flame logo: https://lillianmwoodall.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/7646a-flame.jpg

Flame in action: http://www.priorparkcollege.com/newsimages/560/image2/600_510-(small).jpg

Celebrate poster 2013: http://www.celebrateconference.org/i/button_poster_southampton_2013.gif