Cornered

Standing in the kitchen the other morning reading poetry.  . .

Isn’t it odd? I live alone in a four room flat containing a selection of sofas, chairs, and beds all offering tremendous scope for lounging around. Believe me, I take full advantage, and would happily emulate Stephen Tennant and live my life from bed if I thought I could get away with it. (If you have not read Serious Pleasures by Philip Hoare, do so immediately. It’s fascinating, as was Stephen.)

Yet sometimes I stand around. And one of my favourite places to stand is the corner pictured above. It’s the place in my kitchen where the L-shaped work surfaces meet.  I nestle into the join and read or listen to the radio. [This photo, taken by me some years ago, is part of a Q&A you can look at on one of my very favourite blogs, The Women’s Room: http://www.thewomensroomblog.com/2012/02/14/readers-kitchens-lee-from-edinburgh/]

So there I was, reading a book of Billy Collins poems loaned to me by a very dear friend, when I realised that I’ve always done this, stood in corners in kitchens. Growing up there was a similar corner in the business half of our kitchen and I regularly planted myself there to talk to my mother, or gab to one of my friends on the wall-mounted telephone, which had a super long cord that let you take it quite a distance. Younger, lighter, and limberer (?), I enjoyed hoisting myself up to sit on this particular bit of the kitchen counter, as well.

Joining those thoughts was the memory of a fight I had with my ex-husband in this very kitchen. At one point he noticed where I was standing and broke off to ask about the symbolism of backing myself into a corner. This is my spot, I said. It has always been my spot.

Since it is still my spot, even without the threat of confrontation from family or partners, I’m guessing it isn’t about my need to find an advantageous position from which to fight my battles: in a corner, no one can sneak up behind you. Maybe it’s the embodiment of my need to feel safe, or even cuddled, contained in that sheltering V. I’ve come to understand that safety is a monumental issue for me, big enough to be crippling when fear keeps me locked into stagnant behaviour patterns. Safety is also a key trigger for my illness. I became ill during the most toxic part of my marriage when I feared that I was being Gaslighted into non-existence. This summer’s relapse was triggered by the boss’s plea that rather a lot of us consider applying for voluntary redundancy.

Maybe if I’d spent some quality time in my corner last April, I wouldn’t have had such a lousy summer. It’s something to think about the next time I feel imperiled.

What do you do to feel safe? Does it work for you, or against you?

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