March: Being a Lodger (London)
Their business was going under, the daughter had university exams coming up, they were anxious about the people they support. None of us anticipated what lodging would be like during lockdown. Things began to unravel. I am a straight talker – they are skirters-round. I get enthusiastic – they are more reasoned. I am a one – they are a family. More and more of my comments were greeted by awkward silences. I was accused of being blunt and bossy, of bossing them around in their own home. I was told they were glad I wasn’t their teacher. I started to avoid them as much as I could. I spent most of my time at the allotment or wandering around the streets talking on the phone. When I told them I was leaving, their relief was palpable. It didn’t matter that I was being picked up by a man that I had only recently started dating who would take me to a cottage in the middle of the countryside to stay for an indefinite time period with no transport of my own.
Kindness of the Month:
I made friends with the woman on the allotment next-door and told her everything. She listened and shared in turn. Although she was a total stranger, her kindness made that time possible. She let me sit in her greenhouse when it was raining. I don’t even know her name.
April: Being a Girlfriend (Kent)
Week 1 at his mum’s “spare cottage” was glorious. Week 2 the arguments started. He hated it if I was anything but happy – but not too happy! Week 3 was bad – we stayed away from each other, and I refused to put on a show for his mother. He told me that sex with his previous girlfriend had been better than with me – and other similar comments. When I accidentally broke his mum’s candle holder, he got furious. When I told him I wanted to leave, he said he wasn’t going to drive me anywhere – I’d have to make my own way – despite being miles from the nearest bus or train station. I felt trapped. I’m not ok with being shamed. I’m not ok with having someone shouting in my face for making a mistake. I messaged round, and eventually got through to a friend who said he’d love to have me stay and would pick me up.
Kindness of the Month:
I was put into an email group with four women from church of all different ages and stages of life. Although they were strangers, they sent me the kindest messages, sharing their own experiences, empathising and making suggestions. I can’t wait to meet them all in person.
May: Being a Friend (Surrey)
My friend picked me up the next day. As I arrived, I was told, “Make yourself at home and help yourself to anything!” “Phew!”, I thought, “Finally I can relax!” It only took a few days before I realised how wrong I was. My heart sank. If I spoke on the phone, I was too noisy. I wasn’t allowed to shower after 8pm or before 9am and I wasn’t allowed downstairs after 10pm. I was allowed to use one glass and one mug per day and it had to be the short glass and it had to be left on the right of the sink when not in use. I had to ask before I ate anything, watched anything or listened to music. I had to eat what I was given – all of it, no excuses. I was told I was closed-minded, always negative, inflexible and rigid. I was told off many times a day for every infraction. After confronting my friend, I was accused of being unkind to him. This was my lowest ebb, as by now I started to believe the things said. I started staying in bed all morning and couldn’t sleep at night. I dreaded the day. Every minute turned into a battle to distract myself from the desire to self-harm. After a while, I realised I needed some transport of my own. I spent days on Autotrader, looking for a sale within walking distance so that I was able to pick it up. I had saved up for a Masters course which I had just heard had to be postponed a year. I spent it all on a car so that I could get away.
Kindness of the Month:
I discovered the Daily Writing Challenge – a community of people online who knew nothing of my circumstances but were continually kind and encouraging in their comments and responses. This community of kind people who I had never met gave me something positive to think about at a time when I needed it most.
June: Being a Sister (Bristol)
I drove to my sister’s house where her 2 month old son, my first nephew who I hadn’t yet met, was waiting for me. I hadn’t lived with my sister since I was 10, so I didn’t know what to expect, but she and her partner were relentlessly kind to me. I spent my days there rocking the baby to sleep or wheeling him round and round the garden. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know them all better. I left when I was needed back at school for the end of term. My sister and I both cried as we said goodbye.
July: Being a Colleague (London)
Coming back to London, I didn’t want to go back to the house where I’d been lodging, so one of my colleagues agreed to put me up in return for some pet-sitting while I sorted out my accommodation. Other colleagues have provided tea and cake and socially distanced picnics. Gradually, all their little kindnesses are putting me back together again.