It feels like so much has changed since I last posted here. The last year has been a difficult one and so far there’s no relief from that. When I last wrote a post I had just been diagnosed with autism and was waiting to see if I also had ADHD. Well that diagnosis came through so I am now getting my head around being AuDHD, as it tends to be known online. It’s a strange piece of information to arrive at at almost 50 and I still can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had had the support and understanding that seems a lot more available to today’s children. It’s been rather a year of reinvention and looking back on the intervening months it feels like I’ve reassessed almost every bit of my life – not all because I’m looking at the world through newly-recognised neuro spicy lenses.
But that wasn’t all. In the depths of the first pandemic winter it seemed as if the quiet darkness of lockdown would bring a reassessment, an interlude for a collective taking stock. Even by the second pandemic winter it was becoming clear that a great readjustment wasn’t really going to be forthcoming. Brexit had left a stain so deep that it clouded the perceptions of those who heralded it as a new dawn. It left a space that could be filled by nonsense, by conspiracy theories and even more fake news. With the pandemic those lies blossomed into something even darker and they haven’t gone away. Even as the threat of sickness recedes I still find myself using sanitiser whenever I touch something outside. I wear a mask less often but always have one on me. I guess this is normal behaviour after a major public health risk but it has meant that life has been held at arms’ length for a very long time now.
But it wasn’t just the state of the country, the state of the world, of the planet that kept me away. My default view of humanity is that it’s on the road to nowhere and I’ve always been fascinated by dystopias so the current hell scape I can deal with. In the southeast of England we are on the nursery slopes of a dystopia anyway. If you can tune out the Brexity lunacy it’s dealable with. No the reason why I haven’t written ANYTHING in a long time is because I’ve been trying to work out where my voice has gone.
Last year I turned 50. It wasn’t a great year – our beautiful cat reached the end of her life, I became a victim of academic cost cutting and my teaching has dwindled to a tiny amount. The kind of knocks that leave you somewhat hollowed out and diminished. For my birthday I finally took the plunge to look into my DNA. I’ve worked in genealogy and it was always something I was interested in trying. I wanted to find out if my research was correct – I had found evidence in my genealogical research that my dad’s family had been Anglo Indian rather than colonial as my mum had always lead me to believe. I wrote about that discovery at the time but was always conscious that all the evidence I had was circumstantial. So I took the test. Going in I thought I had a pretty good idea of the outcome. I thought that on my mum’s side was Welsh and Russian (actually Georgian) as that was what I had been told all my life. I grew up with Russian fairy stories and dolls because my mum was proud of her Slavic heritage. There was a history there, with details, names, dates. That side seemed unremarkable and predictable. I was interested in my dad’s side. The results took a while, as these things do, but when they came they once again made me question my own identity.
You see they revealed that firstly, my research was good. I kind of knew that. I trust what I now know as my hyperfocus super skills. If a fact is there for a subject I’ve got my teeth into then I will find it. There is Indian blood in there but a very long way back, about the same percentage as the Irish bit of my DNA. I’d worked out a very long time ago that I didn’t qualify for Irish citizenship under the grandparent rule. When I started researching my dad’s family it became clear that the direct line couldn’t have come from Ireland for a very long time – in fact both the Irish and the Indian probably got into the mix at roughly the same time, when Patrick Rieley married Sophia in Chennai in 1815. Since Sophia was a pupil teacher at the Freeschool attached to the Female Orphan Asylum it was probable that she was a child of a European father and an Indian mother, a quick assumption that speaks to the sad truth about such families. So going back as far as Patrick and probably Sophia’s mother a generation before, that’s not going to leave a very large percentage of either nationality in the DNA.
The surprise was the far greater percentage that was missing. I had always been told that my maternal grandfather was Georgian and his meeting my grandmother during the war resulted in my mother. That should have meant a biggish chunk of around 25% Georgian…which wasn’t there. In fact there was nowhere in that direction anywhere. My grandmother was rather known within the family as a bit of a spoofer but this news gave me a new respect for the sheer breadth of her spoofing. She had created a phantom lover with a phantom family. His mother, my phantom great grandmother had supposedly turned up for my mother when she was about 6. My mum told me the story as gospel. But those results couldn’t be that wrong. Despite the fact that I have it on good authority that my golden eyes, pale skin and dark colouring are typically Georgian it turns out they are just a mix of Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Indian. I’m happy with that but what unsettles me is the sheer depth of the fantasy that grew up around my mother’s parentage. It shaped her, it affected her relationship with her real dad (and judging by the amount of Welsh in me he was definitely her dad) and both she and, I think, my gran believed the story. I have an inkling why the phantom was more attractive than the truth but it will take a lot more unpacking before I can put all my thoughts on that into words.
It was putting thoughts into words that has been the difficulty these past months. Turning 50 was a much bigger deal than I had expected. It’s a time of reckoning, a time for re-evaluation and it really didn’t help to have so much other stuff whirling around in my head and coming to the realisation that the forgetfulness and constant aches and pains were actually part of a fundamental shift. I’ve been used to a particular hormonal pattern for most of my life, to suddenly realise that that was coming to an end is both liberating and terrifying – if I could remember the words for either of those feelings.
Then in February this year we became another statistic. One of the households chucked out of rented accommodation because of financial pressures on landlords. We found somewhere new and it is lovely but it’s been a huge upheaval. At least I know now why I don’t react to change very well.
So yeah, it’s been a bit of a year or so. I’ve come out of it with a lot more knowledge about myself and after a very long time, I feel I have something to say again.
I’ll try to blog a couple of times a week to get back into the routine of it. After such a long time feeling silenced the thoughts are bubbling up again. It’s been a while but I’m back. Have you missed me?