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Dread

I am right now in Ipswich looking at potential homes for my family. I travel a lot, and have the practicalities pretty much down to a fine art, but the night before this trip I was consumed by a deep and abiding sense of dread. I feel like this the night before just about every trip away from home, but this time it was way more severe than usual. I manifest the symptoms by compulsively hunting through my home looking for that one thing that mustn’t be left behind, deciding on something, reopening my bag and packing it in, then realising there’s just one more thing missing, and rehearsing all the things that could go wrong leaving me stranded forever in some ghastly airport (because airports are filled with people who have been stuck there forever, right?).

On this trip I packed my essential swords (should I do a “what’s in my bag” video?), my essential woodworking tools, and had my oldest and most valuable books taking up all my hand luggage. These will all be left in my lovely cousin’s house near Ipswich until we move in to a place here at the end of the month. It’s a psychologically important step in the direction of leaving Finland and actually living in the UK.

The swords, tools and books took up all my weight allowance, so I had none left for random bits and pieces. But the dread was driving me and my bags were bulging before I noticed it, so I stopped, and spent a moment or two sitting with the feeling to figure out what’s going on. I travel a lot, I know what I’m doing, I’m a competent adult with a working line of credit and a large support network of family and friends; barring accidents which could happen anywhere, nothing really bad will happen. There might be problems with the car hire company; the flights might be delayed or cancelled; it might be very difficult to get the kind of home we need… but these are all trivial problems, easily conquered with patience, cash, and a little help from my friends. So what, really, was I dreading so much?

Of course. It was exactly the feeling of the last night of the holidays before being sent off on a plane back to bloody school. And the thing I was looking for to pack and take with me was the one thing I couldn’t take with me. Home. No amount of warm socks (in case it’s cold) or swimsuits (in case it’s warm) or an extra pair of shoes (just because) can fill that hole, and so the bag is never fully packed. I’m never fully equipped. Once I realised this, I could stop fidgeting with more packing and go to bed.

Dammit, I’d thought I was further along than this.

What has most concerned me about this whole boarding school thing was that it was affecting my feelings and actions for years in ways which in retrospect were wholly obvious and predictable, before I even knew it was there. Figuring out what was going on was a relief, because then I could make a plan and execute it.  It had been a field of landmines in my psyche, waiting to go off. Which begs the question, what other landmines are there yet to explode? I’ve been seeking out triggers and setting off controlled explosions, and it does seem like the problem is mostly dealt with, but this sick dread (which evaporated as soon as I got on the plane, and I’ve been fine since I got here) is an echo of the past that is still reverberating.

If you're wondering what on earth I'm talking about, you must have missed my other posts on this boarding school business (lucky you!). You can see them here:

The Price of Privilege

Dealing with it

Progress report: Letters Home, Abandonment, and the Matron effect

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