Meaning & Morse
You can blame Inspector Morse for this post. I got to the flat earlier and watched the final episode of Morse – it’s the one where he dies. My goodness, it was sad. There’s the scene where he visits his solicitor to make his will and leaves some of his estate to Lewis. I sob. It reminds me that I’ve been putting off making my last testament. It’s not that I’m afraid of facing up to my own mortality. It’s more my recognition of the utter pointlessness of trying to secure Steven’s future when I know it will hinge on the whim of whatever social care team he is under at the point of my demise.
Then there’s a scene where after many years of trying, Morse has finally got Lewis interested in Wagner. It led them to talk about how we come to make meaning of our lives.
This prompted me to remember a story from 2010. I never included it in the book. I’ve never spoken about it at a public event. It hurt too much. It made me too vulnerable. But I will today.
Imagine the scene. It’s 1999. The final year of my counselling training and we’ve moved on to existential therapy. We’re focusing on the four givens of existence and we’ve knocked off death, freedom and isolation. We’re into the final module – meaning. I sat in that room with 30 odd peers, listening to the tutor talk and tears were rolling down my cheek. I was getting a kaleidoscope of images of our first five years with Steven. And I realized that his joy, his vulnerability, his mixture of excitement and fear of life, went a long way to giving me my meaning to my life.
Fast forward 11 years. Steven has been away about 4 weeks and I find myself sitting in a coffee shop with Whistler’s Mother, the social worker. It is her invite. The enormity of our situation hasn’t hit me yet and I certainly have no idea that the council have a completely different agenda to the one they are presenting to me and Steven. The atmosphere is a little awkward and she suddenly tells me that she’d always fancied the idea of being a counsellor. She asks me lots of questions about my work and I opened up. I finish by telling her the story I’ve just written about meaning.
Her response was: “We have to make sure we don’t become unhealthily dependent on our children”.
I was flustered. ” Steven is one of many things in my life that give me meaning”, I stuttered.
But the damage was done. I was stark bollock naked and she misinterpreted me. In that moment, I knew what was going in her report. I can’t describe how scared and anxious the ensuing silence left me feeling.
Five years on, I still feel the same. Scared and anxious that something as crucial as my existential meaning could be turned on its head. Obviously I’ve learned since that in the social care world, relationships have no meaning, no value. They are definitely seen as having no place in constructing our life’s meaning. And I still feel the same in relation to Steven too, perhaps even more so. When I go to meet Morse, I’ll know that by having a relationship with Steven, I’ve had meaning in my life.
I like to think I provide him with some meaning in his life too.
From → Social Care