We have had an instance of pastoral success lately, the ‘Team’ having supported Carly on her journey of rehabilitation and into Council supported housing a few miles away. Of course it may all go awry but she’s made a remarkable change (which was partly enabled by me stopping interacting with her!).
I wish the same could be said of Julie. Although her car was removed from my drive before Easter, she is still enmeshed in the same set of toxic relationships with an abusive partner and her family. When she told me earlier in the week that the Council had agreed to fund a tenancy for her if she could find a place, I boggled as this was the opposite the housing officer had told me a few weeks before. Oh well, it was her best chance of escape, I thought. She’d got a flat not far away to look at, and I agreed to take her. Having heard nothing five minutes before we were supposed to be there, I phoned and discovered she’d had another titanic row with her father. I refused to let this chance of change slip away, went round to the house, calmed her down, and took her for a rearranged appointment. The pretty young woman from the estate agents who seemed apprised of Julie’s situation smiled and gave her a hug as we left (I think estate agents all have stocks of young people to do viewings who are attractive enough for you to be well-disposed towards them no matter what your own sex or tastes, but not so stunning that ordinary folk might resent them). The following day it all fell apart. The Council denied it ever was the case that they’d agreed to support a tenancy for Julie in this area as that would not remove her from her existing relationships: her explanation that she didn’t know the flat was in Hornington was not exactly convincing, as it’s barely a quarter of a mile from her parents’ house.
I began reassessing many of the things Julie had told me over the years. One of the things I’ve had to get used to is that there are people, often the most vulnerable and difficult ones, whose cognitive processes are significantly different from mine. There are lots of individuals who don’t have the kind of filter I regard as normal, and just say the first thing they think of; it has an emotional truth, but that’s all. They don’t interrogate what they’re about to say before speaking. Then again, the most generous interpretation to put on some of the things that Julie has said is that she knows what she would like to happen, and believes, somehow, that if she behaves as if it was going to happen, magically it will, and everyone will fall in line with it.
Over the last couple of days I have, finally, been able to speak at length to the housing department and the local domestic abuse support charity. Everyone is in agreement that Julie needs to be removed from the area and the cycle she’s in, for her own good. I’m no longer going to do anything that enables her to maintain that cycle.
This seems to have been yet another instance in which my generous instincts – in terms of accepting what people tell me as well as dishing out money – have turned out actually to have effects which are detrimental to the recipients and the community more broadly. It’s happened repeatedly, though I am much more cautious now about being inwardly duped by the model of the parish priest sorting out people’s problems. You would have thought that clergy being sent out into the world would have some grounding in this kind of thing; I wasn’t a callow youth when I came to Swanvale Halt and emerged from the somewhat protected environment of a curacy, but nevertheless I’d come across little of this directly and hadn’t learned how to protect myself. I still don’t know quite why I get so angry and disorientated by the disorientation around me, when I need to be a sign of calm and order. Something to discuss with S.D., when I finally get round to visiting him again.