I still expect him to walk through the door any minute, or to hear his slippers shuffling down the hall. Or to see a cheeky little message on my phone telling me he is whisking me away for the weekend or taking me out for lunch……
I haven’t sorted out the wardrobe yet, his suits still hang there lifeless, his shirts folded with military precision – actually me, not him – none of the men in my family seem to have mastered the art of folding shirts, but despite my eye-rolling protests, I secretly enjoy being good at this and being able to do it for them. His shoes stay lined up as if waiting patiently to be picked for their next adventure, pick me, pick me.
I haven’t ploughed my way through all the paperwork yet or written the obituaries that his old school and work colleagues have asked for – for their respective publications. In fact I haven’t written much at all, not because I don’t want to but my days seem to be filled with surviving, and creativity has reluctantly taken a back seat.
I haven’t sorted out his headstone yet. Or thrown away his toothbrush. Or cleared his bedside table drawer. Or scattered his ashes. Or taken his coats out of the coat cupboard to redistribute to those who might appreciate them as the nights draw in – it’s actually too hard to do.
I have however joined a gym, bought a bike, bought a car and have just come back from a half term trip to Paris with the two youngest.
So I am surviving and I am moving forward, after a fashion, although it doesn’t really feel like I’m moving forward because that implies progress and positivity, and actually I still feel like I just want to sit in a very quiet dark place and read, or meditate or scream or cry or just be. BUT THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF GOING ON.
I know, I know, I am my own worst enemy. I do keep trying to simplify life but there are too many things to sort, plan and arrange, and too many people that need looking after, coordinating, galvanising…..
I also am keenly aware that it’s not just me. So many people have stuff going on, marriages falling apart, parents with dementia, kids with anorexia, cancer diagnoses, mental health problems, money problems, bereavement, adultery, work stress, gender fluidity, mid life crises galore, I know I am not the only one existing in a bubble of suffering, but that doesn’t really help. Most days I feel like a hamster in a wheel or that I’m in one of those zorb things ricocheting off the topography of my life. And I am trying to make sense of it and get through it but I’m just not sure when this mind fug will clear, or not even that, but when it will feel better, just a little bit better.
Filling my days has always been a coping mechanism and seemingly continues to be so. It keeps the cogs turning, ‘normality’ keeps me sane. But I do yearn for the day that I feel I can just stop. I know I’ll never go back to being the person I once was but I’d like to feel at peace being the person I am, and to have a clearer understanding of who that is.
I enjoyed the rare luxury of actually reading the paper on the train to Paris last week and read this review of The Undying by Anne Boyer, a memoir that explores the poet’s diagnosis of and treatment for triple-negative breast cancer – it’s on recovering from trauma:
‘How do you get back what was taken, the whole body, the healthy uncut self? The answer is that you can’t. The compensation is to discover the “gorgeous framework of mortality”, the common ground of vulnerability. It’s a good place from which to live and a very good place from which to write.’
The gorgeous framework of mortality. I like that. I think that is what I must strive for. The common ground of vulnerability. A good place from which to live. Perhaps that is where I will eventually be happy to find myself. Here’s hoping.