Off to see Mum for a couple of days tomorrow, can’t wait. Miss seeing her for all sorts of reasons: her Mumness, our closeness which is now more of a distance as she doesn’t hear well on the phone and can’t operate Skype on her own, our Frenchness – we have always spoken French to one another and now that we don’t speak every day, I’m hardly speaking French at all, how the loss of regular contact with her represents all the other losses, her sense of humour and delight in the world, now much restricted but still roused by photos and the right kind of biscuit. So it will be a happy and poignant few days, which is a change from the current sad and poignant that life seems to be.
A pal sent me this version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, sung by a crowd. If you don’t cry watching this, you’re not human. It’s a fun new game I’m having with same pal and her husband, a list of films, books and music which if they don’t make you cry, you’re not human.
One gets one’s fun where one can these days.
Got to the end of today somehow – food helped. Had the ingredients for a not quite salade nicoise for lunch which reminded me of happier times in France. No anchovies, but a slice of mackerel, green beans, eggs, tomatoes and potatoes. Purists would sniff at the potatoes, but I love them. It’s pelting down with rain, but still takes me back to sunny summer lunches in the south of France.
And then trip to sympathetic GP who’s given me more meds to help with the depression. Call in on a friend on the way home who’s been feeling very low, a recurrence of a lifetime of her serious mental health problems. It’s raining, I’m wet and scared of slithering on the leaves, so I walk very gingerly. When I get to her flat, she’s made supper for us; soup, toast and mince pies and tea. First mince pies of the season, a bit early, but perfect none the less. I like to do a comparative trawl of all the mince pies on offer, takes a lot of stamina and training.
I know how much effort that has cost her and really appreciate her thoughtfulness. We sit in the warm and chat and both feel a bit better. The presence of another human being, themselves in trouble, the recognition that we’re not on our own, gives us the hope and strength to carry on.
More tea and biscuits and the crossword and with winter now truly declared, time to get the bedsocks out. We live to feebly fight another day.
Mondays are always terrible, but today is going for the record. I normally meet a pal for a cultural outing, which gets me up and about. But our choice for this week is closed on a Monday, so we’re going tomorrow instead.
So I have no reason to get up and start the week. I think Mondays are bad because they represent the start of another week of this life which feels meaningless compared to the old life. I managed to get up at 9.30 and take my medication and have some breakfast, the scaffolding is now down so the flat is lighter. But then I just couldn’t hack it and went back to bed. Slept for a bit, read a bit and got up at 12 but really had to give myself a serious talking to in order to do so. It was crowbar time. Stagger to the shower, as weather makes my leg really stiff and wonder how I’m going to get through the rest of the day. Catch sight of myself in the mirror and I don’t look myself at all. The spark just isn’t there.
I have a meeting at 3 here at home, so spend a bit of time preparing for that. But the day seems to stretch endlessly until I can go back to bed. Hours and hours of feeling grim.
Things generally improve as the day carries on, so now I’m off to buy a paper and some toothpaste – not exactly a well-rounded life. But getting some fresh air generally helps.
I don’t much like this person I seem to have become, riding the self-pity express is not my style.
The scaffolding on the building is finally coming down, it’s been up since the summer and rather odd, given that I live on the fourth floor, to suddenly have a man appear at the window with a paintbrush.
The decorators have been helpful and kind, holding the front door open for me, carrying my shopping in, being generally solicitous. I’m much slower on my pins these days and not generally rushing anywhere, so I often stop and chat.
One decorator in particular likes to talk and today he was sitting having a break and told me about his difficult circumstances; his sister dying, the effect that had on the family, the fact that he took to drinking. It was a catalogue of sadness. We talked about my mother’s dementia and how his mother was going that way.
I realised that slowing down and not being as strong as I was this time last year somehow allows other people to show me their pain. That before I’d have been in to much of a rush to really stop and listen.
So this new life opens strange new doors.
I’ve had the feeling for the last week or so that my friends are conspiring. In a good way of course. Since I’ve been more honest with them about how truly terrible I’ve been feeling, particularly in the mornings, it seems to me that the number of texts, calls, invitations and checks have increased no end.
Take today – a trip to a new large supermarket with a pal, half a dozen texts and emails, a film in the afternoon with another friend and then an evening thing with a third friend.
Maybe I’ve been reading too many thrillers lately – the number has gone up exponentially – but I feel like the lead who knows he’s being followed but can’t quite pin them down.
It’s delightful of course and I’m full of gratitude for such a generous and solicitous group of friends. Just a bit unnerving.
Went to see the big cheese consultant yesterday and the news is good for a change. Things are pretty stable and he doesn’t want to see me for another three months. Even better, I can stop the daily injections which are really hard work and have left me very bruised.
It doesn’t change the long term weather forecast which is still grim, but the shorter term may have some sunny periods.
He’s obviously a bit surprised that I’m not happier at the news and reiterates that this is the best news it could be at the moment. I’m appreciative but a bit indifferent and explain that my energy levels are at rock bottom and it’s hard to function at all until late morning. He says there’s no obvious physical reason for that and suspects that I’m depressed, ‘not surprisingly after the year you’ve had.’
Ah the d word. I’ve danced around it for months, realising that the build up of losses are a kind of grief, that can be overwhelming. But this numbness is more than grief and loss and it needs sorting. He suggests discussing it with my GP so I make an appointment for early next week. Am reluctant to take any more medication, but it seems that I’m not going to get through this without it.
Text my friends and they are all delighted and send me happy texts back. It’s a measure of how anaesthetised I feel that I can’t join in the celebrations, just watch them from behind my plate glass window.
To hospital yesterday for some tests; as ever the staff are efficient, kind and friendly, even though working on a Sunday. London is full of veterans for Remembrance Day; the station is full of them, mostly elderly men and women, ramrod straight, chests full of medals. We dance around them admiringly.
Bus back from the hospital is on diversion because of the parades. Every pub near Whitehall has a crowd of veterans outside, enjoying the sunshine and remembering. The bus takes a very circuitous route along the river on a beautiful sunny day. I watch the parties of veterans and am thankful for their service and the sacrifice of their chums who didn’t make it back.
The bus divides into two groups with firmly different ways of looking at the world. There are the moaners, the bus is on diversion, they’re going to be late for whatever important date they had. They sigh, twitch, ring their friends and are rigid with moaning.
The second group watches the veterans, the sunshine playing on the river, the unexpected delight of a tour round a different part of London. Watches the police officers directing traffic with good humour. Listens to the bus driver who at every unaccustomed stop, takes the time to give advice to people up in town for the day who are now rather lost.
I think about Leonard Cohen and his verse, ‘there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.’
We’re taken unexpected routes in life, we have no control over them. But we can decide which group we’re going to belong to.