Thursday, 13 October 2016

Shipwrecked

Some days, some parts of days, I am buoyant, afloat.
Some days I even think I can steer.
Some days I think I can see the shore.
Some days I am brave. I push the boat out.
Some days I push the boat out too far.

Monday was one of those days. I thought I could do it. I thought I could stand up in front of an audience and read the words straight from my broken heart. And I did. And it was awful, not because of what I was reading (though maybe that was part of it) but because all I could see was that you weren't there. And all I could remember was that this time last year you had been cheering me on, that this time last year I was full of hopes for the future: I had a wonderful new boyfriend, my mum was alive and I was launching my first book.

As it turned out, the convergence of my reading with the day we got together was too much to take and I was thrown back into disbelief again asking the same old, unanswerable questions: How could you have been there just last year? How could you disappear, just like that with no warning? How could the ending happen so close to the beginning and how am I supposed to face the future now? I stood up there trying to listen to the words of my fellow authors but all I could hear were the words of the letter that you wrote to me at this time last year, when you talked about all that you wanted our future to be, our future together that has been wiped out. I cannot believe it still. On the way out of the pub a man smiled at me. It surprised me to think that a man could find me attractive still; evidently my exterior doesn't look like my insides. The man had a laptop and a nice face. Maybe he was a writer and a kind man. It surprised me to realise that I was available, and that, at some point, if I don't want to be alone forever, I am going to have to consider other men. I smiled back at him and then walked out of the pub crying. I didn't want him. I don't want someone else. I want you. I want to go back to the life we were building together, the life that has been destroyed.

On Tuesday I woke up crying and didn't stop. I cried through my mindfulness class, tears seeping out from beneath the eye mask as I tried to focus on my breathing and not on the gaping hole of the future. I sought refuge at your mum's and cried some more. I was back to searching again, for a piece of you to hold onto and your mum held out her hand like a branch at the water's edge and I clung on. I cried as I drove to my friend's for tea, cried into the nutritious stew she'd cooked. I went for a massage and cried into the towel, face down on the table. I came home, lay down on my bed and cried some more. I cried as I messaged a friend, cried down the phone to her when she rang, as I told her again how unbelievably unbearable this pain is. I cried myself to sleep.

Now I am shipwrecked, exhausted, washed up again on a small island of calm, unable to move, waiting for the wind.

Grief is not linear and sometimes all the emotions strike at once: anger, shock, denial, depression, pain, guilt. You are in the eye of the storm and all you can do is cling on for dear life even while your whole being is screaming that this is impossible, that this is more than any human soul can survive. The pain now is no easier to bear than the pain at the beginning. Sometimes it feels worse. Maybe the contrast is bigger now between the moments of lightness and the depth of the dark. I don't know.

From my island of calm now, I look back at my life this week and it seems ridiculous. I am so privileged. What did I actually do: read a few words to a few people, had a drink with writers, lay down on a mat watching my breath, spoke with friends, had a massage, ran a couple of writing workshops. But, inside, I feel like I have been out on the high seas at night without a rudder or a map or a compass when the waves are titanic and the winds are whipping across my face, utterly alone in the storm.

Grief isn't linear. I'm not sure it's even cyclical. Grief is exhausting. Today I am shipwrecked.