Friday, 3 March 2017

Spring is in the air



There have been some lovely springy days recently. The sun is pushing between clouds and there's a lightening of the sky. Bulbs that were hidden are peeping out of the soil, breaking through to feel the early spring warmth in the air.

Your snowdrops are blooming too. I walk past them every time I pass the front door. They sit in a pot that I took from your garden after your death, shovelling earth with my bare hands, panic rising; I needed to grasp any part of you that I could before your home was completely emptied, your belongings sold off or chucked in a skip in the weeks following your death. I can conjure it in my mind like it was yesterday: old shoes and clothes (that you were wearing just the other day), bloody mattress, broken tyres, iron rods all jumbled up. It felt like you were being torn apart in front of my eyes. I wandered through your home and the surrounding land, like a trespasser combing a bomb site, looking for remnants of treasure, no idea what to hold onto and what to let go, no idea what my rights were. I was not your wife, or your widow and I was not family, but your heart belonged to me and your heart, the only thing I really wanted, was gone.

I was there with my friend that day, just wanting to sit once more on the verandah where we were first drank tea, our boots side by side on the railings, the promise of love hanging in the air, our future spread out like the vista of the wide expanse of moorland in front of us. I wanted to show someone where you lived. She was talking about her boyfriend and, for a moment, I was ok, comparing notes and then I remember the moment when the world cracked open again and I lost the plot because the boyfriend I was comparing to hers was dead. And I walked away from her crying and started digging up the ground with my hands because suddenly I needed snowdrops like the ones your brother had dug up for your mum and I needed them now, in case they too were stolen from me. It was a moment when I realised that everything had changed, that I couldn't relate anymore to normal people with their normal experiences of life.

I'm glad I took the snowdrops now. They are a little symbol of the cycle of life, of regrowth and rebirth and they hold, somehow, a little memory of you in each fragile bud. They sit next to the moon gazing hare that I took from my mum's garden at the last minute before the new owner's moved in. My mum's friend told me that a moon gazing hare is a symbol of growth and new beginnings so I brought it to my new house in the hope that it might bring me some luck. But the wind blew it over and smashed it so that now it is a one-eared hare which doesn't feel quite so auspicious.

I took the photo of the snowdrops a couple of weeks ago, thinking that it would make a nice metaphor for grief. I thought I would write an uplifting piece in the run up to the anniversary of your death in which I was a snowdrop, buried grief-deep through the winter but pushing through the darkness into the light, ready to create a new future. It would be a convenient comparison. A year of grief is enough for anyone. Seriously, a year of this kind of grief is too much, for anyone. I can't live in the underworld forever. I want so much to live again, to love again, to touch someone that breathes. A metaphysical love is not enough for me. Eight months of love is not enough for me. I want something more. And yet.

As usual, grief does not do my bidding and for the last week or so I have felt like I am back at the beginning again. 'Grief is snakes and ladders,' I wrote a while back, only it's snakes and ladders without a winner or an end point and, even when you've made it through three hundred and fifty-five days of grief and you think the end is in sight, you can land on a snake and feel like you've gone right back to square one. 'I don't cry every day anymore,' I wrote, back in October and I didn't. But now I am crying every day again, I feel all at sea again, waves crashing, storm raging, tossed about like I don't know which way is up and which way is down, like I can't separate the past and the present from the future. I feel I'm part of some mythological drama where the gods and the devils are fighting for my soul, like I'm being dragged to the underworld and pulled back into the light over and over again while some kind of orchestral crescendo builds and cymbals crash and I'm not sure where I'm going to land. It is horrible to be flung about like this and the logical part of my brain asks why this is necessary. I know what happened. Why re-live every moment? But grief is not logical and I can't control it so I must go with it and know that, as it has before, it will pass and there will be calm again soon.

And as I sit here, clearing out my old office, trying to let go of the past, I realise that there is a huge difference still between the grief that is raging now and the grief that I felt at the beginning and the difference is this: I know now that I will survive. I know now that, for as long as I'm alive, I can survive anything. I am not at square one after all. I can see ladders scattered about and I know how to climb them if I just keep rolling the dice and moving forwards. Regardless of how I feel just now, I know that new life will come and I know that the metaphor I started out with still serves. I am as fragile as a snowdrop fighting through the frost and the cold, reaching for the light, peeping out of the darkness and I am a moon gazing hare with one ear - irreparably broken but still here, still hoping that something better is around the corner.