Tuesday, 20 February 2018
It's coming around again
The build-up to the anniversary started on Valentine's Day this year, or perhaps it started earlier this month, in a teashop in Robin Hood's Bay when I remembered last year's lonely clifftop walks, last year's empty hotel bed, last year's poem inspired by a teashop trinket: You, Me and the Sea. Only this year I wasn't alone. I had a hand to hold on the cliff and the warmth of love in my bed and I was happy, really happy. And sometimes that makes me sad, so sad. Because I am still here and Paul is not and without his death, I wouldn't be where I am today, with the man I am with. It's an unfathomable equation.
My boyfriend isn't a fan of Valentine's Day and I woke this year thinking about last year when Paul's bench was magically fitted on the 14th February like a gift from the gods. I remembered the year before too and the card that I'd bought him and never sent. I had an urge on Valentine's Day to take it and put in on the bench but I wasn't sure if I wanted to let it go or keep it forever and the day ran away with me anyway. So I put it back on the shelf in my little shrine to Paul. I wanted to write about it but I had too much to do so I mentally clicked 'save' on those thoughts and feelings and carried on. I am good at carrying on. Even the broken-hearted have to find ways to carry on.
Sometimes my writer's mind finds my surroundings mirroring my internal world and today I noticed that I am surrounded by broken things. Every day I walk past my mother's ornamental hares with the broken ears at the front door and into the house where all of the clocks stopped months or years ago, where all the lamps need re-wiring or bulbs replacing, where even the bed I sleep in (my mother's old bed) is on the verge of total collapse. The frame keeps coming apart and the slats that hold the mattress keep falling through the gaps. It is not a stable foundation for sleep, especially now when I wake with the fearful lurching feeling that is back again as March approaches. At the moment the bed is a broken raft and every morning I feel lost at sea with the waters of panic and anxiety rising again and those words from C S Lewis finding their way to me like a message in a bottle: no-one told me that grief feels so much like fear. And I recognise those feelings. Ah, this is grief again. My mind is remembering even when I want to forget. And my body is remembering too. It is worn out and run down and needs to rest but it can't sleep on a broken bed and my anxious brain churns like choppy waters, afraid of the oncoming storm.
My boyfriend suggested last night that I get a new bed. He said I should chop it up for firewood. It was an innocent and sensible suggestion but suddenly I was weeping as if he'd suggested that I chop up the very essence of my mother. I felt that I couldn't let go of any more of her things. Earlier in the day I'd found myself packing up more of her clothes in bags for charity shops, burying my nose in her garments once more and feeling again the agony of loss as I let go of the things that I thought I might wear, that I now know I won't. I was shipping things out to make space in the drawers for some of his things when he stays, letting him a little further into my life. It is a struggle to let him in. I am afraid to rely again on someone else.
For weeks and months my laptop has been struggling too. Day after day I have clicked 'ignore', 'remind me tomorrow'. It has been telling me that its start-up disk is full, that I need to free up some space. It is overloaded with memories - words and photos crammed one on top of the other. Eventually it froze. It shows me only a blank grey screen. It can't function anymore holding so much of the past in its lightweight frame.
And so I'm back to where I started with the metaphor of a clogged-up hard drive with too many open tabs. The laptop has gone to be mended. They're backing it up and clearing some space so that it will work again. In the meantime I've bought a bigger computer with more memory and today I looked at new beds. They say that loss doesn't shrink with time but that life grows around it. I need a bigger space for the new life that I'm building around my past. As I approach the second anniversary of Paul's death, I turn my attention to my own maintenance. I clear out some more things from the past. I back up my memories knowing that nothing can erase them and I download my thoughts back here on this page. I make a little room again for the sadness, knowing that happiness can only follow when I press pause and clear some space. Reboot.