Today is new notebook day.
I love new notebook day. All of those blank pages, all of the possibilites, the stories yet unwritten. A new notebook holds promise for the future and the opportunity to start afresh. There are no mistakes in a new notebook.
Though today is the first day of writing in my book, I've actually had it for a while. It was a present from my friend Bryony. I remember her bringing it to me in my new workshop space last year. When I look at it, it conjures memories: the smell of fresh paint and colourful prints, the yellow chest of treasures over in the corner of the room, sitting with my friend drinking tea - simple pleasures that seem so far away. I'm not sure when she gave it to me but I know it was before: before the difficult family events of this year, before my book launch, before the virus.
A year ago today, I was sitting on a stage talking about the book of this blog with another dear friend, Rosie. Numbers in the audience were dwindling as rumours of a virus spread and later, in the pub, we sat alone and knew that things were going to change.
It was five years ago today that Paul died. And everything changed.
I never expected to write those words: five years ago. I don't know what I expected to happen but not that. Perhaps I thought that his death was the end of my story. At the time I didn't want to believe that life would go on and I certainly didn't want to hear about silver linings. A life without him seemed inconceivable. Now, sometimes, it seems inconceivable that he, that we, were there at all. My life, my story has continued regardless. Grief isn't dimished, they say, but new life grows around and from loss. Though we don't want it to happen, it happens nonetheless. If there has to be trauma, it's just as well that post-traumatic growth follows. If there must be clouds, I'm grateful now for their silver linings.
As I open up my notebook, the world is opening up again too. My children are returning to school. Rosie and I are planning a meeting to think about re-opening the workshop space. Anxiety rises as the rain falls and the writers in my Zoom workshop feel on edge again, minds scattered, thoughts adrift. We are all of us buffeted by storms, drowning in loss. Today I am full to the brim but low on words. My writers talk of writing as an anchor and a life raft. We share stories and feel ourselves righted, as we always do, held up by writing and by each other.
My eldest is feeling anxious too as we sit chatting over our last home ed lunch. School is looming and new and familiar challenges litter the landscape like ice bergs. 'Things will always keep changing,' I say, 'for better and for worse. It is the only thing we can be certain of.'
I close my new notebook.
One line a day it says on the front.
I think of Paul and the words he used to say: Keep buggering on.
This is how life unfolds, this is how books get written, this is how things change.
This is how I survive.
If you'd like to read the book that launched a year ago, Dear Blacksmith can be bought here.