“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” ~ Frida Kahlo
Monday, 16th February
Another week, another Monday, another start. Tidy by nature, Monday to me always signals a chance to start over, implementing the beginning of promises and pledges, new plans… So today I decided to get healthy and organised, cutting back on the things that aren’t helping, instilling more of those that are. New habits are hard. But after a couple of days, they grow infinitely easier and it’s the old ones that rub. So, a partial detox, more supplements and super foods, regular meditation and Reiki, lots of sleep and a firmer grasp on what’s happening in the future. In light of that, I settled myself early and worked for three hours; avoiding distraction, getting a lot done.
And then it was off to Belsize Park for my Monday group: a gathering of like-minded souls – young and old, beginner and advanced. It’s a place I like so much, I even braved the rain, hiding under yet another umbrella (I think I now have six…). One day I will catch up with the weather and come prepared; or else accept that it’s nature is changeable, it’s behaviour hard to predict. I used to always carry protection of some kind, but I’m trying to give my body a rest; which only works when I travel light. As it is, I have managed to trap a nerve, upsetting my right shoulder and arm. Add that to the sciatica in the same leg (something that first appeared in Mallorca when we were debating if we should leave, communicating, in me, a reluctance to commit to a given path) and you begin to understand why I am feeling like no matter what I do, there are always more battles to fight. Fed up with the persistence of each complaint, each ailment and grievance, things that reject my ministrations, my care, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps I’m doing it all wrong. And if I am; if all of this effort and trying are just more of the same, a journey of mistakes: then what next? If I knew which way to go, if I could have help with drawing the map, planning the calendar, I’m sure I could put it right or at least turn it back the right way. I don’t expect miracles: I’m too old for that and too world weary. But it would make it a lot easier to continue to fight, to have faith in the conclusion (which is really a beginning again, only from a better place), if I could see the progression and feel some measure of success.
The afternoon passed. I talked, I took, I shared. And then: a lovely surprise: a shared return with the gentlest, sweetest, shyest, kindest person there; a person who, while considerably younger that me, feels my age. Perhaps my own illusion? Perhaps not? I just know that currently I am connecting more with 20-year-olds; the grannies who used to collect, gone: scurrying off in search of warmer climes.
Tuesday, 17th February
So today was always going to present bumps: I knew this from the beginning. Not because I was trying to trip or purposefully collide, but because it demanded a leap I couldn’t rehearse. Don’t get me wrong, I planned – long and hard; filling my calendar weeks ago – then yesterday life intervened and suddenly I was cancelled too late to rearrange. From full, I went to baggy… and in baggy, broke thread, snagging the fabric of my dear and tender parts against rough and ready bits. Making it up as I went along, I managed to get to mid-way; then descended as the afternoon advanced.
I won’t get angry or cross or hold it against myself: the morning presented information I need to digest, things I need to think on for a while. This could be the start of an amazing adventure, a coming home to myself; a re-discovering of what I have, over time, lost. Equally, it could be an end; which leaves me with a hole that needs filling up. To have found after searching for so long, and then to discover it was all a farce, a beautiful illusion that banned entry at the gate: would be cruel.
Wednesday, 18th February
I’m alive. I survived. And, “Shock, horror!..” (at least to me): I’m still smiling. How? Yesterday was the worst day; one of those days when no matter what you do, how hard you try, it just goes wrong. I also underestimated just how much I cling to routine and how deeply my morning class, my current intellectualism (religious in nature, self actualising in trajectory), affected me. To say that it turned my ‘Right Side’ ‘Wrong Side’ up, over and into: would be an understatement, belittling both it and me. For one minute there was a rug – beautiful and pretty, soft to touch… and the next: nothing. The stones scratched. The dirt got ingrained. The spiders tickled and the worms slid. And as it rained, which it did (if only in my head), my feet squelched, causing me to slip. Hurt, confused, tired, unhappy: I tried to tend to my house as best as I could. But I wasn’t far enough away. Had I been able to stand back, to float up and sit above, I would have quickly seen the solution. My garden was overgrown. The weeds were choking. The flowers – roses, red – were disappearing, dying. Where only moments earlier there was light; now there was darkness: the sun gone, the moon veiled. I learned a valuable lesson: never expect; what existed hours, minutes, seconds before, won’t necessarily continue to remain simply because you demand it. Come prepared. Look often. Tend and clean. It is your responsibility to oversee and it is vital that you do. For someone who has tripped and stumbled, fallen to her knees and then flat, I have been awfully complacent. How quickly the grass grows. Even in England in the middle of winter, juggling challenge and catching disaster, I have managed to ignore important work. Yesterday warned me: a red flag. Floundering beneath it, I caught drips as it bled.
The day stretched, pulling my mind into tangles. Moving from place to place, travelling the map of London from East to West, back, I sought out spaces in places impossible to find. Only when I gave up, accepting and returning, did the noise stop and the torment contract. Hiding at home behind walls and windows, I relaxed; watching the lives of others on TV.
Today I woke to an altogether different mind: Wednesday is always a good day. Short of tripping or slipping in the street, getting hit by something moving, or stumbling accidentally into the middle of a fight: I will be ok.
Thursday, 19th February
I woke scared, unsure of what to expect from my morning, my class that, Tuesday, upset me. Would it be more of the same: rules, regulations, big changes, serious promises, pledges, commitments, decisions in certain novel directions that may or may not be right? Or softer, like before? I think I need a few weeks to settle, to digest. The news didn’t sit comfortably. Shared, it was a bomb – fire everywhere, ashes hot. Still dusting myself off, still chewing on questions, I’m unsure.
Part of me pulls forwards, into arms more loving and available than any I currently have, any I have ever known. And part of me pulls back, reluctant to lose what limbs I have: for while not currently available, available ever as far as today can show, I still hold out hope that one day they will open to receive me in the way that I want.
What to do? Where to go? These questions make me feel unstable, as do the ailments that won’t be silenced no matter what. I hear their message, I observe my life ‘according to the view presented to and through their eyes’, I try as best as I can to do what I must in order to placate them, I am running fast but I can’t seem (still, ever) to catch up. With so much missed, so much dropped, so much let go of and slowly but steadily broken apart: I am increasingly haunted by the feeling that it might now be too late.
Friday, 20th February
As the 7th March draws steadily nearer – casting an ever larger, ever darker, shadow over the remaining days – my anxiety increases: there is still so much to do in order to be prepared. I’m learning, but slowly. Things still perplex. The old and new tangle, snag, catching me out. Not sure what to expect, the level of proficiency required, I don’t know how to plan and it is this, above everything, that creates difficulty. And yet, there is satisfaction and joy, and that’s what’s important.
Up and down, backwards and forwards: this ride is tiresome. Seated next to a hare and a lion, aware that there is also a rat and a snake, I can’t help but wonder: What it’s all about? Where it’s leading? …for surely there has to be a point, or why? Conclude that I must have fallen back into my former ‘Sevenoaks’ trap, my winter cavern. This climate does not love me much.
Saturday, 21st February
Off to a great start. 12pm and I’m sitting in a cold, cheerless cafe: moody staff, tepid tea. And before that – wearing new shoes; open, summery: I got soaked by a car driving too fast, too close… Weathering wet feet, damp tights, shoes that have been unfairly christened, indoctrinated in London: oil, sewage, mud, dirty water, etc… and mourning a coat that’s covered in blotches – dark and brown, already ruined at less than a month: I am trying to shut it out. But it’s hard. I might be travelling towards a better place, one that’s enlightened; heading for the promised land at the end of a long, lonely tunnel: the tunnel that’s me, the tunnel that’s my suitcase, the tunnel that comes as part of being in the world, but I am years away from arriving. And the harder I try, the longer I continue, the more I invest, the further the divide between old and new.
While a part of me celebrates my progress and it’s rewards, the beauty of its gifts; another part weeps. The price demanded is high. And there’s this new possible path that scares me, that wants a lot in return for a life that’s supposed to be simpler, happier, less conflicted; purposeful, pure; deeply spiritual and connected, rich with friends. I wrestle with my conscience. I argue with my heart. I ignore my gut and listen to my head. Too much, too fast: everything else is oppressive.
I’m losing touch with who I am. I’ve forgotten who I was. I’m trying to see who I will become but the future is still obscured. With so many possibilities; so many rivers and mountains, deserts and oceans: to get it all right at once would be a big deal. Not one for failing, for giving up, I face it with resolve and strength, unable to turn back but unsure of where to go.
Sunday, 22nd February
Surviving. Slowly figuring it out: what works, what helps and what upsets. There is more to hurt. Less to help. The trick is in the balance: endeavouring to pick up and knot, weave and sew, something flat or as near to that as possible. I’m dreaming of English fields full of flowers and butterflies; meditating on beaches with golden sand; drawing gardens with pedicured lawns: putting it out there, hoping the law of attraction works. If nothing else: it gives me focus. Too often my brain runs away, getting lost.
Yesterday I attended a seminar entitled Time Management Skills. Unsure of what to expect, I was actually pleasantly surprised; gaining helpful suggestions to the problems that persist. She spoke a lot of sense, the teacher, possessing considerable insight for someone so young. I feel old. There are too many twenty-year-olds in London. They surround me everywhere I go. Are they the only ones with money? Or are they the only ones with the desire to interact? The old, those closer to my age, those above, hide, preferring suburbs and houses, travelling to and from, in and out, without getting caught up.
In the evening, I try to knit: working on completing, tidying up. But my plans are thwarted by the lack of proper light and I am forced to give up.
Happily today as part of a group – the one that was meant to teach me crochet but has not, the one I bought a hook and yarn for, the one I postponed visiting my parents for… I managed to catch up, casting off and sewing up a hat, knitting a picot edge on one of an eventual pair of booties, beginning the next small shoe, casting on 26 stitches in black.
by Rebecca L. Atherton
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