A thorn in my side

imageI think I have done all of my Christmas shopping, or at least all that I can do for now: there will be more later, when I have time; when the crowds have dwindled to the last few stragglers, or, perhaps, after… once the sales start. Now, though, I am free, and I feel lighter. Shopping daunts me: I worry too much. It’s not just what to get: it’s where to get it and how much to spend and whether the recipient (he, she, them…) will like it. No matter how hard I try, how much I think or how long I spend on the task: I always get it wrong; it’s the story of my life. I do it with haircuts, nail colour, food in restaurants and clothes. I do it with books and movies and magazines. I even do it with wool and beads. And when it comes to my art: invariably, I mess that up too – overworking or miss-selecting, using colours that clash, adding too much texture or weight. I did it last night on my autumn quilt and now my heart is sad. Poor rabbit… poor carrots… poor ladybird, leaf and branch…

The thorn in my side today, however, is more tangible and I am struggling to function as a result. Moving is painful; I feel broken; something isn’t right. But what do you do about the things you can’t see: can you fix a problem located beyond the reach of eyes? Massaging my side, swallowing painkillers, moving gently and slowly, trying not to touch it or anything else: I attempt to navigate through the waves of discomfort, crossing fingers that don’t believe over hands that are cynical.

The past few weeks have been tough. The past few months have been challenging. My body has suffered while my mind has endured. Standing in the middle of the road; watching cars and buses, bikes and taxis: I deliberate over how much more I can take. We are still living in limbo. We are still sleeping on the floor – if what we are doing can be described as that. I have a cold that won’t disappear and I am cold most of the time. I am also exhausted. I know this because I long to lie down for days, long to lie down and never wake, craving horizontal more than I desire any other position I could pick were any others on offer. I cannot speak. I cannot navigate. I confuse my left and right. Sticking to the tried and tested, clinging to familiar friends: I manage by keeping it simple and small.

But what will become of me next week? And how will I find the strength to pack and move on Tuesday when we are supposed to be leaving our home-sweet-hell in favour of a new apartment? And what will I do if tomorrow we find out we aren’t moving yet and have to stay where we are instead, abandoning all hopes of having a relaxed Christmas; accepting, instead, a poor substitute lacking furniture, belongings, decorations and love? There are too many things in the pot and I am no longer managing. Like a snail, I need my house. And I don’t care if it’s a temporary house or a borrowed house or a house that actually belongs to me: I just need a place to call home that I can return to and relax in when I need to stop. Take away all of my creature comforts, suspend me in between here and there; poke me, prod me, push me, punch me, and I unravel. As the tail of thread lengthens and the length knots and snags, I start to wonder if, when I finally come to catch it, it can be untangled and rewound .

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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