It is Time

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Arum Lily in Black and White

~ Trigger Alert ~

 

I have never feared death.

But yet I fear change.

I feel the pain of loss and mourn those who have passed.

Some I wish were still here.  Was it really their time to go?

Death, our attitudes to it, well, that’s a curious thing.  We like to pretend in our sophistication that death does not come to us all; we like to believe that we can hold back the inevitable like Cnut or, more successfully, the Dutch dyke boy.

Yet death comes.

There is this bleak realisation that slowly come into my mind a few months ago and has never really left it since:  I never planned on getting old.

It is this thought, this feeling that now often surfaces, an unshakeable, disquieting companion, in the lonely or painful or sleepless or dark moments that I pass through.  Yet, I don’t really have the words, or even the consciousness, to describe it.

There have been moments in these last few months when I have faced the bleakest moments of Old Age; my physical body is failing me terribly (ironically at just this time when my psychological self seems stronger than ever) and I struggle to do the most basic of things.  At times, everything is so difficult and painful.

So I ask myself:  Why am I still here?

Actually, more often, I ask myself how.  How am I still here?

You see, I never planned on being a grown up, I couldn’t envision such a distant, alien time.  And now, apparently, I am one.  Due to years, at least.

And this year I have found myself feeling like a grown up, or at least, like what I think feeling like a grown up feels.  I am old and weary.  And I don’t like this feeling.

What happened to all the time between here and there?

Since when did that inconceivable there get so close then arrive?

I don’t know.

I never thought that I would be a grown up.

I thought that I would die young.

Maybe it was the morbid fancy of youthful depression and too many romantic concepts of invalidity born of stories.

Do the good die young or is it more just for the wicked to be allowed to leave before too long, before too late?  Is death a punishment or a reward?  Is death a climax, a culmination or is it an excuse, an easy way out?  Is death for the brave or for the cowards?

I still don’t know.

I didn’t fear the evil word that is Cancer, I am pragmatic about such diseases and their outcomes. I feared earlier evils in my naïve, backwards mind: consumption, perhaps; unseen, little understood spectres that took without discretion, who wreaked havoc in swathes and left no survivors.

(Even as I write this, Beth’s words from Little Women echo in my head still).

I feared hospitals.  I still do.  Hospitals are places of suffering, in my mixed up, dark mind, where everything is taken out of your hands, out of your control and given to nameless, shapeless deities, revered by some in society.  I fear them.  Hospitals are dark and dirty, hospitals are places of other languages and other worlds, hospitals are places of loss, hospitals are a place of another kind of death, the loss of self.   I never want to be in a hospital.

I had no dreams for the future, just this certain, unshakeable belief that I would be gone.  But now I find myself here and I ask why and I ask how.

Do I want to die?  I still don’t know the answer to that.  I just know that I do not want to be here.

Do I wish I was dead?  I still don’t know the answer to that.  I just know that I do not want to be here and the future, well, there is no future, just a continuation of days, of months and of years.  This is not a future, I have no more hope.  I dream and wish for nothing.  At the very best, I survive.  And I’ve had enough even of that.

Am I Depressed?  No more so than usual.  I would not call myself suicidal; I know and recognise the tug at my heart that comes briefly when the Depression is not so bad and my mind is clear, determined and resolved.  A reactive Depression that still has the motivation, the willpower to act.  I know too that suicide is not the worst of feelings because most often my Depression sinks far, far lower into a never-ending, murky abyss.  I don’t fear feeling suicidal either.  There is worse.  Much worse.

I have, as with so many things in life, two standards.  One for me, one for the rest of the world.  I’ve always had this dual outlook.  I will stand by your side through all your sufferings; I will not leave you.   Death is not something that anyone should face alone.

I fear endings just as I fear change.

It was me and my father who took our dog to the vet’s one early morning when I was still a teenager.  I understood that the others had duties, responsibilities elsewhere and I respected that.  It is only within the last few days that a passing remark on a television programme made me think again, review this episode.   Apparently, most people don’t want to watch their pets fall asleep.  Well, of course not.  I understand that much.  But to not be present?  I don’t understand that.  I had no concept of it then and I struggle to comprehend it now.  I am not a macabre, sick-minded person who takes pleasure in viewing the end, a end but rather, I see quiet respect and dignity in accompanying someone, something at that moment.  Even just an animal.  Maybe it was duty or responsibility that kept the others away.  But maybe it was duty or responsibility that prompted both of us to stay in that room to the very, very end and beyond.

(We went home and poured ourselves generous tots of brandy to steel ourselves and never spoke of it again).

I feel sad that I was not up in the night for the myxy rabbit which passed in our care.  We had brought him home late one night as he was too ill to get out of the road and fixed him up comfortable quarters but knew there was little hope.  I felt I had abandoned him in his hour of need when he passed whilst we slept, unconscious.  But hopefully, not uncaring.

But for me?

I want to go quietly, as in alone.

I don’t want any fuss or spectacle.  I don’t believe that I will be missed.

I just want to slip away, somewhere quiet and lonely, away from everything and everyone and for it to end.

I don’t even know if I want to be found.

(I don’t know if I can be found).

Since I barely had double figures, I have always written a Will and in it I have stated that I do not want a funeral, I want to be chucked in a river and forgotten about.  Although I am pretty sure that the Environment Agency would have something to say about that.

Is it Depression?  Is it morbidity?  I don’t know.  I am weary though and not getting any younger or more well.  I am not likely to ever be well again.  And happiness has always been the most fleeting of experiences in my life.  I have survived until now and now, I don’t want to anymore.

I want this to end.

Does that make me wicked?

I don’t know.

Does that make me selfish?

I don’t know.

Does that make me weak?

I don’t know.

Death comes.  But it hasn’t come to me.

And I don’t understand why not.

 
 

Related Posts:-

 

(I only recently came across this post and I feel terrible for not reading it at the time.  I hate not being there before people).

A more recent post from another blogger on a similar subject.

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Inside Out

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Boots at the Beach

~ Trigger Alert ~

Tall, skinny, fair … I had it all.  The only problem was that those adjectives only applied in my family; anyone over five foot and less than a size eighteen qualified.  To the rest of the world, what was I?  What am I?

I’ve always struggled to see myself from the outside.  I know myself quite well from the inside and I wish that was the part more people focused on or took their first impressions from.  In my mind, I’m just some sort of amorphous gingerbread person and that kind of works for me.  Until I come face to face with a mirror or have to make some kind of superlative effort for an event or do or some such.  Then I struggle.  I struggle a lot.

I don’t understand the how much less the why of the external.  It confuses me when I try to approach the subject, I can’t get an easy handle on it.  I’m aware that females of the species do seem to spend extended periods of their childhood or adolescence practicing hairdos and face painting.  I seem to have missed that memo.  It was never on my to do list.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just had other things to deal with as a teenager.  But part of me always ends up asking ‘why should I bother?’ and I don’t have any answers for myself because I don’t even know quite what that questions involves.

I think it sucks that women, in particular, are constantly bombarded with unattainable, unrealistic messages from some disturbed authority about who they should be, how they should, what they should look like.  I don’t buy in to that.  So I ask myself ‘why do I want to try to look good?’  Am I doing for others, because ‘society’ tells me that I should?  If I’m honest, I know that the ideal shape in an ideal world is straight up, straight down and skinny with it.  That’s my ideal world, not anyone else’s.  I’m a little envious of anyone who has this shape.   Simply because it would make clothes buying a lot easier.  But do I desire to be that shape?  Do I expect everyone to be this shape?  No.  When I cast my mind over people that I know, a few of them are but most of them are not.  I do not think worse or less of the others.  It doesn’t exactly feature in my mental top trumps list of attributes for anyone.  I value the inside more.

So if I’m not doing for others, who am I doing it for?  Is it alright to want to feel nice, to look good simply for oneself?  Is that not vanity or pride?  I eschew both of those.  I’m pretty good at self-neglect.  Most of the daily, never-ending  rituals of hygiene and prettification become wearisome and boring to me.  Should I make an effort?  Why?

I want to be the girl I was once.  For a brief window in my early twenties, I seemed to have it all.  I was a happy size eight.  A size that I had never even been raised to contemplate.  But then my physical health was fairly good; I was active – dance and movement classes; walking; even some football.  I was busy.  I was young.

I like to be ‘skinny’ simply because it makes me different from the rest of my family.  I associate it with being healthy, with being active and with being in control.  They are all things that I wish for right now.  But my life has changed.  My health has changed.  Nearly a decade on, how can I be the same person?

I don’t want this to be a slippery slope, an upwards descent to ever larger clothes sizes.  I don’t want people saying things like ‘I told you so, I knew it would catch up with you one day’.  I don’t want that.  But what can I do?

I never know whether it’s the clothes that are getting tighter or whether they just feel tight.  (Mongrel beast’s good old allodynia is alive and well).  Sizes are getting smaller too. I have some old pairs of jeans in the cupboard (they’re all worn out now) and they’re all the same brand, all the same size but there’s a difference of about two inches from the skinniest to the widest.  A straight up, straight down skinny friend of mine told me that her jeans were a size twelve.  I wondered what hope there was for me then when she’s like a quarter of the size I am.  Am I destined for a not-yet-invented size forty-eight or something?!

This body of mine is Chronically Ill.  I don’t have the choice to exercise.  Some days (alright, some weeks even), exercise is trying to make it to the bathroom.  I don’t do things for pleasure, for fun.  I can’t walk into town for a bottle of milk.  How am I meant to be in control of this body?  This is a body that fights IBS, that bloats and swells; this is a body that fights ME, that sags and puffs.  I have skin that shows every blemish and every mark.  I have skin that hates stress.

I’m not in control of my body.  I’m not in control of anything actually.  And that frightens me sometimes.  Being in control is important to me.  So perhaps that’s why I’d like to claw a little something back, just something sometimes so that I can feel a little bit good about myself, about who I am.  I get fed up of pyjamas and duvets and unbrushed hair.  I want to be in control, I want to feel nice once in a while.  Or at least kid myself that might be the case.

Life is a Seesaw

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Looking back, I’m not entirely sure if I ever really enjoyed the seesaw; it was probably the biggest ‘thrill’ ride of the playground (those rusty, heavy roundabouts required a strong and enthusiastic being to go anything faster than a revolving display unit) but I’ve never been one for thrills.  (Or frills, for that matter).  There wasn’t much grace or control to the seesaw, you were dependant on either the steadying force of an adult or the out-of-control competition that spiralled as soon as you were placed opposite your sibling.  What was the point of the seesaw?  To see how high you could go (with a bump)?  Or to see how hard you could hit the ground, or get the other person to (with an even harder bump)?

It seems that balance has long been a theme in my life, or perhaps, more accurately, an issue.  And like being on that seesaw, it can often feel like someone else, something else, but definitely not me, is in control.  Do you hit the ground with a clunk and jar or are you left stranded high in the air?  And are the only choices the one or the other?  Can you balance?

My life often feels like I’m riding that seesaw.  Or is ‘riding’ too active?  Because it doesn’t feel like I’m in control, I’m just sitting on it, unable to get off, getting bumped by one extreme or another.

I hate that.

I’ve been struggling.  I’ve not been as well as I’d have liked.  Then there was a crazy episode of Anxiety with a capital A.  There’s been all sorts of other hiccups and stresses but it doesn’t ever seem to be getting any better.  I want improvement.  I want things to be better.  It’s hard living, surviving, between one crisis and another, getting bumped and jarred, lurching between one disaster and another.

I want to get down.

The Blame Game

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Quayside Ladder

What does being an adult, reaching maturity really mean?  I think that one of the most important definitions, if you will, or maybe criteria, is being able to take responsibility for yourself.  We are born helpless and within not so many years we are weaned, potty trained and have learnt to walk.  These are huge milestones in development, obvious markers of when we become responsible for ourselves.  For other things though, taking responsibility is much more subtle, less obvious so perhaps we don’t appreciate the process or find it impossibly hard to pinpoint that exact moment when we become fully responsible for ourselves.

Being responsible for ourselves means accepting consequences, or in the place, just acknowledging that there will be consequences.  For some reason, we find this hard.  Often that difficulty stems from childhood, a profound sense of embarrassment or even fear can hold a child back from admitting that he has made a mistake.

How do we see mistakes?  We often say that we have done something ‘wrong’.  Wrong (yes, I’m back to nuances again) carries very negative implications, it can even imply that something was deliberate, a choice perhaps.  Making mistakes, having accidents are a normal part of life.  But when we describe it as something ‘wrong’ we inherently imply that there was a fault, someone is to blame.

 A child with unbalanced psychology, or surrounded by people with unbalanced psychology, will quickly catch onto this connotation, especially when the consequences are appropriate to wrong-doing and not to a mistake or an accident.  The child will quickly learn that they are at fault, being held accountable and will look to shift the blame elsewhere.

If we as adults are supposed to accept the consequences as part of taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions, what example are we setting to the children around us?  Are we too embarrassed to admit that we’ve made a mistake?  Do we try to blame someone else, anything else?  Or do we accept responsibility?

This becomes an even more important issue in our modern culture.  We live in a society where tacky daytime TV advertising, no win no fee solicitors tell us that we must blame someone else.  This is fast becoming the norm.  We have an accident and someone is at fault, to blame.  And it’s never going to be us.  (I appreciate that in countries where healthcare must be paid for that compensation is often quite necessary to cover a person’s medical expenses, a person who is a genuine victim of someone else’s wrongdoing).

That’s not what an accident is.  An accident just happens.  And perhaps that’s something we are deeply uncomfortable with, we are often desperate to control our lives, the world as we see it and live it.  But unfortunately we can’t.  Accidents happen.  We’re not quite as in control as we’d like to think we are.

How do you respond when you see or hear of a car accident on the motorway or some major road?  Do you assume, presume even, that this is the result of someone’s wrongdoing, someone who’s been speeding or driving recklessly?  Someone must be to blame; it must be someone’s fault.  To accept that a car accident can just be exactly what it says it is, an accident, forces us to admit subconsciously that it could also happen to us.

If we take responsibility for ourselves and our actions as mature adults, we cannot keep trying to blame others or anything else, animate or inanimate.  We have to accept that sometimes we can mistakes and we also have to accept the deeply uncomfortable truth that sometimes accidents happen.  If we can’t then unfortunately I don’t think we can really claim to be so grown up after all.

I had an accident.  First of all, I railed against the ladder.  Admittedly, the ladder does have form.  But when I look at the incident rationally then I have to conclude that it was possibly actually a good thing that the pathetic ladder collapsed and fell in the opposite direction to me.  If not, I might have got painfully tangled in it and ended up in a far worse state than I did.  I have to accept that this was just an accident; there was no blame or no fault.  My ever reliable grip failed in this instance.  I was more tired than I cared to suspect.  A truth that I’m not entirely happy to admit.  But it was still just an accident, one of those things that just happened as accidents are wont to do.

Accidents are deeply unsettling because they do just happen.  It’s a shocking and often painful reminder that we’re not in control of ourselves and our lives quite as much as we’d like to be.  And yes, accidents are more likely when we are over tired, stressed out, overwhelmed.  It still doesn’t make them our fault, we are not to blame.  Hindsight might indicate how we could have prevented it happening, just as if that car driver had chosen to stay at home that morning after all.

There are other positives that I’ve discovered since that wee accident.  I did not break anything on my way down, which considering our loft hatch is in a hallway three-foot square is seriously impressive.  I landed next to a thirty year old Moroccan tagine.  I would have been very distraught if I had damaged that.  But being me, I would have been less distraught if I had broken myself.  Another highly surprising thing was that there was no Voice, it remained silent throughout the entire incident.  That was very strange.  But I really don’t mind that.  I also got to treat myself to some ‘get well’ yarn, yarn is always a good thing.  It always make me feel good too.  And really importantly, husband has decided that whenever I want something from the loft or to go into the loft, he will do it when I ask.  (I’m not going to hold my breath but at least have leverage).

Accidents happen.  Make of that what you will.  But you might be surprised to learn that they can give us wise lessons and even positives can come out of them.  However, you might still have a very sore tail a fortnight later.

The Mask I Wear

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~ Trigger Alert! ~

It’s funny because I actually hate wearing masks, claustrophobic with scratchy edges, eyeholes positioned carefully to be in the wrong place for me blearily staring out without the safety of my glasses underneath.  It was cool to use masks in our drama work at school, I’d wriggle out, try and find some other role for myself.  The cheap, white plastic faces that the others delighted in, high art at its very best, just meant fear and induced panic to me.  I was never cool.

You see part of the problem is that I already was wearing a mask.  Some paint their faces, an inch of slap, to hide behind and to pretend that they’re something that they fear that they might not be.  Others create intricate masks, masks that allow them to play a role whilst hiding the reality beneath.

I don’t know what role I was hoping to create.  I think it was generic ‘normal’.  I don’t remember consciously creating the part nor do I remember the moment when I first donned the mask.  But now it accompanies me everywhere, I don’t go out without it.  I even forget that I am wearing it.

This mask allows me to be, relatively, cool and collected.  This mask gives me a veneer of confidence, a quiet assurance that I try to pass off.  It permits me to function in a demanding world without a barrage of questions, without exposing myself to the pain, threats and dangers that everyday life poses.

I got so nervous about going out; I felt somehow that I had no right to be out and about, I was embarrassed by being out and about, that I used to force myself to greet strangers in the street.  Don’t worry this was perfectly normal behaviour for everyone else; I grew up in a small, friendly town.  Eventually I built up the confidence to ask questions in shops, I would force myself to walk in and find something to ask about.  Asserting my right to be present in their shop.

I was talking to a friend the other day.  She hadn’t realised that I was shy.  I am, painfully shy.  I hate talking to people; will do anything to avoid it.  I only do it for the sake of politeness; I have mastered the art of small talk.  I have even mastered the art of small talk without looking like I am being tortured.  I do it to fit in, I do it to be ‘normal’, I do it because it is expected.  When I have to go out to something social, my stomach churns with nerves, never mind butterflies it is an entire fleet of Wellington bombers.  And not in rubber boots either, hobnailed ones.

My nerves got so bad that I once developed a stutter.  I’ve suffered with panic attacks for over a decade.

But life has to go on.

I got through the stutter by pretending that I was performing a role.  I could speak in public by pretending to be someone else.

I guess that that is where the mask partly comes from.  But there were other expectations too.  Expectations that family, culture, society all impress upon you.  You try not to let anyone down and to do that, you have to become someone or something else.

Otherwise most days I wouldn’t be able to function.

Now I am so used to wearing it that I forget that I am wearing it.  The role I have unwittingly created is also a burden to me.  It is a responsibility to keep it up, to maintain it daily.  A responsibility and a struggle.  I can’t just crack now because everyone knows the other me.  I can’t burst into tears for the slightest reason.  I can’t ask for help.  Because with this mask on, I am in control, everything is under control.

But it isn’t.

So what do I do?  I have no choice but to keep on wearing the mask, to continue with my daily performance.  An artiste pandering to some expectant audience.  I have become the mask.  I don’t know if there’s anything underneath anymore.  Or if, maybe, that fragile shell is all that is holding me together and then I don’t really want to risk taking it off either.