Here we are at the start of 2014. So much has happened, and yet so little.
I have just had a wonderful Christmas with family. Workmates began my 50th birthday celebrations three days early (a Friday, the birthday being the Monday and I had booked that day off work). I went to my home town on the Saturday and danced into the next day with friends from school. On the Sunday I came home, arriving just as my parents and uncle turned up, and my sister joined us a day or so later. I spent most of the mornings of the Christmas holiday at work where we fed, clothed and showered the homeless and vulnerable of the town in which I live – with abundant mince pies, cake, crackers and party hats not to mention meals of turkey with all the trimmings it was a great party atmosphere. Then I would go home to where my lovely family had created similarly festive meals for us all. My wood fire was ablaze, ably maintained by my dad. Then on the Saturday after Christmas the family departed, followed shortly afterwards by me as I wended my way to London Heathrow and a plane to my brother’s place in Washington DC where it all happened all over again – great food, great company, holiday atmosphere and we saw the New Year in style.
It was everything I could have wished for, this year or any year. And yet, throughout there was a person missing, although I was aware of his presence.
This is now how I seem to live my life – contributing to society, holding a responsible and challenging job, not doing it too badly; enjoying the fruits of life, going out, to the theatre, the cinema, the opera, good restaurants, a walk in the woods, on my own or with friends and/or family; enjoying myself, laughing, marvelling at the beauty of nature or the achievement of humankind. And yet.
It’s as though there is a small black cloud with me all the time. I can enjoy myself but I am not happy, and cannot picture being happy again.
And I can’t help remembering that back in 2007 I felt the same, for different reasons – I couldn’t avoid facing the breakdown of my relationship, I would never, ever have children, I could not see how my existence would ever make a difference to the world. I was floundering, unhappy, unfulfilled, unable to love, couldn’t have children, couldn’t give up on having them, couldn’t see any value in my future. And then something happened. I met The Professor, a man I had known twenty years before but who had not made me come alive like he did this time. I was swept up in the giddy, dancing dizziness, lost in his ferocious intellect and vigorous zest for life, and I let him convince me we could have a child together (only to be the one who refused, in the end, to let it happen) and my life took a completely different course.
The lesson is, things can happen if you let them, and just because I can’t see the way forward doesn’t mean there isn’t one. However there is a complication.
People who work on rehabilitation and re-ablement of people with mental health and other issues have a technical term for my situation. Stuck. I am stuck. I do not want to change or adapt my outlook. The way I see it, I am not happy (the feeling isn’t active enough to be labelled “unhappy”, it is more an absence of happiness than the presence of sadness) because I am in love with a man who has died. I miss him with every fibre of my being, every second of every minute of every hour of every day, my life is centred around him, and in the physical sense he is not here. I will never see his face or stroke his skin ever again, we burned his body and put the ashes in the ground. For me to be happy again would require, I believe, that I not love him so much, not miss him so much, not orient my life around him any more. And I will not countenance any of these changes. To others I may be stuck, for me I have arrived at wherever it is I am.
There is a strange comfort in the finality of this. I don’t mind being stuck, if that’s what it is. I would rather carry on like this, enjoying life without being happy, than stop loving him with every ounce of my energy. Everything would be better if he were here, that’s a given, meanwhile I am out in the world, participating in it, reaping its pleasures.