Sometimes there is dark. Not the outside dark which comes this time of year, but the inside one, the one with more fingers, more legs, more traverse. I know this dark. So do you. It never gets to hold ground anymore, nor the chance to grow roots, although I remember times when it did exactly that, and so, and so, I flap it away, move beyond it, turn my back. But I remember the hold of it. In the winter months there is an awful lot of dark beyond my window. Nights begin early and hang on like there really might be no tomorrow. I light a candle in my warm conservatory to eat a breakfast of half a toasted bagel, half an avocado, squished, and one poached egg. I can’t see any of it but I can see the outline of the plate and thus am able to centre in on the food. Once nourished and almost without a spill, I can do the ironing, light the wood burner, wash the dishes and change the bed, all in well lit rooms. What is it, I wonder, that so intrigues me about the dark? Although there are times when I wait impatiently for morning to wake up, in the main, I am calm with my candle and my invisible breakfast. By now, once the light is lifting the birds and showing me my overgrown garden, I am prepped for the day. I am dressed, my slap is on (although I did apply it pre dawn and therefore might need to check my face before a trip to Dugie’s shop), and my fingers itch for writing.
The darkness within is not my enemy these days. Nonetheless I am cautiously un-smug about that, remembering the winters of discontent and my inability to lift my boots from the suck and pull of an imaginary swamp. It is beyond me now to see how I could have sunk so low, what with all those bright and energetic children hurtling like missiles throughout the walls of Tapselteerie. But I did and others do and there is no quick light-fix for the darkness within. Those who have never experienced such a state can never know how lost a person can become. And it is a slow process, an insidious creeper, as if the damp, cold cave is swallowing me bit by bit. My mind becomes dull, my body slow and shivery. I cannot get warm physically or inside my mind. Nothing anybody can say or do will lift my spirits until gradually I see little point in getting out of bed at all.
On the other side of such a state, I still cannot proffer a solution. So how did I rise from that swamp and when? Was it because I decided not to allow such a state to form and how did I recognise the first signs of its planned invasion of my self? Perhaps, although I do believe there is a lot more to it than that. What I now practice can be written in just a few words. If I feel just a bit down, I look for something, anything to be thankful for. Sometimes I can only come up with one or two things but, and this is critical, I tell myself that two things are better than one is better than none.
Another practice when feeling slow and sluggish is to do just one thing, any one thing, inside such a day. For me it might be, and has been, that I swept the floor. That’s it, that’s all I did, but, again, I congratulate myself on that one achievement. I refuse to listen to the judge in my head, that smug smartarse who is quick to remind me of all the things I haven’t achieved, of all the things I used to achieve, of my lack, of the high standard I have always and heretofore expected of myself. Oh Go Away, I say, out loud. What do you know of me, I mean really? You are just a robotic voice in my head, the critic, the emotionless automaton. Whereas I am blood and bone, living, loving and temporarily lost in the dark. No comparison, just saying.
In my family and in my life I expected much of me because that was my conditioning. No ironing till the afternoon. No television or sitting down in an armchair until the evening. No slacking ever, not never, not even if your body and mind are frazzled and exhausted. Certainly not. Always be available for everyone else and put yourself last, eat the smallest portion, be the first to rise from the table while others remain comfortably seated and engaged in conversation. No washing up until everyone has left the room, or the building and it is an irrelevance to mention that it is way past 11.30pm and my day begins about 3 hours before anyone else’s. If the baby cries, it is my job to uncry it even if I too am dressing for a dinner date. If the children have measles, noisily and all night long, scratchy as baboons and hot and miserable, it is my job to soothe and ease their struggle. And so on.
It helps that it is only me here now, of course it does, but I somehow managed to fend off the judge long ago. I do remember a sudden realisation that the only person who was falling apart was me. The rest bounced like Tigger through the days, through the dark, turning it into a grand opportunity for hiding games and mischief. Understanding that I had, and have, the power to stand against the inner darkness was and is pivotal to healing. With that understanding comes a new energy, an excitement and enough curiosity to seek a new way. I will not let this darkness subsume me ever again. I have no idea how I will achieve this but ‘that’ is not getting me again. I will notice the first signs of tiredness and announce that I am going for a rest. I will iron at dawn if I so choose. I will watch Cinderella at lunchtime if that’s what I want to do and what is more I will watch it from within the comfortable folds of an armchair. If someone pings the doorbell, you go, you make coffee and listen to their inane blether. I am busy. Busy being myself. Busy living just as you all have lived and I will do this living thing without a smidgeon of guilt because guilt is learned and I am awfully busy unlearning it.