Some days lift without me doing a thing about said lift-ness. Rising with the early light, everything flows in perfect synergy with everything else and there is no chaos within or without. My body feels lithe and supple, the music, Satie’s Gymnopedies, swims through the dawn, my home and me. Birds flit between the feeders, goldfinch, siskin, blackbird, sparrow, woodpecker, dunnock, chaffinch. No neighbourly cat yet to explode them into the sky, no sparrowhawk to bring them down, just soft reverence to Life herself. I dress, make coffee and wonder how everyone else feels about this morning. Across the sea-loch, mist ghosts the hills below what might just be a blue sky. I haven’t seen one of those for weeks and it’s a welcome sight, one not to be taken for granted as we don’t get ‘spells’ of weather on this island. One day may be all we can ask for, one day of dry, a gift and not one to be ignored but instead to be celebrated actively, mindfully, each minute thoroughly lived because tomorrow, that day that never comes, may well open grey and wet, the sky closed once again.
During these widow days I have known many mornings, many hours of self-doubt and fear, of loneliness and sometimes, despair. Although I know that I must, absolutely must, animate my inner poltroon, start believing and continue to believe that I am more than able to live not only a solo life but one which can still really live even with a missing part. It will always be thus because 50 years of marriage is a very big chunk of any life and to be left behind inside that life now empty of all that was familiar is discombobulating at best. It is almost 2 years now, no, more, because dementia eats a person up little by little and ten years of watching that monster nibble away changed us both. But still, the familiar remained. I knew him and he knew me and no matter the ancient battles fought, neither of us ever won. Now I am just me and sometimes I feel very small indeed. I can spend all night awake freaking out about absolutely nothing real, such as what I will do when my oil tank leaks gallons of oil into the garden, or a huge pine crashes through my roof opening me to the sky in the midst of a hooligan gale when it’s snowing and my neighbours are away in Tenerife? Now, however, a bit further along the road un-travelled I find myself wandering through interspace, a sort of misty corridor of in-between. I am moving, learning how to create a new familiar. Ignoring the clamjamfrie of panics, I sit with myself and we chat. What can you do within this situation, she asks. I close my eyes and let said situation settle into some sort of shape. Nothing about the being alone thing, I begin. She nods. Nothing about the gale. Ah, but I can ask a tree man to check the pines and I can call the oil tank man to check that. Good, she says. Get on with it.
There is nobody in this world, no matter how rich, how well-organised, how balanced who can avoid the big things. Things like gales, oil leaks, death. Nobody. So that means that all of us can learn new ways, a new familiar, but only having gone through the dark times, the rain days, the storms both inside and out. Courage in the face of ‘disaster’ has legs, a brain, strength and power. Fears flit like birds all the time but I can explode them into the sky if I think ‘cat.’ Imagining disaster is normal but not liveable with for long. This state demands action, not helpless panic. To ask, What can I do about any of this? is the question, followed by action and fuelled with courage, even if it feels as though courage seems to have gone off to India to find itself. The human spirit is unbreakable unless that human turns his or her face to the wall and I am not doing that, no matter what.
I was reading about Koi the other day, those beautiful Japanese fish (originally from China) we might see in lakes and ponds far far away from this place. Koi represent courage, the overcoming of difficulties, challenges, big horrible threatening life-changing things. It is said that Koi can swim upstream against any current. It can fight its way to the top of a waterfall and when it arrives at the top, will transform into a powerful dragon, not a destructive one but one re-shaped by all that life has thrown at it, all that it has learned on its journey. I like the idea of that. The thought lifts me, encourages me to face my challenges, make friends with my loneliness, and more, to keep on keeping on whilst engaging completely with it all, even the fearty times. I might become that dragon one day. What larks, Pip!