Talking with an old friend today, I found my thinks coming into my mouth in words. It’s interesting how, when this happens, words can jumble like something as yet un-sorted through, like a crowd in disarray and in need of leadership and organisation, like kids in an unsupervised playground at break time. In both of these, the dominant factor is escape from a confined space. In the first, a big poly-bag, in the second the limitation of a desk, the well-breathed air of a morning’s lessons and the four walls that surround. It’s the same with the release of words after long hours of nobody to speak with beyond Myself (and she is always lurking) the dog, the geraniums and the disinterest of Radio 2.
My friend says something about her own loss and bereavement and there’s a tidal wave rising in my throat. I can feel it and I swallow down, mostly to no avail. I can blurt. The very best of us can blurt after all even as we may pretend we absolutely never do. It isn’t that I want to fix my friend, not at all. How can I ever know, no matter how much she tells me how life is for her, understand fully a sadness I cannot imagine? This applies to anyone I meet. We are all unique, in joys, in pain, in experience, in a zillion other ways. But the impulsive desire to connect on common ground is only human. If I care, I care, but my words need leadership. I am not a helmsman, nor helmswoman , nor helmsperson or whatever title is now socially acceptable. I am an excellent crew, Himself told me this oftentimes and he liked having an excellent crew for a wife. In fact, he liked it so much that I was never taught to helm at all. Funny, though, I do remember basking in the glory of being a First Mate as if the glass ceiling didn’t bother me one bit. I think differently now. I digress…….
I know I am more distant than my friend in terms of the death bit and by many months. I also know that I am planets away from her experience. But the grief we share, the common ground, is still tundra for us both and here we can meet. We fill in time, we tell each other. We do a little thing and then another little thing after the first little thing as we crawl our way through the days Without. And here we can help each other. We can laugh together about the extraordinary and astonishing things our friends say with good and loving intent. ‘Are you ‘there’ yet?’ ‘You should get out more, dress up, volunteer…’ All questions and suggestions are kindly meant, we who are crawling through the tundra, know this. But we can be lonely out there. We didn’t know we were going there at all but here we are, stumbling over the rocks of guilt and regret, passed the cacti of lost opportunities seen through the sharp looking eyes of hindsight. We trip over raised issues unresolved for ever. We shiver in the ice-winds of anger and burn in the sandstorms of confusion. We long for butterflies and an oasis of shade, the promise of an end to this timeless wandering only to find yet another mirage that shimmers and shivers into another day of the same.
And we laugh as we eat our lunch in the island sunshine. We sip our coffee and erupt into nonsense as our eyes connect and sparkle. We remind each other that, before this, we were girls, wild girls, brimming with hope and trust and now, now, in this swathe of tundra, we know we want to find that spirit once again. We take a wander around the island charity shop, laughing about what neither of us can wear again, but how we did once, oh we did once. And we part. I drive home left and she goes right. I know that both of us have been lifted this day. We found an oasis and it was no mirage. Although we both return to filling in the hours, we will remember each other and we will smile. We will both have learned a new something, a new way to look at an old thing and this, I believe is what life really offers each one of us. It is no easy ride for anyone. Not anyone, but the anyones who decide to be open, looking out, honest about how they feel and best of all, courageous enough to ask for help, well, they, we, have the best chance of moving onward. Not to forget, no. But, instead to learn to live on Without. There will always be a missing, no matter the relief initially felt (in my case) at the death. There will be months, years of just getting through each day, but one day, one day, waking up will feel good and the day ahead will be full of promise. I know it.