Life

The year of me: My closest friend

12th June 2018

Picture of Hannah Braime's The Year of You

“Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another”

-Derek Walcott.

I got an idea in Cornwall when I downloaded this book. The weekend before I’d been walking the dog in the woods with my friend Gill and I’d said maybe I’d start writing my blog again. For no real purpose really, I don’t have any proper blog plans, originally I changed my online name (I am eye-rolling as I type) to ‘discostitches’ to start writing patterns and sell more handmade items as a sideline. Well, you can see, a few years on, no patterns, minimal making and currently a complete creative hiatus. This space has been pretty defunct and I’ve pretty much avoided posting anything at such a difficult time in my life and in the life of my family but I like writing, I keep paying the site fees and I think maybe I need a focus, some sort of outlet, not necessarily about everything but at least about something. The therapist I’ve just concluded sessions with described life at present as living ‘a half life’. That’s my life she’s talking about and the sad thing is I agree with her. Everything is so transitional and overwhelming, that after a total burn out I don’t do any of the things I used to enjoy. I’m too tired to run, my appetite is all over the place, mainly lacking, I just can’t eat very much, it feels odd. I sleep a ton, I feel weary, I want to make stuff but I can’t concentrate for very long. I wrote about that yesterday, but it made me too sad reading it back so I didn’t publish it. I did the same thing when my dad died, stopped writing, got detached. Less than a week before he died I got a call to the hospice and he’d pulled the sink in his en suite off the wall because he’d been in so much pain. I couldn’t write about that or what followed that day. I couldn’t write about the daily awfulness of what it’s like to lose someone like that and watch the life ebb from their body while they are wracked in pain. I tried here. (I can’t believe that blog is still up! I certainly don’t pay for it anymore) I couldn’t write about the whole terrible and intense six months leading up to his death. Then my father in law died in a similar way three years later and three years after that the husband/kid’s dad left. All a clusterfuck of absolute shitfulness over years, which to be honest, has made me not want to write and right now, not want to do much of anything. I work, I walk the dog and I cook dinner. The essentials. 

Anyway the book. This book came up in my kindle recommends I think and I’ve chosen it to be my written prompt for a blog. The year of me. I can overthink the oversharing if I like but my energy is so limited currently that feels like a waste of resources and I’ve done this blogging thing before. I used to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll actually write it more than once. Maybe I’ll get unstuck. What mercy. Being unstuck is the end game because stuck is no fun and right now it’s what I’m in, leaden, heavy, stultifying stuckness. Generously I’ll call it a life pause. People keep saying this is “the start of my new life” but it’s also completely different and hard to get used to. The only issue I’ve got is writing what I want to write now and being worried if it’s something I’m going to want to have put out there in 10 years time. I feel I’m trying to navigate a very difficult headspace.

So, the idea is, you get a prompt everyday and then you write out the answer. Of course, I’ve started in June, the month of ‘relationships’ so I feel like I’ve immediately put myself on a bit of a back foot, being in the midst of a separation after an almost 13 year relationship, I’ve not written properly in ages, so I’m nervous I’ll write rubbish, but to quote my mate Nathalie last week ‘life’s a fucking bitch’. And it really is. As there’s loads of rubbish written, adding mine is the least of it I think.

Now the problem with doing this I imagine is the possibility of breaking the author’s copyright so I’m not going to write out verbatim the question posed. You’ll have to work it out, or buy the book. It’s a good book, it asks good questions.

Let’s go.

My closest friend.

Do we have to start with that? Today?

Brilliant. 

I was standing on the doormat holding the front door, I’d barely slept in three days, everything pre the weekend had totally spun on it’s axis and right now, my husband was standing on the pavement outside the house holding onto a suitcase. “You were my best friend,” I said. “You’re mine,” he replied, “but I can’t be here anymore”. And that was it, I mean there were accompanying tears and previous conversation, but pretty much: Sudden. Cataclysmic. The end.

Almost thirteen years of day to day. That’s pretty much a third of my current life, including one whole year round the world 24/7. We worked out we’d spent more time with each other than we had with our parents. We were able to talk about anything and everything, the embarassing, the perplexing, the ideas, the dreams, the sadness, the self doubt, the worry, the panic, the day to day, our history, we made REAL PEOPLE, he watched me give birth twice, genuinely when you are at your most physically vulnerable. He held my head when it was pouring with blood after an road accident, we travelled, danced, watched the people we love get married, we saw in birthdays and new years and we’d write our humble brags out or laugh at stupid shit the kids had said that year. We went on holidays and weekend breaks. We got a dog. We had a list of ‘firsts’, all the things we did for the first time together. It was long. We dived oceans around the world, walked in the countryside and saw live music. When I was sick or went to hospital he was there. He was the one who woke me one morning with a hand on my shoulder and delivered the news that my dad had died. When his father died we walked in to see his dad’s body together. At the face of brand new and extinguished life, we were side by side. There’s closeness in that you simply can’t replicate with anyone else. If you’ve experienced either, you know exactly what I mean.

You get to change over the years imperceptibly together, like they say, “make the years combine and the memories entwine,” or you don’t, you keep stuff back, hold some secrets and then apparently the difference is too great or the damage is too awful and in this case suddenly you’re definitely not close friends anymore, there’s barely recognition.

There had been potential plans to move the entire family to Singapore in what amounted to a matter of weeks before we split and it had lulled me into a false sense of security. But the albeit perceived closeness had held in it the implicit belief that no matter what, when the shit hit in life, however I felt about myself, my behaviour or my situation, whether it was good, or totally crappy, there would always be this person to hold my hand and say ‘I’m still here, you don’t have to be perfect but I’m always with you in this.’ Total acceptance. However when the shit hit and things felt so bad and so awful, I found myself very immediately and unexpectedly completely alone looking around for my person. Of course he’d gone, overnight and he didn’t return.

I asked the kids who my closest friend was today, because of this question and they answered: ‘it was daddy….but not anymore’ (then Ruby obviously attempted to state her case for what she clearly imagines is a very prized position)

Who I did consider my closest friend, isn’t. He’s not my person anymore. He’s another person. Now with an entirely different life. The struggle, what the therapist I saw calls ‘the deep grief’ is what I would describe as managing a great absence, very like someone has died, the trust and belief in this person’s unequivocal presence is gone and reminders of this fact hit unexpectedly without warning. It’s very very unfamiliar.

‘You are plugging the gaps of every part he was to you with yourself and other people,’ she said the other week. ‘It’s not ideal for now, but it’s what you have to do, spread it out and find it in different places.’ It’s been over a year now and from the beginning, the mantra everyone repeats is ‘focus on you and the kids’. And that is what I have done. Nature doesn’t allow a vacuum, there are so many truly lovely people surrounding me, who support me and love me, old faces and new, who talk and laugh and eat and run and walk with me. And the dog…. of course the dog.

In the buddhist metta bhavana meditation I sometimes practice, the first stage is sending loving kindness to yourself. It’s really very hard sometimes, to be nice to yourself, particularly when you feel low or crappy and think you’re living an inferior version of your life. But it’s the bit where you hold your own hand, when times are tough or shit is less than ideal. You sit with yourself through the doubt and the swirling thoughts and whether life is good, or crappy, I realised in this space I say ‘I’m still here, you don’t have to be perfect but I’m always with you in this’ – my closest friend, the closest person to me, has been with me right from the start.

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