Change doesn’t come easily. It can take me a while to catch up with reality sometimes. In my head I had an idea of what was going to pan out, and sometimes that’s so powerful that it’s all I can see. The story is more real than reality and releasing that can take time.
Today I’m feeling the loss of story.
It was keeping me safe, wrapping me up. It had furnished me with a magical pot of paint and I could run around life and gild all the crappy stuff with a golden sheen. I somehow got the idea that this was what I needed to do. At church I learned how to count my blessings, that God had a reason. From new age spirituality I learned that there’s a lesson in there somewhere, and you’re never given more than you can handle. Kind friends offer these sentiments. I know they want to help.
But I’m calling bullshit.
Because sometimes it’s just crap.
I have been telling myself a story about my life. In this story I overcome all adversities to achieve complete well being and fulfillment. It’s the Western, modern myth, an update on the fifties version of the American Dream. Nothing will stand in my way if I’m positive enough and just have sufficient faith.
There have been adversities. The sudden and traumatic end of a marriage. Personal health issues. Concerns around children and their additional needs. Extended family dramas. At each moment I have strapped on my Jane Austen heroine and overcome adversity.
This time it’s different though.
My mum has Alzheimer’s. We noticed that her memory seemed different several years ago, though we only had a diagnosis in 2015. I was aware it is a degenerative illness, I have read the websites, it is a grim story. But a heroine is undaunted. We can make this work, I thought. I see her maybe once or twice a week. She has grown frailer over the past twelve months. And her short-term memory has all but gone. But I didn’t realise, that when I saw her she has been pulling out all the stops. Dad has told me this but I didn’t see it. She smiles and chats, she asks appropriate questions. I have still been able to see her.
I have seen my folks three times in the past four days. And I see that I haven’t had the full picture. Mum was here. But not here. She forgot very quickly that we had made her a drink. I needed to prompt her to eat anything. She had no appetite or interest in food, she was withdrawn. She sat in the chair and forgot to unwrap the gift in her lap, staring out of the window, or returning repeatedly to read a gift tag. The effort of keeping up appearances was exhausting. And although she spoke about going for a walk, when I took them home she struggled to make it from the car to the front door. Dad says that this is pretty normal.
I am shocked. I am angry. I don’t know what to do.
I’m good at plans, I’m good at coming up with answers, with solutions, with finding clever ways round problems. I am an organiser extraordinaire.
But I got nothing.
It’s just crap.
And the Jane Austen happy ending feels hollow.
Waking up today was like being in a new world. I can feel the hardness there. The grit of reality. The slow ache of grief. The stone in my metaphorical shoe that is stopping me from sleep walking my way through the days. There is a burning in my soul, a deep keening. To be witness to this slow unraveling. To know that it won’t get better, that I can’t make it better. To know that across the world millions are in this place, for a thousand reasons. That there is pain and sadness and loss and fear.
My gut is restless and my head keeps trying to pull away. My eyelids want to close and shut it out. To run back to the sleep world, the dream life.
But I am resolved. To feel this. To let it be. To sit with it. To look it in the face. To keep my eyes open. To make myself look, not turn away. To allow it.
The paint’s all dried up now.
It feels like the only things is to sit in the dark, holding hands, and sing the songs we love.
Heart to heart.
Scar to scar.