The scent of woodsmoke fills the room as I sit here, in this place where I currently am. The sense of ‘home’ is transitory (confusing to everyone – including me – when people ask where I am). In these difficult times I have learned to grasp and hold tight to the small things; birdsong, the smell of a fire burning somewhere, the sound of traffic on a distant road. I anchor myself to these because they are familiar – because amidst chaos it is comforting somehow to know that there are still robins foraging for nuts and seeds, still people collecting discarded branches and trees, still people going about their daily lives and driving through the night. I imagine the bonfire crackling in the distance, hot embers floating up to the stars. Trees that have grown from dirt and roots, that have died and been broken, that will be burned and turned to ash. Ash and particles that will bury themselves into the dirt to eventually house new seeds and regrow and be reborn. Sometimes you’re the seed and sometimes you’re the dirt. Everything is cyclical.
My Mum was sorting through some of my Gran’s things last week and found a letter a friend had written to her that she had kept for some 40 years, until she died. Her friend had written out a poem she had read, to send as comfort during a difficult time (this is the poem). I read and re-read it, trying to grasp its meaning; trying to find a secret clue in its interwoven lines.
Fall’n in the mire,
Shall some day surely know
Why life held blow
On blow, and sacrificial fire and knife;
Seeing one stand the firmer for our rout,
Or some brave, laughing ship of youth sail out
The braver for our pain.
I form my mouth around the words and hold onto them too; like the birdsong, like the fire. I have this kind of… scrapbook in my head, of foraged things that will help me through. I file this under ‘words that help’, for further dissection at a later date. I have to start this metaphorical scrapbook because I have nothing to put in a real scrapbook – not anymore. Scraps of a continued existence are not of note. Receipts from petrol stations, first class stamps, scribbled notes from work to-do lists. The minutiae of ‘getting by’.
I’m sat in bed at my parents’ house as I try a second time to write this; my laptop perched on my knees, a mug of camomile tea sat precariously on the shelf of the wooden headboard. This is my life now; a handful of my favourite books stacked on a shelf, two watches, three perfumes, six pairs of shoes. It’s amazing the amount you don’t need when you’re forced to live in a smaller space, to use only things hastily crammed into a bright blue Ikea sack. I feel devoid of belongings, numb and exhausted. Rain forms fluid avenues and streams in a downward arc against the window. The wind turns the leaves of the trees in the front garden into awkward, flapping, flailing beings. I don’t feel ready to talk about the exactitudes of what has brought me here, to this bedroom, to this point in my life where I feel as if I have started moving backwards. I can only talk in the abstract, it is somehow too odd and unexpected to say out loud (but one day I will, when I am ready).
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Here are some things that I know. You can get through almost anything by just breathing in and breathing out. You can get through almost anything by putting one foot in front of the other. The best ones will support you no matter what, and check in daily just to ask how you are; to give you the opportunity to say when you are not okay. When times are hard, rest and self-care will soothe the wounds. The deeper the wounds, the more self-care. Self-care can include but is not limited to – long, languid baths (+ bath bombs), hot chocolate with mountains of cream, the coldest, crispest prosecco you can find, dog cuddles, slippers, the snuggliest jumper, the glow of a candle, the songs that make you sing along in your car at the top of your voice. This is what I know – sleep when you need it, eat the ice cream, look for the small things that make you feel the tiniest bit mended and hold on to them when you need to.
Everything is going to be okay.