When you buy a house you imagine filling the roll top bath with sumptuous, scented bubbles, and conjure up images of blades of grass bending under your bare feet in the garden as you hang out the washing. You imagine wine glasses clinking and smiling eyes around the dinner table; the fire crackling away and having logs tenderly placed upon it in the winter. Everything has a warm hue of golden light and hopefulness, and placing the key in the front door for the first time you really feel you might burst with joy. It is the joy of a new chapter, a new beginning. Something that can be built and created and captured and lived in. You do not realise, at the time, that chapters can be short and joy is fleeting.
You do not imagine your father placing his hand on your shoulder as you cry in the hallway and gaze around at the scattered boxes that contain your belongings. You do not imagine separating seven years’ worth of belongings, or forcing your brain to thumb through old memories to remember who bought that vaguely ugly green glass owl (me, of course). I take the ‘Captain’ mug and leave him the ‘First Mate’ mug because I’m trying to retain a sense of humour through it all, but then I tear up again seeing his birthday cards and thinking how many birthdays we celebrated, how many anniversaries, Christmases, dog’s birthdays (though we often forgot – sorry Bodhi).
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Everyone says, “but this was your decision, but you have created all of this” and I know they mean this kindly, to ease the pain and drag me from this sense of ‘victim-ness’, this wounded animal. It is my actions that mean that I am packing books into boxes, that mean that I stood in the pouring rain in January pushing blue Ikea bags into my boot and waving goodbye to everything I thought I wanted. The animal wounded itself and now wishes to mourn the sight of the arrow. And I wish that it were true, that having pushed the ball that started things rolling somehow numbs the pain, but it doesn’t. It still hurts to grieve for all of the things that were planned that didn’t arrive, for all of that hope that didn’t metamorphosise into forever.
So what is the good in this, what can this hope be melded into that feels warm and gives off light? It is that hope can live on and that the light can hang in the distance and give you something to walk towards. It is knowing of a love that transcends a need to be together and accepts that kindness can sometimes look like letting go. It is visualising those books on another bookshelf in another house and having faith that this is not the end and there are so many chapters to come. And of course, it is knowing that rolled up in newspaper in the loft of my parents’ house, I have the ugly glass owl.