My Mum used to wake up in rather a bad grump. Mornings coloured her outlook on life and seemingly made it impossible for her to see the positives in her day until mid-morning when to all our relief she seemed to thaw her way back to loveliness. It was difficult to live with and something I was too quick to frown upon because it could be so awfully difficult to predict and to navigate when you weren’t that way inclined yourself and the moods made no sense at all.
I judged because I didn’t understand. And I didn’t understand because my Mum couldn’t explain it. Not even, I think, to herself.
Recently though, with alarming regularity I wake with what I can only describe as a kind of searing frustration. An urge to scream I suppress, along with the torrid dreams that fling me awake. Last night the horror of helping a friend bathe her own dead mother, then fold her into a parcel and tie her with a flamboyant bow. A few nights ago the recurring nightmare that is failing to hand in my thesis. (A dream I have endured so often, over the years, I am now half-convinced it is true).
I thrust myself awake to escape. And tumble into the day already feeling too exhausted to deal with the groundhog nature of life in a pandemic. I sip tea, brooding and ready to snarl and then let loose a litany of worry and outrage I wholly expect Ste to dissect and help me to understand. No time for considering how equally exhausting it must be for him to have to counsel me into each day. Issuing orders like a Sergeant Major in floral pyjamas, all too often driven by emotion inspired by events that only happened in my sleeping head.
Where once I could not make sense of Mum, now I cannot make sense of me. Though of course I am quick to offer myself excuses: to say well now it’s because we are in lockdown, and it’s January, and Finn has been so ill, and its been such a horrible start to the New Year, and the menopause is playing tricks on my mind. And true enough, it is all that and more.
It is the sheer frustration of being surrounded at all times by those I love with no real route to the silence that I crave. It is money worries and Covid deniers. It is barely sleeping and then being somewhat destroyed by dreadful dreams. It is Covid creeping ever closer. friends and friends families suffering where a few months ago it seemed once removed. It is missing Kath, and my Dad and Mark. It is the not knowing. The never-ending nature of it all. It is anger at those who spout nonsense about a virus they can surely be in no doubt, exists. All the rubbish those given to ranting are ranting about: rants so often stemming from ignorance and self-serving greed. It is watching the end of my son’s childhood slip away in an endless round of television and solitude. It is missing Stevie and watching Ste miss Stevie so very much more. It is grief for what was. The time to dwell on imaginary aches and pains we would usually barely acknowledge. The constant fear regardless of whether that fear has its roots in reality or possibility. It is the relentless effort to keep everybody smiling. Navigating and off-setting potential friction. The endless reassuring and warning and rationalising. The ludicrous types who mutter darkly about vaccines. Those on my Facebook feed who have revealed themselves to be two saucers short of a dinner service. It is politics, and boredom and worry and it is all so very knotted in my head that first thing in the morning, in the candle-lit calm of our dark living room, that try as I might, I cannot lower the volume until I have let it all spill out.
So we get up, Ste and I and we make tea and we sit together and bless him, he listens. He listens so very well. He sees me. And to be seen in this way is a blessing in itself. If he is frustrated, if in his head he is thinking oh dear lord, would you just shut up, he doesn’t say it. He pours tea and lays out vitamins and opens tangerines and he listens and he says, This too will pass. We all feel the same. It won’t last for ever. What can you do today to help yourself? What can I do to help you through this? Platitudes that truly help. The reassurance of someone so very much at peace with himself now and all too willing to let me take my seat in the crazy chair.
For this does feel like a kind of daily, short-lived, irrational bout of crazy.
Some mornings it feels almost like an out-of-body experience as I hover beyond myself and watch as I deconstruct our lives and declare it wanting. As I moan about everything from the temperature of the house, to a story on the news, or my dad not being able to buy the fish soup he loves. Big things and little things. Things that don’t matter and things that with the best will in the world I couldn’t do anything about.
And then it is over. Off my ample chest. And he will say something that makes me laugh and then I am on my feet abundant with gratitude and ready to start the day. To enjoy the routines and rituals that sustain me and to keep on, keeping on for what choice is there other than to start the daily round and to bless it with all manner of indulgent little somethings to see us through.
Each day then after my morning anxiety has passed, I choose to live well within the reinforced boundaries of what is possible in isolation. I take my own medicine: the advice I issue daily to those in my community. I eat well, And learn and meditate and watch only that which feeds my mind. I consume as much joy as I can stand, take all the supplements I can force down my throat, force a rhythm of togetherness and solitude that means we all have time to pursue our own interests, but come together daily simply for the sake of not being too alone. I clean, and putter and write and read and take baths and apply face masks and talk to family and friends.
But it is still hard.
This then is what I want you to know: it is still hard. Here at BrocanteHome, I have always been truthful and right now as we head towards the twelve month anniversary of something we could not have predicted could wreak so much havoc, it matters to me to tell you my truth: that despite all that I do here to help myself, and moreover ask you to do to help yourself, each morning I wake up feeling distraught. I weep a little. I find it hard to shake off the tiredness consuming my soul and I worry more than is probably necessary.
I am not myself. None of us are. And acknowledging how we feel matters. While my Mum could never explain her own morning melancholy, nor seemed to want to discuss it, I am imploring you to talk about all that you feel. To notice when anxiety is consuming you, to know the difference between anxiety and depression and to do as I do each morning, and ask for help. For a hug. Or a listening ear. Before doing your best to get through the day without abandoning what is left of the daily routines that shore you up in normal times.
It would be so very easy to wind down into a kind of static nothingness as we wait for the virus to burn itself out. So easy to reduce life to one corner of the sofa and scroll our way to numbness. But if we do we will be allowing quiet trauma to consume a substantial part of our lives, when life as Covid-19 has so vividly shown us, can be so short and we really cannot afford to allow whole days and weeks and months to go by completely tinged by the melancholy of the morning.
So weep. Whinge. And pull out your hair and then get up and make the day as lovely as can be. There is no other way than to put your phone down, turn off the news and live well, regardless.
This too will pass.