The lane is shut while men in yellow jackets do things at the end of it. And oh what bliss it is to have it to ourselves without the thundering lorries or, as one neighbour described it, the “whump” of tractors going about their clattery business at five in the morning. And yet, because I am a contrary cow, I miss the noise. At night I plunder through muddled dreams into startled alertness, spooked by the silence, and then lie awake listening to my own breath, drips, creaks and the man next door who seems to endure a year round cold. Bless his happy heart.
This is the oddest time of year in a year that is in and of itself, odd by definition. Nothing feels quite right, Even the weather is being badly behaved: at once warm and damp, then just as quickly blowing up a storm and making my living room feel icy cold once the afternoon settles in on itself and my always bare feet turn a little blue in protest.
And so my head turns towards hibernation. A snuggly place to hide from the chaos of Covid, food shortages, and all manner of ugly politics in all our countries. A place of certainty for the three of us, while we circle cautiously around the ogre in our own house: Ste’s likely mental health diagnosis and all that we need to know and understand if we are to survive the slings and arrows of the irrational roar of what looks to be Borderline Personality disorder and Complex-PTSD. It helps of course to be able to label the utter confusion of the last few years, but it is also dreadfully frightening to have to come to terms with the truth that life may not change now; dreams may not, after all, come true.
Fallow times then. A Winter to digest what might never be and gently shift the future to both accept that and create our tomorrows in its light. For Ste that means quietly sitting with it, deciding what it is fair to ask of me to endure, and for me it is the relentless reading, the endless trying to understand, that is the only way I can get through that which challenges me, talking through what I have learned out loud so that he who cannot yet make sense of it, can by osmosis, take in some of the hope I carefully wrap each sentence in.
Today. The heating is broken so there is no comfortable medium between stiflingly hot and goose-pimply cold on a day when the weather has turned bandit. I have lit candles in the kitchen and baked quick scones we will eat warm with pint mugs full of tea and the clatter of my typing on the keyboard. In the midst of the muddle in our hearts lately, I have been stifling a yearning to turn our bedroom into something that is mine alone, for Ste chooses to sleep, or rather lies awake now, in the monastery of the spare bedroom: a kind of sleep divorce that may or may not spell disaster, tolerance failing while love carries on fighting. Quietly suppressing her angst and waking up alone believing that today is a new day and that she might just be enough to prop up pills and therapy and the horribly slow grind of mental health service intervention.
But there are no guarantees. And so hope is all I have. And for now it is enough. Hope looks like all three of us, curled up in a pitch black living room mouths agape at Squid Game. Just the two of us getting into the car late afternoons, to drive out and sit at the base of Winter Hill as we contemplate what is possible, and debate what is scaring us. Hope looks like homemade soup we cook between us; hugs proffered from behind, as one or the other of us stands at the sink washing dishes for the dishwasher remains broken; my endless capacity to talk and Ste’s endless capacity to listen. Hope looks like the lovely man who comes weekly and sits in the armchair reassuring us that things can, do, with willing and commitment, get better. Like kisses on the landing before we close the doors on each other every night and our endless belief in each other as human beings always with the best of intentions.
Routine keeps me sane. Friends and my community a blessing I write down my gratitude for everyday in the quiet hour I spend with my stack of journals on my knee. More now than ever, I practise what I preach because I know what balm there is to be found in repetition, in the nurturing of home as sanctuary, and in the soothing embrace of ritual. I understand that though he is so gloriously grown now, Finley needs the certainty of me, as calm as I am capable of being, and that Ste, even when fight or flight is clawing at his skin, needs the certainty of a home he may long to escape but can always come home to.
Now. The quiet of early afternoon. Last year’s Christmas slipper socks on my feet and a tray of vegetables roasting in the oven for a late lunch. Tonight the last two episodes of the Korean drama we watch in both horror and awe, tiny individual fondues with crudités and warm bread, and the quiet heaven that is lying with my feet on Ste’s lap, listening to Fin’s commentary of all that we watch and the beat of my own heart drumming out a song of gratitude and yearning that nights like these might last for always.
This too might pass, but I truly don’t want it to.