Precipice

I wait, buzzing with nerves, on the edge of a precipice. On one side lies, I think, happiness or at least the potential for it. On the other there’s just some pain, some sadness.

Each also has a doorway; an opening marked ‘A New Phase in Life’. I don’t know yet which route I’m going to be taking. That decision was taken out of my hands after I, in a rush of emotion followed by clear-headed determination, set off this chain of events last night.

And so I wait. I think I know what is more likely and try to prepare for that outcome. I honestly don’t know what the best result is though, I know what would feel best right now but beyond that?

‘No one is ever told what would have happened’ says Aslan to Lucy in ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. For some reason that quote has always stuck with me. Once again, it is relevant.

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Seriousness, Sadness and Shopping

I have to go shopping tomorrow. Clothes shopping. Now I’m not a stereotypical girly-girl who adores clothes shopping but, when in the right mood, I sometimes rather enjoy it. Quite often in fact. Occasionally it seems like a hellish task from hell and I hate all clothes, all shops and all people in a five mile radius. But often it’s not bad.

However, the reason I have to shop tomorrow is unusual. I have to find something to wear for a funeral…

I don’t think I’ll talk about the funeral itself; I don’t think I can put voice to the feelings I have about that. Maybe after it I’ll feel like I need to write it down but right now I can’t. Instead I’m going to focus on something as utterly trivial as clothes because sometimes you just need to cling to the surface stuff so you don’t get all pulled down into sadness. Sometimes you just need that.

I’ve never been to a funeral before. I’ve known several people who have died but for various reasons funerals have not been something I’ve experienced. I’m kind of scared but there is absolutely no question about whether I’ll go: being there is the right and honourable thing to do.

I know that one is supposed to wear black. And here is where it gets difficult. It seems insanely superficial to think about clothes at a time like that. Who cares what you’ve got on: someone has died.

And yet perhaps it isn’t so crazy. In times of crisis and sadness people need something to hold onto. I always feel like cultures with more ritual surrounding death must be better off – it gives you a way to carry on. I’m sure it doesn’t lessen the pain or loss; it just gives you rules to cling to, something to define the following days. Motions to perform while your mind and heart are whirling off into that ocean of grief.

Here we have very little ritual and so what we do have matters. Hence I know that my part is to be there, to support my family and to do so in the correct, respectful attire. Smart and black.

And I have nothing like that in my wardrobe. Plenty of black. A smattering of smart. But nothing overlapping. So I must go shopping. So I begin to think about my outfit. And my brain’s normal mindset kicks in:

BRAIN: Planning a specific outfit for a specific occasion?

ME: Yeah I am actually.

BRAIN: And the theme is black and smart you say?

ME: Not sure I’d call it a theme Brain but basically yeah. Any thoughts?

BRAIN: Ooh, a challenge! Well, you could buy that dress you saw the other day, you know that nice fitted one? Now, shoes, shoes, shoes: aha! Black low heels! Tiny bit of silver on them but still formal. And hmm, ooh, your favourite: jewellery! Now pearls might be nice…

And so forth. And then I realise what I am doing: I am enjoying planning my outfit and thinking that it will be a pretty good one. I immediately feel utterly terrible. And ever so shallow.

It hits me again. My stupid clothes do not matter in the slightest. We’ve lost someone. His wife and son are devastated. What else can possibly matter?

What can I do?

At a time like this you struggle to know. Nothing you do can bring back the person you’ve lost. The one thing you wish you could do. Nothing can make it ok. And so your brain skitters off; doesn’t always deal with it well. Clings to normal mindsets, normal processes that you do every time you plan on going to any event.

I think, perhaps, that is all you can do. Hang on to normality and try to behave with honour and dignity. If your intentions are true and good then it’s ok if your brain gets confused and acts stupid for a bit. Because all of a sudden nothing is right, nothing is normal. So you just… try to hang on.

And I’ll be there on the day. I’ll dress subtly, appropriately – I’ll do all that is polite and respectful. And when I am there all that will matter is my family. All of them.

Left Unsaid

There are always those things, things you want to say or wish you could say but you just can’t. And there are plenty of reasons why keeping one’s mouth shut could be the best decision one could possibly make – perhaps the niggling thought is too blunt? Too childish? Too potentially explosive? Or maybe it’s just something that needs to be dealt with in a different way. This, of course, does not necessarily stop the niggling.

As someone who constantly over-analyzes everything, I am all too familiar with these scritchy little bits of thought that hover at the edge of the mind. I try to let them go; I breathe in, I breathe out and I think ‘Let it go, Crimineaux, let it go’. I just don’t think I’m zen enough.

And so here, in the hopes that shouting into the ether will release these pests, are my top five ‘Things I really, really shouldn’t say….’

5. ‘I actually don’t think I find that funny. I think I tricked myself’ (A show I watched and then got loads of my friends into but, on reflection, a show that has rarely actually made me laugh. It’s too late to clear it up now, nor does it really matter.)

4. ‘Stop trying to always top everyone’s stories. If I have a cold; you have the flu. If I know someone who broke their leg, you know someone whose leg spontaneously fell off one day. Well congrats on that. And it’s not just that – it’s telling me also how my story is WRONG. How I must be wrong because you knew someone… BLAH BLAH BLAH’ (Acquaintance who drives me round the bend. But our mutual dislike isn’t going away and it’s best if we just attempt civility for everyone’s sake!)

3. ‘I find your attitude to alcohol sad and extremely childish. We are not 13 year old kids who stole a bottle of cider to impress their mates.’ (This may need saying but it’ll be in a much less confrontational way. The person drinks very rarely but when they do they get desperate to impress and prove themselves interesting.)

2. ‘You are a terrible friend. We arrange for me to travel to see you and stay over; I text the day before to sort arrival time and you go: ‘Oh yeah sorry, something came up. You can’t come’. Then you don’t contact me again until your latest ‘disaster’ when you want sympathy and attention. You don’t ask about me; even when I mention that I’ve been ill. And when I say some nice words you shoot them down as predicted. Cos nothing is ever right is it? I’m done.’ (Something that really does need communicating but not that bluntly!)

1. ‘I don’t know how you can fail so hard at seeing how attractive you are. Your deep, sparkling eyes are actually beautiful. And the lazy smile that stretches across your face when I make you laugh makes my heart feel like it’s jumping inside me.’ (I am freakin’ never saying that. T’would be disastrous.)