I can’t remember the last time.
We all have this in our lives. We have done something in the past. We know for sure we have done it and we have instances that we can recall, or we have a collective recollection, a bundled up set of experiences with a blurb that explains what they are. But when we come to think about it, we cannot select the most recent instance of that experience.
For me, I was sure that I had made a point of this simple act on a cyclical basis. That a shaming bout of time elapsed until I felt the building pressure of it and then I shook myself and made amends by way of a minor pilgrimage. After all, this was a simple thing and well within my gift to address.
As I sat there and ruminated, a finger absently plunged into my left ear, I realised that there was nothing there. That the years had passed with alarmingly accelerated frequency and I had slipped into a sad and mundane existence that was slowly stripped of the accoutrements of living.
This one thing was symbolic to a point of being magical. I dared to allow myself hope; if I did this, then all would be well in my world. I could turn my life around if I could but achieve the goal I had set myself. I was better than this. I may feel like an imposter. My skin may not sit quite right on my bones, but if I did this then I could change everything.
I could be the change.
There was planning required for me to pull this off. I loathed any outside intervention, but in the end, I thought it wise to rely upon at least one element that would help aid my success. I wanted to do this under my own steam, but there was a piece of headology that I had to remind myself. If I had back up, then I may well not need it and then I would do it under my own steam. Without it, I would torture myself at the prospect of failure which was bad enough, but then my prospect of success would be diminished to a point that I just could not entertain.
Worry had haunted me all of my life. It had gnawed away at me and the worst of it was that I let it. I sat idly by and gave myself over to a voice that pulled me apart with no care as to what resulted. I knew I had other voices, the voice of reason amongst them. I also had a body of evidence that demonstrated to me the merits and virtue of listening to reason and living my life well, but I allowed that seedy and sickly voice of worry to interceded and as I lay back and loathed what it was I was doing and what I was becoming, my life ebbed away.
Well, today I was going to make a change and this change would herald the start of the rest of my life. I conveniently ignored the no man’s land of existence that I currently languished in. I hadn’t done anything approximating living in such a long time. No wonder I couldn’t remember the last time. There was nothing of note to remember!
I resolved to make the difference and yet I went about the day’s business in entirely the same way as I had for such a very long time. Old habits are hard to break. The trick is actually making an effort to see them for what they are and then committing to devoting the time to plan and think. We need habits you see. So, if we find the problem habit, we must swap it for a good habit. Habits are the fuses of our lives. Sometimes they burn out and our lives go darker as a result. We are supposed to find the faulty fuse and swap it for a better one. Put another way, doing the same thing in a different place and situation is very unlikely to work, yet we carry on regardless and then we wonder why things aren’t hanging together the way they were or the way we think they should.
Then there are the temporary coping mechanisms that we construct in situations that are far from ideal. Make-do ways of behaving so that we can survive the storm. Not often do we drift into calmer seas and attend to those structures that held us together. Instead we leave them there and over time we see them as an integral part of ourselves.
At the end of another day of existing, I returned to my kitchen. My kitchen that was once our kitchen. I walked into a house that was once a home and in the instant I entered that building I witnessed the desecration of a place that once held meaning. A space that had once been holy.
Detaching myself just a little more from this reality of mine, I drew a finger over the dusty table in the middle of the kitchen. Doing this was not easy. There was so much clutter upon that table. Then I stood before the modern art installation vomiting forth from the kitchen sink.
Once upon a time, I had been fastidious when it came to the washing up. Of all of the chores, the washing up was my thing. When did this last bastion of order fall, I wondered to myself. I did not bother in answering. I erroneously and wilfully deemed it to be rhetorical.
Not for the first time did I skip my evening meal. After just a few moments in the kitchen, my hunger turned tail and fled. This room was never intended to be welcoming as such, but now it wore a coat of hostility and it was glad to see the back of me even before I lazily fled.
The blinkers I convinced myself I wore in place of a justification of my conspicuous decay did not work. I saw through them as I loped through the messy living room. If I was honest with myself, they were the emperor’s clothes and I’d seen through those blinkers ever since I’d donned them. I knew what I was doing and I knew what I was. I just didn’t want to admit it. The blinkers were made of my denial and denial stinks to high heaven. And it hurts too much to be ignored.
I visited the bathroom. The bathroom pains me to see it. It is a place where I am supposed to get cleaner, but I have allowed it to fall into a state where it is dirtier than I am. Calcified stains spread like fungus from the sink taps. They are pockmarked with spots of toothpaste. Stray hairs lie as though they threw themselves to their deaths. On the dirty tiled floor, balls of fluff and hair lurk, in fact the entire border of the floor is populated by battle formations of fur.
A sad man furtively glances at me through the turgid depths of the mirror land. Something about him scares me. I do not know whether he is the one forever trapped in a hopeless existence of his own making, or it is me. I know I see him through my own lens and that lens paints everything in my own mould. Mould, both my flabby and sad shape but also the creeping fungal growth that denotes the poor state of my life and its gradual decay. This is a living death. I am already decomposing.
It wasn’t always like this, I think to myself as I clean my teeth and splash my face with cold water as though that water will cleanse me and awake me from this nightmare. And it really wasn’t always like this. I once had a sense of purpose. I lived for something, and I lived for someone. When she left, she took more than herself away. I saw no point in life anymore. I saw no point in myself.
No one sets out one day to be a hopeless loser. The only way they can achieve the level of degradation that I have created is to lie to themselves about what they are actually about. I ignored what it was that I was doing. It’s easy at first. There isn’t all that much to ignore. But brick by brick I built this depressing world around me. I accumulated so much sadness and self-loathing that I could no longer ignore it and by then I came in with another lie in order to secure my fate; I could do nothing about it.
The weight of all this crap pushes me down further. That was what was always intended. It’s gotten to a point that I can no longer escape it. Even when I am not within the four walls of the prison of my own making, I know it is awaiting my return and I see it constantly. Worse still, wherever I go, I feel it.
The mess of the bedroom is a poor representation of my mind. I step over discarded clothes that are topped with takeaway containers. This floor is a minefield. When it eventually ends me there won’t be any energy or inclination towards a big bang. I doubt I will even groan. The end will be smothered in a lacklustre silence.
I stand before the bed. The frame that lurks above where I lay my head is thick with dust. I can see this even in the murky light. The curtains are closed. I can’t remember the last time I opened them, neither can I remember when I last changed the sheet, duvet cover and pillow cases. This side of the bed describes the shape of my out of shape body. The pillow is indented in its midst. I want to cry, but I’m not sure I can. It’s not this side of the bed that upsets me so. It’s the other side. The other side of the bed is a contrast that I cannot bear. That side is untouched and is almost crisp and clean in comparison to where it is that I dwell each night. I have never ventured to that side. I haven’t even walked over to that side of the room. Not for me is that space and deep in my heart, I know no one else will ever again enter this bedroom. That’s just as well. This place shames me. It’s a squalid tip. No one belongs here. I truly wish I didn’t, as I slip onto the bed, pull the duvet over me and curl up into the womb of my bed.
Shutting my eyes, I wish myself away into nothingness. My wish is not granted. For several hours I will lay there. Turning over is the only solution I have to my inability to sleep. Eventually, indigestion comes to visit and it is loud and persistent. Now I have an excuse not to sleep, and this annoys me. Being annoyed pushes me further from that which I seek. I have the presence of mind not to check the time. I avoid looking at my phone at all, but I do nothing else. I stopped reading a couple of years ago and I am too spent to go in search of a remedy for my painful midriff.
When I do drift off to sleep, I drift back into consciousness. I am uncomfortable. I am about as uncomfortable as it is possible to be. The discomfort extends to the place I have defiled and pierces my body and my mind. This is my torture chamber and I have become adept at my own abuse.
My alarm goes off too soon. It clatters into my head at the only point I have reached the depths of sleep. I am nauseous as I rise out of the warm waters of slumber and I hate the melody responsible for my rude awakening.
A battle ensues.
I don’t have to get up.
I absolutely must get up.
Either one could be my truth.
The choice is mine.
We all have a choice.
When you look at it, life is but a series of choices.
I make myself get up and I push myself to get out.
I fumble around in the dark. Searching on the floor for the lesser of evils. I have slept in my underwear. All I have to do is find my jeans and locate a suitable t-shirt and jumper.
In the bathroom, I clean my teeth. I have always wondered why we do that, clean my teeth in the evening. Try to sleep. Clean them again despite nothing passing my lips other than snored air. Another part of my morning routine is examining my top and scrubbing at any visible stains. I haven’t given up entirely on myself. There is still something there.
That is why I have chosen to get up earlier today. I have at last decided to pay a visit to this part of the day. Better still, I am going to escape my prison and I am going to do something different. Something that I should have done a long time ago.
I rub a used glass on my jumper. A compromised concession to hygiene that adds to the stains on my clothing. I have to move the tap and cant the glass in order to partially fill it with water. I down the cloudy contents of the glass and then place it back in the spot on the kitchen work surface where I found it. There isn’t room for it anywhere else.
Leaving the house, I do not feel the weight lift. Instead it is instantly replaced by the weight of trepidation. This moment has been a long time coming. I was beginning to believe it would never take place. I am going against the run of play. This is new territory for me even though I have been here before. Everything has changed since then though and so it is renewed even if I am not.
Darkness has finished for the day, but the light is not yet ready to start its shift. There is something magical about this in-between state and for once I am glad about a choice I have made. Glad I have made the effort to do something worthwhile and rewarding. The cost to me of doing this is so small, and yet time and again I have cocooned myself in layers of inertia such that the eminently possible is smothered and dies before it can ever happen.
I walk to the nearby common. My open, clear mind reminds me that it’s a long time since I have done anything like this. A long time since I went out into the real world. The world that is green and clean and speaks to me in a way that nothing else can. I am reminded, but there are no recriminations, nor are there accusations. This moment is all and instead of receding further into myself, I open up. I needed this. I need it. I will always need it.
I take a seat on a bench. The bench that was once our bench. I place myself down and I let go. I let go at last. I let go, wondering at why it is that we hold onto our destruction and yet let that which is precious slip through our fingers. We are careless when it comes to our own care. No wonder we fail when it comes to caring for others. Selfish beings unable to look after ourselves. Self-centred, but in dire need of the company of worthwhile others.
Sitting alone, I get this and more. I bath myself in the growing light and feel the weight lifting from my shoulders.
“I did it!” I whisper to myself.
A simple act that has the power to reenergise and transform me. The first act of the next chapter of my life.
“I can do this,” I tell myself.
I know how important it is to say the words. To launch them out into the world as a statement of intent.
I feel a growing warmth and I know I am going to be alright. Tidying and cleaning my house, getting it in order so it can become my home again. It will take time, but it will be worth it. I resolve to start now. As soon as I return home I will sit down and write a list of the things I will do. I will try harder and I will be better.
I will live!
The sun warms my back and I burst into laughter at the absurdity of my most recent of failures. I had promised myself that I would make the effort to awake before the sun and see it come into the world. I reasoned that if I could do this one, simple thing, then I was capable of much more.
I look across at the bench that Gwendolyn and I used to sit upon to watch the sunrise and then I pat the bench that I am sat upon.
“This is fitting,” I tell the bench, for this is the bench we’d sit on to witness the dying of the day’s sun and the end of another day.
There has to be an end before there can be a beginning, I reason to myself. I had to let go. I had to make room for this new start. The sun continues to warm me and to encourage me to keep going. I make a point of not looking toward it as I stand and I begin. I will be back and when I return I will sit on the other bench and meet that sun as an equal.
Now to prove my worth and make something of myself again.