I don’t know how you cope. Friends often say that.
More often, since reading this blog: We had no idea what you were going through.
How would you have any idea?
Do you know what your next-door-neighbour is going through? Or your best friend?
We don’t wander around with a badge saying, This is what I’m going through. Not least because everyone else is going through worse.
I have a group of fifteen or so friends who pray for Bink. Some of them haven’t even met her. And yet they go on. Faithfully. Week after week and year after year, now, some of them. I update them by email, whenever there is a particular need – including a need to thank God for some new blessing.
(Of which there have been plenty, recently. Mostly – entirely – because she has been getting treatment in the Priory. After sooo long. The improvements have been breathtaking. The fact that she is getting treatment at all, after two decades, near miraculous.)
In that small group of under two score friends, I can immediately think of at least half a dozen going through (or who have been through) far worse. Than we ever have. Ill-health. Bereavement. Abuse. Violence. Life-changing medical error. Inheritance worries. Addiction of a loved one.
At least two mothers in our little group have lost children; one, more than one. Another member has such a severe disability that even reading is now impossible. (She has to listen to emails, and write her own blog by dictating.)
Life is tough.
And we are all in the privileged West. Cross over the seas to Syria. Or Yemen.
So that answers that one.
You didn’t know, because you had your own worries and were going through worse.
As to the first – how do you cope? – there are two answers.
How do you cope with anything? You have to. That’s it. That’s all there is to it.
I used to find it curious, as a child, when grown-ups referred to someone as brave, for something over which there was no choice.
So-and-so is dying of cancer. She is so brave.
Why? Did she choose to die of cancer?
Such-and-such was so courageous, surviving the Holocaust.
To my young definition, brave was a choice.
Scaling a burning building is brave. To save a child. If it’s not your child.
(If it is your own child, it’s not really. It’s just involuntary. But I probably didn’t know that, then.)
Doing something which is frightening, by your own volition, for a reason. On purpose and purposeful. That is brave.
Anything else is just endurance.
How do I cope? I have to. That’s all there is to it.
But the other answer is that I don’t. I really, really don’t.
It has taken me twenty years to write my fourth novel. The first three took two years apiece. (And, my editor said, should have taken one.)
This is not coping. It just isn’t.
Monday night, after several hours on the telephone talking to Bink’s therapist and Bink herself and our dear friend Jenny, to get her to A&E and more to the point get her fed and encouraged and befriended... after several hours of that, yet again, I could barely walk.
It happens now quite easily. The weariness is cumulative.
I once assumed ageing was what happened to you as the years went by. It isn’t. It’s what happens to you when experiences hit you. One after another after another. Every time you stagger to your feet, wham, another. In the face, over you go. Slightly more quickly than last time. Each time.
Thus, on Monday night, by the time Bink was in the pub with Jenny sounding cheerful at last and fed, I could hardly cross the kitchen. Barely stand. Reached a chair, limping with a massive exaggerated list like a tipsy gorilla, and fell into it.
No physical pain: not at all.
Nothing wrong with my limbs, that I am aware. I could do it if I made myself: of course. Just not much holding any of it together any more. All the glue loosening, as if the doll was left too close to the fire for too long.
Yesterday, all day, trying to write an article which I’d been pushing away since Saturday. Hardly started. My head tight with giant’s massive hands either side of it, pressing in on it, all day. Unable to think. Put one word in front of another.
Shaun in the British Library enjoying the last day of the Anglo-Saxon exhibition – I should have gone with him: should have remembered; sort of thing we would have done together – and I kept wanting to ring him and say, I can’t do it. I can’t do this any more. I can’t do this loving Bink thing, any more.
By eight-thirty – we eat at civilised times, now Shaun isn’t working: cooking lovely rich stews; beef in red wine; flaked fish in cream – he said, Go and have your bath. By nine, in bed with a book (and a large glass of whisky: the only way to loosen the giant’s relentless grip) wishing Shaun would come but too tired to find him.
So that by three I am awake again.
Will they kick her out? Will she lose all the gain of the last year, if they discharge her too soon (as has happened twice before)?
Where will she go? Where live? Will she end on the streets again, in a desperate (and unsuccessful) bid for treatment?
Will there be time to set up the volunteering for the church, so kindly offered to her nearby? To have found accommodation?
Before it is too late and she has run out of treatment. Again.
If she has a bad half-day again, like on Monday? Will they wash their hands of her? Will that be it?
Round and round and round.
That is not coping. It really isn’t. Not successfully.
So I find, astonishingly, that it comes as a relief, with all this pressure on my head, to turn back to the events of early 2009.
When there was (surely) so much more pressure on my head.
Where we will resume, tomorrow.
(Bar other incidents...)