Schrödinger's envelope

In which I do myself no favours

I’m waiting for a letter. It exists in potentia every morning I approach the letterbox, a Schrödinger’s envelope that only resolves itself as my key turns in the lock. 

The letter will contain an appointment date, one that I can hang on my empty reels of calendar. It will let me pretend to myself that things will one day revert, the threads will once more be woven into a tightly held pattern of predictability. 

In the meantime, the future unspools wildly and puddles at my feet, shapeless and purposeless.

Of course, my former self resented those tight wefts of work and travel. The endless predictability of the future chafed and bit, and left no thread free for a spontaneous embroidered trill. 

Yet despite the benefits to my current state of uncertainty, I remain blind.

Society isn’t all that keen on people having unplanned futures, or unpredictable and potentially unstable paths. It likes individuals to snap into acceptable roles, populate and pay up. Faltering in no man’s land is a sign of weakness, laziness, fecklessness, or failure, so people self-flagellate until they implode or fit back in. 

I circle myself in my mind and snap at my heels whenever I start enjoying myself. I can’t relax into this state in case I start liking it.

Instead, I remain vigilant and wait for a letter, listening for the click-clack of a loom re-started.

All the leaves are brown

In which the sky is grey

The post-holiday blues are sniffing at the door, scrabbling with intent at the letter slot. Anxiety gives a howl as she butts at the drooping handle, while Misery sits back with his old head resting on his paws, waiting for the inevitable opening of the door. Irritation nips at the others and gives a volley of angry barks at being kept in the cold.

Every song that plays on a playlist that I know to be filled with chirpiness somehow hits a mournful note.

I’m keeping the blues at bay by imagining myself launching into the blackened sky and flying higher and higher until I’m above this thickened layer of mist and rain.

I emerge into blazing blue skies and find the Sun’s fierce glow.

I dance over the cloud plain until the memory is locked in place and I can bring it with me as I descend back down to earth.

I nail another plank over the front door.

Fresh page

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Happy New Year to everyone! It’s been too long since I last wrote a post – I’ve had a veritable cornucopia of minor illnesses along with the usual cramping beast so I’m not sure I’ve felt even vaguely healthy since October. Fingers crossed for a good start to 2020!

I’m currently in the south of Spain, where evenings remain lengthy and skies are adamantly blue. I’m somewhat amusingly on a ski holiday, which is possibly the worst activity imaginable given my various body issues, so I’m enjoying the views and the atmosphere whilst keeping my feet as firmly adhered to the ground as possible. It’s been bizarre to walk down a snowy mountain in a t-shirt at the start of January.

It’s my first holiday in a long while, mostly because I get ill when I travel, and then get anxious about being ill when I travel, and then get ill because I’m anxious… and repeat.

I did get crampy and did have to spend the first couple days in bed, but it’s a relief to have ventured forth despite the fear. It also brought up memories of the last time I’d been in these mountains, and the changes in my health and wider life. Last time was back in the ibuprofen days when I had travel anxiety but didn’t really think much about getting ill, turns out I still wasn’t carefree even when I really could have been!

I’m now thoroughly appreciative of good health days, of my many patient friends, and of the kindness of my family. And I wish all of you a full complement of the same.

Here’s to 2020, with love.


Catch a cold

In which we meet a rebellious soul

Seaweed

She’d stood in line for centuries. 

Admittedly some of that time had been spent in an orderly queue of egg sacks while she’d still been in nymph form, but she’d nevertheless been conscious of waiting for something of the utmost significance. The thing that would ignite her faith in the point of existence. The source of all passion and joy.

That thing was definitely not meant to be snot. She was fairly sure of that. Unfortunately, the Bureaucracy Fairy had wrinkled her upturned nose and frowned down at her furled scrolls before declaring that this was, in fact, exactly her calling. 

She was the Snot Fairy. 

She’d been handed a crumpled scrap of bin liner, several wooden buckets, one burlap sack, and a gluey looking feather. She’d seen the looks the other fairies gave her, the wide berth she had suddenly gained. Their slender arms were filled with pots of glitter, gauzy lilac wing extensions, baskets of daisies, tubes of luminescent paint. 

She slumped away to blend into the smudge of night.

The manual had waxed lyrical about the range of skills she was to deploy. There was the bucket of transparent snot that she had to tip at the very top of the nasal cavities so as to ensure a constant sticky trickle. There was the sack of squishy pink-grey lumps she had to haul down into the darkened passages of the lungs, ready to be cough-retched out the next morning. There was the incessant tickling of feathers followed by the art of maintaining a strong grip to avoid being swept out in the ensuing sneeze-fest. She had to pay careful attention to map out who each human made contact with, so as to plan the next target on her route, and she would spin from respiratory tract to respiratory tract with expert speed and accuracy.

Some nights she would spot one of her compatriots – the real kind, not the glitzy kind – bringing in veruccas or athlete’s foot, or painstakingly gluing stubble to twitching expanses of skin. They would nod to each other, acknowledging a fellow occupant of the bodily trenches. And they might share an eye roll if a flower fairy giggled at them from a nearby vase.

Some nights she was left alone in bedrooms filled with the sound of blocked sinuses. And she’d wonder what exactly it was about her that screamed ‘snot’. Why was she more snot than chicken, or begonia, or book?

And somewhere in her bin-liner draped body, there lit a fire of resistance.

Snot was not all there was.

She was going to find more.

Writing on the wall

In which life hurts

There’s love somewhere in there.

I remember the feel of it, that blanket of trust and warmth and pride and ease. From the inside, it seemed impossible that anything could exist outside the golden globe.

But I’m on the outside now. And I can’t find a path back through the purpling bricks of disappointment and hurt. A wall started stacking the minute disillusionment hit, the minute I slid out of the golden bubble. Each brick whispers a memory, and as I brush my fingers against coarse surfaces, those jolts of remembered pain rip their way back in. 

And I jerk back from love.

My body built those bricks in response to threat: each one shaped around grit that would have scoured my heart raw. Each one is a warning that this love hurts.

To get back to love, I would have to pass through these mounds of past pains, feeling them anew. 

I know that love is somewhere in there. But it might not be worth the journey.

Choppy water

In which I take a deep breath

There’s a rhythm that jerks my chain. That winds me up to creaking point. That cuts me to the tender quick.

Question – 

Answer – 

Silence.

Pause.

Question – 

Answer – 

Silence.

Pause.

Question – 

Answer – 

Silence.

Pause.

And repeat.

My stride is repeatedly drawn up short. The chords halt before resolution. My words hang in the air, wisping to nothing as they fail to penetrate ears. 

Question – 

Answer – 

Silence.

Pause.

I occasionally break the loop, with the faint hope the system will reboot. That the floundering whale of conversation will find its way back to the ocean of words.

Question – 

Silence.

Half answer.

Pause.

The whale drowns.

Heel drag

In which I attempt to summon motivation

There’s this thing I should be doing.

Well, several things to be exact. 

And they’re determinedly shifting back into sight whenever I sulkily swing my head in the opposite direction. 

They’ve been swelling with every hour that passes, from tiny tweeting companions to hulking feathered dinosaurs that send jerking fear into my stomach whenever they stomp into view. 

They hate being ignored. Hate all those other things I choose to look at instead, hate the way I airily dismiss their existence to other people, ‘This evening? That sounds lovely, I’ve got no plans at all.’

Eventually they’ll tire of the chase and they’ll move in for the kill, no longer allowing me to avoid. Black sweeps of wing will reach around me so there is nowhere for my eyeballs to flee.

Dealing with them is painful: every feather is sharply serrated and sticky and progress is slow. But they eventually shrink as I face them, rhino-sized to ostrich, to turkey, to chicken, to blackbird, to a sneezing puff of minute feathers drifting slowly to the ground. 

My horizon remains clear for all of five minutes. 

Then I hear tweeting behind me.