And so I am home.
Having never thought I’d be the sort of person who’d end up living round the corner from my parents, that is indeed what I have become, (not that I really knew what ‘that sort of person’ actually was or why the prospect of becoming one was so objectionable).
And yet I am back in the neighbourhood that gave context to my childhood years; where people speak my version of English and where I walk well-trod pavements not with a sense of regression but of being at home in a place that I know, even as it knows me. I smile at my view of Trellick Tower as I water my balcony tomato plants and marvel at the provision of somewhere so perfect.
How funny to become geographically situated in a year of such internal dislocation.
How do I sum up this year of depression? How do I find the words to say what it feels like to pretend to be normal while walking through setting concrete? How do I describe the exhaustion and the way that the paralysis crept (still creeps sometimes) through my body, mind and spirit? How do I articulate the sense of not really being me, of realising that l’enfer is, perhaps, moi not les autres? How do I confess to seeing myself with such hatred and a lack of compassion?
Perhaps it’s enough to write the questions down, without having to resurface with the answers. After all, not knowing how to acknowledge those feelings was central to the disconnections that drove a wedge between me and those who would come alongside.
Yet talking about it – the omnipresent, vague and threatening ‘it’ – helped. It was a relief to give voice to the child behind the armour, as Ted Hughes so beautifully describes it in this letter, trying to pick a way through the bewilderment of suddenly being utterly unable to cope. It was liberating to identify the grip of my negative thoughts while not being expected to free myself by thought-power alone.
As life this side of eternity seems set to teach me, all good things – in this case counselling funded by an under-resourced NHS – must come to an end, and I face the next season with some trepidation. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing again.
I want to find ways of being at home with the ‘me’ who I’ve been reluctantly getting to know, even though that involves sitting more companionably with hurt, disappointment and vulnerability. I want – I was going to write ‘should’ but apparently ‘should’ is also one of my issues (!) – to recognise in the mandate to love others, the call to also love oneself. I’m back on the quest for life in all its fullness while concluding, like C S Lewis, that those elusive moments of aliveness and completeness, which he calls joy, are not the ends in themselves – slipping from our grasp even as we try to hold onto them – but signposts along the road marked out for me, which is itself life.
How beautiful it sounds! And yet how hard.
I suppose it’s always going to be swings and roundabouts, in the same way that my perfect flat was less perfect this Sunday when steel drums ushered in the Notting Hill Carnival at 6.20am. At primary school we sang so many songs about leaving Jamaica that I always feel a bit nostalgic for Kingston Town, but that didn’t stop me swapping the pervasive beat and smell of jerk chicken for the calm of the Tate Britain. Helicopter overhead, sirens blaring in the semi-distance, I write from the relative peace of mum and dad’s house round the corner.
Eh bien, continuons.