910 days

Well.. 568 days since I last wrote. That’s quite a while. Certainly the longest break since I started the blog back in 2004 (you won’t see the first few years of it on here – sodding Google exterminated it when I switched email addresses, we shall speak no more of this). Why the long break? Because I am still counting days, and I don’t feel an overwhelming urge to count days, but I also can’t not do it… the theme of today’s post is betrayal.

In the last two and half years, I have accomplished lots of things relating to my sister’s death, my mother’s dementia and my niece’s ongoing care. However, I have not moved forward in my grief. Day 910 is the same as day 342, which was no different to day 59. In movies and books when people say, “I think about them every day,” I always thought that was a terrible over dramatization, but actually it is no difficult feat to think about and grieve for someone every day. Indeed, thinking so often about my sister has also got me thinking daily about the other people I’ve loved and lost. Grief for all them has become another piece of jewellery that I wear, another ring on my fingers that makes me feel off kilter if I can’t feel its weight.

I am okay with grief being a daily part of my life, really I am, but I don’t like that it’s the main thing in my life because it’s making me fucking boring and someone that other people don’t want to talk to. I am essentially quite a truthful person, my memory isn’t good enough to be a habitual liar, so I dread social gatherings where people ask what I’ve been up to, or how things are going. Meeting new people – which I’ve always enjoyed – is now a minefield that I never manage to navigate myself through without exploding some bomb of pity or awkward silence. Every conversation comes back to all the Ds: death, disease, dementia, difficult decisions, and ultimately I make people feel depressed. Amongst my established friends, asking me what’s new in my life has become quite the dicey little game of Russian Roulette, you might get to hear all about the fun film festival I’ve been to OR you might get to hear about the most recent acquaintance of mine who’s got a life threatening condition. This afternoon I called one of the most kind, funny and generally delightful human beings I know with the intention of cheering him up because his Thanksgiving plans got scuppered by Covid. I had envisaged an entertaining virtual happy hour where for once I got to make him feel better instead of the other way round. Do we think I accomplished this goal? No, no OBVIOUSLY NOT. Started off great, and then my new found talent for making people lose the will to live with my sparkling wit and conversation kicked in. It ended with him ever so politely saying he ought to wind things up, and me apologizing for talking about my fucking dismal shit yet again. It’s as if I have regressed to owning a teenage brain that needs to learn how to make appropriate conversation. And ask questions! I don’t ask people either enough questions or the right questions any more. Ugh, can’t believe I have to learn social skills all over again… it took long enough the first time round.

Becoming a recluse is tempting, but the other D, delirium, lies down that path, and I don’t actually want to be anti-social, I just want to be a fun person like in the days of old. I do have moments of being a fun person, I went to a wedding in August and I definitely felt fun then, there is photographic evidence to prove it! But I was also rip roaring drunk and I really can’t cope with ensuing hangovers. I need to be able to do this stuff sober.

So what is it that stops one (me, talking about me) from being a fun person? Why do we hold the dead at the forefront of our minds? I think it’s because to do otherwise feels like a betrayal. I spent months figuring out what to do with all my sister’s possessions. Every time I got rid of something, every time I took clothes to the donation center, or changed a light fixture, gave away a rug to a stranger online, it was a little act of betrayal. I had to stop for a proper cry when I took a painting off the wall that my sister loved because I felt like I had simply removed her existence from the world. To not say her name, to not reference her in almost every conversation I have, to not talk about my family with unflinching honesty is shameful treachery. Ten days ago a salesperson made the assumption that I was my niece’s mother, it was the first time I didn’t correct that assumption, and ten days later I still have a prickling sense that I’m a traitor.

Not only is this self-flagellation exhausting, it is also completely unproductive. None of it is conducive to being a fun person that other people want to spend time with. After today’s call with my plague ridden friend I found myself googling questions to ask in conversation… I can say with 100% confidence I will not be using any of them. Here’s a random sample that I found.

What made you smile today?

What’s your strangest hidden talent?

What’s one interesting thing about yourself no one really knows?

No, no, NO. I am not conducting an interview for the middle school newspaper!

In another bid to not bore myself and bring down the party atmosphere in every room I enter, including wakes, I’ve been reading the news on a daily basis for the last two months so that I will have interesting, impersonal, things to talk about. Unfortunately, it is a rubbish plan. Have you seen the news? It is shit. Every single day is a fresh pile of crap. I can’t possibly talk about current affairs, it’s just another way to depress people. “Ro’s not going to be here this evening is she? Ah fuck no. She used to be alright, but then she kept going on about death and disease, and now it’s all Elon Musk or the war in Ukraine.”

That does however lead me back to blogging, as in I think it’s time for me to start blogging the way I used to, not saying anything personal, but finding random pieces of waffle that I think are funny or interesting to ramble about. I’m not quite ready to stop counting the days – to not do it at this point in time, still feels wrong – but gosh it would be nice to at least start a conversation with, “Guess what I found out today…” before it inevitably ends with the other person waiting for a gap in the conversation to say, “Well… I ought to wind things up.”

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