There’s a grey coat I wear, I bought it just before Mark died and it has been with me through the harsh winter months, shrouding me, holding me together as I traipsed through the streets of London, Athens and Madrid. Holding together the millions of shattered pieces I felt my body to be.
My godson has been saying that I shouldn’t wear it for another winter, and I agree with him. But I’ve been relishing wearing it when the weather has still been cold, and have to admit I hard to let go of the comfort it represents. Wearing a different coat feels so much more exposing and demanding. The other day when I went to put it on he told me not to, not only was it too warm, but because I should dare to wear a newer coat. I conceded, and did so grudgingly again when he suggested I put on my new shoes instead of the well worn familiar ones I was about to shove on.
This struggle between the comfort of the familiar, even if it’s a painful one, and the unsettling experience of allowing hope of the new to get a look in is one I’ve faced many times in different ways over the months.
But the line between the old and the new seems to be becoming clearer and more defined. For a long time all the songs I listened to reflected loss, they were a way of expressing grief and mourning all that had been. But a time came when I just couldn’t listen to those songs any more, I wanted to listen to new ones. Finding those new songs, the music I like now has not only helped me learn more about who I have become, but also helped me to express something that is so fragile it’s difficult to acknowledge at times. My tentative hope is that it’s to do with something new emerging.
I think a lot about the despair I felt when I read books about grief and loss, not at the advice they offered about getting through, but that the destination point seemed to be a reconfiguration of the same pattern of life – in most cases a North American, some manner of consumer driven version of reality. I’m not sure yet where those feelings of dread will take me, but the resistance to the idea that after a life-changing event you are expected to fit into that pattern again hasn’t gone away.
It’s strange that given that the whole of nature seems to point to death and renewal, we don’t have language for newness, just as we don’t for loss and grief. We can only seem to conceive of the perpetual order of things.
But I hope that what I glimpse is a life of a different order, one not framed by the way of life that doesn’t allow for the reality of grief or of renewal. I’ve found that things I lost, such as my relationship to food have come back to me in ways that reflect how deeply relational and connected food is. It was my godson, again who sparked my interest when he said he wished that I had food to give out when he came round. Since then I’ve kept a ‘treat tin’ full and I’ve started to think about cooking again, paying attention to the ingredients.
I’ve also started volunteering at a local project that offers meals to people who are hungry and have been struck by the travesty of our relationships and connectedness to one another that hunger represents. That hunger is not only a physical need it’s a break in the connectedness between us. It shows that there is deep disfunction in our communities, a lack of humanity and compassion towards one another. It’s a life that’s attentive to these things that I want to nourish and restore, not the one that is individualised, separate and feeds off of complacency and indifference.