When the going gets tough, I don’t feel much like writing this blog. That’s apparent when I see the gaps, the breaks in the rhythm of hitting the ‘publish’ button that I aspire to. But if the first two years after Mark died were all to do with getting through the searing pain of grief, this year has involved struggles of a different kind. Healing and mending, recovering from the ravages of grief has been a big part of this time, but something else has been going on that I’m just beginning to grasp.
It’s to do with the importance of the struggle itself. Over these past years I’ve developed a new respect for my own capacity to get through situations, and it seems to have settled in me the understanding that life does require struggle. Something my dear friend Alice helped instil in me early on is that I’m not the first woman to suffer. I don’t want to generalise away all the different degrees and complexities of difficulty that women have to face, but I am grateful to her for helping me appreciate that it’s in the course of the struggle itself, the actions we choose, the work we do to confront the situation and the feelings we hit up against, that we are changed.
In realising just how important my choices and actions are, I’ve had to face up to a lot of dark of despair and hopelessness in me. I’m not entirely sure where it’s from, but it seems to have its roots in the voice of my Grandfather, in the days of his Brylcreem and wet shaves, of hard working lives.
I don’t remember being hope was futile and a sure route to disappointment, but somehow there was exposure to enough cold blasts of reality to instil in me that being strong was getting through, that any dreaminess about things getting better was suspect. Maybe I owe some of my capacity to stare (almost) unflinchingly at pain to the way that hard looks at reality were encouraged, but when it comes to hope that things could improve, there wasn’t much tucked away to draw upon.
There was undoubtedly an underlying hope in life that kept me moving following the devastating loss of Mark. But the struggle to remake a life takes me again and again to the place where I can feel weighed down by hopelessness that there is anything more than survival and getting through the days.
But it’s impossible to ignore that part of me that dreams of more, or the strengthening conviction in my gut that my actions are more than futile gestures against the onslaught of misery. Outwardly, not much has changed in my life – the past year, as I’ve said, has been the most solitary of my life. I have little evidence that there’s anything good up ahead, but what I learnt over recent months is that it’s up to me to wrest what good I can out of the days. Before I think I was easily discouraged if things I tried didn’t work out, but now, although there are still a lot of things in life I find difficult, I feel a new sense of energy firing up in me, and a determination that something new can take shape.