The art of retreating


Talking to my godson, sitting on a bench and drinking our coffee, he said that he felt like he’d seen the whole process of me being wrapped in a blanket, cocooned, and now he was seeing me emerge as something new. Aside from the marvel of a growing friendship with him, it was good to have confirmed what I’ve been feeling. I know I’m not entirely through it yet, but there’s a new energy in me, something located in my gut that vibrates and feels sinewy and strong, a determination that I haven’t really felt to this degree before.

With it comes the realisation that I haven’t always felt very confident of my ability to effect change, have often felt I can only make a stab at altering the course of things but with little expectation of success. Ultimately, though, I’ve seen my strength as being able to endure and get through difficult times. While I’m grateful for that capacity, I recognise that there has been a great deal of resignation, that somehow I haven’t seen myself as an active player.

But there’s more of a drive within me to look for potential answers. If I look back over the past three years I see that after losing Mark I really did just get on with it. There was something about the horror, the pain of it all that transcended self pity or self defeat. In many ways it wasn’t a time for comforting, in the same way that you don’t worry about expressing sympathy when you’re telling someone to run for their lives. Coping with grief, mourning isn’t about making things better, it’s about looking at what is and responding to it appropriately. And then, when the grief has run its course, that’s when you can really start looking at the debris and start thinking about what you might rebuild in its place.

Even that isn’t a simple process as I’m realising. Difficult because it takes time and that takes a lot from us. Remaining at it has been as hard in a different way to grief, because it has to be done when normal miseries beckon, when life’s ups and downs, its everyday frustrations, are snapping at your heels. But now I realise that all of that is part of the rebuilding because those aspects of ‘normal’ life also have to be stared down and reduced to their proper place in the scheme of things. It’s been a long time that I have felt removed from everyday life, and I often feared that nothing was happening. But now it feels like some transformation has been taking place all along. What it’s all heading towards, I’m not sure, and I’m too guarded still to look at things through optimistic eyes, but whoever is emerging does seem to have quite a determined look in her eye.