It seems incredible that this was written not even six months after Mark’s death – I could never have imagined making it to this point then. It’s difficult to read it again and feel the rawness of all I felt. It’s reassuring, too, that it doesn’t hurt that much now. And it’s intriguing that so much of what I wrote then still stands, that the things I glimpsed then have remained with me. Most importantly, I can see that it was my choice to hold on to life and love that got me through. Just over two years on from when I wrote it, I think choice I made to live and to hold fast to love, and believe in its strength even in the face of death, were among the most important I’ve made.
There have been times – many of them – when the lines about keeping on, about marching, were laughable, days when I barely made it out of bed. But looking back I can see that I set a direction of travel that I managed to keep with, no matter how bleak and desperate some of my days were.
There were a number of things in the early days that glimmered like tiny lights, hinting of a different future ahead – a discussion just hours after Mark died about Greece and Spain, a visit to an event on art and activism in Peterborough that inspired me to think about what mattered to me, even through the grey fug of grief and the prospect of his funeral a day or so ahead. I spent time in Athens, experiencing some of the tumult of the election and referendum. I also went to Madrid, where I was inspired by the women who were challenging how politics is done.
I remember awe-inspiring sunsets that spoke of relentless beauty, the stunning green of the first spring, walks when the earth, stones and rocks below my feet seemed the only solidity I knew. Sleeping alone under the stars near the tiny hamlet of Eroles and leaving the next morning having watched the birds swoop, the sun set and the stars break out and the sun rise again with an overwhelming gratitude to the land for protecting me.
There have been people who were there in remarkable ways when everything fell apart, who helped kickstart me into life. The moment I got a phone call asking me to be involved in the 28 Days project interrupted a bus journey when I felt almost paralysed by darkness, but being asked to get involved in a project about the coming election was a tiny nudge that helped me get some momentum and lightness.
Two years on, some of the things that glimmered up ahead are just beginning to come into focus. It’s hard to adjust to how long this all takes when you are grieving, or when you are recovering from grief itself. It’s not a quick fix, it’s not something that can be rushed. There have been times when I forgot about them, times when the different kind of life they represented seemed a sick joke. I still don’t know what they mean in their entirety, I don’t know what they mean for how the next years of my life play out.
But I know that the commitment to love and life has never faded, and in fact has become more precious, and is at the heart of what I’m hoping for whatever the outcome of this election. I still think it’s important to keep on going when all its lost, but what’s in our sights is also important, and the capacity to hope, dream and imagine is very precious, sustaining us more than we know through those dark times.