Last night I slept better than I have in ages. Maybe it was something to do with spending the whole day stuck in a car, or the fact that I stayed up until almost 4am the night before reading and therefore had less than two hours sleep, but it was welcome nonetheless.
We are in an entirely different country to the one which holds memories and places and people that I would rather forget. We are with other members of our family too, and we teamed up to hire a beautiful cottage (which has a three legged cat, and a cat with half a tail) The views are stunning. The cottage is like something out of a postcard. The pool is just the right size. The company is perfect. The weather is warmer than home. We are in the middle of nowhere, and I can’t think of a better place to be right now.
Driving here proved to be an event. We nearly missed our train, then dad spilled his coffee all down himself which made the people in the car next to us laugh until they cried. The French motorway service station provided… Interesting… Facilities (they were flooded. It was gross) I nearly threw my little brother out of the car at one point because he got so annoying, and our little convoy of cars was caught out by a French speed camera, because the speed limits are in km/hour and our cars’ speedometers are set to miles per hour.
Now that we’re here I feel totally calm. It feels like everything is ok. We’re about 400-500 miles from impending heart surgery and hospitals and wheelchairs (there wasn’t enough room in the car, but I’m doing much better at the moment so I can walk a little way) and the stress of exams. Which means I’m 400-500 miles away from being me… Or at least from being the person that I’m trying to mould back into who I was. I can feel things slipping again. The immense fatigue is returning and I spent the afternoon laid in a chair while everyone else was outside by the pool because a) there were no seats left b) wasps seem to love landing on me and c) I don’t want them to figure it all out yet. They need a break from my malfunctioning body far more than I do.
It would be easy of me now to say that I want more, for being here not to be enough, because that’s human nature, isn’t it? I’m never supposed to be satisfied, because humans never are. We push for the next thing before stopping to appreciate the view from where we are, and we miss out on the brilliance of right now. I made it here, and some will expect that to simply be the start. But it is everything.
This morning while the mums went shopping, the dads stayed by the pool and the kids swam. I used to swim 5km a night at swim training when I was 14, and now I doubt my heart would even manage a length. The water is icy, and it takes people’s breath away (you swim or you shiver, there is no in between). I guess I should have been upset that I couldn’t join them, but I finally get it. I finally understand the brilliance of just being. I finally understand the peace that occurs within you when you let things go. And I’ve always understood how hard it is to do that, because I’ve been trying for a long time.
We shouldn’t care about everybody else, and yet we do. We can’t help but compare ourselves to them, we can’t help but wonder what it would be like to walk in their shoes, to see the things they see and be able to do the things they do. We try to let go of the longing and find that it is woven into the very core of who we are. ‘Us’ is never good enough. No matter who we are or where we get, we all have moments where we want to be ‘them’. But sitting watching my little brother swimming I was perfectly happy with being me. And when one of the adults said it was a shame I couldn’t draw anymore because I was amazing at it, the sinking feeling didn’t return. I didn’t start mentally listing all the things that I used to be good at and now couldn’t even imagine being able to do. I didn’t long to be that person so much that the emotion almost hurt. Instead I smiled, and I just though, yeah I was, and soon I will be again (my left hand has mastered colouring and cartoons but sketching is still a way off)
Recent events have made me realise that maybe we just try out a lot of paths before we are put on the one that is meant for us. If we don’t get a few scrapes and cuts along the way we don’t learn not to run or to watch where we tread. If we don’t go over a few steep hills we will never know that we can climb them. If we don’t ever fall, we never know how to climb. Thinking back through our lives we rarely remember the good. Our brains highlight the bad. We dwell on it. We relive the emotion over and over. We rethink our reactions, we think ourselves weak for crumbling, for falling, for tripping up while everyone else keeps on running. But we never think about the strength that it took to pick up so many wounds and scars and to still be metaphorically walking along in our lives.
When we meet a new obstacle we forget about the things that we have overcome before. We think we are incapable of making it through. We look forward to where we want to be but can’t imagine going. We see more obstacles on our path, in fact, we see mountains.
So don’t look forward. Don’t even look at where you are right now. If it’s a bad place it will only make the situation look bleaker. Look back. Remember that pain that you didn’t know how to survive. Remember how you felt, remember all the rubbish life has thrown at you. And see how far you’ve come from then. It might have left its mark on you, but you got through it. You might not know how, you might have walked on numb, you might not have even consciously tried; but you’re past those events, they are memories. And soon whatever is right in front of you will be that too – a memory. You are not weak. You are just too strong for anybody to ever comprehend.
The kids have befriended the three legged cat (his name is Joly). I mostly love him because he is different. He sort of hops around like a rabbit, and getting around seems to take him a lot of effort, but he still tries to do normal cat things, using his tail as a counter balance for the missing back leg and occasionally falling over. That’s what I like about him – he refuses to stay on the floor when he falls. And he refuses not to try do things that he knows will only end badly. People pity him, but he doesn’t need pity, he’s the strongest cat I’ve ever seen. Behind what he outwardly shows people cannot comprehend his resilience. And even though he only has three legs, he’s still a cat. I love him because I feel different, and on the inside I really am (I can’t do a lot of the things that healthy people can), I am limited by my own body. He looks different and can’t walk far either, he can’t do some of the things a normal cat can, and in my mind that means that we totally get each other, this cat and me.