Valentine’s Day happened and it felt like an ending.
In his poem, ‘Little Gidding’, TS Eliot wrote, ‘…to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.’
Which I suppose is a poet’s way of saying that hack old thing: ‘when one door closes another one opens.’
Which is a handy analogy seeing as I’ve spent the last eighteen months trapped in an airless hallway with both the door behind me and the door ahead of me, firmly shut tight.
No, that’s not it. Rather, both doors have been ajar, so that I might spend endless hours swinging between peeping into the one behind me (the past) and the one ahead (the future) in a frantic kind of door-dance fiasco, until I find myself too exhausted by the effort and slump down on the scratchy, municipal building style carpet of my imagination and have a fag and a cry and tell myself I’ll tackle the doors again tomorrow.
Valentine’s Day is the anniversary of when my husband and I began seeing each other, twenty-one years ago yesterday. All morning I hung around that door to the past, gawping at memories of love, of a time when I knew what my life was, could recognise it as being made up of certain component parts which when put together were familiar and tangible, even though they sometimes made me sad and lonely.
I don’t recognise my life anymore. I don’t recognise myself. Everything is new and changing all the time. I try to settle into the next new thing, like the flat I’m now living in which I love and which feels like a home, but not quite my home, not yet. A sense of routine is coming, but it’s slow; sometimes I close the curtains at night, sometimes I don’t. Am I a person who closes their curtains each night, who is comforted by the ritual of untying and straightening them, carefully but decisively shutting out the night, and then again in the morning, pulling them back and re-tying them, letting in the light? Or do I leave them open all day and all night, because I can’t be bothered to mark the end of the day, or can’t quite face the arrival of night?
And I don’t understand the bins here. I’ve stuck my flat number on my bin but still find other people’s rubbish in it. On bin day I drag mine out onto the street and it feels churlish not to drag out the other five belonging to my neighbours in this block, but sometimes I’m so tired and I just want to get rid of my own shit even if it does include someone else’s shit. Who is in charge of the bins here? Who is looking after everything?
As I spent yesterday morning lurking around my metaphorical door to the past, I also lurked around my actual front door. Perhaps someone will deliver a love letter? A flower? Some object that will tell me all is not lost, that love still exists and someone wants to give me a sign that their love is still for me. A parcel arrived and my sad, pathetic little heart leapt as I tore it open. A cheap silk kimono I’d ordered for myself from Amazon. How typical that it should arrive on Valentine’s Day.
I didn’t try it on. I didn’t want a gift from me to me. I spent the day writing. Recently, writing has become more satisfying and driven and less angst-ridden and hellish. The words I write might still be shit, but the process of churning them out feels easy and even, at times, joyful.
At midnight, with Valentine’s Day finally behind me, I tried on the kimono. I had a glass of wine and a fag on the go and immediately thought of Miss Hannigan, the drunken boss-bitch at Annie’s orphanage. I used to warble along to that movie as a kid, but it wasn’t Annie I wanted to be, it was Miss Hannigan, who spent her evenings lolling around her boudoir in a silk dressing gown, drinking gin and smoking and singing. What a life! What an inspiration!
I put on some music and swanned around in my kimono. It was bloody freezing. Who buys themselves a silk dressing gown in February? I pulled on my jeans and slippers and inspected myself in the mirror. Yep. I looked tragic. Miss Hannigan was actually a sad old lunatic and so am I. So I turned up the music a little louder and started dancing. With the curtains open.
I was happy.
In that same poem, TS Eliot also wrote, ‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language / And next year’s words await another voice.’
I need to shut the door on last year’s words and open the door to new ones. And that means I need to stop writing to you, at least for a while. I always try to be honest here and writing to you has brought me closer to the truth of my life than any words I might write just for myself. But the exposure is becoming too harsh. The online abuse I receive is cutting a little too deep. And when people stop me in the street, they look so concerned for me, because they’ve read my latest blog where I’ve talked about being suicidal, or raped or heartbroken. And these same people know my children so their concern reaches out beyond me and into the space where the two people I love most in the world are trying to live freely and with a degree of privacy.
Of course, I can’t actually shut up. I have a book to finish. And a film script on the go. And a play for the Manchester Fringe Festival later this year. I’m going to start teaching in September, get me some of that thing called a wage and a reason to put on shoes and leave the house.
This blog has been, and always will be, something I’m deeply proud of and that is entirely because of the connection it brings, that when I tell the truth, it might be a bit like your truth, and that has been a revelation to me, a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Which is all a long-winded and rather self-indulgent way of saying: I gotta spill my wordy shizzle somewhere else for a while.
I’ll miss you terribly. Keep speaking your truth, keep your eye out for open doors, keep going.
And please buy my book, twats. 💋