Sometimes a blog is the only friend within reach. At the age of eleven I began keeping a diary because I had nobody to talk with and lived in utter isolation on a forest reserve high in the mountains of eastern Zimbabwe. A landscape of sudden thunderstorms and morning mists, blazing sunlight and clear night skies filled with stars.
I found an old receipt book with heavy blue cardboard covers and tracing paper and a creamy thick paper ruled in navy blue and red. That was my first journal and I would sit alone on the edge of my bed writing in it. I took it out into the garden with me, to the shade of a young peach tree and sat there scribbling my heart out. Those scribbled pages are where I learned that writing is about freedom.
Now I am sitting here in a lamp-lit study on a night when the full moon could be turning the Welsh hills white, but it is raining. A friend in Herefordshire has just emailed me to say it is pissing down there and she is going to put away her cauldron for burning sage in a cleansing ritual. Not even the Welsh witches are venturing out.
Downstairs poor S is sunk in gloom and irritability. Not a cheerful house and we can do nothing to help one another. I hope there is a football on match on TV for him to watch. I have a delicious novel by Penelope Fitzgerald to absorb my attention and a hot bath later.
Not that I am alone with this blog, my desktop confidante. Emails are arriving from all over the world, from fellow bloggers in recovery and real-time friends in the fellowship. Not so many that I feel overwhelmed, but enough to make me feel loved and known. Sober Catholic friends write and tell me about the Feast of the Assumption and the role Mary the Mother of God plays in their faith life. My Buddhists talk about impermanence.
Sadly one of my best friends has stopped talking to me. I have unintentionally offended him and I long to apologise and put things right — but, well, it was unintentional and that is the worst of it. I didn’t know I was doing it and only thought to amuse him.
My housemate back in South Africa sends me warm and loving notes full of sympathy and concern. I don’t know if we will go on sharing a cottage together. I don’t know how she really feels about my going away. I don’t know what will happen between us when I go back. I don’t know what is possible.
Right now I am just putting one foot in front of another. I feel no need to drink or make excuses or try to blame anyone, not even myself. Shit happens.
All through this very painful week I have been thinking that I need a spiritual discipline of some kind, but am not going to make any hasty decisions. I go for walks whenever the rain stops and stay in touch with my friends and work on sobriety. I go to bed at a reasonable time and sleep fairly well, get up and bath, do a little meditation in the early mornings just paying attention to the breathing and letting the gratitude well up inside me for the day ahead. Then I have coffee and blog, post on cyber forums, do some writing, try to eat some breakfast and get through another day. My life is in limbo and that is hard to bear. The moods skitter about, but nothing to drink over. I have been in so many worse situations, some life-threatening, and I survived those even when I drank.
‘Ripeness is all. We must endure our going hence as our coming hither’, as Edgar says in KIng Lear.
So the darkness and the rain press in and I sit here straining to glimpse the dim outline of the hills before nightfall. Every gesture now is a goodbye of sorts. But of course there are the memories that will brand me like fire for months to come, the loss and regret. When the humilaition fades, there will be gratitude and the wisdom perhaps of hindsight, looking back and seeing what I cannot see now. Or just the acceptance of lost love in a hard season.
And there will be the journal pages, the emails and letters, the blog entries. The struggle of memory against forgetting. And because I find myself writing here to you, my blog, and to you the unknown readers and cherished friends, I realise I have chosen memory over forgetting. Though I hope for a measure of forgetfulness too.
First Memory by Louise Gluck
Long ago, I was wounded. I lived
to revenge myself
against my father, not
for what he was–
for what I was: from the beginning of time,
in childhood, I thought
that pain meant
I was not loved.
It meant I loved.