Last night my friend Charlotte arrived on the doorstep and asked me to go with her to the carol concert. She had spent the weekend all alone proofreading and desperately needed to get out, wanted to just be around others. I agreed to go along with her because I could see the prospect of going up there alone was too daunting for her. I have known times like that.
She loved it, the small children with thin pure voices, the church filled with sumptuous but ghastly flower arrngements, great frosted proteas crowding out the altar and dwarfing the massed roses. Everyone ( except myself I suppose, in a loose linen top and denims) dressed up respectably for church in hats and cotton suits, pastel frocks and smart shoes, the men in jackets and ties. The dominee or preacher very emotional, bellowing at God as if at a deaf and slow-witted celebrity. Much of the singing was in Afrikaans and I struggled to follow the biblical readings in High Dutch. My heart a stone when it comes to faith of this kind. Afterwards we walked down the street in pale moonlight and saw the older villagers sitting out on their stoeps (porches). My front garden smelling strongly of a pale heliotrope, the smell of cherry pie. Dripping with water from the sprinklers, leaves of a tall hibiscus shining in starlight.
I came back to whirling demented puppies overjoyed to see me again, squealing their hearts out. We sat and had a love fest on the sofa. Then I sat up reading, had a late pasta supper of baby spinach in a little cream, field mushrooms and Parmesan with tagliatelli when Una got back. Lay awake battling the sense of dread I get each year at this time, the hopelessness coming over me in great waves of sensation.The dark and painful past that is never past, the failures, the bereavements, the memories of war, the wasted years.
Woke up this morning tired and distressed and after coffee called my friend Diana — she is about to get married and I am very happy for her. I had not wanted contact with her for much of this year because I did not want to talk about the hard times I had been going through. Cowardice and misplaced pride.
She was almost as delighted to hear my voice as my puppies were to see me last night. The conversation was full of love and excitement and plans to meet. She is helping with design on a development in China and would love me to work with her, she is happier than I have ever known her to be, her enchanting daughter has become the teenage femme fatale from hell in the space of six months, she is writing her wedding vows and pouring her soul into them.
It was like coming to life, hearing another self within me laughing and teasing and welcoming opportunities. For the last few months I have been licking my wounds in splendid isolation and now I am free to begin living again. I needed to have some seclusion after returning to Africa and the only relating I have done in any committed sense has been online with the recovery community and off-line with my puppies. Una and myself have gone very gently with one another, but the old vivacity has not been there.
And suddenly I am dreaming of travelling through China, spending time in Shanghai, working on writing projects, connecting, befreinding, learning and growing. Moving on from the hiatus of this year. The heaviness I felt last night has gone, the sense of renewal palpable.
But before I do that I need to get further with my own writing, see what is publishable. I am not going to make the required 50 000 words for Nanowrimo, I will be lucky to make 30 000. There is some very good material in the draft I have worked on, but some of it is tied up in knots. I need time to sort and distill. And I must give myself that time. While I am away in Cape Agulhas next week I shall take a break. Perhaps write a short story or a poem. Then I shall start work again in mid-December.
Possibility. That is the door I felt had closed in me. That experience in Wales hurt me more than I care to admit. The focus on sobriety never wavered, but I lost faith in human nature, in the notion of love or selflessness. Now I can admit that and write it down because a space has opened up inside me and the dread has receded.
No longer groping in an airless dark, there is a glimmering of light at the end of the tunnel. A skylight cracked open.