I have been sitting at my desk since 5am trying to write a chapter full of new ideas and inspirations and nothing is working. It is good to know that frustration no longer makes me feel like drinking. Now it just makes me feel like becoming a car mechanic or a newspaper vendor, anything except a writer.
Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday yesterday. A passage from my favourite Christian thinker and novelist, the eloquent and thoughtful Marilynne Robinson:
And when He did die it was sad — such a young man, so full of promise, and His mother wept and His friends could not believe the loss, and the story spread everywhere and the mourning would not be comforted, until He was so sharply lacked and so powerfully remembered that his friends felt Him beside them as they walked along the road, and saw someone cooking fish on the shore and knew it to be Him, and sat down to supper with Him, all wounded as He was.
There is so little to remember of anyone — an anecdote, a conversation at table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long,
Loss and restoration. A friend who lives in Europe these days wrote to me to say that she is sober now and a much calmer and happier woman. Her children are grown and also very happy to see their mother sober. Rita, as I shall call her, says that her deepest regret is that she did not sober up in time to raise her children who were in effect brought up by her mother and older sister.
‘I didn’t think they would miss me,’ she wrote. ‘I felt that my mother would do a much better job than I ever could, drunk or sober. I felt anyone would make a better parent than myself. But now I can see how exhausting that child-rearing was for my mother and how it contributed to her frailty and depression. My sister had children of her own and put them first, so my children felt like orphans or step-children in her home. And each of my children has told me he or she felt abandoned and as if they waited years and years to get to know me. There is no way I can explain that I preferred alcohol to flesh-and-blood relationships, but I wish now that I could have known I was needed. I felt so unnecessary and irrelevant, useless. And now it is too late for hands-on mothering and although I am grateful for the amicable friendship they offer me, regret is like a knife twisting in my heart.’
In sobriety there are the promises of renewal and growth, and the possibilities of healing in all kinds of ways. But often there is a reckoning. Some realities cannot be side-stepped.
On a lighter note, I have been making a leek-and-potato soup that is creamy and silken enough to be called vichysoisse, the French name for a humble leek-and-potato soup with cream that is served up as an ice-cold luxury in Parisian restaurants. There is no season as satisfactory for comfort eating as autumn. And there is never any better time to get sober than right this very minute, before any more of your one and only precious life slides away out of sight. I hope that doesn’t sound preachy. Those of us who sober up late in life sometimes have an acute sense of what we have missed out on seeing, doing, hearing, experiencing, sharing.
As I walk through the village each morning I see the autumn leaves falling, the season of mellow fruitfulness and loss. A cascade of falling leaves the colour of blood and honey and copper.