I've been keeping Blog notes in a little orange notebook. Sometimes I feel like recording a feeling, a moment, but my laptop is not to hand or it's just the wrong time of day. So I decided to add a notebook to the contents of my already overloaded handbag. Here are some jottings from the past week:
This morning, as I was dressing for work, I heard the sound of things falling and rolling across our kitchen floor, to the colourful accompaniment of Roch's swearing. I was aware of a feeling of irritation. I was feeling tired after a restless night and anxious about the working day ahead. I made my way into the kitchen to see him standing unsteadily at the open 'fridge door, at his feet a sea of baby carrots. He told me to finish what I was doing first and then come back to pick them up and I automatically retraced my steps to the bedroom, mascara in hand. Then I thought 'What if he slips on one?' So I ran back and picked them up. I could tell how frustrated he was, not just by the swearing, which had ceased now, but by the silence in the room. He sat at the table, looking sadly out the window at our garden. The new handrails are in place on the ramps now. It was an essential piece of work. They are perfectly functional. But somehow they form a barrier between the house and garden. The garden doesn't seem accessible anymore. I guess this is how it has felt for Roch ever since he began having to use the ramp. Now for me there is a physical barrier and I have to use the ramp too (occasionally I duck between the rails when nobody's looking). I don't like it but it's a small thing, after all. I don't expect he likes it much, either.
Standing there in the kitchen I notice that Roch's finger nails need cutting and, conscious that the Community Nurse is coming later in the morning to take bloods (for testing at King's College, as he is on Lithium now), I insist on cutting them now. (I am embarrassed to think his personal care may look neglected). He requests that I leave one long for nose picking purposes. He says this to hear my scolding protests and I do not disappoint. I cut all his nails. I'm getting good at this. Just before I leave for work the Toshiba TV man arrives. The TV for the bedroom has been fixed at last. As I depart, I hear Roch apologise for the mess in the bedroom and he follows the guy into the room, stick thumping heavily on the wooden floor. I leave him to it.
As I drive away I am filled with a mixture of sadness, anxiety and relief. If feels like a kind of escape but I wonder which feeling will overcome the others when I get to work. In the event, at work I settle quickly to my tasks and manage to focus on work priorities. I have very little time to dwell on the events of my morning so far, or to worry about my husband.
Well, 21 years ago today I was the blushing bride and he was the (believe it or not) bashful groom.
This morning I helped him to button his shirt. He went back to work today after an absence of six weeks. He had a disturbed night. Anxiety perhaps? So progress was slow. To save time we showered together. Nice for him, nice for me. As this disease progresses, the dynamic of our relationship will change, is already shifting. It's important to retain the small daily intimacies, I think. More and more I assume the duties of carer but I'm still his wife. How much easier to accept assistance with hair washing (he has difficulty lifting his arms) in the shower when provided by equally naked wife! Very eco-friendly, as we save on water too.
I came home from work yesterday longing for some space, some time to myself. Work was hectic. In and out of meetings, more work generated by each. I find my new role challenging, but stimulating. I'm beginning to relax into it now, starting to enjoy it - but it's non-stop. I got off the train at Whitton, to pick up food for dinner along the way. I was surprised that I had the energy and the interest to think about it. For some reason, I quite fancied making rice pudding (comfort food? Memories of Friday mealtimes as a child - that gorgeous crispy baked skin on top. I loved to break through it with my spoon to the creamy rice beneath and smell the steamy sweetness. As I walked throught the quiet streets around our home, I made a conscious decision to 'pay attention'. I noticed the woodsy autumn smell (so early!), the pleasant cool air on my skin, the vivid colour of a single rose. Live in the moment. It doesn't come naturally to me. It's easier for me to walk along, head down, in a cloud of anxiety. Why do I forget that exercise helps, that just being outside can help?
Tell you what else helps - getting my hair done! Lovely visit to the hairdresser this morning - or should I say, my 'colourist'? She's really more like an old friend. Not looking quite so faded anymore. Thank you Gabriella.
I was reading Eleanor Coppola's 'Notes on a Life' last night, a gift from a friend (many thanks L). I find we have a lot in common. I keep coming across passages which resonate with me. She says that she couldn't understand why she wasn't automatically happy when she married and had children. She consulted psychiatrists and psychologists, one of whom was a woman and asked what was wrong with her. She had it all, she told them - '...a loving and successful husband, a big house, healthy children. I was mystified by my depression. Not one of them said, "You're a creative person, you need to pursue your creative life or you'll get depressed."'
I'm not comparing my creativity to that of Eleanor Coppola, but I realise that at last I am trying to carve out a space in my life for my creative self, create a physical space (a refuge) where I can rest and work (I want to populate this space with beautiful things, possessions with particular value to me), but also forge some time, time to indulge my 'creative child'. I am doing this to survive. Ironically this will become more difficult to achieve with the passage of time. It will also become more vital to my well-being and the well-being of those I care for. (Eleanor Coppola is the wife of the famously creative Francis Ford Coppola and the mother of Director Sofia Coppola).