When I embarked on this blog I had not the faintest idea what form, shape or hue it was going to take. I thought it could be a combination of diary and general e-mail to my chums (one they were under little pressure to answer or even read), and I made a promise to myself it would be generally skittish in tone, with at least one good joke per post. Then I decided I wouldn't use it as a vehicle to comment on current affairs or whinge about politics (or, even more so, politicians). And so it has gone on, for the first two weeks.
But today I can't get the joke-making sausage machine to rev up and churn my recent hours into links of quips and silliness. I cannot seem to see above a gentle pall of sadness that has descended upon me, which feels like a duckdown duvet I cannot quite throw off. It isn't my sadness. I am as chirruppy as the two budgies that co-habit a cage in our dining room (more of them another day...). It isn't even my SAD, the Seasonally Affective Disorder born of my Scandinavian genes which hits me in September and makes me sleep anything up to 12 or 13 hours a night (and morning...not possible! you cry, Dear Reader. Yes, possible) and crave carbohydrates to the tune of a stone gained every winter. No, this is sorrow at what life is dealing to others. The Bad News Bear has taken up residence in my in-box. I wish it would go away but it seems like it's dug in for a long stay.
Of late I have heard of two women whose husbands have proved to share an inability to keep it in their pants. NO! The men aren't having a gay triste, they've never met and don't even live in the same country. But they have both decided to put it elsewhere whilst pretending to be elsewhere, and left their wives reeling from the self-indulgent disloyalty of it, after years and years of marriage. I have an old uni chum whose mother has just been diagnosed with stage four cancer and is fading slowly and miserably. I have another old uni chum who (reading between the lines) has hit the buffers of the menopause hard. I know of a couple thick in the middle of splitting up who are living together and yet barely speaking, I have a sister who's just taken enforced retirement at 59 after being made redundant, and almost immediately (it seemed, certainly within months) developed a chronic health issue which is scary and possibly here to stay. What's going on? Where did this all come from? Is it our age? (We are mostly in our fifties and sixties). When did life get THIS tough?
But then I realised it is from a baseline of firm friendship, trust and love that I know all this about these people. Because we are genuinely close we get - and give - the real news, not just those ghastly self-congratulation-fests of round robin letters inserted into the Christmas cards, sent from people who know us vaguely and stay in touch out of social duty (or even so they get lots of Christmas cards back?).
If these friends didn't think we were capable of caring and murmuring helpful noises, or getting cross for them, or just listening with as little judgment as we can, they would never have told us of their pain. At a time when they need to know who their real friends they've reached out to us and rehearsed their woes Just as when, four years ago to the month, I was diagnosed with breast cancer although not then even fifty, our front room wouldn't have looked like a florists, and our mantelpiece would not have been adorned with pretty cards brimming with good wishes, and the phone would have stood silent, if these Lovely People hadn't troubled to gather around us their enfolding arms.
The Husband and I are four years beyond what was then - at the most intense moments - an all-consumimg fear and sorrow, and as chirruppy as a pair of budgies (still will I hold off from telling you about those until another day - now is NOT the time). I am feeling well, healed, responding to treatment and in remission. So - all those Lovely People out there who have confided in us that they are facing separation, bereavement, ill health and loneliness - take heart from what I say. This too shall pass. The heartache will fade with the kind, steady onward tread of time, and you will all laugh heartily, deep and long again.
Much, much sooner than you may believe today. Maybe even tomorrow, if I can get that stalled sausage machine going again...