Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Yesterday was so awful that I did not have the heart to write it down. I had the mean reds. The wind was blowing a hooley and the rain lashed with bitter viciousness and there was no good to be seen. I growled at the horses, shouted at the dogs, roared at myself, and believed that nothing would come to any good.

There is a rage in grief. I’m getting quite a lot of that now. There are sudden hurling outbursts of sheer fury, usually at inanimate objects – the fucking car that is always going wrong, the stupid cooker that is making horrid noises, the idiot internet which suddenly goes off for no reason. It is classic Object A, Object B. I am obviously really, really cross that my mum died. I’m taking out that fury on something, anything, but that awful fact.

I think I’m also cross because although I know this stuff takes a long time, the competitive, girly swot part of me wants to be able to do it in double quick time. Whenever I have a good day, I make a category error. The competitive swot thinks: ah, I’ve finished. The sane adult, who is very, very slow and takes ages to catch up, finally observes: it was just a good day. It doesn’t mean that your heart is mended or you are out of the woods.

Then I get cross because of the irrational part of myself which is indulging wrong beliefs and wish thinking. I know the woods are dark and deep; I know I have miles to go before I sleep. So why do I keep falling for the siren voices of wrongness?

Because I am a human being, is the maddening answer.

So, it’s up and down and round the houses. It’s the struggling part. The emotion is no longer pure, shooting out of one involuntarily. This is the messy bit, when one is trying to come to terms with reality (always a faint problem for me), getting it a bit right and getting it a bit wrong, catching a glimpse of the light, being hurled back into the darkness.

The irony is that lovely days are the enemy, in some days. I see them not for what they are, in themselves, but as misleading proofs.

It’s been rather a relief to realise all this. I can stop yelling at the dogs now (they just turn and give me yeah, whatever looks) and direct my rage at its correct target, which is the buggery bollocks of mortality and loss. I miss my mum, and sometimes that makes me cross.

In the green field on the hill, I have two dear remedies for all ills. When I go up to work the horses, all the mess and detritus and garbage falls away. This morning, I got onto my little brown mare. Even though she was a polo pony beyond compare, I’m starting her from scratch in the kind of cowboy horsemanship I like, very different from what she was used to. So we’ve been working on the ground a lot, just hanging out and getting to know each other, becoming friends. I’ve hardly ridden her at all, because I want to dig the foundations deep. I had not planned on riding her this morning, but she was in such a good mood that I hopped on, on a whim.

Usually, when I sit on her, I can feel her Ferrari engine revving under me at full velocity. This morning, there was the low purr of the Aston Martin. I felt amazed and delighted. We wandered about the pasture, like two old cowgirls in the green grass of Wyoming, doing some basic exercises. A lot of horses have a no in them. She was filled with yes.

You would like me to do this? Yes.
You want me to do that? Yes.
You think we should go there? Brilliant idea.

She is so kind and gentle and bright and bonny. By the end, I was riding with no irons and no reins. I taught her to stop from voice. (Yes.) I showed her how to back up with a quick signal from my feet which a great American horseman taught me. (Of course.) And then we stood in the sun and I leaned down and stroked and stroked and stroked her dear teddy bear neck and told her over and over how brilliant she was. She pricked her little ears and looked very pleased with herself.

This was a gift that came out of a clear blue sky, after 36 hours of crossness and sadness and general blah. Horses are supposed to get tense and twitchy if they sense darkness in their human. I try to leave all my baggage at the gate, but that old suitcase has been weighing me down. The little brown mare does not care. She is so mentally sturdy that she lets all the nonsense go by. And so she restores me, and the wings of my better angels begin to flap, and, in the end, I can give her what she deserves.

I always say that the best remedy for frailty is to confess it. The Dear Readers are wise, and know very well that every day can’t be Doris Day. Yet there is always an element of fear when I have a little wail, the fear of vulnerability that revelation brings. I can’t do jazz hands and step ball change at the moment. I’m getting through the days, trying to do my work and keep my spirits from flagging too much and meet all my responsibilities. Sometimes I feel defeated and overwhelmed. Sometimes I have to admit that. Then I take a deep breath and lift my head and decide that I shall just keep buggering on. I think that if there can be one moment of joy and delight in each day, however fleeting, all is not lost. Today, my small, sweet thoroughbred gave me a moment that felt like a miracle.


  1. 12 years down the line - simply because I am bloody minded and didn't want to be felled by grief I have come to see it as some sort of mercurial pixie - suddenly gets you when you least expect it but also brings joy - it's almost like a new invisible friend - when I cry in Waitrose because my dad loved pickled beetroot I say 'oh fuck off grief' then laugh and buy the beetroot anyway.

    My dad used to tell us to 'make your party bigger and they will come'. Only stepped into the next room. Auden is THE grief open but look at Warning by Jenny Joseph. I read it at my dad's funeral.

  2. The missing never goes does it. Nor should it. I cried a week ago for the richest conversation of my life abruptly ended 5 years ago. No doubt I'll cry again. Maybe not over pickled beetroot, but perhaps over polenta or pannacotta or a red balloon or an old warrior racehorse that falls at the last. And yes, then laughing and buggering on until the next time. Take care everyone x

  3. I escape to sleep. And in the cold, grey, rainy weather in Belgium, that is easy enough to do.
    I cried a long time ago for the "adult" relationship I never had with my dad, who died when I was 23. My youngest sister, who was nearly five, has NO recollection of him.
    Our mother died earlier this year, at the age of 94. A while ago I made a kind of "peace" with myself about my relationship with her; it was nothing like what Tania describes. Our mother was a difficult, frustrated woman, widowed at 50 with four children still at home. Through the years we managed to allow her to wreak havoc on our sibling relationships -- to the point that one brother refused to come to the memorial service we held for Mom in November.
    I feel sadder about how fragmented we kids (we're all over 40!) are...even though I've managed to stay in touch with everyone.
    Sometimes I think I grieve what I could have had but didn't, although I also appreciate the things that DID "work". My parents loved each other. We felt safe. There was a lot of laughter and silliness in our house.

  4. I meant earlier in 2015. Mom's memorial service was in November, 2015.


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