a bit of a pause

The last few weeks have been a bit more full on than I’d expected, and non-harp stuff has been extremely unpleasant. All the symptoms of fairly major stress are there, and work things are starting to affect my non-work life in a way that I am not comfortable with. It’s time to move on again.

Death and illness have an unmistakeable way of punctuating our lives. In my case, they have shaped how I’ve lived my life. A much loved aunt died in a dreadful accident when I was quite young and just starting to work out what the world was about. As a result, I find it incredibly difficult to plan for the future. I’ve moved around a lot since I was a small child, and often feel a bit like I’m floating, whirling around not sure of where my roots are and where I can go back to when everything is wrong.

I moved schools a lot too. In many ways, this has shaped me for the better. I can settle in quickly pretty much anywhere. I’m not afraid to talk to new people. I’m quick to offer help if I sense someone is a bit lost or unsure, I know the signs. When I left secondary school to go to university, I only kept in touch with a couple of people.

School had been quite difficult in many ways. I went to a great school full of bright high achieving girls. All my closest friends were musical or into maths/science or in some cases, both. However many of my best friends had some fairly impressive (and mostly thankfully short-lived) issues with drugs. I loved all the music we were into but I stayed away from the chemicals that went with it all, too sensible, too frightened of being told off, too frightened of losing control.

Instead I looked out for the others when things got really bad. I tidied up after some disastrous house parties. I spoke to the police when they turned up. One night I spoke to someone’s dad who they hadn’t seen since they were a small child, and who had somehow found out where they were and decided to show up suddenly. I called ambulances, cleaned up, listened. Listened a lot.

There are good memories of those times as well.  A particular bench in a small touristy town in the West Midlands that was sufficiently far away from everything for people to hang out and chat without interruption or fear of being Moved On. Arguing about the merits of the Fast Show versus the Mary Whitehouse Experience. Sara Lee chocolate gateau for breakfast. Long chats into the night. My first ever all nighter. The first and only time I stayed somewhere when I’d told my mum I was somewhere else (entirely innocently – I was at a house party with my best friend and we sat in the garden most of the night together talking about the Doors and listening to Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror over and over again on the stereo).

My first ever all nighter was New Year’s Eve, I can’t remember what year. I was at my friend N’s house, about a mile from where I lived. Her parents were away with her younger sister and brother, but she was (rightly) trusted to be in the house on her own and have friends over. Her parties never involved the police or clearing up anything awful. Just good friends talking, mostly about music. Someone told me it was bad luck to let a fire go out on New Year’s Eve. So my friend S and I sat all night and tended it. S was a bit more of a firestarter than me so really she was doing the tending.

Recently, thanks to Facebook and a picture that another friend posted, I found myself back in touch with a few people who I really loved from school. I’d never consciously fallen out of touch, but our lives had moved on and away from each other and with no social media at the time, no way of staying in contact.

Everyone is married with kids. Three seems to be the number. It’s interesting looking in on people’s lives and remembering them as they were, and knowing who I was then and how I don’t really feel that different now.

N posted some terrible news on Friday morning, and it absolutely knocked me for six. I’ve not seen her in years, or known what she has been up to beyond heading off to uni in 1997, until a few pictures on Facebook.  I struggled through the day, with a job interview in the middle of it all.

I questioned myself a lot, whether I had the right to be upset, whether I was overreacting. It was such a shock. How could I possibly feel such sadness for someone I hardly knew any more, solely based on memories and shared experiences at a pivotal time in our lives, when we were growing up, forming who were were, developing our thoughts and our fears.

Often when we hear about something sad, on Facebook, in the news, from friends or acquaintances, it prompts a fleeting Life’s Too Short kind of feeling, we promise ourselves we will change all the things we’re unhappy with, be a better person, make the world a better place. Then something else happens and we move on.

But this has really hit me hard. Tired and emotional, well yes, but this goes a bit deeper and I’m not quite sure why.


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