When I was teaching GCSE history in London, we taught the origins and actions of World War One. Big dirty topics of power and warfare, of trench foot and no mans land. It culminated each year, in taking a busload of students to the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium – to Vimy Ridge, to Beaumont Hamel, to the Thiepval Memorial. We’d visit jaw dropping military cemeteries and stand at Menin Gate in Ypres to listen to the last post. I might have told you about it before but it was shocking, heart and mind changing history. And during all of that, we’d be reading about the experience of war, and too, the soldiers own letters home. It struck me then, as it has continued to, how many veterans survived war and then never spoke of those experiences again. Or might speak of it in passing – but never speak of the true horror of it ever again.
I’m making a mental leap now from the horrors of global warfare to watching Albie go onto ECMO, so come with me. But I make the connection because I’ve been trying the veteran approach to this for the last five years. We witnessed such trauma on this day, five years ago, and then I packed it up and stuffed it, very uncomfortably inside me. It sits in my gut. Sometimes I lift the corner of the lid on it with my closest from time to time, and it reaches for my throat.
I suppose my thinking is that the horror of back then, belongs in a different time and space. Why let it out now and why bring it here? Turn away from it – don’t look at it. My resolution has always been to move forward, be grateful, focus on the present. To just let it go. Let it go. And I do believe in all of that – but more and more, as I wait for that fabled moment, I have a hunch that to truly let it go, I just have to take it into the light and take the lid off it. Pour it away.
Writing on this blog has always been that pour for me. Rarely do I come here knowing exactly what I am about to write. But as I write, sense making happens for me. And, if I was to get airy on you right about now, (which I am want to do more and more these days) on some spiritual level, these words sit within me until I write them. And that feels so very true to me when I think about what I am about to write about. I can feel the physical grief of the unspoken words within me. They are sitting there.
I’ve been a bit of a seeker this past year – I’ve been listening and reading about resilience and grief and motherhood and technology and life and energy and the universe. I’ve started thinking about the overwhelming size of the universe and the underwhelming size of our very small lives. Big metaphysical stuff, that I’ve never really questioned before. And within all of this mid-life awakening, in trying to form a way forward for me in this complicated world, I deleted facebook and I stopped writing.
This past year without a word from me here has crystallised the things that I want to write about. Yes, I want to tell you what we are up to, (and hell if we go to Italy again, you can be sure to get a bevvy of photos here first) but I also want to write about more than that. I want to give you our comfortable middle class holiday snaps, but I also want to be my own truth teller too. Fold up time and tell you my insides.
So here we go.
Also – before we do actually go, if you are still with me here, through what must have been the most tangential post on this blog yet, than high freaking five. A year without writing has made ideas crash together and pour forth in ways that are surprising even me.
So here we go.