104. Worn Out

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Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash

This is the first time I have seen myself nuddy in a full-length mirror for twelve weeks. I’m physically stronger, more toned, with my arms and legs dipped in honey. It might be the fatigue and jet lag talking but I don’t know who I am anymore, or where I belong.

“Get a grip, woman. You’ve had five coffees, a bottle of wine and no sleep. This is a totally normal comedown for a cot case. You know this. You got this” I tell myself.

My friend said that every hour of flying adds a year to a face and I believe all of those tired 22 extra years. I now have the body and life I always thought I wanted.

How can my top drawer have better knickers in it than the ones I brought back with me, when I took the best ones away with me? He knew exactly what I would want to wear today, so had folded it neatly on the bed. I put on his trackie-daks, with the frayed drawstrings,  and my old University t-shirt.

“You smell nice.” he says, drawing me close for a damp embrace.

“I used your shower gel. I missed it.” I say.

A text to his mum to let her know I got back ok will have to do for now.

He makes me tea, beans on toast, and there’s a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate and a box of jaffa cakes next to the breadbin. Celery and hummus in the fridge.

“Ooh, that’s a nice cup of tea. Thank you.” I do a Mr Wolf mug raise. Our eyes meet but I quickly look away. I really can’t do this now. I don’t want to. He knows.

He takes my picture, wet hair, mug poised.”

“Post it for me please? Then they’ll know I’m back. I can’t face anyone today. I’m too tired.” I say. At least I won’t be a travel bore. Everything is all there as it happened, on my blog and twitter. I’ll  never have to talk about it again if I don’t want to.

I have the house to myself for the rest of the day as he’s going into work. We’re having a chinese later.

Everything is so different but exactly the same; just muted with the colour turned down. I understand the language, but the money has changed. I don’t who these people are on TV and how can English newspapers can get away with what they print?

Utterly exhausted but totally wired, I try to lie down on the bed but it feels wrong. I can’t just put on my swimmers anymore, walk out there and take a dip. My aching bones sore from sitting still in limbo for too long. The sun on my legs would soften the ache, for sure. There’s never going to be a good time to unpack, so I may as well just get it over and done with. So much baggage.

Those Danish shoes I can’t get here are really popular in Australia. I even got mine resoled whilst I was there. Rebooted. The delicate rhythm of breaking in thick leather shoes. Gentle baby steps or they will bite back hard. With dubbin and time, they perfectly mould to my feet until they feel bespoke. I’d like to see the forensic results of how far I’ve gone in these.

My favourite cashmere, softer with every wash. Worn sparingly and stupidly saved for best. Then nibbles of tiny holes from invisible moths. Darned and patched. I did what I was supposed to do, and I refuse to let it go. What else could I have done to have looked after it better?

Beautifully faded, thinning denim. I can almost see my hand through some parts of these jeans. I could easily get exactly the same pair again, wear them everywhere for a couple of years and never notice the imperceptible changes.

Fabric rubbed threadbare from friction under the arms of my silk shirt. I’ve grown so much that it’s no longer a good fit.

This wasn’t how I’d planned to spend my time. I’d ‘banked’ two weeks of my holiday every year for five years with my employer. They’d agreed I could have three months off paid, but not now, next year. They’d get a temp. I’d get my salary and keep my job. Mortgage and bills covered. I’d researched it all. I even knew the exact dates to fly, and when was the best time to get the cheapest ticket. Then Mum took crook just as he had his big work thing. This wasn’t even my Plan B but the big talk couldn’t have gone better, even with timing beyond our control. Money, perspective, trust, love.  All boxes ticked. Agreed. We called it ‘Operation Apple Pie’ and we did the best we could. I called it ‘Operation Terminal’ in my head.

We facetimed every day at first but the 11 hour time difference made it difficult, so we settled into a daily email routine and a 10 am early morning on Saturday for you, 9pm Saturday night for me and again on Sunday, with the occasional early morning alarm call from me. I’m so paranoid right now, that if I knew facetime would let me listen into his life without him knowing, I would have been tempted into crossing that line.

No matter what I did, it felt like I was running away from something. From my family, my work or us. I know your job was, is, stressful. I know she’s only a friend, a really good friend, and that nothing would ever happen. If it did, there was no way I could deal with it, not now. I didn’t want to be a part of it and I don’t ever want to know. I’m an orphan now and I can’t be on my own. But I know I’m not going to be alone. I need to trust myself.

I used to think we needed a thunderstorm, a grenade, a tragedy, clean break, and then we’d be sure. There was potential to be kintsugi or broken crocks for drainage in a plant pot. We would agree that if we were meant to be together, we would find a way to make it work. It’s the little things, the everyday moments that make a life together. And now I’m back. Clean slate. There’s so much to do and all the time in the world to do it.

I promised myself over and over that I would never, ever ask him, even though I want to, because I can’t be sure I would believe the truth. It shouldn’t even matter whether he’s making an effort because he loves me or because he feels guilty. I will have to find a way of learning to accept that I won’t get any answers to questions that don’t need to be asked.

It’s too soon, but then it will be too late, yet neither of us dare make a move. We swore we would not argue or drop any bombshells unless we were in the same room. Now we are. I’m holding my breath. This is landmine territory, with the awkward, deliberately faltering tension. Someone has to be brave. Take charge. One foot wrong and everything will always be my fault. I have two homes, with people who love me in both, so why am I so terrified of being abandoned? I keep telling myself that I officially have ‘indefinite leave to remain’ and if he was going to ditch me, why wait until I got back?

“Get a grip woman. This is not who you are. It’s all in your head. No worries, remember. Breathe, Just breathe. You’ll feel better once you’ve had some zees.”

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69. Rest Assurred

You always want what you can’t have, so they say.

Why does sleep elude me when I crave it so? It’s such a natural, simple thing. I can fall off to sleep effortlessly, but after four or five hours, I am wide awake again. I’m well past the point of saying to myself that “if I fell asleep now I could get another two hours.” Physical rest is the best I can expect. Mental rest will have to wait.

I hear people talk of how their mood is affected when they don’t get their full eight hours, or new parents unprepared for how much their nights would be disrupted. I want to scream “That is my life!” but I don’t have the energy, and it would do no good to do the whole “I bet I’m more tired than you are.”

I’m perpetually in a fog. On auto-pilot. A zombie. Groggy. Jet-lagged. I’ve tried mindfulness, lavender, herbal tea, cutting back on stress and caffeine, a ‘clean sleep’ routine, new mattress, cold bedroom, going to bed later, blackout curtains, a set bedtime, exercise, no electronics in the bedroom, vitamins, counting backwards in sevens, and sticking my feet outside of the covers.

Maybe my being overweight has something to do with my poor quality sleep? Maybe my being overweight is because I don’t sleep properly?

It took me months to realise I was anaemic as one of the symptoms is exhaustion, and my default is general fatigue, so…

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There’s a notebook by the bed with a pencil that writes smoothly, so as not to disturb him. I lay there, watching him breathe, trying to think of how I would spend lottery money or plan our next holiday. Sometimes I ruminate on throwaway comments said by someone I barely know anymore, who probably can’t even remember saying them, and only said them because they were hangry.

I sometimes think of people I have known, who did not take as prominent a place in my life as they could have done.

Tiny, motion-sensitive dim lights lead the way to the bathroom.

Occasionally, I do get up, watch a bit of telly or write down some ramblings. There are lots of people I don’t normally interact with on Twitter at 3am GMT.

On days at home from work, I live in holey cashmere jumpers and baggy pyjama bottoms with soft-soled slippers, so there’s no need to change if I decide to nap. Just forty minutes before 2pm can change my whole evening. My battery is recharged and I can stay awake until a proper adult bedtime.

My family says I’m on ‘old people’s time’ because my sleep pattern forces my whole day to shift to an earlier time. I’m ready for bed when most people are going out for dinner at 8pm. That’s like midnight for me.  I’m the first at any restaurant for lunch when the clock has barely struck noon. At work before most people’s alarms have gone off. Ready to leave work at 3.30 pm. Thank goodness I can choose my own hours. Theatre matinees, morning cinema trips, lunch, not dinner dates.

I never skimp on rest to do other things, I always try to aim for a full-night’s allowance of sleep. It’s just my sleep pattern would ideally be 8pm-4am then possibly another forty minutes around 11.30am. That’s breakfast tv presenter or baker territory. Maybe I’m just in the wrong job.