I speak to my Mum and hear the relentless passage of time.
In her voice, I hear my difficulties, struggles, doubts, insecurities and pain, magnified a hundred times, exaggerated by age, by decades spent alone and by the absence of recovery or therapy from her life.
I stop at the beach and watch the waves rolling in, over and over again, with faultless consistency.
The clouds break and the sun comes out. Leaves fall on my car as I drive. The seasons. They never fail to change.
I’ll be there at some point in the future too, older in age, struggling to get my head around the things I find easy today, battling with a mind that tells me I can’t, that I’m not who I used to be, that it’s all too much for me.
So can I embrace today? Can I embrace who I am today? Can I embrace this roller coaster ride with its ups and downs and sudden stops and starts? Can I love who I am, even if I often drive myself up the wall? Can I embrace my health, my sharp if turbulent mind, my good fortune, my beautiful home by the sea, the choices I’ve made? Can I?
Can you Katherine?
I walk on the beach to lift my low mood. I didn’t want to come. I wanted to work. It felt too cold, but I’m pleased I’m here now.
‘God, please help me. God, I need your help. God, I need your help,’ I say over and over as I walk.
I change into my swimming costume once the dog walkers have passed by in their coats, hats and scarves. There’s part of me that’s embarrassed to be swimming when everybody else is wrapped up, part of me that’s ashamed to be different, that just wants to fit in.
Can I embrace who I am?
I walk into the waves.
Why, I ask, as I duck under the surf. Why me? Why do I have to be like this? Why does it have to be so hard?
I cry. I cry in the sea. I cry as the waves crash on my head and I dive underneath. Those tears come from a deep place – frustration, sadness, pain. I let them out. I let them leak into the water. Better out than in.
And it is better out than in. I know that.
I dry myself on the sand. My body tingles in the cold. I shiver and my toes go white but I feel alive. I feel brighter. I feel more able to face my day, to challenge that voice in my head that wants to keep me low, that wants me to give up.
Sometimes, on days like these, it’s an effort just to stay afloat. I so wish it wasn’t. I so wish every day could be a good day, that I could be more ‘normal’, whatever that means.
But I know it’s worth the effort to keep my head above water. And I feel better now. My swim in the cold sea on a windy October morning has reminded me of who I am at my core, that there’s a strong, determined, vulnerable, playful, unique and real woman inside.
I regret how grumpy and resentful I’ve been these past days. I feel sad that I’m capable of pushing the man I love away by blaming him for things that are my fault, things I need to take responsibility for instead of slipping into victim mode. I’m grateful he has the patience of a saint, but even The Saint has his breaking point.
How can I make it easier for myself and for those I love? How can I stop pushing and punishing? How can I turn my work into play? How can I stop analysing my choices and blaming myself?
Time is short. The waves roll in. The leaves fall. I want to embrace who I am. All of me. I want to love even the bits I loathe. I will. I’ll do that today.
I heard a song on the radio this morning: ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’
What have I done today to make me feel proud? What have I done today to make me feel happy? What I have done today to make me feel free and alive? What have I done today to connect more with others, to be more human, to love more? What have I done today to keep my head well above water?
That’s the important stuff. That’s the stuff that truly matters.