Thursday 25 January 2018

Three Years Today

I've wanted to write this post for such a long time. I'd tried the previous two years but turns out, that was too soon and too much other and very immediately stressful stuff was happening which didn't allow me to have clear thoughts about anything. First fact about grief, it doesn't make you suddenly have a wonderful sense of clarity and perspective in your life. I still worry about my career, about my relationships and about a thousand other things that definitely didn't need to take up that brain space but there we are.

In the most appropriate of manners, this was delayed by a whole week because I was worried and agonising over those very things. Clarity and perspective are funny things and I sometimes wonder if I'll ever have a good grasp of either of those qualities.


So, not perfect, but closer to 'ready' than I've ever felt for the past three years, and I talk a lot about how I want to see multiple narratives around grief and loss, and unfortunately I'm in a very good position to write them.

What I'm not going to write about is how it happened, what that was like, and my memory of it are actually pretty hazy anyway. According to my planner I was up and about and doing things - I had a Masters degree to do and a job and new friends to make so I didn't know what else to do. My lack of a clear timeline, as someone with an usually excellent memory, would suggest to me that that's probably a pretty traumatic period of my life. So, whilst I might get there eventually I don't have any insights right now that aren't 'that was really awful and I never want to think about it again'.

I have though, been ready to talk about this basically since it happened. I have been endlessly frustrated with representations of what it means to lose someone and to grieve, and on top of that, how that means people communicate that with me. How I so often don't get to talk about my own truth because people come with their own definite ideas about what that experience must feel like.

Losing someone isn't just being devastated by your loss, it's a thousand different things that range from the terrible to the just very strange.

I feel for the most part I've only just realised he's really gone, and now I say it out loud, not just allude to it. I get that this is uncomfortable, but it's also true that if you didn't know the person it's a lot easier to get on board with them being dead than it is if it's someone who formed an actual part of your life. That trope about expecting them to walk through the door is so real, because all their stuff is still there, they're still in all the photos, so why wouldn't they be coming back?

On top of that I am right there with the morbid fascination, for the previous three years I have staunchly avoided anything that deals with death in an in-depth manner. I have left it exclusively to the realm of crime drama in which everyone recovers from their grief within ten minutes because they're too busy trying to prove they didn't kill the person in question. This week Caitlin Doughty released her book 'From Here to Eternity', a follow-up to her first book 'The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes' - both are an in-depth exploration of death, dying and cultural reactions to both. I heard a review on a podcast and I immediately put it on pre-order.

This year I can already feel myself bringing it up more and more. I have cackled with laughter at how fucking weird funerals are and I hope I can always find people to share those laughs with. More than anything I realised that there was no way to be disrespectful to the person I lost because they were mine to lose. I don't have to spend significant dates hidden away and alone if I don't want to. Everyone else may have their own opinions and predictions on how they would mark those days but you can't transform who you are or the things you need for the sake of marking an occasion. I have always found to be healed by spending time being with the people I love and those days are no different.

Most of all I do not only have a life which carries on in spite of that loss, I have a life that includes that loss. And that's fine. It's as real and normal to me as the people who I still have. It comes up all the time, and is relevant all the time, and I'm very okay with that.


Maybe what will be helpful from all of this is the idea that there is no right way for you to live your life and feel your feelings on the other side of a loss like that. You have the rest of your life to grieve and you certainly don't have to be in any rush to display any emotions on any sort of timeline. It's okay to laugh at the absurdity of a life that includes something like this, it's okay to never want to talk about it and then want to talk about it all the time for months. You are not a machine and you don't to have perfect emotions to display to anyone.

And if you're someone who has someone close to you who is grieving, please don't only want to hear about it when they're crying and sad. It sounds awful but I really do consider this to be 'doing the least' - I appreciate that sadness is the easiest and most obvious emotion but processing someone's loss is made of lots of things. Your relationship with death can change entirely, and things that you thought were off-limits before become very real conversations that you have to have almost daily. Let your person talk about it, let them talk about the practicalities of living without their person without squirming away from them. Losing someone is weird. It's weird, one moment they're there and the next they aren't and that takes a long time to get to grips with.

Let your friend or loved one be weird and talk about weird stuff, let them live their new reality. My family almost never mentioned the reality of death but that changes when you lose the youngest member of your family first. Somehow it didn't make the prospect of losing anyone else more scary, but it did make it a lot more real. You may call it morbid but a death in the family is already the definition of morbid.


Sunday 14 January 2018

Four Days in London & Paris

...and the rest of the week in bed. 

I will get on to the exciting part of the week soon but is anyone else completely exhausted? Why is January the first month of our calendar when it is legitimately the worst and most tiring month of all months? What's the deal why did we do this?

Off the back of this feeling I have spent the final three days of the week largely stationed in bed with one venture out to be stationed in a friend's house for dinner. Not so for the first half of the week however...

What can I say there was a Eurostar sale so I was reunited with my Paris partner in crime and we basically did Paris 2017 2.0. We saw all of the things we'd tried to see last time but didn't have time/they weren't open because Monday is a completely pointless day to spend in Paris. This includes a very cute raw vegan cafe called Raw Cakes which we failed to visit after we failed to want to wait for two hours to get into the Catacombs (Paris is a city of failed attempts for us and most people I think). This time we did both of those things, the Catacombs are a longtime love of mine because they were featured in a truly terrible horror film called As Above So Below but ever since I saw it they have been a firm bucket-list item. 

It's just lots of skulls and bones arranged into walls but I bloody loved it. 

We went to museums and ordered food in every evening and what else could anyone want from a mini-break really? I have revised down my dream of living there largely because everything is so expensive and also because I would end up existing only on vegetables and eggs which is not the life I want for myself. Also because it is cold and after spending so long in very hot places I'm now pretty certain I would only permanently relocate somewhere if it was objectively warm for nine months of the year or more. Paris is very beautiful in the winter but I am grumpy when I am cold so unfortunately it remains a holiday destination and nothing more. 


London was a different set up all together because I am lucky enough to know many people who live there and who will have me in their homes and rush out on their lunch breaks to meet me, it was a whirlwind largely because of tube and bus delays which meant I spent a lot of time looking stressed on public transport and fixing my hair and makeup in public toilets. I don't live there but I feel this is a large part of the experience of people who do, and in that sense, I feel well-prepared for any living I may do there in the future. 

I had so many more conversations about resolutions and making and not making them, in truth although I wrote a post about things I'd like to do more of I feel like maybe the best one would to make this a no pressure year. 2017 was a lot of pressure for a lot of reasons and some of those things came to fruition and some didn't, but they certainly didn't seem to yield results based on how much energy I expended on them. 

Working hard is important but so am I, and I don't need to excessively push myself in any area of my life to get what I want, I have good friends who don't drain me and a family who supports me and I mostly have my health and enough money to live. I want to push myself in ways that feel exciting and make me happy and not because I think everything will fall apart if I don't. I don't want to bend over backwards for anyone or anything, and I want to get better and making decisions based on what I don't want as much as what I do. 

This isn't to say I don't need to try, I've just scaled down the things I want and need and also decided against trying to achieve everything possible by the age of 30, because if every year was like last year I probably won't make it to 30 anyway, at least not with a full head of hair. I could resolve to stop stressing about things I can't change, maybe too big, but maybe I should stop complaining about them instead. Once I can't verbalise something I find it much easier to push it to one side and move on from it, so that would be a good place to start.

Maybe nothing needs to be better, I could just leave myself alone to age and change normally, you know, without trying to document my every thought and feeling and constantly psychoanalyse myself. Now that would be nice. 

Whatever they are, they will be starting in February because I'm already over January and its seeming endlessness. Here's to a quiet January filled with a lot of food, tea, hot baths and slow weekends writing from my bed. Here's to a January that ends as quickly as it arrives, and to an all-guns-blazing rest of the year. 


I'm on Instagram - clairegillesp - where there are pictures of Paris a-plenty, and also a very nice purple mohair M&S jumper. 
I'm listening to Romesh Ranganathan's Hip Hop Saved My Life, I realise I am very late to this party but in case you haven't heard it then please do. I am also forever loving The High Low and I just finished reading Joe Sacco's The Fixer which became my first book is 2018.