"You are looking really well. Have you got over . . . ?” That’s where she stopped, a little unsure of whether she had paid me a compliment or been tactless. But she did sound surprised and as if she meant it. Christina is not one of my close friends; we just happened to have been invited to the same Remainers’ Party.
She was by no means the first person to tell me that I am looking well, several others have said so recently, close friends as well as casual acquaintances. Looking in the mirror I noticed pink cheeks but no great changes otherwise. Apart from a slightly shorter haircut. Jay, who is a friend, had complimented me only a few days earlier, also with a surprise in her voice. So I decided to find out what they thought the difference was.
“Tell me then, if you find me looking surprisingly well, how did I look before?” Both Christina and Jay were taken aback; apparently it is not polite to put people on the spot, we are meant to say ’thank you’ and move on. Both eventually gave in. “Well", said Christina, “you look less oppressed, freer, brighter.” And Jay said “a cloud seems to have lifted from over you.” Nothing to do with health, nothing to do with make-up or dress; nothing but a change in attitude. And because my general attitude has changed I sleep better, I appreciate small things in life, look forward more than backward. There are days when I feel strangely elated for hours on end, burrowing into a a deep sense of well-being, as into a safe and cosy nest.
It’s taken three years since Beloved died to find myself again. I expect there will be sad and dismal days, but the worst is over. One never gets over the loss of a special person but it gets easier to cope.
I believe that Christina Koch had it right when she said : "Do what scares you. everyone should think about what intrigues them and what draws them in. Those things can be scary, but they usually mean you are interested.”
Ms Koch is the female astronaut who has just returned to earth after the longest continuous spaceflight a woman has ever undertaken. 328 days in space, just think of it, nearly a whole year.
Should we all challenge ourselves, no matter how old or infirm? Taking complete control of my life, dealing with authority, workmen, the day to day running of my household, having sole responsibility for finances and making them tally, overcoming such challenges as facing the taxman, lawyers and officialdom; rain coming through the roof and windows leaking; yes, I have had quite a time of it and, yes, it was scary most of the time. I have not been on a spaceflight like Ms Koch but I might as well have been for all the lessons I have learned.
As, for example, on just one tiny occasion I was dithering if I should accept the new toilet bowl the plumber had brought. I hated it, it left a large piece of flooring uncovered after he had installed it. I knew I would hate it forever and feel newly annoyed every time I went into the bathroom; the old me had Beloved to back her up, the single me was worried that the plumber might simply refuse to change the bowl for one with a bigger pedestal. Still, I stood my ground, quaking inside, and he agreed to dismantle the new installation. He charged me, of course, and next time I will know better and check before any job is completed. But, and this is the important bit, I felt enormously proud of myself!
No wonder I am looking better. It’s true, a cloud has lifted, I am coping.
So, what do you think? Is it good for us to come out of our comfort zone and face new challenges with courage and determination? Or should we look for anything for a quiet and undemanding life? There are times when the latter is not possible, of course. Many of my still coupled friends say they don’t have the first idea of how to cope without their husbands. I hope they won’t have to, but, if they do, I can tell them that anything is possible.