My darling Millie has died. In her last days she could barely make it to the lawn and often poo'd on the flags of the terrace. She deteriorated quite quickly and I finally had to make the decision to call the vet to the house. Lovely Marzena, my Polish cleaner, was here. She too loves dogs and she sat with Millie, cuddling her and scratching her neck while we were waiting for the vet to arrive. I gave her her afternoon feed hours early, which she ate with visible enjoyment in spite of her wobbly legs. Without Marzena I could not have done it; as it was, I cried and cried and was ready to change my mind again. The vet knows me for the wimp I am and she and her nurse came within the hour. So that’s that.
I’ve not been terribly happy since then, in fact, I’ve not been at ease with myself ever since Beloved died. Millie was the last living link with him, she was my companion, a creature I talked to and petted, who followed me around and gave me a reason to get up in the morning, to go out in all weathers, to feed and water, to keep as happy as she was making me. With all of them gone, Beloved and Millie, before them my parents, the goodwill of one child gone for good and only a loose connection with the other, I am truly alone in any meaningful sense. The house is empty and quiet. I have no family here or in Germany.
So now it’s time to come to terms with the remainder of my life. A peaceful existence is what I am aiming for. This should be my time for being, not doing. No more struggle, no more achievement, no more passion. All passion spent. A time for being only myself, in kindness and forbearance rather than trying to make changes, in my life or that of anyone else.
Old age brings calm, if we are lucky. With so much experience, a lifetime of ups-and-downs, of miserable times as well as deliriously happy times, of ill-health and good health, much like any other human being, why do I still feel that I must be doing, actively go forward, get involved, be part of movements, experience new horizons?
Tuesday evening I went to a restaurant with a friend who is madly active, who has just spent a week in London as a First-Aider during the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations. Once again I felt ashamed that I seem to have lost all fight, all passion. That I feel disinclined to climb on barricades, take up new studies, a new cause, an all consuming hobby. Soon people are going to suggest that I must be bored at home, that I must lack much needed stimulation, that I ought to go on exciting holidays. Etc.
Basically, if I am truthful, I must say that I am rather lazy now. There is a battle going on inside me, a battle between letting go on the one hand and feeling that I must not be seen to have stepped off the treadmill on the other; that my own little bubble, now much shrunk, is where I would like to live without shame or guilt. Being lazy makes me want for the desire for disappearing into my bubble to win. There are so many things right here at home which please me, books, talking to friends, my garden, modest social occasions, tv and visits to see plays or listen to concerts. Instead I seem to be recycling the same thoughts, the same questions, the same uncertainties, over and over again, without ever coming to a decision. I would be happy and contented if I could come to no more than simply a workable resolution that doesn’t particularly lead anywhere except to an acceptance of the status quo.
My friend Jay called this afternoon to help me with my Application for Settled Status in the UK post Brexit. About time too that I got down to that. Having prevaricated for ages is just another sign of my current state of mind. The Home Office still can’t cope with iPhones; my friend uses Android so she very kindly made the application for me on that. Afterwards we came to chat and I told her about my current lack of motivation. I speculated if I should go and see a therapist to rid me of the feelings of guilt and shame at my idleness. I have an inkling where these feelings come from: years and years of being responsible for the smooth running of my life and that of first, my parents, and then my children. My friend said, fine, now we know why you are feeling useless, but, and this is the big but: whose rules are these? Who says you must be doing, achieving? You are no longer responsible for anyone but yourself. Jay became quite heated. “If you want to sit all day picking your nose, you can.” She is right, of course, but how do you change the conditioning of a lifetime overnight?
This is getting to be a long post, I’d better stop now. No doubt I will be pondering these existential questions for some time yet, like many others have done before me. And many who come after me will do. And also no doubt, I will be rehashing them here. For now writing this down is helping.