Wednesday 28 June 2017

Walking Home from the Store (Old Friends)

I am walking home from Tescos. It’s a little after 6 pm. I go to the store two or three evenings a week for groceries, or treats. Most times I would be pressing home, to be back in time for my Skype call with Fran at 7 pm. Not this evening, though.

We’ve not fallen out or anything like that, it’s just she’s out with friends all day today while she’s having work done on her apartment. We have chatted on and off. The last time was about half an hour ago.

Fran: Things are going well but I am exhausted. Horizontal day tomorrow.
Marty: I’m at Tescos
Fran: 1.45 movie
Marty: Ooo what movie?
Fran: My Cousin Rachel
Marty: I will have to look it up. With J?
Fran: Yes
Marty: Cool

We met up on Skype last night at 7 pm. We went through her checklist to make sure all the preparations were done, and she carried the laptop round the apartment so I could see the progress she’s made. We usually have another call later but didn’t last night, because there was still a lot for her to do.

It’s a beautiful evening here. Sunny, but (mercifully!) much cooler than it has been lately. I hate the heat! Can’t move. Can’t think. This is lovely though. The shopping bags are heavy but I’m not in a rush. I relax into the moment.

How am I feeling?

I feel proud of Fran, for having got everything done for when the workers arrived today. It has been a huge challenge. The physical side of things, for sure; clearing and packing things away so they won’t get damaged. Exertion can easily trip Fran into a fatigue crash. It’s a little early to be sure but I’m hoping we have avoided that. Then there’s the mental and emotional stress, and the disruption to her—and our—routines. In some ways, that’s even more of a challenge to Fran’s wellbeing and stability than the physical side of things.

What else?

I feel free, in having the evening to myself—and a little guilty for feeling that! It’s rare for us not to be meeting at all. I don’t know what I will do with my time! Feels like I should (one of my most hated words!) do something special, something particular, rather than let the opportunity simply pass through my fingers. Then again, I don’t have to do anything as such. Relaxing counts.

I cross the Metro train line. Turn right at the Community Centre. It’s nice enough to take the short cut across the playing field.

Guilt slides into envy. I am envious of the friends who get to spend time with Fran today, especially the friend who will accompany her to the movies. We watch films and tv dramas together on Skype or Netflix but—three thousand miles apart—we can’t go to the cinema for real.

Observing all this is interesting! We don’t label thoughts and feelings as “good” or “bad” (those labels carry a moral weight that is mostly inappropriate). We feel what we feel, and thoughts come as they will. “Healthy” / “unhealthy” we use sometimes. “Positive” / “negative.” I choose not to label my pride, guilt, and envy, however. They are old friends. They are all welcome here.

I stop for a moment. Rearrange the bags of shopping. Move on again.

What’s that poem about visitors to the house? Ah yes.

The Guest House, by Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

I am smiling now. Once upon a time, Fran being out all day like this—being busy, having other people to be with—would have triggered stronger emotions. Fear. Abandonment. Jealousy. I have grown since then. We have grown. We understand each other better. Codependency also is an old friend.

What else?

I am proud of me and Fran. We have worked well together this past week. I helped her plan the work and chart her progress through it. I have kept her company while she worked, listened to her grumbling about it, and encouraged her when she needed it. I am aware of—and at ease with—the things I could not help with, being on the other side of the Atlantic. I couldn’t fetch things, lift things, or be out all day today with Fran while the work is going on. I’m grateful there are other friends who are able—and willing—to be there for Fran in the ways I cannot be. Gratitude is the antidote to codependency.

Not too far now. I am crossing the playing field. Local kids playing football.

I have an idea for my evening. I am going to write a blog post—this one—about how I have been feeling and processing this experience. Later I may start the Prevent training course a friend recommended to me recently. Or maybe an early night.

Tomorrow Fran is going to be pretty shattered. As she said earlier, she will need a “horizontal day.” A rest day. We will meet up on webcam, I’m sure. We will talk, share our experiences of today. Her day out. The movie. My day. My evening. My feelings—and this piece of writing they inspired. I will likely read some more from the novel we are reading together (James Hayman’s The Girl on the Bridge). Maybe we will watch some television. Doc Martin. Or Poirot.

That’s what old friends do.


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