Choices

Illustration by trudi murray

It’s the holidays, and my life is all out of whack, but I went to see my elderly friend, as it’s Wednesday, and that’s the day the local day centre doesn’t run. She goes every day, for her lunch, but on Wednesday they’re closed. I always worry that she won’t get to talk to anyone on Wednesday, so I try to pop in for a chat, and to give her a hug.

My head was full of things, a noodle soup of choices; being married, the way forward, the future. I don’t want to be over dramatic. But show me a committed person who hasn’t had a hard time being committed at some point. If you can’t find one, I’d wager everyone is lying to you, too ‘busy’ to think about it or has not been committed for two decades yet. It’s not easy. It’s a constant choice to remain in the space of it with the ebbs and flows of change battering from every side. It will be fine, I’m certain and hopeful of it, though maybe not in the same way as before. This is the grieving of growing up and the constant evolution of people and circumstance. Perhaps some space is needed. A new thing. I don’t know.

I know this: I’m not easy in so many ways* and I feel things deeply, I get lonely, and I almost certainly spend too much time thinking. It makes good art, but ha! – this is small consolation, perhaps.

Anyway, I bought some flowers and took them round to my elderly friend. I was dismayed to find her upset and panicked, having had water coming in to her flat from the one upstairs. She’d called the housing people for help, so after we’d inspected the damage (not major, thankfully, but it *is* worse than she knows – her eyesight isn’t great), I sat her down and we talked and talked.

We talked about nothing, and everything. We went round and round the houses – me telling funny stories, wildly exaggerating and making her laugh. She told me (again!) about being a child in the war, and her life as an evacuee. She showed me a new dress she’d bought for £1 (£1!) in the charity shop. I oohed and aahed and admired the fabric, how it lit up her eyes. She twirled it round, gently, to show me. We arranged those flowers I’d brought. Reach me down that jug, my darling. We inspected the garden. We said how good they are at the doctors, how looked after we are.

She told me about a choice she’d made. I wasn’t shocked, though I think she thought I might be. She looked at me. I looked at her. It’s life, I said, isn’t it. This is the life we’re dealing with. None of it is easy, though it’s so good too.

She knows what I’ve seen in life. You can talk plainly when you’re an old hand at heartache.

We shared a hug. Call me, I said, day or night.

Were there problems in my head? I can’t remember. And maybe, for today, that’s a choice too.

 

*But who is, actually? Be kind to yourself.

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