I’d love for this not to be a depressing blog, but it’s been a crap month – January having almost become the Monday of Months (to paraphrase one of the baristas at the local coffee house).
After a brief battle with my GP this morning, we’re back North today to carry on sorting out my father in law’s estate (or lack thereof), and all the attendant paperwork to go with that process. As we’ve already been financially snookered by the costs of hotels, fuel, and food over the last two weeks, we’re going to stay in his bungalow while we clear it out and clean it. I’m expecting this week therefore to only increase the trauma and headaches before it is done.
Oh, and I’ve been asked to write and give the eulogy at his funeral. As of the current, admittedly angry, mental draft it has a lot in common with a stand up routine, but will no doubt mellow as I actually commit words to paper.
One of the ways that I deal with my depression and assorted mental glitches is to play games – on the PC, on consoles, or round the table. The distraction of concentrating on these activities is extremely useful, and Lady M has got used to my dealing with tough times by diving into games where I shoot waves of aliens, wander post-apocalyptic wastelands, or parkour across the rooftops of various historical cityscapes.
This last couple of weeks, I’ve been diving into Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, and having a great time – not just because it is set in my home town and the views are spectacular but because it’s rather cathartic to be immersing myself myself in something other than the crap that’s currently taken over our lives. I was discussing this in therapy just the other night, and was moderately relieved not to have this dismissed as an unhealthy escape. This is largely because one of the joys of my recovery has been finding and putting in place better coping mechanisms than the awful ones I’ve been able to put aside. Even though it has been nearly eight years since I last did anything consciously harmful to myself, I still count myself as still being in recovery. Healthy alternative coping mechanisms and boundary setting are as important now as they have ever been.
But back to the games: before Syndicate, I was playing Fallout 4, but I’ve put it to one side for now as it’s so open ended. Syndicate has a specific storyline despite the open world elements, that is a lot tighter/linear than Fallout’s. The plan is to return to Fallout once I’ve completed Syndicate, then break from that to another of the many games that I still haven’t quite completed. Admittedly, this list is rather long. With a very quick glance over at what’s stacked next to the console I can see:
The Witcher 3
Lego Marvel Super Heroes
Shadows of Mordor
Disney Infinity 3
Lego Batman 3
Assassin’s Creed Unity (I know, I know, but I should at least finish the story)
Assassin’s Creed Rogue (last-gen but again, I haven’t quite finished it)
Forza Horizons 2 (should really complete those last few championships and challenges)
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
Metal Gear Solid V
Ah well, plenty of distractions to keep me occupied. Of course, the best distraction is my Monday night D&D group, which continues to bemuse, aggravate and pleasantly uplift me on a regular basis – largely because of the social element, even with (or because of) it being through a screen rather than round the table. I’ve upgraded my Roll20 membership to Pro level over the last few months, and really must devote some time to perfecting some of the more obscure toys in that sandbox.
Something to look forward to then. I, and Lady M, definitely need that right now.
We’re still sorting things out, but between prior commitments and exhaustion we’ve taken the weekend for ourselves so that we can recharge our batteries a little.
There’s not a lot else to say really – just thank you to everyone who has sent condolences and offered assistance/encouragement over the last couple of weeks. You’re awesome and even if you’ve been on the other side of the country, or world for that matter, it has made a huge difference to know that we’ve got people who have our backs.
We knew it wouldn’t be long, even as we hoped for the best. The summons back North came at lunchtime on Tuesday, with the news that the doctors needed to talk to us. Both our places of work have been exceptional in their support, freeing us to go when we needed, and Tuesday was no different.
Without stopping, the journey between Sunbury and North Tees takes about four and a half hours. With roadworks and one brief stop for caffeine, it took us five hours. I didn’t play any of the music we normally have on. Instead, we drove in silence – nothing else felt appropriate or soothing – and got to the hospital at around seven thirty.
The doctor who had been in charge of Lady M’s father’s treatment explained the situation quietly and seriously, and guided us through the dance. We all already knew why we were there: that Eddie had reached the end of his journey and all that remained was to say goodbye while they kept him comfortable. We didn’t feel able to stay to the very end, and took our leave.
Nature took it’s course.
If I was writing a story I’d end it on that sentence but life and death, as I’m learning, are never so simply wrapped up. This is the first family death that I’ve had to take an active role in organising. Sadly, it isn’t Lady M’s first rodeo. The intricacies of hospital paperwork, the notifications of appropriate authorities, and the quiet language of the funeral directors have engulfed our day. Tomorrow sees the start of clearing and cleaning a suddenly empty house.
There are certain friends with whom I am having new conversations that I am only now equipped to appreciate – in much the same way that the parents of newborn children suddenly find new connection with other parents. This new layer of connectivity with friends is both shocking and reassuring in that it confirms certain universal reactions and experiences, but it also raises the spectre of what it will be like, in the future, when I must do this for my own parents.
One of Lady M’s pride and joy possessions is the piano currently sitting in a corner of our lounge. It is largely being used as a dumping ground for all manner of things and as a flat surface to put greetings cards around the year, but the plan this year is to clean it off and get it retuned.
It is a well-travelled piano. It came South with Lady M, and travelled with her when she moved to Switzerland and a third floor apartment with no lifts. When she came back to the UK, to come to the second floor and also liftless flat that we’ve moved into, the piano came too.
The piano is an antique, old enough to have ivory keys, and is a solid piece of furniture. The removal company was less than happy about trying to get it up the narrow staircase and tried to argue that they hadn’t been told about it when they were booked. Efficient as ever, Lady M brandished the printouts of the emails detailing the piano’s existence and value from the original quote.
“It’s Irreplaceable!” she cried, “It’s an antique and they don’t make them like that any more! If you damage it, you’ll be paying for a new one!”
As more than one person has remarked – and nowhere as loudly as the cackling coven on #Tuesdays – if it’s Irreplaceable, then paying for a new one is impossible. The argument over the interpretation of this phrase resurfaces regularly, largely to wind Lady M up, as she falls into the trap each time of trying to clarify what she meant.
We of course know what she means, but the entertainment value for some of arguing the strict meaning of the word Irreplaceable versus the word Priceless continues to bring eye-rolling you can hear in the next County.
The last week has, frankly, been awful – which is why I’ve not been updating recently. Instead we’ve been mostly on the road and living on caffeine and bloody-mindedness.
Lady M’s father had been rushed into hospital after a fall, but we learned in the early hours of Wednesday morning that he was in critical condition and the hospital was advising us to come in. The hospital in question was in North Tees, and we live on the outskirts of London – so with very little sleep or time for preparation we threw stuff into a bag, wrote texts to assorted people who needed to know, and hit the road.
As of today, he is still in a critical condition with multiple system failures, on life support and non-stop dialysis, and we’ve had to make the heartrending decision to come home and try and carry on with life while the specialists try to work out if he has any chance of recovery. We’re expecting sooner rather than later to get a fresh call to return and say goodbye, but we also know how tough and stubborn he is so who knows how this will end? The specialists aren’t taking bets, so we’re not either.
I use humour to get through and past the trials of life, but between this, my own slightly precarious health and the problems of the people I love, that humour is pretty thinly stretched at the moment.
Maybe, when I retire, I’ll buy a pub and dedicate it to good food, good cask ale, and games. Pretty much every roleplay game has pubs or bars as a staple recurring part of their scenery, and I’d like to reflect that – though dressing bouncers as Orc barbarians may be pushing it a bit.
I’m minded of this because we restarted the ongoing D&D game this evening, and the group (who already own a pub in the game) have just picked up a group of mercenaries that I suspect may become an ongoing feature if they don’t get slaughtered first.
Case in point: this evening was mostly inspired by an off-the-cuff remark by one of my players about how Sir Richard Attenborough’s character in Jurassic Park was probably really a necromancer summoning and reanimating the dinosaurs from their blood in the amber. With that in mind they encountered large reanimated fossil dinosaurs and the majority of the game revolved around beating these hardy specimens into submission.
They really should know better than to go putting ideas into my head…
I’ve just put the car through the annual MOT test (it passed, thanks), and so had an hour or so to kill in Staines first thing. In between staring at Facebook on my phone, texting, and sipping on a passable mocha, I wrote a descriptive/mood thing:
Cold post-New Year wind and rain is prodding half-heartedly at the wind-tunnel streets of Staines in that strange rush hour before the shops open. The coffee shops and newsagents are doling out caffeine to the tired retail workers and travelling salesmen who have wandered into the centre of town too early, while the music here is aggressively upbeat to try and fool everyone’s systems into perking up for the fresh Monday morning.
As the dawn light seeps through the heavy cloud cover, I can see more and more lights beginning to spark in shops behind the security shutters. Somehow this process makes the place seem more desolate as each new set of lights appears – perhaps because of those slotted security screens that reinforce the sense of a barrier between the buildings’ internal life and the observer on the street.
As the magic hour of nine o’clock nears, the music in this coffee shop is slowing and taking on a more ambient feel, hinting at the pause and strain of the wheels of commerce before the day tries to launch into a sprint. It’s probably a coincidence, but it does feel significant.
Yet another in our ongoing series of weird and wonderful sayings and misheard shenanigans – mostly because it’s a good excuse to play around with language and tease Lady M at the same time.
Today’s phrase came during a conversation over the Christmas break about how difficult it was to arrange time with someone ‘because of all the conditional shit in their life’.
On querying the sentence, this was revised to ‘consecutive shit’ and then ‘all these shit things happening for them one after another that is knocking them sideways.’ I may also have received a mock punch in the arm and been told off for having swallowed a thesaurus when I was young. (This must have been back in the Jurassic period, but I digress).
Odd though it sounds, I rather like this particular phrase. There’s a lot packed into it in terms of referencing changing conditions, or in someone’s availability being entirely uncertain depending on a virtual flow chart of conditions. It could also be used a bit more pejoratively to talk about someone placing a lot of conditions on the likelihood of their appearing, though that wasn’t the context for this particular conversation.
Like so many of these strange sayings, on reflection there seem to many appropriate levels to it, densely packed and only truly appreciated when excavated afterwards.
Bear with me, the switch in my head that allows me to be a positive soul has flipped and all the little self-loathing lies are dancing round again. Bloody marvellous; hello self-doubt and the certainty that I’m not only the worst person in the world, but that I don’t deserve happiness and you’re all about to realise how awful I am.
Well that’s just fantastic. I’m self-aware enough to realise that these phantasies are a load of nonsense, and to hate myself even more for giving in to the urge to shout out about them. I’m sure I’ll have a few supportive messages as a result of this post, but trust me I’ll be beating myself up for drawing attention to my own stupidities; certain that I’ve just cemented your opinions of me as someone just looking for attention.
This is the horrible thing about mental illness. This isn’t a broken rib, or a head cold. There’s no easy way to recognise that this too will pass in the same way that I can have a reasonable expectation of a cut healing. This moment of despair, exhaustion, and paralysis feels like it won’t end. I truly hate this.
Writing about it here does help. It lets me order my thoughts and review them rather than wade through the maelstrom of fear. It always feels like it risks becoming self-indulgent, but a) that’s the illness gnawing away again, b) I’m writing a personal blog, we’re a little late to worry about that, and c) it’s a useful tool for surviving and tracking where I am.
I’m going to stop and try to sleep now. I’m safe enough because I have people in my life who care about me, and I’m not going to hurt them by doing anything stupid, no matter how strongly the thought batters against the shutters. I have Ladies M and P, the Charleesi, my brothers (both biological and adopted), my gamers, and of course the #Tuesdays crew to remind me: I am not as alone, unlovable, stupid, or worthless as I feel.