The sound of hollow laughter echoes through my head. The last diary I wrote was all about the war generation and their glorious stoicism. Today, I’m not feeling very stoical at all.
I’m fed up. I’m fed up with the pandemic and I’m fed up with the bad news and I’m fed up with everyone being so cross. I’m fed up with the mealy-mouthed politicos, and I’m fed up with stupid bloody Brexit, which has just busted into the room like the drunk uncle you really wish you hadn’t asked for Christmas, and I’m fed up with the dour, dreich weather. I’m fed up because my dogs ate my sofa and now there are little bits of feather and kapok all over the house and I can’t be bothered to hoover them up, so I look as if I live a place where a terrible feathery slaughter has taken place.
I’m fed up because I’m not supposed to be fed up.
I have so much to be thankful for and I’ve got really good at gratitude and expectation management and all that jazz. I’ve been doing emotional bootcamp since the lockdown hit, processing every single uncomfortable emotion as it whacked me. (My stepfather died in the middle of all this, so it’s not just frustration and uncertainty, but grief too. I really miss him. And as I miss him, I miss my mum.) But I’m not feeling very emotionally literate today. All my special tools are not working well. I’m cross and blah and a bit sweary.
Don’t write all this, say the gremlins in my head. The gremlins like me to be doing show tunes all the time. They think I should be like Donald O’Connor in Singin’ In The Rain. (Wouldn’t it be lovely to be like Donald O’Connor?) Don’t be a Minny Moaner, say the gremlins; because nobody needs that girl.
I know, in my rational mind, that everyone is having a version of this at the moment. I know that we can’t all do show tunes every day. I know that all of us exist in a version of amygdala hijack as the pandemic sends the limbic system into constant threat alert. I know that humans deal badly with endless uncertainty. I know that the grumpy, sweary, everything is going to hell days are simply part of the human condition.
I know that it’s perfectly idiotic to try to be happy all the time. We can’t just hunt down the light like frenzied truffle hounds; there must be room for the dark too. That’s balance, which I believe in. It’s integration, which I learnt years ago from Jung. He said that it is in our shadow selves that we find the gold. Which is all very well for him to say, but I don’t see any gold just now.
I have a brilliant friend in New Zealand who coined a fabulous word for these kind of rubbish days. She calls it uncomfortability. She knows a lot about the psyche and her theory is that sometimes you just have to damn well sit with that uncomfortability. You have to allow yourself to be a bit bruised and muddled and bashed about. You can’t always be singing the merry songs. Life doesn’t work like that.
I would like to shrug this off through a sheer act of will. I would like to put my emotional bootcamp learning into action and forge back into the light. But actually, my wise friend is right. Sometimes you just have to open yourself up to the uncomfortable.
I look these feelings directly in the eye. They look back at me. I’m not Nietzsche; I’m not looking into the abyss. I’m just a bit worn out and a bit heavy and a bit doleful. That won’t kill me. I’ll sit with it. I’ll write it out and swear it out and dance it out. (Dancing it out is very, very efficacious. A bit of loud music and some furious stomping and I can reset my entire nervous system.)
I always say: every day can’t be Doris Day. Dear old Doris. She was so perky, but even she must have had the odd dark night of the soul.
I’m not Doris or Donald today. I am none of the Ds. But my great luxury is that I do know this too will pass. I don’t plunge into the black hole and stay there. A rotten day is just that: a rotten day. It would be quite freakishly weird if I did not have some of those, just now.
Permission, I think; that is always the key. I give myself permission to feel rubbish. The amazing thing is that the minute I do that, I start to feel hope return to me. I can feel it running through my body, shimmering through my fingers as they tap these words into the keyboard. A faint, rueful smile hovers over my face. My shoulders come down.
There are no show tunes, but I know, suddenly, and with relieved certainty, that the ship will keep sailing on.