Today didn't start rough, in fairness. The weather was passable, if windy, and mild enough to wear sandals to work. In the morning a couple of minor problems got solved, too, which is always satisfying. I had managed to do something thoroughly silly and I appealed to my friend The Man With The Answers, who popped in and demonstrated that it could in fact be fixed with three clicks. Three clicks! That's my idea of a good, well-behaved problem. I sat and beamed at him like a child with an ice-cream, and thought everything was shiny and not-to-fret.
Then it all went a bit pear-shaped. The phones rang almost incessantly, my boss's computer turned out to have much more complex problems than we had all understood them to be (it needs the digital equivalent of brain surgery rather than therapy), things kept going wrong and taking far longer than they should, I had to turn down offers of cake and muffins because it's a 500 calorie day, I never even got started on one of the two main tasks I wanted to do today, and when I finally got round to doing an essential Friday job that's usually very quick and simple, it took far longer than normal and I uncovered a whole new can of worms by doing it. I then spent well over an hour of extra time trying to solve the can of worms (oh dear, sorry about all the mixed metaphors here) and ringing a gentleman in Poole who was very upset and angry and bullied me something rotten. I ended up emailing The Man With The Answers again at 6.15pm to say (albeit in slightly more diplomatic terms) "This is shit, please may I ask if you would be able to do x for me next week to make it slightly less shit? Because it's really shit."
Then got home, had my small low-calorie supper, and - suddenly, completely out of the blue - I was struck by the certainty and deep, experiential awareness that everyone I care about, all my family, every friend, every lover lost and gone, every crush dreamed-of with childish sighs, every colleague, every musician or actor I have every admired, every writer or artist I've ever wanted to be like, and everyone I've ever said "Thank you" to in a shop or "Please" to in a cafe, or brushed past in the Tube, or smiled at in the staff kitchen - every single one of these people, most of whom are good people possessed of kind hearts and deep, uncommon human wisdom in their way - every single one of these people is going to die. And I sat on my bed with my cup of herb tea beside me on the bedside cabinet, and I cried like I had just been bereaved, of all those good, honest, ordinary people. All my folks. All my friends. Everyone I have ever loved, and everyone I have never even met.
I know I'm tired and stressed, when I do things like that. After all, I know rationally that I'm going to die; I mean oif course I do, I'm not stupid; I know that we are all going to die, and that immortality would actually be hugely depressing. But I kept seeing faces in my mind's eye - my brothers and my mum and my stepmum, and my dear, dear friends - but also the nice-looking girl who took my coat at Covent Garden and smiled at me; the chap in the cafe at work who is always trying to chat me up; the woman with the lovely dogs who I pass on the bridge every morning; the guy at work with the amazing Burne-Jones hair; and my nice new boss Daryl, and the colleague I modelled Perpetua Maddix upon, and The Man With The Answers, and Mr Irritating from the mezzanine... Friends old and new, and aquaintances, and those I had barely registered. I kept seeing all those real people, and loving them all, in their reality and their self-contained happy purposefulness, that may have no purpose at all save to continue in happiness; imagining them dead and mourned, and then those that mourned them also dead. My heart did not feel large enough to hold all the grief I was feeling.
The mind is fascinating, when it plays tricks like this on one. For it was a trick of the mind, of that I've no doubt. Tiredness, stress, lack of food, worry, all kicking in and conjuring a quick, toxic brew that left me momentarily - but utterly - flattened. I cried until my face hurt and my throat felt almost closed-up with the pain of suppressed sobbing. And then, quite quickly, it passed. I blew my nose and dried my eyes, and made another mug of herb tea; and here I am a bare hour later writing about it quite rationally, and wondering what the heck was wrong with me.
I wish I were a light-hearted person who could be calm and cheerful. I wish I could smile at grief and laugh in a crisis, and be one of the sustainers of the world, helping others to bear their burdens, without a thought for my own. I wish I could be a better person; I wish I could love everyone as they deserve, and never grieve for them or for myself.
And, who knows, maybe to someone somewhere I am one of those who keep things from falling off the ledge in the mind. Maybe there are people to whom my words here, or the sound of me singing as I go by, is a tiny daily blessing; maybe to someone my daft sense of humour is the veil that holds back despair. Maybe, unawares, even I help someone who is wrestling with the knowledge that we are all going to die and in the meantime it's all just a damned long hard slog...
For that hope, that I can restore a moment's peace to the odd soul here and there - as a kind word, a joke or a smile or the sound of a familiar voice have done for me sometimes - for that hope, I can, I will, keep going through it all. Right to the end.
Gods, I am so bloody tired. I am going to telephone my mum, and then have an early night. This philosophy of melancholy is a sure sign that I need sleep.
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