Do you ever wonder if penguins stand around laughing while one of them pretends to walk like a person? The thought hadn’t crossed my mind either until I tried (in vain) to distract myself this week from real life, and real feelings.
Meditation has been too scary because I don’t want to be alone in my head. Going for a walk seems pointless without a destination, and although people irritate me like never before, I’ve leant on shoulders from four corners of the world and sighed as friends caressed me with words, hugs, cups of tea and compassionate silence. And goats. Mark has shown a depth of love I’m incapable of reciprocating, and as each shard of my grief bought another ticket and re-joined the queue, I felt it say to Mark: “When she goes, you’ll feel like this too.” Just as money goes to money, death highlights death.
Kirsty’s goats deserve more than a passing mention because goat solidarity is very solid. Lupin, whose mother was the sagacious Libby, has inherited her mother’s serenity and happily shared what she could spare. Kokomo the kid bounced about demonstrating life with a carefree heart, and Honeybee the movie star, who views the world as only a diva can, stood quietly offering no opinion, just support. The other herd members cudded thoughtfully, radiating constancy. Thankyou goats.
It seems I’m the only person surprised at how shaken I am. Astra, Barley, Paddy, Barney, Will-Be and Teddy lamely answer “Gone” when their names appear on my own euthanised roll-call, and I thought their numbers would numb the blow when it came to Bruce. I’ve stood with others as they died, some I knew, and some I only met just before the ceremony like an ironic arranged marriage, and while no death is easy I stood firm. This time, I can feel my bedrock crumbling.
For the past few years it’s been a toss-up whether Bruce died first or I did, and statistically it should’ve been me. In the eleven years we were together I had three cancer recurrences in the first seven years and have been ‘incurable’ for the past four. Bruce preferred me to stay in the present moment so morbid thoughts became black jokes and the future wasn’t a place we explored. With his death a significant part of my world closed (I’m the mistress of re-invention so don’t start muttering about one door closes blah blah) which deserves some grieving of its own. My life keeps shrinking. I feel like I’m being funnelled into a concentration to discover my essence, and I’m a tad concerned what happens when the distillation is complete. Physically I’m incapable of doing what I did, but mentally I’m still a horse person. I don’t want the sheer hard work of keeping another horse, nor the responsibility, but I want the connection and I want to put stuff Bruce taught me back into the world.
Meanwhile, Bruce is gone. His bridle, which I spent too much money having made-to-measure, hangs on its hook but he’ll never wear it again. All of my horses have worn hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups and I never throw anything away that’s repairable. Having a traditional bridle made from best English leather that fitted Bruce’s head perfectly was my gift to him. The plain cavesson noseband took three fittings to ascertain the perfect width, and cut-outs on the headpiece meant the base of his broad ears would never pinch. It was a bridle that signified we were working together in a way neither of us had done with another partner, it was a bridle worthy of the horse that wore it.
My health is having a bit of a wobble. I’m desperate to come off my steroid meds, but the low dose hasn’t controlled inflammation levels and instead of respite, the rheumatologist has increased the dose. I sought out the best medical practitioners for treatment so I can’t complain when pharmaceuticals are their weapon of choice, but by stopping my over-active immune system behaving like a drama queen, what does that leave me with to fight everything else? For the first time since I began this blog I’m actually feeling sorry for myself.
Not fitting my daily life around Bruce has created a new routine of having time, and maybe time is what I need right now. Time to do nothing, time to just be because there’s nowhere left to run. Time to write? Doing nothing, trying less and noticing what happens was my first big Bruce lesson. The concept is as scary as it is compelling, but it was Bruce’s parting gift and if there’s one single thing he taught me, it was to listen. And to trust what I heard. And to stop feeling sorry for myself because an answer will come.