Is your deepfreeze a depository for experimental batch-bakes that taste awful but you can’t justify wasting? Do you have packs of Supermarket Ready Meals reduced in price, but so reduced in size they barely constitute a snack? While the tasteless foods stay on the top shelf pleading for a purpose, the homemade pizzas hide out of sight, impossible to find without satnav, and the unlabeled frost-fugged bags become an unlucky lucky dip. Frozen pasta bake can be such a disappointment when you thought it was apple crumble.
Well, my heart has got just like that. Overcrowded with dour tasting stuff that is well past its use-by-date, and by the time I’ve found something nice to feel, I’ve gone off-the-boil fumbling through the detritus. So, in the spirit of tackling long overdue jobs, I donned my metaphoric apron and rubber gloves and set to work de-cluttering and defrosting.
First out are family arguments, they don’t improve with age and won’t mend now. A rickety relationship with my father needs releasing. He’s been dead for so many years he’s probably forgotten about it and that’s just what I should do. I decide to dump the lot but its roots are so deep they’re tied to the gates of hell. As I chisel and scrape, the mess begins to thaw but no matter how hard I scrub, the stain spreads further. It’s more stubborn than my father. With a massive heave-ho I finally wrench it out. It overflows onto the floor so I mop with strong disinfectant until no trace remains, not even a whiff of remorse. Gone. Probably never forgiven, but it’s gone, and the jettisoned weight makes my heart flutter. I was being as stubborn as dad by hanging on to it for so long.
Broken friendships go straight in the bin; they taught me the disappointment of expectation. Would I go back for a second helping? Once I could have been tempted, but none of those people fought to keep me and I don’t want to re-live the pain of losing someone I’ve shared myself with. Friendships are never truer than the old adage ‘A reason, a season or a lifetime’. Wrapping the love of my lifetime friends around my shoulders stops the chill of sadness.
Envy for my ex-sister-in-law’s Biba coat; black velvet maxi with dagger collar and leg o’mutton sleeves, it was deservedly covetous back in the 1970s, but why has jealousy sat there so long? She and I had known each other since we were seven years old, we shared all the people we became, and nowadays I miss the reference points nobody else knows. Was jealousy on both sides the reason we no longer speak? Whatever the reason, neither of us would fit into each other’s lives these days any more than we’d fit into the coat. No need to wear regret, the coat goes.
My first wedding day wrapped in the lingering scent of bouquet freesias. As I tenderly lift it out, unexpected emotion weaves through the floral perfume. I hear the voice of the cantor echoing around the synagogue, and catch my mother’s face filled with pride. It was a poignant day in many ways because we married to make everyone else happy. My second wedding day smelt of hope and love and fear, spoilt when cancer gate-crashed the party. Mark and I tried to ignore the unwanted guest and battle through the day together as best we could. It’s what we still do, and will always do. Til death do us part is for quitters. You cannot deny your own history, nor can you discard it, so I tuck the wedding days together, side-by-side, and blow them a kiss.
Old cars; doesn’t everyone hoard a little bit of love for them? Oh, you don’t? My cars all had names and when I recall certain events, I remember who I drove at that time. My first car was a 1955 MG, collectable now but just an ‘old banger’ back then. I saw her as characterful, grand old lady, but others only saw the rust. Some sensible hatchbacks and a fabulous (but juice-guzzling) Range Rover followed, before I settled into my stride with pickup trucks. I think I’ll leave my cars parked where they are.
Trying to save other people, smart answers, rigidity and control. They’re past their sell-by date and I can chuck them all. Impatience is at the back and tramples everything to get out first. Impatience dives headfirst into the bin.
Animals: I usher Horses I Have Loved into a large field. They graze happily together, safe in the knowledge they will never be discarded. Cats and Kittens snuggle back down with a contented sigh, as do the special chicken souls of Henny and Martina. The rest of the flock fly upstairs to be stored in Memory. I killed my pet rabbit when I was eight years old, his name was Thumper and I loved him. I forgot to close the hutch door, he got out and a dog ate him. Now I’m a stickler for double-fastening doors. Lesson learned, time for Thumper-guilt to go.
Teenage angst still there? Oh for goodness sake, I won’t need that again!
Dead family, other people’s dead families. Dead friends. All gone but somehow staying.
Broken promises on both sides. They were promises made and meant at the time, but broken things always have a story and maybe the story was more important than the promise?
I’m midway down now, touching the bit where the therapist would say “is there anything else?” and I’d smile my brightest smile and make small talk, and we’d both know what was going on. Secrets, Dark Stuff, Middle-of-the-Nightmares. Peek and poke or tiptoe away? I breathe deeply and decide to poke. There’s a lot of heartache, a lot of grief. Do I carry grief with me to prove my love, if I let the grief go does love fill the void? Maybe it’s time I tried.
I let people down. I was rude and said the C word at a dinner party. I sulked, I was jealous and unjust. I was unkind unfair unbending and downright cruel. I lied. And my punishment has been holding on to it this long. Grant absolution, in the bin.
I shouted at my mum when she was ill. I shouted at her for being ill. How can anyone do that? She trusted me with her life but I couldn’t stop her getting cancer. I know she instantly forgave me so why can’t I?
Challenge. Why does my life have to be such a challenge. I know I thrive when I’ve got my back to the wall, but these days I’m scared to venture out into the middle of the room. To let that fear go I need a steady supply of resilience, but nothing is steady any more. Illness. The sickening glimpse through the portal that shows how ill I actually am. I consider myself a well person suffering the indignities of endless treatment, when in real life I’m an ill person who needs treatment. Just like challenge, I can’t change the situation I can only change my perspective, and today’s the day for action not pondering.
This stuff is getting too much so I make tea and move on down, and there, stowed right at the back of the bottom drawer, where you only ever look for old boyfriends and boots you once loved is a very secret secret which makes me smile.
I love challenge. If life is steady I create a project. I didn’t want a challenging illness (or two) but I accepted the challenge and said fuck off I’m too busy living to spend time on this. Sometimes I hustle my inner Jewish Princess to the surface and pull rank, sometimes I plot my next move and sometimes I let change take place organically, re-inventing myself to take advantage of the situation and the openings its limitations have created. Start a new business, learn to milk a goat, bend the rules, fall in love with a troubled horse, use a spreadsheet. I wouldn’t know how to live a life that wasn’t challenging and when I whinge it’s not the challenge that gets me, it’s overwhelm. Time to take a step back, admit I’m pooped and get a good night’s sleep. That admission isn’t something I’ve quite grasped yet but I’ll work on it, it’s my next big challenge.
The best thing I found in the freezer came last. Maybe I had to make room for it to find it. I’m a secret challenge diva, and I aint chucking that one out. The bin is full. My heart is light. Time for ice cream.