Last night, M and I went out for dinner, just the two of us, for the first time since before the pandemic began. We hadn’t initially planned to do anything for our anniversary, but M thought it would be nice for us to do something, and to celebrate like we always used to. I’m glad we did, and that, until the restaurant M had chosen got too noisy, we talked about all things and everything. And it was good. Love is a good thing, in the midst of all the tumult. Quiet love. Gentle love. Love with longevity.
I am having trouble putting the words together this morning, even after allowing myself a lie-in until almost 8, and I think it’s because the last two days have been very intense, with acupuncture on Tuesday and therapy yesterday afternoon. My head is full of different thoughts, full of the new groundedness, and yet also full of an apprehension that it could so easily spill over from self-confidence to arrogance. It’s maintaining everything in balance and moderation that could be difficult now. I know I seemed a bit hyper to myself yesterday evening. On the other hand, I did fall asleep on the sofa just before midnight, something which hasn’t happened to me for an age, while M was still wide awake. We talked about it in the garden just before we went to bed, and I said I thought it might be because I’ve finally rid myself of the need to push myself, the need to be able to outdo everyone in one way or another, because that’s what was expected of me. Both my acupuncturist and my therapist think I am now at the stage where I am comfortable saying no to things (and I believe that, too), that I’m secure enough in myself to understand there is no need for me to prove anything to anyone. Yet at the same time I think this self-analysis, even just the acknowledgement to myself that I have changed, is just so much running round in circles rather than just living it. So I will work on just living it.
One thing my therapist asked me yesterday, probably one of only 5 complete sentences she spoke into my 5-minute monologue, was where I thought this newly-found confidence and self-validation had come from. I said it was because I was writing every day, and, more importantly than that, because, for the last 100 days, I have been not just journalling (the first half of this daily scribble), but journalling AND writing fiction (or poetry) in the same session which in itself creates a balance. And it is what I am – a writer. So this daily exercise is self-fulfilling – these words are me, from the top of the page right to the bottom of it.
Yes, this is just living it. Being me.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 101
Robert stays sitting down, his eyes closed now. He won’t be disturbed in his thoughts, whatever they are.
Aggie leads the others into the hall. ‘There are two halves to this house,’ she says, and there’s no way of getting from one to the other on the next floor up.’ She runs her hands through the black hair she’s still unaccustomed to. ‘I think we should all stay in this half of the house.’
‘Why?’ Zav says.
‘I just don’t think we should split ourselves up if we don’t really need to. It’s not like we’re not in a dangerous place anymore.’
‘Fair enough,’ Zav says. ‘Lead on.’
Aggie moves up the stairs from the hall to the next floor, not pausing to take a closer look at all the paintings littering the walls this time. ‘Robert’s room,’ she says, pointing at the closed door to the biggest bedroom. ‘I though Katharina and Marit could share that one over there. She points to the half-open door across the hall from Robert’s. ‘And you,’ she says to Zav, ‘You can have this one next to the shower.’
‘Anna and I can share the bedroom on the next floor,’ she says. ‘If you’re happy with that.’
‘Of course I am,’ Anna says. ‘It’ll be just like the old days.’
‘That we remember differently,’ Aggie says.
‘Only a little,’ Anna says. ‘We both remember the things that really matter.’
‘Good night then,’ Marit says. ‘Come on, Mormor. I’m exhausted now.’
‘See you in the morning,’ Zav says, disappears through the door into his room.
Aggie and Anna tread lightly up the stairs to the attic room. The double bed takes up nearly all the space.
‘You won’t really sleep, will you?’ Anna says, sitting on the bed, the door closed.
‘Probably not,’ Aggie says, wonders if Anna knows that she doesn’t ever really sleep.
‘Just don’t go wandering.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Out into the streets, like you told me you do in Norwich. The Minster isn’t going anywhere.’
‘I know. I think I know that now. Here, anyway.’ Aggie sits down next to Anna on the bed, imagines the seismic shift that her weight must cause, feels Anna’s shoulder lean into her. ‘And don’t you go wandering either.’
‘Down to Zav, you mean?’ Anna laughs. ‘It’s tempting, though.’
‘I don’t think it’s the time or place, do you?’
‘There never is a right time and place. But that doesn’t mean anything.’
‘I know, I know.’
‘You must be lonely,’ Anna says.
‘I’ve never really thought of it like that. I just like being on my own. All I ask myself, over and over again is who I would have been had I never been damaged, who I might have been if I’d had a child at 17.’ Aggie shivers. ‘And I still don’t know what happened before that night when someone or something ripped me apart, tore something out of me, and delivered me into her hands.’
‘Why can’t we remember the mentor’s name? Why do I think it was a man and you think it was a woman?’
‘Could they have been one and the same, and just our perceptions different?’
Anna sits up straight. ‘You mean that when we both were in the same room as them, we both perceived them differently?’
‘I suppose so. Is it that impossible? Because I can’t remember anything from before then, is it possible that my definition of female is different to yours? That they dressed in a way that was ambivalent, that said female to me and male to you?’
‘And the voice that goes with the appearance?’
‘Gravelly,’ Aggie says.
‘Yes, of course.’
‘Grey short hair?’
‘Yes, that’s what I saw.’
‘Only very slight curves?”
‘I suppose so,’ Anna says. ‘I never really thought about it then, and haven’t thought much about it since, until now.’
‘Do you think it was a deliberate ambivalence?’
‘You mean to confuse memories?’
‘Yes, and to keep secrets.’
‘To stop any of us from ever knowing who or what they were.’ Anna snaps her fingers. ‘Of course.’
‘We need to find the place, you know,’ Aggie says. ‘It’s all part of this.’
‘I see that now.’ Anna yawns. ‘But not now. I need to sleep.’ She rips off most of her clothes, slides in under the duvet. ‘Turn the light out.’