Yesterday had been a good day, a day on which I got so much done that I’d wanted to do. I went off on my walk in good spirits, a mask and debit card in my pocket, the plan being to go to a DIY shop and pick up a night latch for an outward-opening door, and to see if I could give myself any ideas about how to put down slabs outside the new extension when it’s done (or even before). I spent an age in the shop, after having walked in the sun and under the canopy of the trees on the Heath, but didn’t find a suitable night latch, nor any particularly innovative or easy ideas for the slabbing. My impracticality is something which gnaws at me more than most other things, I must admit. I got home, did my stretches, devised an additional stretch set to work on my core (one which has, no doubt, been devised a million times before). At. Sat in here for 90 minutes listening to lots of new music, only a fraction of which I liked enough to include in my radio show I’m presenting tomorrow. And then I sat through the last half of The Repair Shop which had unfortunately gone down the route of repairing only things associated with the damn Jubilee. And then a sense of total and abject failure overtook me, and I haven’t been able to shake it. Part of it comes from reading articles yesterday about the inevitable and irreversible aging process, and how the composition of many people’s blood abruptly changes when they reach 70, almost overnight, after which they become ill and fragile and geriatric. It scares me, paralyses me, makes me even more aware that time is finite and running out, that I need to do more than what I’m doing to have any impact.
And so I lay awake for almost an hour, unable to get to sleep, disturbed by all the noises to which I seem to have become hypersensitive lately, and the colours they make explode in my head, and the racing thoughts they light the fuse of, and the restless mind they encourage to be even more restless. So I got up, stumbled through the dark house, blinked into the light I turned on, fetched wine and cashew nuts, and sat and read more of The Priory Of The Orange Tree, which A recommended to M and me, and which I am enjoying immensely (if with a sense of envy that I can’t just sit and write all day every day, that I have yet to see someone in a train, or on the Tube, or on a bench in a park somewhere, anywhere reading a book of mine). I guess that’s another thing that gnaws at me. That’s where the sense of all-encompassing failure comes from. I went to bed after 1am after scribbling a last-minute thought of a poem into my small notebook, and woke up at 7 feeling dreadful and staying in bed till almost 8.
And yet it shouldn’t be like that. B, one of my most steadfast and kind listeners and readers, had sent a DVD of Cyrano because none of the three of us managed to catch a viewing in the cinema, a gift which touched me immensely with its thoughtfulness and care. Enough to make a grown man cry, and to get the validation he has given up seeking.
But it’s this black dog of the sense of failure that forever wraps itself around my legs, falls asleep on them, and stays there. Perhaps that’s why I don’t actually like dogs that much. And what targets I am failing against is a question I do know the answer to – it’s something that was just about beaten into me when I was a child. Compounded by the perpetual state of worry about all and sundry – and that can trace its root back to my youth, too, when I was having to constantly worry about being in the good books of the head of the household, who had the power, and exercise it, of excising those who failed from the family circle.
That’s where I come from, and that’s what I’ve always tried to escape from. And writing, when I can, is a blessed escape.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 107