On the family Zoom last night, O asked us if we had internal voices. That is, when we were thinking, or when we thought of songs, did we have a voice inside our heads talking or singing to us? It turned out that we have varying strengths of internal voices in the family, and that those of us with less strong internal voices tend to vocalise more, such as humming or singing songs out loud. One thing I started asking myself was if there had ever been a study which had looked at the strength of people’s internal voices and linked them to depression, my main question being if it was people with the strongest internal voices who were the most depressed. My reasoning was that those of us with really strong internal voices might as a result overthink and create this vicious circle of creating our own anxieties that way. What strikes me this morning, linking this family conversation with the conversations I had with my therapist, is that my main problem always was (is) that the negative voice in my head often had (has) the upper hand and tries to wipe out any self-esteem I had (have). I haven’t checked if there are any such studies. I probably won’t, because I think I’ve proved the case to myself.
The storm fortunately left us relatively untouched except for some broken bottles when the recycling bin was overturned. And this morning there was a Blazing Saddles moment when one of the cats came out into the garden with me for the first time since the storm eased a little. She wandered up the garden path as she always does, and came to a flower pot which had been blown onto the path and its contents of plant cuttings strewn out around it. She stood there, puzzled, sniffed at it, and turned round as if it were an insurmountable obstacle, totally ignoring the fact that there were yards of free space around the pot through which she could have walked further down the garden. Strange girl/woman/cat. And recently, she has made it a habit of hers to jump up onto the back of the sofa in the evenings, and walk past the back of my head before jumping down onto the sofa and dropping onto her side to let me stroke her. Before that, she just jumped up onto the cushions from the front before lying down. Perhaps she has caught my habit of making everything more complicated than it needs to be.
The rhythms and tides of life are so changeable. There have been moments this week when I’ve felt unencumbered by anything, moments when I’ve felt that everything has been as it should be, and at other times I’ve felt like the incoming high tide is about to overwhelm me. It’s always like this, and it always will be.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 7
Aggie stops. Why is the door to Sir and Madam’s bedroom open? Has someone managed to get into the house without her noticing? It’s an impossibility. She moves forward stealthily, her long legs carrying her to the door silently and swiftly. The key is still in the door, something else that hasn’t happened before. Sir must have forgotten to close and lock it in his haste to leave earlier. She stands on the threshold and stares at the door and the key. She daren’t, she won’t, look into the room, the only room in the house she’s never been in. She’s often asked herself what it’s like, why they would keep that one room so secret, so private that they would clean it themselves and not have their hired help do it. She puts her hand out and wraps it round the brass door knob, an pulls the door towards her without turning her head, without risking accidentally catching a glimpse of the room beyond, pulls the door shut, locks it, and slips the key into the pocket of her black trousers.
Aggie’s shoulders drop with relief, and she breathes deeply, quickly checks the other rooms, only having cleaned them earlier that day, double beds unslept in for weeks, no guests having been invited for the last three or four weekends, none planned to be here for the foreseeable future, something she had thought odd when she’d discussed the months in the diary with Madam, because normally weekends were filled with guests and dinners and the admiring glances of the privileged at the wall decorations of this even more privileged house. She’s never thought of where the money came from to pay for all this, never once thought about what Sir and Madam might actually do or might actually have done to accumulate all this wealth and beauty.
She climbs up the last flight of stairs, up into the attic that’s her territory, somewhere Sir and Madam never come. She’s always up and about before them, always last to bed. The house is her life, not just her sanctuary. She stares out of the window for a moment, out at the blackness pin-pricked with the lights of other houses preparing to close down for the night, at the void where the cathedral should be, and sits down at her desk. She runs her hands fleetingly across the spines of the few books she has; Nalkowka’s Choucas, right next to Mann’s Magic Mountain (Poland next to Germany, what irony), Joyce’s Ulysses, Lem’s Solaris, Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo books, Rolf Jacobsen’s Collected Poems, ditto TS Eliot’s, Jacques Prévert’s Paroles; all in their own language, all adding to the constant blur of words and accents in her mind. She gets up, takes off her apron, careful not to watch herself in the mirror of the window, folds it neatly onto the bed, and leaves the room to make her way back down into the kitchen now that hunger is gnawing at her.
The phone has stopped swinging on it cord, and Aggie puts it back into its holder on the wall. She uncovers both loaves, tests them for warmth, smiles and nods. She finds a plastic bag for one of them, slides it in, prints Sir & Madam in neat letters on its outside, and slips it into a vacant spot in one of the freezer drawers. From the remaining loaf, she cuts herself two thick slices, puts them on a board on the table, gets herself some ham and a jar of gherkins from the fridge, and eats in crunchy silence. She thinks of only one thing – how much of a betrayal she would have committed if she had looked into that room.