I saw an old friend last night; someone I’d not seen seen for many years. Someone who knew me well enough to know who I am and what I’m like, but not someone who had seen me enough in recent years to understand I’d also changed
We talked about the differences since we’d last met. We were both significantly older for one thing. He had also been through a messy divorce and, of course, I’d lost Gail. He asked me a lot about how I was coping, feeling and dealing with things and – as you might expect from things mentioned here – I had much to say on the subject.
He listened and then said something: “You know over the years I’ve done some shitty things; things I’m really ashamed of and wished I’d never done. But I don’t let them bother me. I put them in a box, tie the box up so it can’t come undone and then I shove it in the back of a cupboard and don’t ever get it out. That’s how I cope. Perhaps you should try it?”
Given some of the short-shrift I’d given some well-wishers over the last months, you might have thought I’d have made my excuses and left to avoid unpleasantries. I didn’t though and for an odd reason. You see, it was something Gail used to talk about, using the exact same imagery. When I asked her something about a previous marriage or an unpleasant childhood memory that is exactly what she would say. “I don’t know. I put it in a box a few years ago and I can’t open it now”. It was an interesting comparison.
Perhaps that is how some people cope. Or do they? My friend said it got him through but it’s very hard to say if that person is how they think they are or whether that stuff in the box is actually in there at all. How can you tell? You can get a long way by pretending you have things locked away when you actually don’t. Indeed, knowing Gail as I did, I never thought that box was tied at all and those things escaped all the time. It was why she was so complex and maddeningly infuriating sometimes. Furthermore, by never confronting them, I’m not sure they didn’t do more harm. I’d long associated the Lupus with some bizarre thoughts and actions but I’d never been able to pin down which came first; the illness or the strange behaviour. In fact, in the months following Gail’s passing I’d come to believe the liver failure that had made her so confused at the end that she believed dreams were reality, had actually existed for perhaps a decade or more before the end stage.
But as we used to say when we got tetchy, when one of us was trying to lecture the other “Let’s cut out the cod psychology, eh?”
The fact is I can’t put everything in a box and forget it. The reason? I actually don’t want to. Why deny myself the thoughts of everything good I had just to give myself an easier life now? I was lucky. I had it good for a long time and that was because of Gail. Because I’m devastated by her loss and suffering badly through it, I don’t see the point in denying everything I had just to make things easier from here on till my end.
Nope, you can keep your box. I’ll take the anguish. It makes me remember, keeps me tethered and, in a wonderful juxtapose, gives me some happiness.