98 99 100… Coming, Ready or Not!

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It’s been over a month since I last wrote. I know this because I’d intended to write around my birthday and then I went on the skids and never looked back. I’d been writing, too, not only here, but because I’d been going to a class run by Fran Isherwood I was feeling focused and able and so on.

Then… events. I tend to rather survive birthdays – they loom up full of foreboding and there is some pressure to enjoy them which freaks me out a bit. We don’t have quite the propensity for death in this time and place as our Victorian forebears did, though we are still none of us getting out alive, but even so, the whole occasion of birthdays strikes me as rather morbid.

Well done! You made it! You lived another year!

This feels to me as if it is a matter of life itself being a chore, which with chronic pain, it really can be, so being under some obligation to celebrate makes me feel a bit miserable anyway, and then a total git for being such a miserablist.

As it happens I had a writing group planned, I had a visit to Brighton planned, and I did those things but there was a cluster of events that make it hard to know whether what happened next was event related or not, but the events, in the event did not help matters.

My friend Nic’s doggy died – I was on the train to Brighton on the way to his admittedly antique birthday party when it happened, and so the boys were sad and blue unsurprisingly. I’d gone with Nic to pick his new puppy up, and because he (Nic, not the puppy) was driving he spent the journey inside my jumper, and now he was old and he was blind and he had become too ill to be well. Teddy had been an affirmation of life, and now he was dead and that was sad.

When I got home I found the PIP forms had come through the post, and of course I’ve spent the month you are given to fill them in procrastinating, since every time I think about them I feel sick to my stomach. The way you are required to jump through fiery hoops to get your basic needs met is frightening, and it’s a proper lizard brain fear, basic because it’s about survival, and twisted because you have to prove how unable you are to survive to continue to be awarded the benefit.

Next up I got a phone call – my friend Philip had died. We’d been at college together and had miraculously stayed in touch over the years. This was really a lot to take in. I mean, there was a ‘pro’ for him in that he hadn’t been frail and ill a long time, but he did have a heart condition, and he and his boyfriend Kevin had been out cycling in the morning and by the evening he was in intensive care.

I’m just going to say this quick aside, because I think it’s important. Philip had had a boyfriend who’d died, and his family not only barred him from going to the funeral, but also accused him of stealing (they, the family were estranged from their gay son, and Philip had taken his own computer from the flat) so that Philip had had a court case as well as mourning the death of his lover. The way this thing has turned out, Kevin got to be with him at his deathbed, and had arranged the funeral, and had had the foresight to take Philip’s hard drive from the flat they lived together in (Philip, unlike me, was still very actively making art, and a lot of it was stored there – he was a musician as well as a visual artist) before Philip’s family swooped in. He said he wasn’t even going back to get his own underwear because they’d been so mean. At the funeral they left straight away, and Kevin is to be denied his ashes. So, Kevin got to say goodbye to Philip in a way that Philip had been denied his previous partner, but people! The message here is this; we will all die. If you have any preferences as to who has control over what happens to your belongings or your remains, either get married if you are of a mind to, or else write a will. People can be seriously mean right at a time when whoever is closest to you could use support and love and not a lot of strife.

Anyway, whether it was because of any of this or because of an ill wind off in the distance just bringing a storm gradually closer, I became quite unable to function. There were tears, and that is normal, but Ten was worried about me, and frog marched me to the doctor’s. I started on Citalopram and I’m still not feeling any benefit. Maybe the fact that I am writing now is something. Maybe it’s not. I’ve avoided all kinds of commitments and even social media has been kept on a simmer. Most of the time I’ve bulk watched series on Netflix or listened to audiobooks. Having to take the dog out is a help. The little conversations you have through the medium of dog are about all I’ve been able to manage. Ten’s been in and out and he’s done what he can. We went to a wedding yesterday. It had been in my calendar for nearly a year, and I was anxious but went, and as it happened it was very lovely and very calm, and quite the sort of thing I could manage. I’d not been to a Quaker service of any sort before but knew the way they did things, but was surprised that the wedding was held in that style – there were a few official words but for the most part it was sitting in silence with the odd person speaking if and when the spirit moved them.

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Afterwards, I quizzed Caroline and Suzy about this choice. Caroline, like me, is more grounded in Buddhism, and it so happens that Buddhists and Quakers sometimes sit together, but apparently Suzy had been to some Quaker meetings where they’d lived before. So these were not a group of people they knew well – they had their own friends there and some family, but also some of the congregation were there too. I’d never been to Welwyn Garden City before. It’s not far, and it is a world away from London. Clean air, well ordered public spaces, a kind of English heaven.

Now I am home and Ten is away and this morning I took the dog out quite early for a longish walk around the neighbourhood. I am still anxious, I have eye pain, possibly as a side effect of the medication, and also tinnitus. I have to tackle the forms some time in the next couple of days, since they have to be returned by the 7th.

Thank you, whoever reads this blog. It helps me to have my online friends more than you can know.

16 responses to “98 99 100… Coming, Ready or Not!

  1. We are supposed to begin to expunge birthdays once we get past our early 30s, I suspect, but I find the reminders which Fb prompts me with are very helpful in making me at least wish people MHRs, and give me a reason to read their Timeline and find out how they have been getting along.
    I tend to try to keep up withnthe lives of far more people than is sensible, but I really appreciate having so many interesting writers whose “stuff” is so easy to access.
    Thanks for an entertaining read, and hope your Summer continues happily, Elaine.

  2. To bad you being in a downturn, and about Phillip, but good advice about being prepared. My sis and I have wills. I’m thinking about modifying mine to help some of my newer friends. Specifying things is important too. Tempus fugit – except when it drags by, day after day.

    • Yes. There seem to have been a whole series of deaths lately. Like most people who don’t have much I have put off the business of wills, but having spent Philip’s ex’s death with him being horribly upset, and with his own family turning out to be a massive bag of dicks, it has come back to the forefront of my mind once more.

    • Pops is in good shape. She doesn’t like the stairs here, but having to make them means she has to really oil her shoulders and she is actually more limber. Also, I joined this dog lending website and she has a ton of friends she goes out with.

  3. The whole issues of funerals (and who has the right to decide what) is part of what has made the issue of gay marriage so vital here in the US — in many states, if you are not married, then legally, those rights fall back to your blood family (and some hospitals will fall back and that if they have “moral objections” to your relations). Its awful.
    I am sorry for your losses. I hope things even out for you soon.

    • Thank you!

      Yes, I mean, we have gay marriage here as well, but it doesn’t mean everyone has done it, and I’m not married either – I think not getting married is maybe more common in the UK. I am quite shocked that families of grown adults can be so awful, particularly when they aren’t even close, and there was clearly a partner or friends who were closer to the person, but it is certainly the case. One friend told me about going to a funeral of a friend whose parent/s had decided to basically dress her as a little girl for her funeral. I mean, obviously the individual is dead so it probably doesn’t matter to them, but for the friends who had never seen her in a dress there was a strong discord.

  4. Yes, except for your physical pain, I know these ‘tightrope times’ too, & it is good to know you are not alone & people are concerned for your welfare & even just a little oil of human kindness goes a long way doesn’t it, as long as it doesn’t make the ‘tightrope’ slippy. The impending approach of my PIP assessment is made worse by the fact I have no idea when it will role out in my area, so I’m driving my miraculous Motability car into the ground before they take it away from me like contrary legalistic parents, it was good while it lasted though. I’m very grateful to your friend Nikki for the benefits website, I just subscribed, “forearmed is forewarned” as someone said & I don’t want to chide myself later for for ignoring it’s inevitability & feeding that propensity for self sabotage we can have. I’d love to visit you again soon Elaine, for another of our ‘what the f…. is going on with this world anyway?!’ life probing natter & your famous high tech frothy coffee in the ‘summer room’ X<3

    • Yes! Do come over! Indeed, I could come to you, if all the ducks are in a row.

      Oddly, I applied many times for DLA and never got it, while I got the PIP fine, although you are probably right to think that Motability will be harder to get, I’ve certainly heard that from other people, and even though I think I should have had that component I didn’t get it. I took some advice and was told I should not appeal it since the entire award is reviewed, not just that component. I have no idea how things will go this time, but I guess I will find out soon!

  5. Your friends’ situations with hateful homophobic relatives is exactly why T and I have had wills and all of that for years. We will eventually marry, but until such time we at least have the financial things in order. In other words, if the deceased’s family (who are the only ones who can claim the body, being legal next of kin) wants any help at all paying for a funeral, they’d better keep the surviving partner in the loop or they won’t have access to a red cent.

    • Yes, the funeral was all paid for with Philip and Kevin’s own money, so Kevin got to do that part of it the way he saw fit. I think the fact that he was alone with him in the hospital, and then rode with his body to the funeral, and had the funeral to his taste (which did include references to and readings from the family) were all good things. And having heard the sorry tale of Philip’s experience with his previous partner, he took his exit from the flat taking only the things that mattered most to him, knowing that he was better off free from the emotional and legal wrangles Philip had been put through.

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