This time of year is hard for most people, financially and emotionally, this I know. I am not unique in the dull ache I carry in the centre of my chest during the festive season, nor am I alone in the strangled insomnia that always creeps into my sleepless nightmares when I try to get comfortable and drift off at night convinced that I will not be able to pay this bill or that and still make sure that there are at least a few token festive trinkets underneath the tree when that hallowed day rolls around.
So, as I sat at my coffee table this afternoon when I got home from work wrapping up pound shop presents for the small people that own the biggest piece of my heart, it occurred to me that I could fashion things from nothing and with the best intentions they would in turn come to mean everything.
A car playlist for my sister so she doesn’t have to share my brothers rancid concoction of ska, reggae, hip hop and heavy metal when she’s driving my niece and nephew to school. A compilation album for the people who hold music closer to their heart than they do any messiah tailor made for their individual idiosyncrasies. A blanket for my daughter hand stitched from her old pyjamas. A letter to my niece and nephew to let them know that I’m always there even when I’m not. A thank you note to a friend or two for giving me a hard place to lean and a soft place to fall when my world fell apart.
I don’t have money, I never have, and though it is the superpower of most parents this time of year, the one thing I have always had and hope to always keep – are my memories. A friend referred to the other night as an “eidetic memory” in as much as I will recall the smallest and most frivolous of details about the most arbitrary events in my life. I never really knew how powerful this trait was until I was made aware of it. Now I value it as a part of me as much as value my thoughtfulness or my sense of humour. It’s just a part of me, and a very under utilised part of my healing process.
My mental health has always been a stone in my throat, choking back my potential and pigeon holing me into a life of mendacious misery. I’ve often hid behind my inability to become more than I am, blaming depression, anxiety, drug abuse, my childhood, my parents, my financial disarray, the injustice of circumstance and the ever growing realisation that I may never find someone who will fight for my love.
And I’ve come to tie the two together this year – my memory and my mental health. It’s almost impossible to move on or formulate a new life independent of heart break or things that cause you pain when you remember every moment, every word, every tear and every touch. These things fade, for most people, and one day they wake up in the morning and it just stops hurting. For me, the healing process is slightly different.
I remember it all. Heartbreak has never been a moment for me. My heart breaks every morning when I wake up and it aches with the weight of the day when I close my eyes at night because I remember everything. I fall in love with all the little things that people never notice they do. The way they pick the skin around their finger nails or let out a whimper as they drift off to sleep, to the way they hold their pen or straighten their glasses or snort when they laugh. All these little things that you never even notice burrow into my brain and sit there, weeping in the dark and infecting my dreams.
So, no, heartbreak has never been an event rather than a perpetual state of being that I am forced to live in everyday. Sometimes it’s obvious – a song, a movie, a book, an old t-shirt, a love note, a gig ticket – and sometimes my memory is more subversive. It’s the way someone walks past me and the wind catches the smell of their wet hair and the scent of their shampoo on the frigid breeze makes my skin break out in gooseflesh because their hair smells like yours, but it doesn’t. It just smells like a memory and all of my memories are tied to people and places and perceptions that never quite leave my mind so at any given time I am forced to relive a thousand moments of hurt because everything reminds me of something.
Poisoned with nostalgia and thinking of the constructive rather than destructive nature of my memory, I have decided to end the year in honesty rather than denial. I am in pain. My heart is tired. I am scared of the future. I yearn for the past. I miss more people than I have phone numbers to call. I am trying to be a better person. I am sad. Constantly. I don’t feel good enough. Sometimes I want to quit. Sometimes I wonder whether or not it’s worth waking up at all. I don’t like the company I keep when I’m alone. I’m terrified that this is it. That this will never get better. That no one will ever understand me. That no one will ever really love me. That no one really needs me.
I’ve often said that I don’t need to see a shrink because I already know what’s wrong with me. This is true and in truth writing has always made me feel better. It’s why I sit here and talk to myself in my head, my hands floating over the keys marking the page. I don’t write this blog for it to be read rather than for me to read it a year, two years or ten years from now and remember the person I was and it gives me hope to read the words I’ve written and prove myself wrong.
So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to use my memories to move on. I am going to take my oldest item of clothing – a denim jacket that I’ve had for eight years that looks as battered as I feel – and I’m going to patch it together with memories. Then, walking into 2018, I will be literally wearing my heart on my sleeve (and my back, and my shoulders, and my hips, and my chest). I’m going to pick a patch that reminds me of every broken heart and every glimmer of hope and I’m going to stitch them to my jean jacket and wear them like armour for the rest of my life.
Because I’m never going to forget the promises that were made then unmade or the way your mouth tasted on mine, nor will I forget what it was like to push you on a swing when you were eye high to my thigh or how you held me when I was scared and shaking and told me that it was going to be alright even though you knew it wasn’t. You, the plural you, the humans that haunt my memory like a curse and a cure – you are the only people that can protect me from myself.
So I have selected a number of patches for my jacket. Some are band logos, some cartoonish, some political and others as random as the series of thoughts that led me here to this day and this conclusion.
I will also use this project (a suggestion made to me by a friend who is in the inspiration for the first patch I pressed onto my jean jacket this evening) as a writing prompt and I will blog every time I sew a patch on, the process of the two things combined – the patch and the prose – will help me to scrape that heart off of my sleeve and move on in the direction of constructive creativity rather than it’s antithesis.
So thank you, for the three people that read this blog and for the hundreds of people who make my day everyday on the smallest and grandest of scales. Thank you for holding the train door for me and for letting me cut the queue when I’ve only got to pay for one thing. Thank you for being patient, kind, generous and for seeing the funny side to everything. Thank you for giving me a chance, for being honest with me and for allowing me to live my life the only way I know how. Thank you for telling me that I complete you, for buying me flowers and for picking up the cheque. Thank you for humming baselines in my mouth, for making me a mother and for letting me know that no matter what I do or who I become, I will always be your little sister and you will always love me. Thank you for letting me be a part of your dream and for letting me make you a part of mine.
Thank you for loving me.
Thank you for leaving me.
And thank you for reading this blog.