I don’t really like writing about things that affect my real life on this blog, as you will have gathered. I would like to give the impression that I am a disembodied intellect drifting high above the surface of the planet, occasionally focussing on some aspect of the scene below, but I am not, and real things keep happening.
Real thing the first
One of my mum’s best friends, whom she had known since they were in their 20s, has died. The last time I saw her was at my mum’s funeral. She came to the ceremony, but it was a cold, foggy day, and she chose not to come with us to the graveside, which meant that none of us got to speak to her. My last memory is of her waving, once, as we set off on foot to the cemetery.
My brother had kept in touch with her since, and, because she had no living relatives, organised her funeral. She died very suddenly of a heart attack. She had an absolute horror of becoming dependent on other people, and especially dreaded going into an old people’s home, so there was some comfort in the manner of her death.
This will keep happening, of course. The numbers of people who knew my mum well are dwindling away, and soon she will live on only in the memories of her children. In 40 years or so all of us will be dead, and another 40 or so years after that her grandchildren – who did not know her that well, and will remember her mainly as a smiling but easily-tired and frail lady in a wheelchair – will die, and it will be as though my mother had never lived. Human life is a very brief thing.
Real thing the second
My family (specifically my brother and sister) took it upon themselves not to tell me about her death, or her funeral, until after the event, and then to present it to me in the midst of lots of (as they supposed…) good news. I am not greatly upset about this – I knew my mum’s friend only slightly, and less well than other members of my family – but I am annoyed. They were intending to be kind, of course, and I have (with some difficulty) kept a grip on my temper and responded appropriately, but still. I may be their younger brother, and I may not be the most mentally balanced of people, but I am not a child, and I resent being treated like one.
Real thing the third
Part of the ‘good news’ was to tell me all about plans for this year’s christmas. Readers of this blog with long memories will remember that I was induced and manipulated and blackmailed and all-but-coerced into spending last christmas with (part of) my family. It turns out they will be using the same techniques to induce and manipulate and blackmail and all-but-coerce me into doing the same this year. I am not looking forward to this.
Christmas is a bad time of year for my mental health. It’s almost always the peak of the various seasonal illnesses that are around, and I have a paranoid fear of all of them. In addition, the shortest day/ nadir of the year thing gets to me on a psychological level in quite a big way. Still, even given that, it’s highly unlikely that I will be so ill it’ll be literally impossible for me to venture out of my flat long enough to say hello to them, especially as they have (without me asking them) arranged to travel hundreds of miles to be nearby. It’s not that I’ll be incapable of doing it, it’s just that I really, really won’t want to, and being forced (or, rather, being manipulated into feeling that I have to force myself) to do it will have a bad effect on me, both at the time itself, and in the run-up.
Part of me wants to join in. I would love to be able to go and chat to my kind and caring siblings, and laugh immoderately when not-very-funny things happen in the course of making the christmas dinner, and get cheerfully drunk, and eat obscene amounts of food, and be filled with happiness and seasonal cheer, but the thing is I know I won’t be capable of that. What I’ll be capable of is trying desperately to do an impression of someone who’s having a good time, so as not to put a damper on the experience for my brother and sister, but I’ll actually be sitting there wondering how short a period of time has to go by before I can leave and crawl back to my hovel of a flat, and sag gratefully into bed.
Part of me wants to take Aethelread outside for a damn good kicking for being such a whiny, self-centred, unwiped-arsehole of a person that he would actually complain about having a family who care for him. Contrast that with the people Cellar_Door talked about who are confined in hospital, and whose only christmas present year after year is an official one bought for them by the NHS. Compare that to my mum’s friend, who used to make a point of setting herself some major household task – clearing out a cupboard or something – for christmas day, so she wouldn’t feel at a loose end.
The thing is, and despite all that, I just want to be left alone.
I’m always astonished that other people find that so hard to understand. When I say I prefer my own company, it’s not a pose, I’m not putting on a brave face, I’m not making a virtue out of a necessity – I just do, genuinely, prefer my own company. It’s not that I dislike other people exactly, but they’re hard work, and unpredictable, and they come over all cautious and concerned when you’re in the kitchen on your own and they overhear you telling your brain to shut the fuck up about something. When I’m with other people, I’m never relaxed, I’m always on guard, I’m always trying to stand outside myself to check and see if I’m doing anything odd, I’m always watching for the microscopic glances people give each other when they’re thinking ‘Hmmm…’ about something I’ve just done or said.
There’s a popular theory that people who spend a lot of time on their own start to turn peculiar, but I don’t think we do. I think it’s just that we lose the instinct to always disguise ourselves, to be constantly monitoring ourselves to be sure we can pass for ‘normal’. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I’m not a ‘normal’ person, and being ‘normal’ has never come naturally to me. Maybe for ‘normal’ people ‘normality’ isn’t a paper-thin façade that has to be constantly maintained if it’s not going to rip into thousands of tiny shreds. Possibly other people aren’t lying when they say they’d love to go for a drink, or to a party, or out for a meal. I’ve always assumed that nobody could genuinely take pleasure in those kinds of ‘pleasurable’ activities, that they’re just things you have to do if you want to fit in with the crowd, but maybe not.
What I do know is that, for me, those things aren’t a pleasure, they’re a chore, and as time goes by, I find I’m less and less inclined to put myself through the hassle. The ‘benefits’ that come from it aren’t really a benefit if you’d rather be on your own – the ‘reward’ for being sociable and outgoing is that you have to spend more time being sociable and outgoing – and I find I’m less and less bothered about doing those things for the sake of other people. Their concerns just seem so trivial.
At times like this all I really want to do is escape. It wouldn’t be hard. I already have no mobile phone. All I would need to do is move to another city and stop checking the email accounts that are attached to my real name. I’ve no doubt my family would report me as a missing person – they’ve done it once already, and that time I just stayed quietly at home – and hiding completely from the police would be tricky. It would mean no bank account, no benefits, no job, no home, no utilities, and so on. But I don’t think I’d have to bother with any of that – if the police found me, and I didn’t want to make contact with my family, all they could report back was that they had found me alive and well. Or I could send a final email saying that I was going walkabout, but that I was fine, and they shouldn’t try to find me.
It’s very, very tempting.