Apologies for my silence over the past week, and thank you for the lovely messages about my new job - I will indeed be sticking with the 4 hours of commuting each day (I got a new job in the same place), but as I've said to many people who've asked "But why?!" when I say I'm staying, it's because it really is worth it. I never thought I'd find a job that I could love so much!
But, I've been 'on leave' for the past five days. On leave, tucked away at home with my family. Hiding away from the reality that is life, because sometimes life throws things at you that you just can't handle. Normally there is no 'pause' button; we have to get up and go to work whatever our moods, whatever the weather, and we have to be brave and smile and just forget that life hurts a bit sometimes. Tough luck if you're tired, tough luck if you're too busy or your boyfriend dumped you or you've got really, really bad period pains - I am not one to 'grin and bear it' at the best of times, but that's the biggest slap in the face that the Real World has given me - yes, you really do have to grin and bear it. Tough luck.
Anyway, I digress. I haven't had to grin and bear it over the past few days, instead I've been thoroughly not grinning and, as far as possible, not bearing it. Grief is something that, when it appears like it does, seemingly out of nowhere, you have no choice but to not bear it, to let it overtake your whole mind and body for a short while. It's one of those inconsistent but absolutely thorough emotions - when it appears all of a sudden, while you're getting ready for bed or folding the laundry, everything suddenly shuts down and your mind points in only one direction, and a strange wailing appears from your lungs which you cannot recognise as a sound you are capable of making. Ten, twenty or even thirty minutes later you suddenly break from the trance, exhausted, nauseous and red-faced, face stinging and lungs hiccupping for the next few hours.
When it comes to bearing it, well, I can't say I've been altogether impressive. Faced with crowds of amazing family members, all willing to be strong and hold themselves up with good humour and healthy food, I've been craving time on my own on the sofa, and had circumstances allowed it, I would have quickly resorted to a pizza menu and an awful film. Instead, the days have passed slowly and lathargically, doing what I can to make the effort and ride out the situation with the least possible melodrama. There's been evening walks through peaceful vegetable fields, shortbread-baking in time for Mother's Day, hilly running and a 10km race with my Dad (new PB to go with that!), period dramas, pub evenings where the whole family strolled home drunk, and garden centre fun at great expense (watch this space for tales of tomato plants and strawberry patches!). It's all felt incredibly normal, maybe a little too normal, excepting the slight oddity of not being at work.
Now I'm back in York, unpacked and settled in. The house is warming through again and the smell of over-ripe bananas is fading. Tomorrow normality has to resume, and I'm scared that it will be more difficult than the last very difficult few days have been. I want that 'pause' button, just for a few more days. I don't really want life to 'go on', as life, quite frankly, will never be quite the same as it was ever again. The world is now, to a good few of us at least, a worse place to be, and there is always going to be a gap that can't ever be filled. Sitting at home in my pyjamas eating cereal and drinking sugary tea is a good way of avoiding the heavy truth, and right now this cowardly option would be my preferred way to act. But there are those who do actually grin and bear it beyond all expectation, so I have no choice but to hit normality with a bump at 5:15 tomorrow morning. For now, we have my Mum's apple pie and the second episode of Women in Love to help us through. One day at a time.