Thirteen years ago today, I woke up to a life I thought I knew the shape of. One that was reassuring to carry and to keep in the palm of my hands. Everyday, I walked out into the world. I could wrap my coat around me (the coat my brother laughingly told me made me look like an eskimo) and jangle my keys in my pocket as I went on my way. I was growing up. I was beginning.
I could smile at strangers. I could stand beside my friends. If there was a place I wished to be, I only had to choose to go there. Open spaces and fresh air were ordinary and they were mine. They were as mundane as my father's hissing attempts at whistling as he started the day, or the mad scrabble of my dog's paws on the windowsill when he saw the postman coming up the road. I didn't know those things were miracles too.
I did understand that I was ill then, but not that it was serious. It was unexpected and frightening when I took sick, early that morning, in a deserted street. Everything was quiet. The front doors of the houses were primly shut and the curtains were drawn, so the windows were closed eyes, and the bricks themselves were resting after a busy, suburban week. I crumpled like old paper and the pain migrated around me, like the winter birds while I held onto my heart, and the nearest lamp-post.
I realised I had to get help but I didn't think I could speak if I found someone so I decided I must manage to get home. We live up a hill and I was a road away from the first step of that climb. I used the parked cars to steady myself and I just kept moving until my house could be seen, perched reassuringly at the top of the summit ahead, with its bright paintwork and our little silver car, preening happily outside in the sunlight.
By the time I made it near enough to have to contemplate the seventeen steps that still stood between me and the brass doorknocker, my parents were running to reach me and carry me. To call a doctor and do the only sensible thing that anyone can ever do in a crisis; to make good tea.
I've been housebound ever since. Although I have been lucky enough to have a little starlight and sunshine again lately.
There is no way to explain how the life you have claimed can shrink so much and so suddenly, until you must fit all of who you are into a small and dimly lit gap of existence. I can't tell you what that is like, unless it has happened to you too. (I am so very sorry if it has happened to you too).
I have found it to be frequently unbearable to have all manner of dragons crowding into such a little space with me, breathing with their hot, dark breath on my skin, and pinning me there without any sign that they can hear me asking them to let me go.
I have learnt how to call everything I need to consider this a life, to be here to abide with me. I've had to beckon it, til it is curious enough to come closer . I have let myself believe in the things that are neccessary, so ardently, that they can always exist inside my own mind, and I do not go without them.
I feel, today, like I am climbing that hill home. That those thirteen years have folded in on themselves until those moments that marked an ending to so much of what I knew, are happening right now.
My life is messy and painful, but isn't everyone's? My life is beautiful and extraordinary, and isn't yours as well?
So much of what happens to us is not of our choosing. So much of what is taken and what is given is not what we expect.
Sometimes that really makes me want to cry but, when I look at who I know and the hopes I have, I think that maybe that's the only way it could ever be without it losing something immeasurably important.
I have decided; I will take my life as a lover over and over again. Even when I am weary of its wild ways and broken promises. It may threaten to leave me, but it hasn't done so yet. Perhaps, after all, we are meant for each other.