Off road

For the last few months, an old photo has been coming up regularly in my feed. This is it, me, about 30 years ago, on a hunting trip up towards Broken Hill:

I’m young, fit, healthy, there’s even a hint of swagger in my posture. I had attitude, and more or less that’s who I’ve been throughout the years. Not as young maybe and, lately, not as healthy either – but they seemed incidental. Age is a state of mind. As for my health, that was very scary, but there came a time – perhaps too quickly – when I thought I’d make it out okay.

But now, it seems much less clear-cut. This picture comes up and I don’t know if it’s a taunt or a tease. My mind remains sharp, but my body is a broken thing for now, and my spirit is ailing.

I woke up this morning to the sun shining and could find nothing bright or interesting in it. I seem locked into this very unsatisfactory existence at the moment and don’t know how to make my way out of it. It dawned on me that life as we know it is generally one continuous flow. The seasons change, the years pass, the news on our screens updates, we shop, we eat, we socialise, we travel, we live. There are peaks to this and troughs, but it’s all of a piece, a seamless journey through time and experience, with nary a thought of it.

Except in my case, I got shunted off that road and into a solitary byway. Theoretically, I’ll join up with the mainstream again somewhere down the way, but I can’t seem to find myself there – or imagine such a time and place. Do I want to subscribe to that again?

I get flashes of it. I pretend. I’m back working part-time, though it’s not really working. Yesterday a friend visited and we had a day that in times before I’d have considered very nice – lunch, then an afternoon putting prints up around the house, and later a drink sitting in the sunshine, when another friend arrived.

This would have been an ideal day to me once upon a time. I enjoyed it as much as I could, but from early on felt handicapped by my physical state.

I tire easily. I have no strength or stamina. I feel like a lie down half the time. My hearing is shot and I have pain and messy inconvenience with my head. There’s a permanent stain of blood at the corner of my nostril my vanity has given up worrying about.

I enjoyed the concept of yesterday, but my head hurt and I was so weary I felt ineffective. This is always the case now, with overwhelming fatigue a bonus (I’ve cut down on painkillers hoping to control it).

Despite yesterday, I feel so alone. This is where I really miss Rigby. I thought so often yesterday, I wish Rigby was here, imagining him with my friends. I wake up and he’s gone still, just when I need him most.

He was a great and necessary comfort to me in the hard days post-surgery and through treatment. He’d always be around, and even if he just needed my attention, he was a distraction. When he felt me fraying he’d come close and put his chin on my leg peering up at me, or cross his paw over my arm. He was there to snuggle with and talk to. Even the routines were so familiar as to be warming.

I miss his eyes on me and his affection and his distinct personality, and I miss the affection I would give him.

I need him most now, but the fact that he’s gone only makes the need more keen.

Somehow, I have to break free of this barren existence I’m stuck in. Someone said that recovering from cancer was like suffering PTSD, and maybe that’s what I’m experiencing.

I feel pressured into the work I’m doing, uncertain if it’s a commitment I can keep given the ebbs and flow of my health. In the meantime, I’m just not ever feeling any better, and life is hard. As for most of this time, I feel outside of life and the general pattern of being. I watch from the sidelines as everyone else zooms by with their seamless life.

I hoped to do this when I was healthier, but I don’t know if I can afford to wait. I’m thinking about visiting and staying with friends in Mullumbimby or Noosa. I think I need a change of scenery. I feel stuck in place and haunted by memories I could do without. I need something to jump-start an idea of a new future. A refresh and reset. Not sure how effective it will be with me still feeling shithouse, but can I afford to wait?

I trust that the day will come when I feel okay, though I’m less confident of that now. Whatever, it can’t come soon enough.

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