Mr Silly

Driving to a meeting yesterday I heard the results of a survey reported on the radio. The survey was about sex, and according to the results most men wish they’d had more sex partners, while women in contrast come to question some of the sex partners they’d been with.

I mentioned that over breakfast trying to make a point. The point I was making is that I should be pretty pleased with the life I’ve lived. I don’t have those regrets: I’ve had plenty of sex partners, though that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. The point is that for much of my life I’ve followed the urge no matter where it has led me. If in doubt, do it, might have been a motto for a good 15-20 years of my life. I’ve actually done the things that most men regret never trying.

That’s positive. I look back and there’s a lot of great moments and fascinating times. For the most part I’ve lived fully. I’ve been to many parts of the world, have seen and experienced many things I’ll never forget. More than anything I’ve been lucky enough to feel the intoxicating lure of the new and novel again and again. I have no regrets.

Memories though are just memories. They live in your head and in faded photos in an album, but once they’re done they’re static. They’re past tense, almost to the point that it seems surreal. There are times I find it hard to reconcile my current circumstances with the man in those memories. They seem almost another life – did I really drink Pilsener in Prague? Was it me that explored every inch of Petra on foot? Did I really crack a couple of Japanese girls in Hue? They appear vague and disconnected. Sometimes I wonder if my memory plays tricks. As memories they seem foreign to my existence today. What matters is now, and tomorrow. Memories are nice, but they’re as dead as a butterfly pinned to a piece of board.

We spoke of memories a  little yesterday. Yesterday I sat across from an attractive woman telling her some of my things wile she told me some of hers. We spoke of other things, plans and hopes and what we’ll do for Christmas.

I played a role – when don’t I really? Do I like her? I asked myself that as I sat there talking to her. I operated on two levels, as so often, carrying on the conversation quite normally while my mind went off on another tangent. I peered at her, feeling a low-level lust that translated quickly into imagination. I wondered how much I like her. Enough? Could it be more? I ate my eggs, impatient to be intimate with her. My conversation was measured, however. I wanted to tell her more, but held back. Instead I gave her the sanitised version of myself, all the detritus and debris airbrushed out of the picture. As I imagined peeling the knickers from her slender body I also imagined opening myself up to her, putting my head on her shoulder and sharing all that is in me. As if! I thought. But still…

I don’t want this to be about her, but I should make it plain. I’ve avoided any relationship for over 2 years. I think I got impatient with that. I felt isolated, felt need. I’ve let this develop when at another time I’d have let it wither and die. She wants this I think. There is part of me held back, as so often, but she would want me to give that to her I think. Am I capable of that?

That’s the question. For my own health and sanity the answer should be yes. The events of the last 18 months have opened me up in ways impossible before then. When you got nothing it’s silly to be anything but humble. I can’t hide the truth, though I’m a dab hand at misdirection. I’ve come to realise that to pretend something when the truth is so clearly otherwise is just plain stupid. Generally then I’ll acknowledge the ruin about me with a wry smile and a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders. I’m not one yet for deep confessions, but I will try to share, my pride intact.

Here I am now though. I’m just about at the end of the rope. I’m over all this, done. I’m out of ideas. Options ran out a month ago. Truly this is as bereft as I’ve ever felt.

Am I depressed? I wonder at that. I should be. Technically I probably am. There’s plenty of good reason to be, and if I am it is because of that – it’s situational, functional even if you want to call it that.

I wonder about this because depression got some press during the week. One of the English cricketers flew home from Australia suffering from it, and has been for a while it seems. That seems more common these days; or is it we hear about more because we no longer sweep it under the carpet as before? I don’t know that it’s completely accepted as yet, but much of the stigma – that of being ‘weak’, a character flaw – is gone.

I’m sympathetic to anyone who suffers from depression. My mother did. I know others too. I’m liberal, fair-minded, kind-hearted I think. Still, while I judge no-one else, I do myself. That stigma in large part remains in me, but only as it pertains to me individually. I refuse to be depressed, from pride and ego. I won’t accept it. It makes me combative.

I know that true depression is debilitating. You can’t function. Your thoughts are dark. You can barely rouse yourself. You feel sluggish and murky. You despair.

I know that because it’s what I read. I know it too because I have experienced it. Fortunately for me those episodes have been fleeting – a morning here, an afternoon there. In my memory it’s all been connected with my situation: what am I going to do? That makes it easier because I have something to focus on. For the likes of me it’s good because I have something to battle against and defy. That’s how I draw myself out of those situations, by refusing to let it beat me. The pride that leads me up so many dark alleys sometimes helps to lift me from my gloom.

I know for others it’s not as easy as that. I don’t know what brings it on, but I gather that they live in a non-specific and oppressive fugue. It must be an awful thing to endure. Even worse, it must be hard wondering how or if they will ever come clear of it.

I’m in a tough situation. I’m really lost now. I feel what I feel, and it’s perfectly natural. I can get help I think – and by that I don’t mean professional help, and I don’t even mean a change in my circumstances (though that would help). I mean help from others. I get advice all the time, all of it well meant. That’s not what I need. What I need is emotional support – love, affection, encouragement, faith and belief. My friends have been good, but they don’t see me like this because I don’t share this me. That’s my error, though it’s hard to overcome the habit of a lifetime. Mr cool and independent. Mr Silly.

I wonder if I should give this girl something of what she wants, and wonder what I’ll find in doing so.

Shadows of mortality

I wrote the other day about mortality, somewhat in the abstract. It was a theory espoused, pieced together on my outward journey from Australia and gathered together into words and a shape upon my return. In the period in between, while I was abroad, they became real to me for a few days.

I went to KL and had a fine time in familiar places. As always when I travel I didn’t feel quite right physically. My leg had played up moderately in the trip from Melbourne, and as usual I felt bloated and unhealthy. That surely wasn’t helped by the lifestyle I enjoyed while there, but there was a truth outside of that. I was bloated, literally – a pair of pants I bought in KL now sag at my waist a size too big. I carried with me that sense of physical discomfort. Then I flew off to London.

That was an awful journey. As I wrote, I went somewhere between 60-70 hours without any meaningful sleep, and a good portion of it jammed into tight spaces. It prolonged and deepened the sense of physical discomfort for days after I arrived, but worst of all it was bad news for my leg.

In the days after I arrived in London I battled jetlag and ill-health. My leg was my great concern, however. It had blown up in the trip over. Normally when I sleep my leg returns to something like normal. That wasn’t the case this time. I woke with my leg the same exaggerated dimensions as I went to sleep – ugly, and uncomfortable. I felt it too, felt pain in my leg, so that I walked with a limp – the first time since I got the DVT years ago. It concerned me.

I was conscious throughout of overcoming these things. I had come all this way, I had to have a good time. And I did, in a way. I took pleasure in the individual things I did, but overlaying it all was this were the physical ailments that dogged me, literally, at every step; and, more deeply, the psychological implications of it all.

We’re all mortal. We go grey, we acquire wrinkles, our bodies sag, we lose that limber sense of immortality, and eventually we fail. Mostly that’s a long way from our mind. It creeps up on us, day by day, so surreptitious that we don’t really notice until we compare photos from that time to this, and reflect then on the changes that have taken place. I’m no different except, perhaps, that the sense of limber immortality has been stronger and more persistent in me than most. Then, abruptly, it wasn’t.

That’s what it seemed like in London. All of a sudden I felt very old. Why am I doing this? I asked myself. Wasn’t it time to give away these youthful adventures? Wasn’t I deceiving myself? Who am I fooling? There was a sense of humiliation in this.

Mixed up with it was real concern. My leg troubled me so much that I had real concerns about how I was to get home. There’s always a worry in these situations that a clot will return, and in the pressurised environment of a plane will travel. My leg was bad day after day to the point that I should see a doctor before going anywhere. It was a strange feeling. What it amounted to was a very strong presentiment of mortality. I was not the man I once was. More than that, I was at risk – everything that I had ever taken for granted could be taken from me.

Looking back on it now it seems melodramatic. I’m stoic by nature though; I don’t do self-indulgent drama. Perhaps I began to consider the worst, but the worst was possible. And even so – I thought I’d make it back to Melbourne safely – I wondered if my days of travelling were over. If this is what I had to endure; if this is what I risked boarding a plane: could I realistically continue to do it?

These thoughts stir up a lot. I sought to apply myself, as I always do in such situations, by applying discipline to my activities. I wanted to have a good time, but within parameters. I cut down the pints. I ate less and with more discernment. I made myself walk everywhere when I wasn’t on the Tube. I sought to refute the negative prospects my mind had conjured up. Gradually it worked. My leg eased, though it remained large. I felt better in myself, the bloating subsiding as I pounded the pavements. I did not yet feel myself, but I was some way back to that.

With things settling down I had time to reflect. Thoughts of mortality were fair enough. I am mortal. I will decline, and have. I may be customarily blithe about it, but it’s true. I sensed a truth in myself: about how much of my self-image was wrapped up in being able to do these things – travel and flirt, eat well, drink plenty, push myself to adventure. A thought came to me: the day I look in the mirror and see someone fat, old and ugly is the day that terminal despair will set in. That remains true even now, sitting here healthy and composed in Melbourne. I rely too much on these trinkets.

Worse than all that though is if I were to begin to lose that intellectual self. There’s no sign of that as yet and no reason that there should be. But even though there is a powerful physical vanity that motivates me, the intellectual vanity is supreme. I look in the mirror and see myself, but who I am really is this mind.

I made it safely back to Melbourne. Tomorrow I see a doctor about my leg, and also about my chest – I have an infection. My leg remains frustrating, but has settled down. I feel fine overall. I look in the mirror and I still look years younger – someone the other day suggested 34; I’m quite fit, and look good. My mind feels as sharp as ever. I may be getting old, I may have glimpsed mortality, but I feel fine still in myself.

Truth remains that what I sensed away is real in some way. All these things will come to pass. In the meantime I need to find a way to adapt to them, to replace one thing with something more lasting and authentic.


Facing the light

Had an appointment this afternoon at a hospital to get my leg checked on. It was a small private hospital further out from where I live. I sat in the waiting room watching the comings and goings around me. Maybe it was the suburb, or maybe it’s because more old people get sick than young people, but it was hard not to notice that everyone waiting to be called to the doctor were to some degree old. There was certainly no-one younger than me. The next oldest might have been 15 years my senior.

I’ve never liked hospitals. They’ve always depressed me. It’s the clinical nature of them, the scent of disinfectant, nurses bustling around to serve people not in the best of health. I’ve always walked into hospital and felt my spirits dim just a little. Unfortunately as you get older there’s no reason it should improve, just the opposite. There’s all of that still, but as I get older myself something I never considered before begins to loom larger in front of me. Is this where, or how, I might end up? It puts the fear of god into me.

I watched as patients shuffled and hobbled and wheezed and gasped and got wheeled around seeming half dead. The best of them listlessly read magazines in the waiting room, or tended to the dear other half in much worse health than themselves. You have to expect some decline – I know I won’t always be as sprightly or healthy as I am today. Nor as handsome. I’m sure I’ll come to terms with most of that. I have to anticipate that there will be the odd health concern. That’s life, and I think I can manage that too.

What really scares me is the thought of chronic illness. One thing to another, never quite well, on a steady, but inevitable decline.

I think I’m as determined a man as there walks the earth. I hate losing, and have a perverse streak a mile wide running through me. For many years I refused to countenance the possibility that I might be mortal. I’m made to fight, and too often relish the contest. In theory I’m the guy who will rage against the light with every breath in my body. But then I look about me in hospital waiting rooms like today. I feel a creeping dread. I ask myself, is that how I want to be? Am I happy to ‘live’ like that?

I seriously wonder. I want to live on my feet, and go out that way. That may be an overly romanticised and unrealistic attitude. I’m fit and healthy now – my mind may change as my health does. Fair enough if it does. Yet I wonder what is the point of living a life diminished? I’ve done so much, had so many adventures, I’ve lived big. I don’t need that always. Hell, I couldn’t manage it always. I’m happy to settle into a sedate, pleasurable lifestyle. Fine, but what happens when I lose the capacity to enjoy that life?

I feel almost embarrassed to admit that there are circumstances I think when I will give way. I want to live my way, and go out the same. Maybe that means I let it happen rather than fighting it.

Of course it’s all academic if I turn out to be immortal after all. I still haven’t given up on that altogether.

I’m alright Jack

There are things I’d rather not speak about, or even write of in the relative anonymity of this site. Remaining silent makes no difference, no more difference than if I piped up and said my piece – whatever that may be. All the same much runs through my mind. If I am silent on the outside I am busy inside wondering at the situation I have found myself in and scheming at myriad ways to get out of it, and occasionally feeling sorry for myself.

I don’t share much with the people around me – I am of that generation that keeps mum about our sorrows. Some of it is embarrassment, some of it is an inability to find the right words, but a big part of it is the refusal to burden others with my problems. They are my problems, my issues to deal with, and the very last thing I wish to become is the person you avoid because they’re always miserable. And so I remain positive in the face of other people.

Occasionally I do share some of the latest things happening – it would be ridiculous not to. I open up a little, reporting without inflection on the latest developments – or non-developments. I am conscious despite my innate reluctance that I must share something with my dearest friends. Some, I think, yearn for me to do that, to have faith in them by baring my soul. I think perhaps there is a part of me that wants to do that too, and consciously, thinks that I ought. Yet I don’t, but for little tidbits and reports given from the side of the mouth with a wink of the eye. Most of all I fear being pitied, which is like poison to me.

I need my friends though, it goes without saying I need them now more than ever before. I have begun to wonder how near they are.

Inadvertently I’ve found myself testing that friendship. I don’t believe in testing things like this. People give freely. They share and reach out because that is what they wish to do. It’s not for me to demand that of them. Should I expect it though?

What happened is that for whatever reason I didn’t make my weekly call to a couple of friends. Often we speak much more frequently than that, every few days, and will meet up for coffee or a drink or whatever. But a week is about the minimum standard. And so I didn’t call for whatever reason and without thought. Then I realised that it had been a little while since I called, then I realised that they hadn’t picked up the phone in my absence and I thought, well, let’s see how long it will take until they do call. And so I left it.

It’s been over a fortnight now. There’s been a couple of insignificant text messages, but nothing more. I wish they would call, but even though they haven’t I don’t know that I feel disappointment. I think they should have made the effort, especially given the combination of circumstances, but understand the reasons not. They have their lives, other distractions. And what news could I have?

There is one friend I have opened up to with all the gory detail. I tell him and he understands, but I feel frustrated often that I think he doesn’t understand what it means. He understands the pieces, but the totality eludes him – and it’s the totality that is the real killer. Even in my frustration I recognise the irony in this – I share little with few, but the one person I give it all to can’t grasp it.

I asked a favour of this friend. I was desperate – am desperate – and I swallowed my pride and spat it out and he knocked me back. That was his right. He has helped me many times before and I am thankful for that. I accepted his rejection and moved on. I told myself it was fine, knew it was fine, but found that despite all of that I felt bitter. He doesn’t deserve that, yet I can’t rid myself of it. I speak to him and I think I am as always, but underneath I feel this tremulous resentment, even a mild sense of outrage. Don’t you know what you’ve done, I think. Now of all the times I have asked for it, now is when I need your help most. I don’t say it though. It’s not his fault – it’s my life, my responsibility, and yet I wonder how he can’t understand what he has condemned me to by his refusal.

One day I will open up about this time, to others, to these pages. For now I must remain cryptic for the reasons I outlined above. I know you can take being stoic to a ridiculous level, but I can’t face the alternative. I have to fight my way out of this, and then I will tell it as it was looking back over my shoulder. That’s what I had to suffer through, but I beat it.

Right now it’s beating me and that’s not a tale I want to tell.

PS Common sense tells me I should put an end to this and pick up the phone. Reality is that I can’t get by without the help of others – too much has moved beyond my control. I can’t though, I won’t. I’d rather go down alone than call for help now.

Putting the pieces together

In recent months I have added to this blog erratically, and occasionally with large gaps between posts. I have excused some of that by being too busy to write, or even consider writing. That’s true to an extent, though not nearly as much as I inferred. More true is that often I’ve no inclination to write, or even to reflect upon the things that would lead me to jot down my observations or thoughts. Basically, because of other reasons, that particular brain activity has been absent. If there is a third reason it is that so much has been discouraging, or dispiriting, that I had no desire to compound the situation by writing further on it.

It has been an interesting 18 months, and in particular this last 6 months pretty tough. For much of this time I have felt outside of things, separate from the great bulk of the human race. It’s almost as if I’ve had an illness that has quarantined me from the world and which has inflicted upon me a set of symptoms different to what I’ve ever experienced before. For much of this period I’ve resisted – ‘I’m not sick!’ – and despite the evidence to the contrary tried to live as normally as I ever did before. This was not possible, no matter how much I might delude myself into thinking it was. At other times I have simply subsided back into bed hoping for a cure.

I’m not cured, and won’t be until what afflicts me is excised. That’s quite an operation. That’s my main, if not sole focus of my life right now, but even so, I realise that there are other things I can do to ease up on the symptoms of this affliction.

One of those is to write. It seems to me by retreating from these pages and from the words that so customarily fill my head that I have made things worse. While in many ways this blog has the appearance of a personal diary, the act of writing things out here remove these things – if only in part – from inside me (where they can fester) to a place external if not completely outside of who I am. It is good therapy for me to write. Additional to that is that words, writing, is my natural medium, how I express and in some ways brand myself. To deny this outlet denies part of myself, and shuts down a source of oxygen.

What this means is that I hope to post here more regularly than I have recently. I need to get things out there at the same time as I slip into that familiar groove. To continue with the earlier metaphor I am ill still, but doing this is the equivalent of getting out of bed and taking a turn around the hospital grounds. It re-affirms an essential part of my self-identity also. This is no small thing.

I’ve lived a very fragmented existence these last 18 months, with little pattern and vague purpose. That has only worsened this year with the death of mum and my relocation from home. The self, and perceptions of the self, have consequently suffered accordingly. Without any fixed point it’s hard to maintain an idea of who you are I’ve discovered. I’ve surprised myself with how resilient I am, and how persistently acute that innate ego remains. It exists though disconnected from my life. There is nothing to feed it, no reason to justify it in the events of real life. On occasion this has led to actions intended – subconsciously – to bolster that idea of self, almost in defiance of the reality about me. Perhaps I’ll write of that another time.

I suspect the best medicine is not these occasionally silly acts, but rather to engage with the with the habits that self is familiar with – in this case, to write. The road back (and yes, I know I’m mixing my metaphors) is best traveled step by step, slowly, and not in ill-conceived leaps. The basis of that must be continuity. To do these little, but important things day after day, again and again, and in so doing maintain that thread of self and build upon it. If you’ll allow another metaphor, it is to remain calm and focused inside despite the storm raging without, to be and do regardless.

On that basis I hope to write here again each day, and quite possibly to explore these things in detail. Or perhaps not at all. Matters little I think – it is the act that counts.

Such is nature

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I slept another 9 hours last night without thinking about it, which is another sign that I’m recovering from some energy deficit. A few weeks back, just after I shifted house, I was sleeping 9-10 hours every night and fading each afternoon. In the weeks preceding I had driven myself as I never have before, by necessity as it was, needing to pack up a very full house and get it shifted while at the same time ministering to all of mum’s needs, visiting her, meeting doctors, taking care of her administrative needs. It was a sustained period of activity like I had never experienced before, both quite physical – I packed about a hundred boxes and was exhausted each night by the effort – and emotional.

In my experience physical exhaustion is easier to recover from than the emotional. Muscles in fact become stronger with exertion, and heal with rest. It’s not so easy with the emotions, particularly as often there is no respite from the cause of their stress. For much of mum’s illness, and particularly in the last 7 weeks, I felt the strange combination of being on perpetual tenterhooks whilst forever treading upon thin ice. Add in my own personal challenges and it was a lot to deal with.

Mum has gone now. It’s a sad eventuality, but it represents a kind of resolution. Whatever was to happen has now happened. The tenterhooks are gone, the ground beneath my feet now solid. There remain challenges, and new ones as well, but by and large it is easier than before. The body, the mind, seeks to heal itself. The adrenalin that sustained me throughout this effort has now leached out of my system. Sleep claims me longer and more readily in order to recharge batteries run down. And so I sleep 9-10 hours a night until such a time I am replenished again.

Keeping doing

It’s a rainy day. I know much of eastern Australia is either flooded or on flood alert right now, but I’m enjoying the rain. Autumn has come and with it, temporarily in any case, has come some late autumnal weather. This morning I went out in the rain and had breakfast and did my grocery shopping before visiting the local street market for a pile of lemons to slice up into my evening drink, and some boutique bread to indulge myself on. Home I worked as the rain fell softly outside, packing boxes full of books and wondering at those I had yet to read. For the last couple of hours I sat on the couch with Rigby in my lap and caught up on the TV I’ve missed, lazy and indulgent.

I’m much more than that right now. I haven’t written lately because I’ve not been in the right place to write. Things still come to me, thoughts I might share, sentences and even paragraphs fully formed, but I don’t have either the energy or motivation to write them. They wither like fruit left on the vine.

I think raw is a good description of how I’ve felt lately. And exhausted. That works too. There’s been a lot happening, and it continues to happen. I can’t stop because there is not the time to stop. I react instead, attending to different things in a random sequence depending on what is most pressing. The clock ticks, deadlines loom, and much uncertainty reigns still. I manage, and without any obvious issue, but I feel it. My emotions are very close to the surface – sometimes I feel very fragile. I’m exhausted because my emotions have been so stretched, because I am doing so many things at once, and because I feel I am running out of options. I am drained, but I persist.

There was an occasion early in the week. The phone rang early, it was my mum. She told me the doctor had seen her and said she was not so dire as we had thought. On top of that she didn’t have pneumonia after all. He said she might be able to go home for a short while. I was confused. I didn’t know what to think. Instead of feeling happy I felt doubtful. He had seen her for 5 minutes after returning from holiday. He had not examined her. He assessed her by sight first thing in the morning when she is rested and at her best. Could I really believe this? Then there is mum unhappy with the news, sceptical as I am, and wanting to go. There is no mercy for her in continuing to live.

I fell back to sleep afterwards. I had a dream. It was a dream of happy moments with my mum when she was healthy. Then in the dream I began to cry. I woke at that. I felt awful. I felt crushed by the weight of the world.

It’s been like that for much of the week. I don’t know what to think anymore. I had prepared myself for the end and now, possibly, the end had been put off. It felt cruel and confusing. I didn’t even know what to hope for. A quick end, as mum wants? Or a selfish clinging on? Everything in me has been in a state of volatile flux.

Throughout I have pushed myself to do things, but have felt little spirit in me. There has been much to consider, my mum yes, but then my own future and all the complicating factors there, and topping it all off has been my sister. Long denied, I finally accepted my sister is not the person I would wish her to be. That’s been the worst perhaps, a dispiriting, but undeniable truth. I’ve said nothing to her of this, or my disappointment. I know there’s no point. More fundamentally I love her still, she’s my sister, I don’t want to hurt her. I don’t like her, but I love her. I would protect her, even as I’m feeling all this I’m going out of my way to help her in her studies. It’s robbed me of something though, some spark. No-one wants to think these things of someone they love.

I’ve dreamt a lot. Several times I have cried in my dreams. If you need proof there it is, dreams do mean something. I shed the tears in drams I can’t in real life. Still I have felt the tears in me often. Exhausted, overwrought tears. I get embarrassed. No-one is there, but still I get embarrassed. It’s unbecoming for a man to feel this way. This is not who I am, a big, burly man, he doesn’t cry, or even have the need to. Most men reading this will likely understand, and every woman thinks me a fool – and they’re right.

It’s a funny thing this. I am embarrassed to own up to these things. I feel not so much vulnerable as self-indulgent. Still, I have made the commitment to be honest. That’s the point of this. I feel like apologising all the same, as if I am burdening my readers with my pathetic problems. I live that way too. I might cry at some point, and I’ll let the tears come. I resist the fragility though. I don’t collapse. I go on. I can look upon my problems and understand why I might so feel drained and bereft, and will excuse the emotions they draw upon. I can’t give in to them though. I need to keep going, to battle through: it’s what others expect of me, what I expect of myself. It’s what I want to.

Not everything has an answer; happy endings are in short supply. At some point mum will die. My sister won’t change. I can’t control those things, I can only mitigate some against the consequences. In myself I draw strength by continuing, and in the knowledge I will continue, that that is my way. I know things will get worse from here, and the cloud around my life thicker. I have to endure that, and I endure that by moving forward, forcing myself if I have to. One day the cloud will lift. Things will improve. A new vista will be put before me.

See, that’s what I do. I feel all these things and I churn them, and out the other end comes hope. It’s a handy trick. It only works if you do things though.

This morning coming home the phone rang. It was my sister. Mum was told she could visit home tonight. We got that from her, not from any official. Today she is dreadful though, incoherent, confused and barely intelligible. And yet they approved her home visit. My sister was to pick her up, but I had asked her to talk to the nurses, to get some sense out of the situation. So she rang me to say they had decided she would not pick her up, that mum would remain in hospital.

So many things remain unknown. I got a call during the week from the doctor at my request, but things had changed since without being updated. They communicate things to my mum – who wakes up and thinks she’s on a cruise ship – but not to any of us who can actually make sense of it. On top of that the palliative care I had left with the hospital – at their suggestion – seemed to have gone by the wayside. In any case we had been told nothing.

I rang the hospital and was put through to the ward. I spoke to a nurse – no-one more senior is there. I explained to her my grievances. I told her mum was in no condition to come home. I complained I had been told nothing of what was happening. I asked in future for nothing to be done without consulting me. She took notes and promised to do what she could. We agreed mum could not leave the hospital. And then I hung up the phone.

I felt relief. I complain, but I’d rather handle things myself than leave them to other people. For the moment we had a handle on things, though the situation is grim. I made the calls to update people and went back to things, returning to my life for a little while. Waiting and hoping doesn’t work. Not even words do. It’s doing that counts.