Sitting on the hill above the river in the dying sun, it felt unreal. In fact, the whole day had felt unreal.
“I’m confused,” I had said to my friend Ann, upon entering the Church that morning.
“I think we’re meant to be confused,” she replied.
I am blind, and was desperately hoping to find someone called Ana, to whom I wanted to give a card. So, when my husband told me that I was talking to Ann, my brain froze. Despite the fact that I knew Ann very well, and had conversations with her most mornings, it did not penetrate my brain that it was Ann and not Ana whom I was talking to. My ears deceived me, hearing the name “Ana” and not “Ann.” I began to root in my handbag for the card that I had to give to Ana. It was difficult because not only am I blind and wheelchair bound, but also I have hardly any feeling in my hands and feet. Somehow or other, my brain gave out on me, and my whole world felt blurred. This was not an uncommon experience for me. Mostly, my world feels blurred, now. My brain seems unable to catch up. I spend my whole life with my brain attempting, without much success, to catch up. This leads to panic, as I try to maintain relationships with people. My world is permanently blurred, leading to all kinds of misunderstandings, as people do not understand what is happening. My heart becomes heavy as I begin to lose hope that I can ever have proper relationships with people again.
And so, here I was, on December 25th. 2017, Christmas Day, about to give someone the wrong Christmas card. My confusion was no longer in its infancy, but fully grown, and despite the fact that no one was going to die, felt life threatening. I felt despairing, yet at the same time knowing that no one could possibly understand how awful and how soul destroying this was for me. In moments like this, all that I wanted to do was to give way to the deep tears that were inside me, yet never quite making it into the outside world. As time passed, they had become more and more insistent, but my controls were strong. A lifetime’s training had made very sure that under no circumstances would tears fall easily from my eyes. Yet on this particular morning, they needed to. Inside, I had been harbouring the pain of a whole lifetime. It felt as if I could not hang onto it any longer, and yet, I knew full well that even now, my controls would not go. Guilt! That was my worst enemy. One must never cry, about ANYTHING.
Having had Ann’s assurance that this was a day on which we were meant to be confused (I wasn’t sure why!) I made my way, slowly, and blindly, to the front of the Church, tapping my way along, down the long central aisle, with my white blind cane. My emotions were all over the place. If I went to the front I would feel trapped, and suffocated. Yet if I stayed at the back, I would be unable to bear the constant knocking of my wheelchair by the small children as they ran around unchecked. Unable to see, each jolt would take me by surprise, until I would be unable to bear it any more, and have to leave. And so, my confusion was added to, and I felt like a gibbering wreck, making my way to the front. The whole of my being was crying out “No, no,” but it was the only place I could be. As I eventually settled myself in my wheelchair at the very front of the Church, I attempted to calm myself. There was noise all around me. People coming and going. I had no idea who they were, or what they were doing. It scared me. That may sound stupid to someone who can see, but in the darkness, all sounds can feel threatening, unless you know exactly what they are and why they are there. Again – confusion. I seem to spend my life in confusion. But it’s okay, because Ann said that we’re meant to be confused. A very confusing statement if ever I heard one, but who am I to argue? Panic began to rise within me. I was stuck now. I spent the next quarter of an hour on the verge of bolting. I still do not know how I managed to stay put. But there was a sense in which I did not want to flunk it. This was a challenge to me, and I did not want to fail.
The organ began to play, and I recognised many Christmas Carols being worked into the whole, and being improvised upon. Christmas Carols. The sickness began to rise inside me. It all felt too much for me. It was overwhelming. Christmas had never been a happy time for me, and Christmas Carols, for some reason, encapsulated all of my feelings. Feelings of dread. Feelings of fear. Feelings of repulsion. Suffocation. Memory can sometimes be abterrible thing.
The whole day seemed unreal to me. Going through the motions. And then…..sitting under the dying sun. I too was dying with it. ;to be continued)