Absent friends

I am stagnant. Not just with writing, with everything. I can’t be alone in being uninspired at the moment. 2020 has given me cankles, anxiety and zero drive. I’m not a total quitter, I can just about muster the enthusiasm to empty the contents of the fridge. Cankles take maintenance.

As someone who doesn’t like people that much, I take it as a personal defeat to admit that I miss people. I miss walking behind slow people at the supermarket, cursing them and their future descendants. I miss seeing friends and never finishing a conversation because one of our children decides to vomit/impale themselves/recount the story of how they put their own socks on 300 times. Sod it, I even miss softplay. We had just hit the sweet spot where I didn’t have to drag my flab round the joint after them and could drink a cup of ‘tea’ in relative peace. Nothing screams parental bliss like a lukewarm beige cuppa while Facebook stalking high school peers and blocking out the war cries of 50 hyperactive minors.

I have had my fill of escapism. Bridgeton filled the void but that was binge watched in two nights. I’ve jet washed every surface within 500m of my property. Then watched The Home Edit, bought a label maker and labelled all surfaces within 500m of my property. I saw the bottom of the washing basket.

I want my people back.

Two friends moved abroad earlier in the year. Now I haven’t seen them this year, on account of you know what, but even with them living at the other end of the country the world felt safer knowing they were there. I haven’t faced the fact they are so far away because I don’t like the unease it brings. People around offers a safety net, a sounding board and perspective you can’t always reach on your own. I need a virtual slap sometimes and a kick to put on my big girl pants and get on with things. That has been lacking this year.

With children during all this, I miss seeing other parents and getting that reassurance it’s not only my offspring that can be dickheads.

I miss the people I am not allowed to see, and because of this I miss the people I cannot see even more. I’m not a big believer in the afterlife, but I think we live on in others. In their mannerisms, outlook and humour. Without people I feel a wave of grief creeping up. Normally this would be waived by meeting my sister, who looks like my Mum, or by my brother making a terrible joke she would have approved of. Absence of people makes the absence of her more acute.

After Mum’s funeral we sat round a fire with people from the various parts of her life sharing stories. I remember seeing the impact of her actions, sharing that experience with those people and watching the flames. My brother looking after everyone and my sister topping up unsuspecting glasses with a very questionable cocktail we put together in an oversized plant pot. It ended with tutting neighbours at the stream of mourners forced to sleep in their cars on the main road.

To have lost someone during this pandemic must be horrific. Not only for the loss itself, but for the denial of that shared grief. A collective strength can be drawn from rallying around a loved one in pain. When I think things have hit the fan I look back at how my Mum faced cancer and draw on that. She in turn had talked about the way my friend Matthew Fletcher faced Leukaemia at 16. At the time it is an unwelcome strength, but in retrospect a needed one that has a ripple effect the person themselves will sadly never see. This year suffering has been behind closed doors and hidden behind statistics. I hope stories will be told about those people while sat around fires in the not too distant future.

Don’t be a dick. Stay home, let’s get this over with.

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