If you’d have said to me 3 and a half years ago that I appear to be a very positive person, I would’ve spat out my mouthful of Pinot in choking disbelief at such a ludicrous observation. Say it to me now and after a few seconds of Gandalf-esque reflection, I may nod sagely (and simply swallow my mouthful of Pinot.) But I don’t think I am a “positive person” I just think I have developed a way of looking at things as they happen so as to survive our particular journey and try and retain what sanity I have left. This realisation about myself and the way I handle negative shit has become clearer to me since SA had his accident. For 3 and a half years now we have been riding this rollercoaster, trying to dodge the snowballs of misfortune that we always seem to be pelted with and I have had the opportunity to practice “being positive”.
Before you roll your eyes thinking “Oh Bitch purlease”, I just want to say that I do realise that SA and I are by no means unique and that shit happens for everyone, much worse shit too. I just wanted to take a moment to write about this because more than a few times in the recent past, people have said that they don’t know if they could handle things as positively as I (sometimes) do. And I’m always doubtful about that, because I don’t know if I believe it’s the kind of person you are that equips you, but perhaps how you consciously choose to see things.
For me, positivity doesn’t come naturally. It’s more likely that finally I have absorbed the copious amounts of cognitive behavioural therapy I’ve had to help me deal with anxiety –related stuff over the last 15 years. In case you’re not familiar with it, CBT aims to help you retrain your brain to react or think differently in response to a negative thought or feeling, to get you to break the habit of letting your thoughts or impulses go spiralling into the dark places where you ultimately just end up feeling worse. Sounds simple but it takes some serious practice. I know that also learning yoga has got me striving to reconnect with my sense of contentment and find my state of gratitude for all things, no matter how seemingly trivial (ommmmmmm). Again, takes serious practice if you spend most of the time in a continual state of fearing the worst, like I do.
Every now and again when one or several of those misfortune snowballs lands SA and I right in the ghoulies, wherever possible I try to turn it into something positive. Or at the very least take away a lesson from it (that’s a whole other blog post).
Ok, so an example: A few weekends ago SA and I were lucky enough to get 3 nights away in Barcelona. Just the two of us – no kids and no Eastern European in a gooseberry costume. We were really quite excited and full of ideas as to what we’d eat, see, drink and eat. What a couple of misguided losers – as if?!
Within an hour of arriving SA started to feel pretty ropey, but putting it down to the journey, my brave Ginger Prince soldiered on. We got to take in a few sights and some tapas but he gradually felt worse and worse. A rapid deterioration led us to abandon our plans entirely, call a doctor and start thinking about getting him well enough to just get the hell home.
Taking stock of this experience i.e. trying not to be too pissed-off, I built my list of ‘Little Reasons to be Cheerful’. (SA didn’t have any, he was in hell):
1. It was a very nice hotel with wi-fi and room service so what we weren’t spending on eating out I could at least spend on troughing in bed, marinating in Rioja and watching the ghosty/zombie crap on Netflix that SA hates, while he napped feverishly next to me.
2. A winning combination of good air-con and quality duvets meant that when SA had a sweat on and the air-con went up, I could bury myself in a soft, white cloud. And then half an hour later when SA started shivering I could easily and quickly adjust the ambient temperature and instead wrap him up snug as a bug. This little dance was repeated hourly.
3. The minibar had a freezer compartment, so I could chill wet flannels for SA’s fevered brow (even though I actually accidentally froze them solid and then had to bend them into shape around his fevered brow).
And lastly, something that didn’t at all feel good at the time:
4. Some unpleasant memories were conjured up. Standing in the cold shiny reception of a foreign hotel speaking broken Spanish to a doctor about my sick husband brought about repressed memories of being in Gran Canaria with bowel-loosening clarity. The Dr wanted to charge a hefty fee just to come out and he then wanted to discuss SA going to hospital. This then brought about the issue of us possibly not being able to travel home as arranged, which would not only be expensive but would seriously upset the kids who had begged us not to go away in the first place. I took this in, nodding calmly whilst inside my intestines felt like they were rapidly unravelling and about to fall out of my arse. An overreaction? Probably, but like I said I’ve been in therapy for this shit so I’m no tourist. I didn’t want to be taken back to this scenario and the emotions it brought about. Fight or flight? I’d very much like to flight please!
Anyway, after some controlled breathing and repositioning of intestines, the melodrama had died down. We had persuaded the doctor to prescribe oral antibiotics with a promise to call if there was no improvement. As I sat waiting for time to pass and for SA to start to feel better, I reflected and sought a reason why I shouldn’t feel like someone (or thing) just simply had it in for the two of us. And here it is. It had been suggested to me recently by a literary agent that in the telling of my story about SA and I, I might want to inject a little more drama, a bit more emotion. At the time, I had taken this advice away with me for some consideration because, aside from not wanting to write a misery memoir, the truth is, it has been a little difficult to conjure this raw emotion back up. For 2 reasons I think – self preservation has probably prevented me from being able to recall at will how SA and I felt at the time of his accident, it’s not helpful really and surely has the same effect as picking constantly at a scab. Also, I think as time has passed I have become a little desensitised to the whole experience. Like it’s now scar tissue that’s gone a bit tingly and numb, (check me out with my physical metaphors). This weekend away whilst obviously not nearly the same in its gravity, gave me a glimpse of those feelings again, right at the surface. So I made a point of recognising this as a positive because perhaps it was the injection of raw feeling that my writing needed . . .
SA, in his characteristic amazingness took the weekend’s experience in his proverbial stride and dealt with the whole thing like hero. A demanding one with no sense when it comes to maintaining a sensible room temperature, but a hero all the same. The shitness of the experience wasn’t lost on him though – when we are finally in the car on our way home from the airport as planned, the thought occurs to me just as we’re joining the motorway, that I didn’t see SA’s phone as we got in the car. So in a panic he uses mine to ring it (for all the good it will do us). SA’s phone gaily trills in reply from somewhere in the boot of the car and we both breathe a sigh of relief. SA turns to me and says “that might just be the BEST thing that’s happened this weekend” 🙂