The new place is starting to look a bit more like home now. We’re actually in it, for a start, properly. No more camping out and grabbing clothes from backpacks. We have a lovely new bed, complete with lovely new mattress and bedclothes (bedclothes that, for a touch of nostalgia, are patterned with an old map of southeast London. Our old flat is on the pillowcases). We have a comfy sofa that we will try (in vain) to convince the dogs they are not sharing with us. The TV is set up, the shelves are built and crammed with books. I can get up earlier than the rest of the household and not worry about waking up three other people (CM doesn’t count because experience has taught me that he can sleep through almost anything). There’s still some chaos, but now we can stop and breathe and look at the next step – which basically amounts to moving out again.
Oh god, the next step. Those steps never stop coming, huh?
I was starting to wonder if I’m a bit inhuman – even though everyone (without exception) said ‘That’s a big move!’ I’ve been pretty callous about leaving. I haven’t missed London, though I do miss people. I was callous about packing up. I just wanted out and the whole end-of-an-era thing never really felt real. It’s only this week, today, really, that it’s suddenly struck me that everything is now, permanently different, and suddenly I feel a bit wobbly, a bit unsure. The was-this-the-right-thing feeling. We all knew this was coming, right? I’m not sad just – that feeling when you’re learning to ride a bike and you think your dad is holding on to the back of it, keeping you up, but then you look and he’s metres back and you just went on ahead. Wobbly. Unsure, but moving on.
If it was just me – no CM, no dogs – then perhaps I’d be feeling a little less wobbly. (Or I’d be god knows where doing god knows what, same as if you removed any major relationship from someone’s timeline.) But really, it wouldn’t make a difference. Worrying about their happiness as well as mine is part of the deal, it’s just part of who I am now. I’d be wobbling just as much, but more selfishly.
There was a certain comfort, pre-Christmas, in looking at the year ahead and knowing more-or-less precisely what my job would be, where we would likely be living, what was going to be annoying at what time of year, the events we’d be doing, where we’d go, knowing every broken inch of our flat. Stagnant, suffocating, sure – but also secure and somewhat safe. That feeling has been thrown to the winds and today it occurred to me that this slightly adrift, uncertain, unbalanced state is going to be the case for, likely, at least the next year. So I’d better embrace it, and hope that CM does, too.
So this is how it goes, this time feeling all at sea: I’ll assume the shore is a long way away, but trust that I’m a strong swimmer, so stop looking for land and enjoy myself. Ride the waves, grab ‘em when they roll in, take in the view from the top and that feeling of being lifted. If any crash over my head, hold my breath and roll with it until I resurface. Recognise a riptide, and swim across, not against. Remember to float on my back once in while. Smile a lot; cry a bit; say yes as much as possible, but don’t worry about saying no; chat to people; avoid the jellyfish; go to events; keep in touch with friends; and where there aren’t obvious things to make the most of, bloody well look for them. Keep plugging away, kick by kick, stroke by stroke, breath by breath, until one day I’ll look down on a calm day and realise: hey, I can see the bottom. Why am I still swimming when the water only comes up to my knees after all?