On Thursday I had a day off and it was a revelation. I mean, a proper day off, the kind where you just let yourself go with the flow and do what you want to do not what you have to, must do, ought to do. It’s been a while.
I walked down a street that I pass all the time, full of cute and quirky small independent shops. They usually whittle past in a blur while I’m hurrying to the next thing or deep in worry. I never normally have time to look at the window displays never mind go inside.
I can remember being in that state of continual resting emergency when I had a very young baby, or once when I worked on a particularly stressful film set – aware of the world out there but so not in it – ticking like an overwound clock, always another crisis to deal with and no time to engage with anything else because that meant relaxing and that would be fatal. Never off duty, constantly on the alert for the next predicament.
It’s like a continually contracted state where you just cannot allow yourself to expand your sensibilities. Like being a permanent diet – no fun. *
But today something inside me unfurled – a permission to go off duty. To stroll along a charming street just browsing, encountering, being a flaneuse.
Came home with spanakopita and horta from the Greek deli and a polka dot mug for my morning coffee (I’m drinking from it now) Sniffing the exotic scent of amber on my wrist from a tiny boutique full of pom-poms and pebbles. It felt like being on holiday.
And I had conversations. Something about being off duty for the day sent me out into the world with a different head on and I kept bumping into people and having lovely connections.
None of them knew about my caring role, we talked about other things. A couple of times I felt the subject rise to the tip of my tongue to be aired because it simply felt like the biggest thing anyone needed to know, and then the moment passed and afterwards I was glad.
This new phase, with Nick living here and his illness progressing, is tough. So many changes and new responsibilities – it’s inevitable that it is dominating my life because it IS big. It sucks up all the time in the world if you let it. And suddenly everything else feels very small.
But it’s not the only thing. There is more to life than this.
I refuse to be defined by my role as a carer. It’s not the only thing about me, even if it mostly feels like it at the moment. I will not let it define who I am. And somehow I need to find a way of life where it won’t define Nick either.
*Not that I would know. See “spanakopita”.