For the past few months it has felt as if someone had pressed the ‘put life on hold’ button. Everyone knows that buying and selling houses, along with divorce and other life events, is one of the most stressful things we go through. But like childbirth, you forget what it feels like, and having moved out of the farmhouse into my tiny attached cottage a year ago I put the farmhouse back on the market for the second time in 2 years. (see previous post). I told the agent I needed more than 2 viewings this time and was delighted to accept an offer within a week of it going back on the market.
I settle in and wait patiently for the lawyers to do what they need to do to bring the sale of my house to completion. With no rent money coming in, as weeks turn into months, life becomes a bit of a struggle. The cash I had raised from selling a few pieces of furniture soon dries up. Then the landline and internet are disconnected and to compound my sense of isolation, my car is grounded because the date to renew the tax disc comes and goes. Any credit rating I might have possessed is now blown out of the window as the bills pile up with no means of paying any of them. I begin to avoid answering calls coming in from numbers that begin with 08, and relish Sundays when I know there will be no letters demanding payment. More worryingly, the insurance on the farmhouse is a whisker away from being rendered null and void, and as I lie awake at night listening to the storm-driven rain on the roof and the wind whistling under the gutters in the wettest of winters, I pray that the farmhouse remains dry and in one piece. Sleep is harder to come by and sometimes, I call out for help in the darkness or sob my sorry state to sleep.
The tins of assorted beans and bags of lentils, pasta and rice getting dangerously low, vegetables donated by a kind neighbour eaten, I wonder what kind of meal I can magic out of the odd jars of herbs and half empty bottles of chutneys, jams and sauces (after spooning out the mould) that are left in my store cupboard. Not even any wine or other substances to dull the senses, just a bottle of bubbles given to me by my daughter to be opened on completion of sale. What I do have though, is plenty of flour. I have enough flour to make bread for a small army. The making of it keeps me warm and I am left pondering that there must be a reason for this sorry state of affairs. One thing for sure, being creative with your recipes is all part of the challenge. For instance, try substituting 100g of your usual flour for corn meal (polenta) in your soda bread mix, or a tin of coconut milk in place of milk in your wild rice pudding! Delicious.
There is nothing left to do except cancel appointments for hair-cuts and planned seminars and curl up with my two adorable hot water bottle whippets under an old sleeping bag. I don my woolly hat and hunker down to weather the storm, wondering how many days of electricity I have left before that gets disconnected too or how much oil is left in the tank before I am consigned to perpetual darkness and freezing February temperatures.
A couple of friends have noticed I am not answering emails and call me (I still have incoming calls) to find out if I am OK. I am hugely comforted by these calls but it also serves to remind me that in the end we are all alone. Even my recent attempt at on-line dating turned out to be a bruising and humiliating experience. I can’t help a wry smile as I empty out the few coppers I have left in my purse.
Living in this strange limbo land, there is a very fine line between the madness of anxiety and the sanity of hope. Even though at times, it feels like you are the only one suffering, I remind myself, there are many, many people worse off than me. And I keep reminding myself that when we are presented with adversity we still have choices. Or is it true we are led to believe we have choices but in fact our lives are predestined? Maybe we need to learn the lessons life presents us with before we can move on. So I choose to consult the runes, light a joss stick and listen to my intuition and the voices of my guardian angels. I also choose to publish this account of one of the darkest periods of my life, not because I am looking for sympathy but because I want to remember and learn.
And apart from a few twinges now and again, I give thanks I am still healthy.
Meanwhile, as the austerity bites deeper it is like living in the midst of a collapsing house of cards. I seem to stagger from one disaster to another. Even the simple tasks seem to be compounded with difficulty, and I feel weak and feeble. In such moments of despair, it is difficult to imagine better times to come. Despite these moments, or perhaps because of them, there is one thing that keeps me going. You see, with no external distractions, I have more time to plan my adventures: to plan for the better times when I can spread my wings once more and feel the sun on my back. It is a very real opportunity to relish the peace this situation has afforded me to do some serious soul-searching.
You may ask, why start this journal at such a dark moment in your life? I think it is a fitting point in which to launch my account because life is full of ups and downs and to keep the dream alive has given me a reason to live through recent trials. My pilgrimage is all about ‘getting lost’ and believe me, in these last few months, I have felt lost, if not a little abandoned. Now, I can at least see a chink of light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. So here I am, at the beginning of this Chinese year of the Horse – on the brink of the biggest adventure of my mature life. I have my sights set on the distant hills in the Blue Beyond. Welcome to my world.