my funny valentine

“I have of late – but wherefore I know not – lost all my mirth” –  the world’s greatest Hamlet, old tombstone face Richard E Grant in every Slacker’s favourite movie, Withnail and I.

Before I decided to leave my current job, I read back over my blog. As I read, I was shocked by just how much my blog reflected the struggle I was embroiled in. I heard this quote in my memory and realised it wasnt just housekeeping we had in common, or the fact that the Mindfulness based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy audio book I’m listening too is soundtracked by someone who sounds EXACTLY like Ralph Brown. Although I am now having unpure thoughts about Paul McGann… (Can I also recommend Bruce Robinson’s wonderfully unapologetic memoir, Smoking In Bed?)

Since I took the decision to change my life, a weight has lifted. Because also differently I am not waiting for the specific change to come into effect before I make the changes needed. .

I have never been poorer. The washing machine has just broken and we cant afford a new one. This is astonishing to me. If you look up spendthrift in the OED, there’s a picture of me. Now, I usually have to think about whether I can afford to buy a cup of tea or whether I should really have just spent £20 on books for my daughter (answer, I shouldn’t) or birthday cards. And so, recently I was surprised to notice something quite unusual. I am happy. Truly happy. I’m happy because my life has forcibly and necessarily been deconstructed. I dont have a pot to wee wee in (unless I use my daughter’s potty, which incidentally I did the other day, trying to show her what it was for) but I’ve found that the things I love dont cost anything.

I don’t want to encourage the Rt Hon Member of Parliament for Witney with his experiment to see how little people can survive on but, since becoming poor, I’ve been forced to ask for help – something I never did before, thinking I had to be the salve for all things – I’ve had to be honest about who I am and what I need. I’ve learned that the smallest things bring joy. Lending things. Books. Writing. Baking. Making gifts. I never saw people react with quite the joy they do to these things.

Caught in the middle of baking cupcakes with the Monkey-face, of reading with her, of her asking me what a sentence says (which blew me away) of all waking up on a Saturday morning together, I have in the last week been filled with pure joy in place of what, for the longest time, has been anxiety. I hope it lasts. I’m bloody going to make sure it does. As I write, the beating heart of an extraordinary family, people I love dearly, is fighting for as much time as she can muster. We owe it to them, to ourselves, to the  people we love, to the day we discover that we have already spent more hours than we have left to not be overtaken by the things we build our lives into: career, status, cars. These things mean absolutely nothing in the cold eye of mortality.

And reading costs nothing (especially if you join a library and use it before it’s turned into flats); baking doesn’t cost that much; painting on anything that isnt the walls is pretty much free. Chasing each other around on the floor trying not to get your feet tickled is free. I made our Valentine’s cards this year (which you will know if you opened your post this morning and found a glitter-strewn gloopy mass bleeding out of an envelope. It’s our card to you and means we love you, we didn’t send you an organ.) I used the money I would have spent on something that will live in her forever instead.

Love. Is free.


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