In another life I would have been happy to hear of neighbouring farms, the changes in the village, the plight of weather, the sale of wheat, the new cattle coming in, but this is not this life. The dry soil of dirt and blown seed is not mine. The vivid brown of ploughed fields in the rain is not mine. They belong to a past that was not handed to me, a past I learned to reject too early and can never regain. And yet, it is a past I still yearn for.
Invigorated by this feeling, I turned to a collection of Japanese short stories borrowed from my brother in 2019 (Tokyo Electrique edited and translated by Corinne Quentin). It rekindled a love of reading in translation and a fascination with Japan. I took to Twitter to ask for Japanese authors recommendations. Titles flooded my notifications and my reserve limit at the library was quickly met. Books trickled in, my job changed, and I found myself with less time in the morning and evening to read. The trade off was an hour long lunch during which I could switch off from spreadsheets, and the unstoppable flow of data. A time of my own to claim and use as I wished. I chose to read. I opened paper books and lost myself.
It is June now and I am sitting on an unfamiliar sofa in a rented space for a week’s holiday. My mind stopped its incessant racing, words bubbled inside of me, and here I am typing on a keyboard. I feel grounded as I hear the calls of bird I cannot see, the intermittent pattering of rain on the window, and the gentle music humming from the speakers. I am still, counted time left behind.
‘I am tired,’ I mumble to myself. I remember the offer of the doctor in week 11 to sign me off work for however long I thought I would need. It is so tempting to call them and ask to be signed off but it is only a week until the Christmas break, just one week to live through before time is my own, before I can retreat within myself and be free to begin to process the enormity of what I have come to realise about myself and start to live anew.
In the evening, my partner picks me up from work. I rest my head against the car window and breathe. My world is changing again, my body and mind reeling against the change in spite of wanting this return of the public at work. I feel like a boat rocking on an ever shifting sea, my being carried along without any control.
Two mugs of tea brewed, I head back to the bedroom and open the curtains. In the distance, the world is tinted pink from an invisible sun, too low on the horizon to be seen. I sit on the windowsill watching the colours shift as the sun rises higher, swirling the mist into candy floss.
The mantra to live day to day anchored itself in my brain, refusing to entertain the thought of being made furloughed again, of Trump winning the presidency in the USA, of the utter certainty of not seeing my family for Christmas. But all those thoughts lingered in the background, sending me crashing down on Tuesday. My anxiety took hold of me, my body rattled by fear, my brain trapped by an overwhelming onslaught of emotions.