Something about the new year has me feeling philosophical.
In truth, 2014 was rough and I’m glad to say goodbye to it. Despite all the good it contained, ‘fuck you 2014′ is all my gut produces when I look back on it.
Yes there were highs…
…re-connecting with my ADE buddies at BETT in Jan; being asked to write for The Independent Written Word supplement in March; keynoting the ICTedu conference in Tipperary in May and that very day being invited by then Junior Minister for Education Ciaran Cannon to keynote at the Excited conference three weeks later; being accepted to attend ADE global institute in San Diego (even though for personal reasons, in the end, I didn’t go); biting the bullet in June and applying for an English Advisor job with JCT and then actually getting the job!(I didn’t apply in 2013 as it was Hazel’s first year at school); finally moving into our home for life (the house John’s Dad grew up in) after months of hard physical labour and tedious trips to hardware shops and tiling showrooms; and then unexpectedly winning Best Education Blog at the Blog Awards in October.
But to say all of this was overshadowed by the brief illness and completely unexpected death of my mother-in-law Mary is to use the wrong verb. I would say rather that anxiety and then grief infiltrated everything else in my life.
In early May, I broke down in tears in front of my students. We were reading “Valediction” by Seamus Heaney and with the lines “You’re gone, I am at sea, until you return, self is in mutiny” I found myself attacked by an involuntary image of John’s Dad, after 40 years of marriage, wandering his now empty house alone. There was no future tense to speak of now. No ‘until you return‘. How the hell would he cope? And without fully realising it was happening or being able to do anything about it, suddenly tears were streaming down my face in a flood I feared would never abate. I excused myself. Went outside the door. Composed myself. Returned. Apologised. I needn’t have bothered. My students got it. They understood. Never mentioned it again except to ask me if I was ok as they left the room and again later when they met me in the corridor.
It keeps happening, those unexpected moments where I’m driving my car and a discussion on the radio or a random floating thought will grab me by the throat and suddenly grief lurches to the surface and there they are again, lurking tears I didn’t know were waiting to emerge. It’s an odd silent kind of crying; not the racking sobs that convulsed my body in the week of her death but rather an overwhelming sadness that makes me an observer in my own body, completely unable to do anything except wait for the tears to stop flowing.
When my own mother got sick in October I thought we were the butt of some cosmic joke. Same symptoms, same doctor, same transfer to Galway Clinic, same consultant but thanks be to every God I don’t believe in, a different diagnosis. There was still a serious surgery, a frightening ten days in hospital and a difficult recovery that’s on-going, but she didn’t die. She didn’t die.
I’m not sad all the time. I’m not broken. I understand in a way that I never did before how blessed I am; how privileged the life I lead, the house I live in, the marriage I belong to, the daughter I love…
But it feels like this year two roads diverged. In a parallel universe the person I used to be exists, happily oblivious to all that unfolded. Meanwhile, I keep looking back at her, envious yet achingly aware that, from now on, I’m on a new path. And knowing how way leads on to way, I doubt that I shall ever come back…