In the bleak midwinter

I know I said that I was taking December off for rest and recuperation (actually: to catch up and write stuff for the new year) but there was something I wanted to say.

I was in Lidl, on the way home after therapy. It was freezing and I was exhausted. I worked so hard in the dark, cold pre-Christmas days. It was a slog, pushing myself out into the cold every morning, ready for whatever needed to be done. More than once, I tried to clean my glasses and realised that it was my eyes that were cloudy, not the lenses. I had my eye on the finish line for weeks. It gets to the point in the year when you're just not able to work anymore. There’s just nothing left in the tank.

I stopped in Lidl for chicken breasts to make tikka masala in the slow cooker which would provide two dinners and two lunches. It would mean I wouldn’t need to think about food for 48 hours. This is crucial to ensure that one eats, and that one eats well.

While there, I did what you always do while shopping on an empty stomach in the freezing cold. I picked up stuff I didn’t need, including a box of sage and onion stuffing. In the queue, the nice lady behind me said: "Sage and onion is my favourite kind of stuffing”.

And I couldn't speak. My voice was gone completely. It was like a gut punch. She was older, 50s, kind, grey hair, from the country. Not annoyingly chatty, just friendly. She was nothing like my mother and exactly like my mother.

I felt so rude for not saying anything back, but I couldn't say anything back. I packed up my groceries, paid and tried not to cry until I got out to the rainy dark street where I bawled and bawled and bawled. It’s the week before Christmas. All I could think was “I miss her so much”.

I miss her everyday, but I miss her more at Christmas.

It might be that my body’s exhaustion means that I’m less able to jam my emotions down.

It might be the sensory memories of Christmas (the lights, the “cheer”, the music) drag up what is for most people, a time for family.

It might be that my industry is always particularly busy at Christmas, this year more than usual.

It might be because I spent a recent Christmas desperately trying to get my legs under me again after a tough, traumatic trip. The Christmas I couldn’t stop crying and didn’t know why. The Christmas I just couldn’t keep my thoughts straight. 

She’ll be dead ten years next summer and I still miss her so much.

I cried the whole way home. Big gaspy sobs. Then I got home, re-heated my lasange, got in bed, gobbled it up and tried to sleep. I listened to KD Lang. I tried not to worry about work. I missed her so much.