I have been precipitously close to tears for the past few weeks. It probably started, fairly unsurprisingly, with the Late Late Toy Show, and sort of snowballed from there. The intense emotional battering that has been bubbling away beneath the service of all our lives this year was bound to start spurting through the cracks once we got to the Year-In-Review end of the TV schedule.
I am no stranger to the Chin Up and Shut Up school of psychological containment, preferring to barge along chirpily while all around me goes to shite. But there is always a leaky pipe somewhere along the way, a rogue lacrimal duct that decides to get all expressive and wussy, distilling the tight knots of anxiety fighting with each other in my muscles into a pure salty drop of liquid sadness, trickling inexorably down my hot cheek and into the corner of my mouth. And then another follows, and another, and then the other eye starts. And sure then it is simply time to submit, admit defeat, allow all the bloody floodgates to open and indulge in one of those shoulder-shuddering sobfests that make you feel so good.
But I seem to be a bit stuck. The knowledge that we are not done, that this is not yet over, that we may not even be half way through, is pushing on my chest and forbidding me from leaving it all go. Losing the plot now would be a disaster. Got. To. Keep. Going.
I watched Black Panther again last week. The beautiful sweet power of the movie, the gorgeous accents, the subtle yet groundbreaking imagery of heroic black women in traditional hairstyles; all of this would usually be enough to get my heart soaring and the tears flowing. But I watched it on my 44th birthday, six years and a couple of weeks after I was diagnosed with stage 4 bowel cancer. Chadwick Boseman would have turned 44 two weeks before me, if he hadn't died earlier this year from the same cancer. He was diagnosed after me (as far as I know), and made Black Panther while undergoing treatment. I looked at him and thought about all the things I know that he knew, the experiences we had likely shared, and I was consumed by survivor's guilt. He struck me as being a kind, good person, and that is as good as it gets. I felt his loss in my heart.
On Friday, at the end of a very busy week of patients, colleagues, assignments, presentations, deadlines, late deliveries, early mornings, painful scars, aching bones, lashing rain, muddy builders and strung-out children, I got into the car to drive to the sea and meet an old friend. The traffic was terrible; that mid-December grimness of foggy windows, squeaking wind-wipers, huddled pedestrians throwing themselves into the road and general ill-will (oh that wonderful Christmas spirit). My shoulders were up to my ears, my jaws jammed together, my heart pounding. The chirpy Christmas tunes on the radio were starting to grate. I changed the channel and heard the opening bars of Daft Punk's Get Lucky. I once named a blog post after that song, back in 2017, the day after the second Doctors' Disco where I had met and chatted and danced with oodles of friends, and I had written about the gratitude I had felt at being able to do all of that. I was grateful that my illness hadn't stopped me from being able to throw myself onto a dancefloor with dozens of people and natter away into the night about god knows what. Little did I know that three years later none of us would be able to do any of that, for weeks and months on end. No random lunches during the working day. No girlie weekends in elegant cities. No 5pm pints of stout looking out over North Harbour. No intense and exhilarating conference-running. No lingering in the restaurant, howling with laughter while the waiting staff pointedly stack the chairs and noisily load the dishwasher, hoping we'll get the hint and leave. No nights away just because, no nights in on purpose.
So I thought about all that we had lost this year, all that we had missed. And I thought about how I could have missed this all too. And my brain melted a bit, and I cried big ploppy sloppy tears.
But I couldn't fully let go. I couldn't sob.
Got. To. Keep. Going.