How are you all doing? I’m someone who, among all my other mental health issues, is very familiar with anxiety, and understand how everyone must be struggling to find a path through this moment, in all its weirdness. Though I’m certainly prone to catastrophising impulses of panic and despair when in a low bipolar phase, my customary response to moments of real crisis has generally been to feel massively grateful for what is. For the first few weeks after my stroke, my situation was certainly not uncomplicated, and I might well have felt incredibly angry or afraid. I did not, and my main emotion was rather an overwhelming gratitude. I was so grateful to be alive, to have a brain that thought and a body that felt, to be supported by Tom, and to be in a place where I was cared for. I wanted to thank the nurses and support staff for each small kindness that they showed me and I still often think of John the elderly ward porter, who, knowing my fondness for tea, carefully dispensed two cups to me each morning, and, who, when I was finally able to get out of bed and into a wheelchair, found me a shoe horn to help me dress my dropped foot. This kind of gratitude is not a particularly easy feeling – it is weighty, emotional, and overwhelming – but, at strange and difficult times like these, it is a useful sort of feeling, that also forces everything into relief, like a landscape on a still day after rain. I’ve felt it a lot this past week. I am just so grateful for the paths on which I walk, for the thrush on the highest branch trilling his repertoire from dawn to dusk outside my window, for the messy spaces of my home around me, for the curious variety of the meals that Tom’s been able to put together from what’s in our store and freezer. I feel gratitude for all my ordinary household objects, whose simple utility has the capacity at times like these to become utterly poignant to me. A few days ago, I found myself standing in front of our laden drying rack, feeling a deep sense of emotion at the sight of Tom’s clean socks, and thanking the drying rack from the bottom of my heart for its reliable functionality. As I stepped away from the drying rack, I realised that what I felt towards this object was, in fact a displaced expression of thanks for the much wider and more important context of gratitude in which I find myself: grateful for the general silliness of Tom and my family (being able to laugh seems very important right now) ; grateful for the efforts of my team and the companies with whom we collaborate to work together, supporting each others’ endeavours; grateful for the labour (which is always a kind of service) of everyone around me: posties, drivers, kind cashiers; and most of all grateful to those in the medical and caring professions, who in the very worst of circumstances, are doing their very best.
I’m sure we all have our own drying racks. I hope that you feel grateful, in your own way, for yours.
Image from Tom’s recent exhibition: At Carry Farm.