God save the Queen
My dear, sweet England. I cannot help but think back on it tonight after a great reminder of my time there. I have fallen in love many times, but never as deep or so hard as the moment I stepped off the plane at Heathrow. From the moment the cold January air hit me, it felt like I finally found my place in the sun. I stood around at the airport watching the eclectic hoards of people moving to and from their mysterious destinations as I waited to see the familial face of my best friend, my brother, my way out.
It started off as England being my woods where I went to heal the wounds of too much hurt mounted up after years and years of bad decisions, but in time wounds heal, and eventually my happy days came, and too soon they were numbered. England saved me as much as God saves the Queen.
I guess this is as good a juncture as any to remind you that, of course, it was not some Island of rock and earth that saved me. It was the people there, the family I found and the friendships I forged that truly pulled me through the depth of despair. I do not like to dwell on the moments leading up to my decision to cancel my life and uproot myself from everything I knew in it’s entirety. However, in an effort to set the record straight, I do not for one moment blame any person for my dark state. There is no responsible party. To the contrary, everyone in my life up to that point were merely trying to save me from a lifetime of my own making, but a third person cannot save you from the fires of your own hell. You have to do that yourself, and it is not pleasant.
It took me two operations (yes, literally) to realise how much stress I had really put myself through, and for what? I think it was the second operation that did it. It took mere seconds, but the moment will live on in me forever, and I can only hope to describe it to you accurately, for no words will really suffice. See, much to my (now) shame, most of my hurt stemmed from the intense hatred I harboured for myself. I was in my hospital room, waiting to be wheeled into the operating room. I was all by myself in a foreign country and feeling pretty sorry for myself, when there was a flurry of movement, a knock, a kiss on the forehead, flowers from a stranger. I had met her parents once, and these strangers had dropped everything they were doing to be with me, to make it there before I went in. Because I was not to be alone, because they cared and could only imagine how utterly alone I must be feeling, they said.
You know what my first thought was? I hesitate to even utter the words now, but my first thought was ‘so what’? So what if I’m alone? I’ve been alone always. I know, how utterly pathetically sad is that. Not the notion, for I am sure there are people out there who actually have been alone and who have never felt the tender care of another person in their lives. But for me to say that… It’s callous, cowardly and downright wrong. I have great parents who have loved me and supported me throughout my entire life, even when I was not the cookie cut daughter. I have never had a single important conversation with my dad where he did not end off by saying ‘I love you and I’m proud of you’. I have never had a problem which I could not frankly discuss with my mother without fear of judgment. She always listens, and even when I can see it’s killing her and she disagrees, she offers sound advice which is worth following. I have a sister who loves me more than life itself and would kill to protect me, even though she naturally shies away from any conflict.
I had all this back then, but I could not see it. I could not feel it. Something inside was so broken that fixing it brought me to the point of being physically ill. Wake up call? Obviously not with the first try, but the second operation sure did it. Here I was, feeling quite defiant and determined not to let it get to me, and here were these people, these strangers who had met me but once and they were concerned enough to rush to be there in time. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!
Jip, that’s what I thought too. Of course, it took another 6 weeks of recovery from my second operation to drill the point home. My friends (now I see them as family) stayed at home because I had to stay put. Their friends, people who I did not know from a bar of soap but who are now my friends, came round to the house because I could not move, they asked how I was doing and meant it. There are so many people that come to mind right now who went above and beyond the call of duty to make me feel like I belonged there, even though I had never felt like I belonged anywhere before.
Time passed and I found an amazing job, even moved out ‘on my own’ and I met even more friends. Slowly but surely I healed through allowing people to help me heal. They made me realise that I do not need to stand back, I do not need to put on a fake mask over who I am, because I actually have worth. That who I am is actually a quite dynamic, intellectual and desirable person and if you cannot see that, you are not worthy of me. Not the other way around.
In a final swan song, I embarked on a sacred journey through a bit of France and Germany. Amazing, memorable Germany. In the middle of the Swartz Woud, all by myself under inches of snow I finally got it. Life is what you make of it. Simple truth, I know, one an academic like myself should have realised much earlier on, but I was too busy keeping misery company. For two weeks, I not only explored Germany, but myself too, and for once, I loved what I found in that uncharted territory. It was like finding this marvellous wrapped present that you had long since forgotten you received. It is surprising and delightful to open, but eventually it dawns on you that you actually had it all along, you just forgot to open it.
I went to England to get away from it all, but in the end I came back to that which I knew all along, but was too afraid to embrace.