Sitting on my sofa in a pink dress with the rain falling outside, all seems as good as it can be. I say that carefully. I've taken time off to relax, to rest, to recover and so I planned three days at home to stop. If that is truly what I intended to do, to stop, then all the walls and bridges that one builds to keep upright and moving forward, all those rigid structures necessary to keep from stopping for a moment and noticing how tired you are, fall in around you. The tight schedules needed to get things done, to take on more and more because you are on a roll and because you can, those tight schedules disintegrate and there is nothing to hold you up. And so, taking time off isn't about sitting down to watch telly while you file your nails and have an extra cup of tea, it is about having nothing to support your busy-ness any more and having all those walls and bridges crash down around you. You feel as if you have lost the plot and that you will never stand up on your own again. It's quite a surprise.
|Me and Tash, my dear friend of over thirty years. Director and script editor and boss.|
I wanted to do a One Woman Show. During the Brighton Fringe seemed a good idea, so I found and booked a theatre. Wonderful, so exciting. I need a director, I thought, whatever they are, so who better than Tasha and bless her, Tasha with all her experience in the theatre, agreed.
I had begun to fund raise online for this show, and raised enough for Tash to come from Birmingham to Sussex to meet me and work on the show. Oh how I looked forward to it! I hadn't even a name for the show, and thought I would probably just make it up as I went along on the stage. Tasha arrived and asked to see the script. "I'll make it up!" I said, "as I go along!". She asked what it was called. "I have no idea!" I said. Tasha was a bit quiet and asked me what the show would be about. "Don't know!" I said, then, "Dying! And death!"
"I'm going back to Birmingham," said Tash. "When you have a show, call me."
I reluctantly agreed to write a script. I was hoping to sit in an armchair on stage and talk to people, making it all up as I went along. If, said Tash, you want me to direct, you do what I say. When I tried to practice sitting in an armchair making it all up as I went along, I couldn't do it. It sounded awful, and so I gave in to Tash and let her do her magic. I wrote a script that would keep me talking for three days and nights, telling everything, story after story, and gave it to her feeling I would never be able to do it.
|Rehearsals. Learn your script, says Tash. Aaaaaw, says I.|
Yes, it all went really well! Yes, I forgot loads of bits on occasion but I managed to sort it out on stage. The main thing for me was that people were actually there in the audience. I had imagined that I would do the show for seven afternoons to Tasha, Katie and my cousin Maddy, but in fact, loads of people came and I was really touched. I felt as if I had so much to say, and thanks to Tasha I could really say it.
Just once all the technical stuff broke half an hour before I was due to go on. It stopped - all of it - and we had to delay the start of the show while Katie and her boss worked it all out. No sound, vision or lights meant either giving people their money back or me going up onto the tiny stage and doing a small cabaret, a few magic tricks and a question and answer session on how to die well. Thank goodness that was not necessary, and Katie sorted something out. It went really well, and by the final night I knew my lines properly, knew all my cues and felt that I could, perhaps, do this. I am surprised at how hard it was to do it, to keep going, and to remember everything. I am also surprised at how much loved doing it, loved meeting the people who came and how sad I am that it is all finished.
|A photo from the show, all that hamming it up in the car worked.|
And so now, I sit here on my sofa, shell shocked and exhausted. It isn't just the show, though that was exhausting. It is because a month before we opened, my youngest brother died. I was there with him, we had an understanding that I would go up for the end, and it was such a precious time. The day that Dominic died, another dear closest of friends received a terminal diagnosis, and I remember sitting with the nurse going through Dom's paper work and receiving this call. It was as if I was attention seeking. "What?" I said on my mobile phone sitting opposite the hospice nurse while going through Dom's death certificate, "terminal? How long? What? Where are you?"
I realise that even if I wasn't a soul midwife, these deaths would happen. That they seem to be arriving one after the other is nothing to do with me, but because I am a soul midwife, I will do all I can to do that dance with them as far as I can go, before they take the rest of the journey alone. There is so much that is deeply personal about all these endings. I am being shown something of journeys, something of endings and something of living in the shadow of dying. I don't know how people do it, dying, I just know that they do do it.
So much learning, so much experiencing, so much to understand.
|Dominic's grave next to Mum's. This time last year they were both still here.|
Bubble baths. The answer to my exhaustion lies in bubble baths, making a pillow mountain in my bed and watching police documentaries on YouTube. It lies in accepting that all the dreadful chaos and nonsense that goes around in my head now that I have stopped, is simply that. Chaos and nonsense. If my body is tired, my mind is very tired. The best way to deal with that, I have found, is peanut butter and banana on oatcakes. And pots of tea, and whole mangoes and huge bags of crisps and so on. Indulgence I think, is a great healer.
I will take time this week to come down, and rise back up again. The A Graceful Dying One Woman Show will be shown elsewhere, but as yet I don't know where. The A Graceful Death exhibition will be showing again next year in Kent, for Dying Matters Week, so life, as we all know so well, truly does go on.
I am continuing to be a soul midwife in the community, because no matter how many shows, paintings, books and articles I do, unless I am actually doing the work, what I say will not be authentic. I love my work though none of it is easy. I am extremely grateful to be with the people I work with, and happy for the chance to have met them. When I have got my marbles back, soon, I will go back into the studio and play with my paints. Painting flowers is what I want to do, and painting big, yellow sunflowers is the best.
And now. Back to where this blog began. The sun has come out, the rain has stopped and the air smells lovely. It is now the afternoon, and this is the best time for a bath filled with bubbles and glitter (you can get these things, bubbly glitter, you just have to be dedicated which I am). A pot of tea, a jumbo packet of cheesy crisps and some more cops and robbers on YouTube on my phone. My recovery may take longer than a week. At this rate, months.
|Grandma, let's have another packet of kit kats.|
|Now. Fetch Grandma that cheesy wotsit mountain. Thanks George.|
One of our review printed below for the A Graceful Dying One Woman Show
"An empowering life affirming experience" by David Rumelle for Remotegoat on 01/06/16