I have been quiet for a considerable time. That was a very conscious effort of course. Not only did I not want to share my private process but I am also very aware that someone else’s misery might not be the best read.
It has been more than a year, and as I suspected before I decided to stop writing, time changes a lot.
The beginning of 2020 was sheer hell. I cannot word it any other way. I hit a low of which I never suspected it even existed. Not in me, not in life. After everything that happened, I started questioning every single decision I ever made in my life. It came to the point that I became insecure – and yes, negative – about every single insignificant and unimportant silly decision you take in a day.
Twenty-twenty was the year that I will always remember as the year when I contemplated if razorblades would be more effective than a rope. The year when I had my farewell note written. (What can you still say really? ‘Sorry, I give up?’ It turns out I am a practical person and it was full of passwords and pin-codes.)
I studied English literature and I read Hamlet’s famous words when I was told to. We analysed them and I got it. Then I started teaching English literature and I had to explain the exact line to young people. And I thought I got it. Only now did those words hit me like a freight train. When there is so much, just so – SO – much pain, that you think that the only way it can stop is to not be. To consciously and deliberately make the decision to stop being here, the only refuge to not feel, for just-a-freaking-second. You scream silently in your head: ‘please make it stop’ but it won’t. Because there is no way around it, no moment without pain, no pause, they are your children, you have no choice, you have to go through it. You are a person, a woman, a mother. In essence, you are and always will be a mother. So to not feel it, is to not be? And then you realize: I would not do it to me, I would do it to them.
I found a new dimension in the love for my own mother. The relentless and unconditional love she must have felt. Together with the indescribable pain she must have been consumed by. But she missed so much. She never saw her grandchildren. So a realisation dawned upon me: maybe the best is yet to come.
So slowly but surely I started climbing my own personal hill. The mountain that seemed insurmountable at first. Because even when you walk the streets of hell, you can decide to walk them with your head held high. So I enrolled in a second Masters. A useful and interesting degree of course, but also a metaphorical flipping the bird to everyone that needs to see it. On top of that, a friend became a training buddy, and I rediscovered my love for exercise, endorphins go a long way. Because every single decision I have made in my life was one that I stood behind 100 per cent the moment I made it. I know that now. I might have chosen some odd paths in my life, but boy did they have good scenery. I am glad I did what I did. Proud. It has been a hell of a ride, and I am sure it will be for years to come.
Coincidentally, the whole world is in crisis and so many people are struggling. Strange times of which everyone hopes they will be over soon.
It also has been a total mindfuck to be back in Belgium. I live in the village I grew up in. I have brunches and walks with old schoolmates. I teach in the school I went to myself. I study in the university I studied in twenty years ago. At times, it feels that everything I ran away from so many years ago, I am processing now. Once, I was standing outside in the rain and when I tasted the rain running from my face, I remembered a kiss in the rain from when I was 16. Having a good memory is a mindfuck as well. Both the good memories as the bad sensations can hit you like a tidal wave.
I also did not predict how much the teaching job would help me. The kindness and friendship from colleagues. The comfort I get from working with students my own kid’s age. Knowing that my mother and grandfather were teachers. The inspection report that ended with ‘you are a born teacher’. Just the overall gratification from it.
So I decided my radio silence is over. Here is me, at the age of (almost) 44, saying the best is yet to come.