A few weeks ago I was walking back to my car in Skipton, after attending a lecture on an aspect of local history. It was dark. It was raining. I was wrapped up in fleece and raincoat. And I’m telling you this because it’s a little scene burned in my memory. Suddenly I thought “this is who I am”. Not the fleece and raincoat particularly (although you more often than not need those in North Yorkshire) but because of that startling and stunning sense that I was recovering the Vera I am used to being, who had been so distressingly missing in 2017.
On holiday in October, with a group of people I didn’t know, I had tried to explain a couple of times how I was feeling. I’d said I felt like holding up a placard saying “this is not who I am” because the tearful, quiet, uncommunicative person they were seeing didn’t feel like me at all. I wanted to tell them it WASN’T me. I wanted to tell them what I was REALLY like. Someone said (it was with the best of intentions but it was entirely the wrong thing to say to me at that moment) “but this is the new you and it’s perfectly OK”. Except it wasn’t. To me it wasn’t perfectly OK at all.
The meeting in Skipton had been quite an ordinary one, except it was at a venue I hadn’t dared visit in a couple of years (no loop, big room). There were some people there that I knew and a few of us sat in the front row together. I could chat with them easily. Another chap teased me about my asking the organiser to leave a light on at the front. (I’m not actually sure if I need that any more, and maybe I’ll try doing without it next time, but for the moment it’s a habit and a comfort blanket that is hard to leave behind). “I’ve got it!” he said. “Why don’t you just bring your own torch and shine it in the speaker’s face?” We laughed about the wonderful mental image that created. The talk started. I heard it perfectly, despite the speaker nursing a cold. I even heard some of the questions afterwards and then, happy, I set off back home.
It doesn’t sound much, does it? A few casual conversations with people. A few jokes. A talk heard without struggle and strain. But how important it is. This is me. This is what I like doing. This is who I am.
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