As more Sundays pass without this essay reaching completion the prospect of it ever emerging in readable form is increasingly remote. But right now my frustration surpasses the difficulty of writing, so let’s have another crack!
This is going to be miserable, but I promise not to whinge.
The London Olympic Games ended this morning, Monday August 13th (that’s how long ago I started this!), and I am mourning their passing. Just why the Games exert such profound emotional control over someone as disinterested in sport as me remains something of a mystery; but for weeks beforehand I was conscious of neurons and tear ducts secluding themselves in training camps, straining for perfection in their individual events. I can’t count the number of times I have watched Australia’s Sally Pearson run that blistering 100 meters hurdle, then wait in awful tension for the announcement of a photo finish, and then, after interminable seconds, collapse and explode with an indelible mix of victory, disbelief, astonishment, joy and tears. I laugh out loud every time I see the replay; but I could just as easily cry. If I were to cry I am almost certain they would not be “tears of joy” (whatever they are); my feeling is that they would be tears shed in the usual manner, tears of grief. This is my theory: the elation of winning is not easily divided from the desolation of loosing; the two are a hair’s breadth apart. My Olympic tears are stained with the triumph and the failure of everyman; with the knowledge of our perilous existence on earth; with the grand theme of divine reward (“Well done, good and faithful servant.”); and with my own most personal hopes and fears.
Monday August 13th, the first anniversary of the day we farewelled my dear mother. Memories of our family’s sadness; and memories also of a beautiful day we spent together.
Monday August 13th. Just yesterday we were an hour or two south of Paradise, savouring spectacular views of Lake Eildon, along with curried king prawns, local olives and roast beef; all in the company of family gathered from near and far; as far away as London.
That’s today, but tomorrow will bring more to tell.
The day I dread the most.
I am loathed to admit that my dependencies are no longer merely mechanical; they are now chemical as well. I have become worryingly reliant on painkillers for day to day life. The problem with painkillers is that they eventually stop working; and so plain old Panadol is fortified by analgesics; and before many months have passed the prescription includes opiate derivatives. And then you’re hooked.
This happens all too often; you only have to watch the evening news to see people taking great box loads of codeine and oxycodone. It’s surprisingly hard to avoid this; and difficult to find alternative medical advice. So, with the GP looking on I have been conducting my own experiment with various pills, and have stumbled into a fairly effective weekly routine of this and that on different days, and most critically a pair of days every week without the big guns: the very effective but equally addictive synthetic opioids.
All good, up to a point. But those two “opium free” days are a bugger (and there is that terrible, terrible word again! A linguistic dependency?….) I took my concerns back to the GP, and she put it into plain, simple, alarming English: Opiate withdrawal. Every Tuesday my world falls apart. No matter how I prepare myself, nothing will avert a shredding, aching tide of melancholy slowly leaking into every thought, and occasionally back out through my eyes.
This state of affairs is perfectly encapsulated – centuries before capsules were invented – in the words of the thirteenth Psalm:
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him, ”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
My life now bears little resemblance to anyone I have ever met, and yet these 3000 year old words are explicit in their detailed, accurate depiction of my very thoughts. Week by week these first two stanzas have proved so apt that they now hang on the wall above my desk, purely so that I will not forget the third.
I promised that I wouldn’t mope,… I hope I haven’t. What I wanted to know, back on the 13th, was whether the ups and downs of life are common to us all. We may look pretty different, but do we feel the same? The ache might stem from the calendar of life or from something as artificial as drug dependency, but I suspect that it all feels much the same.
One last question then appears: is there a universal hope for the common grief? Again, I think there is, but I can only speak for myself. It’s the third stanza. The final four lines of the ancient psalm. I’m tempted to expand or expound, but I know that is a serious error (which preachers so often forget) because the words are plain and perfect, just as they are.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.