07 September 2017

Ready to die


I woke up again this morning at three. I’ve made peace with this when it happens. Some concerns remain about my own longevity and the pestering sense that I will just drop dead at one moment, my body healthy otherwise. These are silly though — I can buy so much insurance for so little. The algorithms are all in my favour. Still, I'm trying to improve on it, get back to the goal I had in 2011, before everything happened. I took all my clothes off and weighed myself, the feeling, and then reminded with that number, of being right on the precipice. Almost there, but not quite there.

The recovery of my health and the feeling of imminent death seem to go hand-in-hand. When I went to give blood, the nurse struggled to find my pulse, and when she did, she had the apologetic look on her face that I remember from a couple of years ago when I was running a lot. I had to sprint up and down the stairs to get my pulse above fifty. When I come back, slightly out of breath, and she checks me again, I say, joking, I promise that I’m not dead yet.

My own death has been a kind of nagging existential thorn as I turned thirty-five this summer, but the practicalities of it have also been on my mind, as I buy the house on Victoria Road. My death, apart from the conceptual struggle, is only problematic if it actually happens. Not because I end up dead, I'm ambivalent about that, but because it interrupts cash flow. The family can't afford to do business without me, to be frank. I have resented this in the past, of course, but something about my experience meditating has dislodged this resentment. That quiet voice of whoever is leading, telling you to be kind and non-judgemental of yourself. To appreciate that when your mind wanders, that is the moment that you have learned, that you have noticed it. That acceptance has started to creep into the other crevices of my life. You do not have to be good.

When I wake up early, I tend to avoid thinking about death. Instead, I think of all the things I need to do — all the marking and the transcription and then the nagging feeling of the insurance, yes the house insurance and the life insurance, which I've been putting off. I finally decided to face it — went to my bank's website and played with the sliders of the different things that they could offer me, with different variables. When will I need the money, and how much will I need. When will Mei be eighteen: 2027, isn't it, ten years. Mia will be eighteen in 2029. I will be forty-seven. How much money will they need then. I play with the sliders and end up on a number and agree to it. There, I think, and set up a direct debit for the 25th of the month, right after I get paid. And then I face my pension too, I had been putting off a problem I was having accessing my information online. My e-mail I sent never got answered, so I called and fought through the phone tree and queue, fifty-one people ahead of me I was told and thirty minutes of waiting. I went to work and printed out the form and turned it in, it should all be fine now.  Now I can die. I am ready to die.

I had been daydreaming last Thursday about my next trip to London and when it might come — there was no business there anymore, from what I could tell. But then there was an e-mail from the ESRC, the Economic and Social Research Council, that I and some colleagues have been trying to get money off of. There was news that my improbable bid , the one that I've fought to push forward for the last year, on the phone the day before Christmas holiday last year, begging finance to look at an e-mail for me...that bid had been reviewed. I opened the pdfs — they lined up on the window and there it was. Good. Good enough.

I went to London then, early in the morning the next Monday, sitting across from two men who were going down to the city to work. They were my age, I guessed, talking back and forth about the team from Birmingham that was headed to the Big Smoke for work. As we went down, news was coming through on mobiles of people missing trains, and £80 emergency fares. They talked about making easy money overnight as a foreman, and the one worker's wife, who kept having children. She has children every time one goes to nursery, the fatter guy said, and the other shook his head knowingly. There was a pause. Perhaps they would get off at three today.

The train arrived and I worked and I left and woke up the next morning again early. The girls had school for the first time this year and I walked them up, kissing them goodbye and meeting the new teachers. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote, and went running. The sun went down and came up and it was three again. It doesn't matter I think, pulling on my jumper and reaching for my glasses. We'll get back to sleep eventually, I'm sure.
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