“Maybe this year will be better than the last…”

Would you Adam and Eve it?! I’ve done a full five months with no alcohol and I have to say that giving it up is one of the best things I’ve ever done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not leaping around, grinning like an eegit and embracing small children – I’m sober, not insane. It’s more of a quiet sense of calm and an absolute freedom from thinking about alcohol. Well, I say absolute freedom – I do still think about it every now and then, like a couple of weeks ago when I went for a meal with work colleagues.

Ginger swizzle
A swizzle it ain’t

We arrived at the lovely Hawksmoor and I ordered a Cucumber and Ginger Swizzle (heads up to drinks menu writers, please don’t try and pretend that my non-alcoholic drink is a cocktail by calling it a swizzle, thank you). So far, so good, and it was actually rather delicious.

The challenge came as I watched my boss peruse the wine list and select the Sancerre. THE SANCERRE. I had to sit on my hands for fear of accosting the waiter and demanding he pour me a glass… But I didn’t cave, I left the waiter alone and I demurely sipped my swizzly drink while giving side-eye to the Sancerre drinkers…

Plane3
Champagne – 2016

And then there was a flight to Montreal for work last week. For as long as I can remember, I’ve drunk champagne and wine on flights, so I was curious about what I’d be like flying for the first time since giving up. Would I be tempted by the clinking of those little bottles being pushed down the aisle towards me or swayed by that old romantic notion of sipping a glass of fizz above the clouds?

Yes, the thought of a glass of champagne was definitely appealing, but the thought of decent sleep and a clear head was infinitely more appealing, so when the tray was proffered, I grabbed some water, ordered a peppermint tea and cracked on with some work.

Tea on plane
Water and tea – 2018

Pre-2018 Kit would have taken all the champagne on offer, moved onto wine with dinner and then had more wine with dessert, or instead of dessert. I wouldn’t have slept properly and would have arrived feeling dehydrated and jaded. I’ll take the water and tea, thanks.

What I did do on the flight was listen to some Desert Island Discs podcasts. I love that show but rarely get to listen to it ‘live’ so always download some and listen to them on holiday. In our previous life, David would often look over at me as I quietly sobbed on my sun lounger, shake his head and pretend not to know me.

I love the intimacy of the two voices, especially through headphones, and the memories the music evokes for people; the stories of childhood, regret and love. I’d downloaded a batch before my trip and each and every one I listened to resonated with me.

I knew that listening to Sheryl Sandberg’s would be difficult. She speaks so eloquently about the sudden loss of her husband and her emotion is still so raw. One of her song choices was Long December by Counting Crows, a band who were a real favourite of mine in my late teens and twenties. Apart from it being a great song, she chose it for the opening line: “A long December and there’s reason to believe, maybe this year will be better than the last.”

As we head towards 9th June and a year without Joe, that line for me is all about hope and trying to find the strength to believe that life will get better. We can’t have another year like this one, can we? Things will get better, won’t they?

Abi
A typical exchange between me and Joe

Claudia and I were talking the other day about just how much our lives have changed in 12 short months. Our family of 7 (we ALWAYS include the cats) has become a family of 5 with no Joe and no Luka. Whole parts of our world simply don’t exist anymore.

We’re all so different and even Abigail is a different cat, so much more clingy and in constant need of cuddles. Cats sense emotions and they feel loss. Abi has lost her favourite human – she and Joe adored each other – and the only other cat she ever knew. She’s as lost as we are…

Another Desert Island Discs I listened to was Anne-Marie Duff (who I might be a little bit in love with). She talked about the sudden loss of her friend, Alison: “As time goes on I think of her more and more. Grief is an interesting thing because it comes visiting when it wants; it’s servant to no man and it absolutely forces you to confront its presence. ‘I am here, you will deal with me now.’ And I find that the gentle grieving of her is something that I just carry with me.”

I like that phrase ‘gentle grieving’. Gone are the wracking sobs and the wailing that engulfed me in the days after Joe’s death. Gone is the feeling of a great weight pushing into my chest, making it almost impossible to breathe. But in their place is the dull, constant ache of sadness, regret and loss; the weariness of yet another day without Joe in the world.

Joel front cover picBut we plod on. We get up every day and we go to work. We interact with people, we smile, we laugh, we shop, we cook meals, we pay bills and we see friends. But we do it all knowing that we’ll never see Joe or hear his voice again, and most days that’s still too hard, too unfathomable, to comprehend.

So we have to have hope. We have to believe that this year will be better than the last. And we have to hope that when grief comes visiting to do its worst, we have the strength to hold each other up until it passes for another day.

Joe, as we crawl towards the day that we lost you a year ago, we’ll raise a glass on your 21st as we soar closer to your beloved stars, on our first trip as a family of four. And while we may be four, you, our shining star, are always with us in our hearts.

P.S. You’re going to love New York xxxx

 

 

 

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