Heartbreak is a funny thing. For a long time I’ve thought I’ve known what it is. That bit in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz finally learns how to cry. The penguin with a broken flipper in Planet Earth II. The time an ex-boyfriend broke up with me and then asked me to hand wash his boxers. Going to IKEA six months ago to find an enormous plush shark to solve all my problems to find they were out of stock.
Turns out that’s nothing. Or at least it’s only part of it. Recently a new kind of heartbreak has come into my life. I’d forgotten how it takes you by surprise. Flips your stomach. Squeezes your heart. Fogs your brain. Wraps you up under your duvet and tires you out, eats you up.
Before you start worrying that the greatest love story of all time has ended, Eduardo and I have not broken up. As if he’d leave me when I make an excellent jelly, leave too much hair in the shower, and have the world’s smallest teeth. We’re all good.
No, this is a different kind of heartbreak. And as a consequence this is a different kind of blog post. Usually I’m all over the mundane – I love moaning about Tupperware, losing my way in the pasta aisle, getting emotional over hay fever. But every now and then a bigger dilemma comes along, one that grants you a whole lot of perspective, for which I am grateful, but it is rather agonising at the same time.
Until recently my biggest dilemma has always been anxiety, and until recently I’ve been smashing that little devil like a superhero and was thinking about writing a post on the benefits of paying for therapy (because the NHS offerings are about as satisfying and helpful as a pot noodle). Then when I watched Before the Flood I felt like there was no bigger dilemma than the threat of climate change and have been working my way through some blog post ideas surrounding failed veganism, nauseating dairy substitutes, and an irrational emotional attachment to cows.
And then my uncle died. First I found out he was poorly. Two weeks later he was diagnosed. Two weeks later he was gone. And that was that. And for someone who eats a lot of mince pies as soon as they arrive in the shops, I’ve felt hollow ever since. Empty. Because life isn’t the same anymore.
It’s very rare to come across a human being who is innately good. I’m not talking good in the sense of ‘you can have my last chicken nugget’ or ‘I’m giving up everything to work with broken Christmas trees in the last hours of their lives.’ I’m talking selfless, warm, loving, giving. Everything we want to be and often don’t quite reach. Well – my uncle was good as can be. He was also the fittest and healthiest member of my family by a long way. All of which makes me realise I need to worry about a terminal cancer diagnosis a lot less, stop giving a shit about quinoa, and just crack on.
It’s funny dealing with death and grief as an adult. When I was younger I lost one set of grandparents to pretty nasty terminal diseases well before their time so I’m not naïve by any means. But it has been mind-blowingly different dealing with this as a grown-up. You can’t just throw a tantrum and cry into your pillow. There are people who need you. You must be strong. It’s not all about you.
You lose it for the people you care about the most. Your soul will break into pieces and you don’t even get one Horcrux out of it. Of course we’ll be okay – us Pritchards are close-knit, and we have my uncle’s spirited nature, love, sense of humour, and go-get-em attitude that means we can get through anything. I’m not worried about us. We got this.
But I am sad. I’m waking up every morning overwhelmed with it. I’m on the verge of tears all the time. It feels a bit like walking through really thick peanut butter. I’m lacking a lot of energy and appetite. And my anxiety is through the roof. I tell you what – I’ve not missed the daily butterflies and now they’re keeping me awake at night I’ve had enough.
So after weeks of not writing anything – of being a little bit lost for words – I’m back. Because writing has got me back on track in the past. And even this is a little self-indulgent, a little bit whiney, and not nearly enough of an injection of positivity that we all need I’m doing it anyway.
I don’t want to write any more sad things though. We all know cancer’s a bitch and crashes the best parties. Instead I want to write the good stuff I’m learning from this. Because, as Dumbledore tells me, happiness can be found even in the darkest of places, if only we remember to turn on the light. And Dumbledore is my spirit animal right now.
So what have I learned?
Well, I’ve remembered what my body is for and I love it. My body is strong, it’s functioning (minus rubbish sinuses and poor vision), it’s the only one I’ve got. I feel vaguely repulsed by the idea of body image standards now and I’m certainly going to stop feeling bad about my pasty thighs and adult acne. I have hands so I can write, a mouth so I can tell HILARIOUS jokes, legs so I can run to an ice cream van on a sunny day, and hips so I can try and mimic Shakira whenever I want. My body is perfect and all I need (unless I want to be a gymnast in which case dammit) and I want to remember that every day – even when my boobs really hurt.
What else? Family is the bomb. Everyone says it takes a tragedy to bring you close together and it turns out everyone is right (except the people who voted Brexit). I love mine; my mum for her devotion, her work ethic, her creativity; my dad for his sense of humour, his strength, his sweetness; my brothers for their talent, their kindness, their pretending to still be scared of me; my dog for him making me feel better about the amount of hair I shed. Eduardo and my best friends are also well up there in the stars. There are a lot of people I love so much I’d consider eating an oyster for them, who’ve got me through this. I’ve learned never to go a day without sending kisses, without being thankful for the people who make you you.
Sharks. Because it turns out when something bad happens, something good is around the corner. And that good thing is a rumour going round town that the sharks are back in Ikea. And your boyfriend picking you up from the station to go on an emergency sea life hunt in the depths of Croydon. And you finding two in a basket with your name on it. And you beaming. Literally beaming from ear to ear because you feel like a little, tiny bit of the emptiness has been filled with the world’s largest, cuddly fish. And my shark is called Malcolm. In honour of an absolute treasure of a man.
I had a conversation with a very wise friend this morning (actually; she’s my brother’s girlfriend and she’s the COOLEST and if you’re reading this, Daisy, you’re so one of us), who said she had stopped believing that everything happens for a reason, and started believing things happen no matter what, and it’s how you run with it, and how you let them define you. She’s bang on (and beautiful, and a dancer, no fair).
With that in mind, it’s Sunday night and I’m ready to start this week afresh. Ready to get back on the no-dairy train in the hope of saving a few cows, and one big planet. Ready to cry if I wanna cry, and laugh if I wanna laugh. Ready to give a whole lot of love again, say a proper goodbye, and live life with a shark in one arm, and every other person I love and the Harry Potter collection in the other.
Love to you all and muchas gracias for reading. X