4th June 2015
There must be a word for it. At the same time as good things are happening, and you feel now and again foolishly happy, terrible things are happening all around, and joy is quickly quenched by pity, sorrow, and a vague sense of guilt.
During the last year, too many people we know have died, none of them older than we are. So many husbands and wives left on their own after years of being one of a pair. Then there are the friends who've been invaded by serious illness, or had terrible accidents. Then, the much too early death of Charles Kennedy, a man struggling with the desire to keep drinking, but popular, loved and with much more to contribute and enjoy.
I veer between relief and gratitude (this time, not me), helplessness (how random and chaotic our lives are) and anxiety that I've still not cleared out the filing cabinet or brought my will up to date, or tidied the loft. I have still not put my affairs in order.
Now and again I go and see someone who tells me what to do with my savings. I sign a form, he takes a cheque from me and the money disappears into investments that he reminds me (an ultra-cautious investor) won't make anything for several years. And might not make anything at all, ever. Last time I saw him he showed me a graph that indicated the likely time I have left in this world matched against the way my money should go. Up, then down. Gradually. In other words, at my time of life, I should think when it's sensible to start spending my money instead of saving it.
Oddly, this did not fill me with joy. I ought to have gone straight out and booked a holiday in Peru or bought a yacht. Well, maybe a small dinghy. I don't have that much money. I could no more have done that than lie in bed all day. Except when gravely ill, which I'm not.
I was not brought up that way. I was brought up to save not spend, to get up and go to work, not lie about. I was brought up on finely tuned grades of guilt. The most radical thing I could bring myself to do was buy a new pair of jeans and a tee-shirt. As if I don't have a wardrobe stuffed with clothes already. It's a funny thing, but you have all these clothes you never wear because you don't go anywhere, then as soon as you have to go somewhere, not a single dress or jumper or coat is any use at all for this new occasion.
People with more money than I have, put it into property, which never loses its value. But as soon as you let it, supposedly to make an income for yourself, the roof leaks or the cooker breaks down or the neighbours turn into junkies. It's much more hassle than I'm capable of dealing with, and I worry anyway that this might prevent people buying their own homes, by pushing up prices even further.
Of course the matter in hand is not money at all, it's life and what to do with it. Death makes me feel lucky I'm still alive, threatened because it can happen to anyone any time, and desperate to get the rest of my life right. Only – what is that? I've not sorted this out at all. Clearly, I waste far too much time on Twitter, doing crosswords, clearing out my inbox, or cleaning the house. No, delete that last bit. Not these days.
I like to work, but surely there are other things I should do. My garden needs attention, and it makes me feel peaceful to work there, but increasingly, I'm too tired to be bothered getting changed into gardening clothes, let alone tackling the weeds. I'm supposed to be writing another novel, but it's got stuck, and I can't keep it all in my head anyway, with so much else going on.
Life is completely upside down. In the years when I had energy and longing for new things and places, a desire for adventure and the need for life to be exciting and unpredictable, I had no money and no confidence. Now, with some money (even if it isn't much and probably ear-marked for my dotage so that my poor children aren't landed with me), and more confidence and determination than I ever had at twenty – I have less energy and more commitments than ever.
I should stop moaning. I think about the people who have died much too soon, who are ill or injured or whose lives have suddenly become unhappy or difficult, and I feel lucky and frightened all over again. Can anyone make sense of this?
Answers on a postcard please. I don't have time to read anything longer.
The photo is of the cat in the polytunnel, which he thinks is a sauna. He doesn't have these problems.