Sea Change


Charcoal and pastel digitally enhanced
Copyright, all rights reserved

When she first realised it was over, I can’t say for sure. There was a period of confusion, almost of diffuse mourning, followed by some rather strange behaviour. There’s no denying that sometimes she was frustratingly childish as well as touchingly childlike. I think the turning point was when she started seeing H and found a committed confidante, a professional she could trust and someone to honour her story – at least parts of it.

She was coming to the end of more than her marriage. Those 10 years between 40 and 50 rocked every boat in her harbour, and created ripples in her home, her relationships, and her growing sense of self.

Sea change! The sea emptied out … waited till she was on the floor of the now-empty-ocean exploring previously unexplored fossils, flotsam, and half-dead curiously designed fish and plants, then it rushed back in and almost crushed and drowned her! There were days she even looked dead from drowning. All washed out, pale and wan, shaken and shaking, hair more like seaweed than the long ‘corn silk’ her friend envied. She was beached on unfamiliar terrain. Her deserted island however, was not empty.

By day tattered ghosts brushed against her or whipped her face with the torn fragments of the partially remembered. By night their bones – serrated – sawed through her attempts to fling them off. Almost overnight her whip-thinness appeared covered with a layer of protective padding over vital organs. I waited … wondering. Would that protection extend to the treasures inside? A protection long overdue!

As all the precious external treasures, from the sentimental to the seriously personal disappeared from her life, I thought she would dwindle into nothingness. The ‘survivor mechanism’ that had driven and preserved her before was gone. What was left?

It was not what was left that made the difference. Despite tears and fears, shock, frozen moments of despair, the overwhelming sense and weight of abandonment threatening to crush and extinguish; something extraordinary happened. It was as if there were two people living inside her and yet … These two, though separated, were united, one, as with a loving couple.

At times of great distress there was about her a ‘stillness’. She often looked as if she heard a voice no-one else could hear. There was then, both a vulnerability and a strength, a power and a presence –

It was …

as though stumbling …

she walked sure-footedly

a hand, unseen …

lifting, holding, guiding …

Kneeling …

she towered, soared even,

rising to places never before visited

and yet …

achingly familiar.

Who was this stranger with the well-known face?

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