Maybe I am an addict…

So addiction is still on my mind as I’m still drinking coffee, even though I lamely tried not to. I’m playing with this idea that addiction might not just be a human thing, but something that basically all life is susceptible to. I’m not trying to look for excuses for my addictions, or for a cure. I’m just trying to understand them better, to be able to understand my own behaviour.

I had a little bounce back in time and remembered that as a child I was able to play the same game for hours and hours on end, every day, for weeks and weeks, until a new game came along. I also remember eating myself silly on sweets at birthday parties and drinking soda until I felt green with nausea. There was also the kids channel which I would get up at 6.30 for on a Saturday, to be able to watch at least until mum and dad got up at around 9 or 10 and change the channel. I remember watching telly for hours and hours if I could. And it was fine, cause you know, we were kids, that’s what you do. Impulse control is something you learn later on in life.

It seems though that sometimes this same kind of behaviour occurs in adults as well. People playing computer games for hours on end, eating entire packets of biscuits or crisps, litres of soft drinks, or watching a certain TV show religiously, every day without exception. When this behaviour occurs in adults though, it’s suddenly regarded as one’s own choice… Somewhere between being a kid and being an adult, the ‘ she can’t help it’ turns into ‘she is choosing to do this’.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last few days and wondering if maybe addiction is just such a big part of human nature that it should not be approached as something that comes from a diseased mind, but from a natural process that needs acknowledging and controlling. I think many animals display addiction symptoms, the most obvious being dogs. Our dog could play fetch for freakin hours, and I’ve seen many dogs eat themselves to utter wobbly chubbiness. Overeating for example isn’t just a human problem I think. Goldfish tend to even eat themselves to death if there is an abundance of food.

Yet I’ve noticed many people look at overweight people as being stupid for not eating the right kind of stuff and the right amounts. It’s kind of seen as a choice someone makes to overeat or eat unhealthy food and although I do have a bit of a loud and obnoxious opinion on modern food and diet, I also think it’s important to recognise the difficulty of choosing to eat healthily. It’s difficult, it’s expensive, it’s no fun, it goes against what you really want right now and involves a lot of energy. And sometimes even with all that effort, a healthy diet doesn’t even work for people to lose weight. (more on that in a later post)

If adult ‘harmless’ habits like playing computer games, overeating or watching telly all day are choices, then maybe addiction is something like ‘being unable to choose not to’. And maybe having to choose to not please yourself with something goes against our nature. I guess everyday things like games, wheat, television, coffee etc. seem to be triggered by an abundance of stuff that makes you feel good. And of course we live in a time of abundance, where we can literally buy all the food we want, play all the games we want, watch telly all day, drink coffee til we drop, smoke heaps of tobacco and drink alcohol most nights. There’s enough of it around, making it really hard to choose to not use it. A lot harder at least than when it’s just not there.

Now I really am not advocating for having all types of triggers removed, we are adults after all and shouldn’t need a babysitter. But I do think we need to recognize our own addictions and how hard it is to get rid of them, before we judge the addictions of others. I’m not talking about the harm or harmlessness of them, but the actual process of quitting. I think it would be good to at least get rid of one of the symptoms of addiction, which is denial. And the path to getting rid of denial is proper recognition.

I’m quite addicted to coffee, although something in my mind still says ‘no I CHOOSE to drink coffee, because I like it’. But it’s when I start to think about never drinking coffee again that I panic a bit. Because I do really like coffee. I am a bit of an addict and am unable (today) to choose to not drink it. I’ve overcome other addictions before, so I know that I should be able to make that choice at some point. But maybe I need a good enough reason, something to hit home. It’s hard though, with all these amazing coffee shops around me.

And you know, in the end some of our addictions are pretty harmless. Some addictions might be slightly annoying to others but then again, sometimes it is really nice to have a reoccurring thing to fall back on and get pleased by. Sometimes they are even worth the adverse long term effects. Someone said that life is our greatest addiction, and as the long term cost is of course aging and death, that’s pretty much accurate. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it though… agh, I don’t know.

In the end, I’m no expert and this is all just a mind blurb. Again, as stated in the previous post, addiction comes in many forms and sizes. I’m talking about more everyday life addictions here I think, and feel like I shouldn’t even go near the subjects of alcohol and hard drugs for lack of education and lack of knowing what I’m talking about. It’s brain storms, mind blurbs, thought trains.

Bedtime

Jude

I’m not an addict…

I really like to drink coffee. I’m not addicted to it, I just really like drinking it. It gets me in ‘the zone’ in the morning and winds me down at the end of the day. I don’t NEED it you know, I just really LIKE it. I’m totally in control of my coffee habit, which is all it is, just a habit. I could stop whenever I want to as well. I’ve had days where I wouldn’t drink any, like that one day in February when we ran out and the two days after dental surgery, and I was totally fine. I drank coffee again as soon as I could after, but that’s just because I like the taste of it. I’m not addicted to it or anything.

Some days I think I should try to go without coffee for a while because I notice I feel more tired at the end of the day when I drink too much of it. The morning after this thought however, I get up at 7.30 and just really want to have a cup of warm bitter-sweet brew in my hands to get ready for the day. Like I’ve done for years and years. Suddenly I can’t really see the harm, I just feel like having a coffee right now. So I make one, enjoy it and accept that this is not the day to go coffee-free. Again. Oh well. See, it’s not like I’m addicted, I’m just not motivated enough to stop because I can’t really see why. Not until the end of the day when I’m dog tired again…

Some people like eating wheat. They’re not addicted to it, but just really like bread, cereal, biscuits and pasta. They don’t NEED it, but just like it, because it’s a staple food and they’ve always eaten it. They couldn’t imagine having any trouble going without it, like that one day when they were ill or when they went to Thailand and only ate rice based stuff. When they come home they instantly eat cereal, bread, biscuits and pasta again, but that’s just because they like it. It’s not like an addiction or anything. It’s just a habit.

A few years ago I realised I should try to stop eating wheat because I suspected that it was making me very tired and headachy. It took years until I successfully banished it from my diet and I can tell you, it’s hard. For days after the cold turkey day I felt like I had the flu. I started craving bread really badly, The smell of it came to haunt me. I persisted, though having small amounts every now and then and slowly came out of withdrawal. It took months, maybe even years before it became normal for me. I find now whenever I have a slice of pizza or a roll I get an instant headache and feel like I’m going to fall asleep at any moment. It seems my body had developed a tolerance for something that adversely affected me, and it had disappeared from abstinence. But I wasn’t addicted to wheat, no sir…

Addiction is understood by the American Society of Addiction Medicine as ‘the continued use of mood altering substance or behaviour, despite adverse consequences’ . it includes ‘impaired control over substances/behaviour, preoccupation with substance/behaviour, continued use despite consequences, and denial’. Addiction is also characterised by an short term gratification that leads to long term problems.

I guess my coffee addiction (yes I do actually admit it) and previous addiction to wheat fall under this understanding. But to some extent, so does eating biscuits or crisps every day, playing computer games, checking Facebook, drinking litres of diet coke, biting nails, watching television and other common habits that ‘we’re not addicted to but choose to do because we’re adults and we can do whatever we want’. Where smoking cannabis, or plain tobacco, drinking, gambling, binge eating, self harm, and over exercising are seen as the obvious addictions that everyone can have an opinion on, the addiction to things like sugar, wheat or coffee are seen more as a choice.

And then we might choose to stop eating sugar and god is it hard. Or we might decide to turn off the television and find ourselves utterly bored and with no idea what to do with our evening but watch another rerun episode of Topgear. Addictions come in many different forms and sizes and everyone is to some degree susceptible to them. Some affect us greatly, some only on a small level, but the thing about addiction is that often we don’t even notice it until we try to stop the behaviour.

The behaviour we think of when we think about addiction (smoking, drinking, gambling) are the types of behaviour that have a bigger effect on one’s personal life, as well as on the lives of their immediate surroundings. It seems not understandable why anyone would put their family and friends through a difficult time when all they need to do is ‘just stop’… I don’t think it’s that easy though. If it was, it wouldn’t  be such a problem. I think these are the obvious shapes of addiction, but we all have our addictions and they’re goddamn hard to shake.

Because sure, smoking might be regarded as worse for your health than eating wheat, but trying to quit both substances takes a massive amount of will power. And I don’t mean stopping for a day, but stopping forever. That’s right, no more pizza, Oreos, noodles, cereal and bacon rolls, ever… I try to consider this when looking at a certain behaviour that I don’t understand and think ‘why don’t they just NOT do it?’. It’s because it’s really hard to just stop. “Just one more, it’s not going to hurt, aw fuck, I’ve screwed up this day already, we’ll try again tomorrow”. And this train of thought can apply to biscuits, coffee, alcohol, cigarettes and heroin. That’s addiction.

I know my coffee drinking habit is recreational, it’s kind of like self medicating therapy, it’s a ritual, and although it makes me tired, I really really enjoy it. Unfortunately all that also makes it a bloody hard to shake addiction. But I’ll have one more because I already had a few and…. oh… shit… *sigh*

Jude

Rock Paper Scissors issue 9

Issue 9 of Rock Paper Scissors  is out! check out the site when you have a chance. We think it’s rather sexy…

Jude

Visa GP, Dr. Meg and Dr. Death

The last few months I’ve spent trying to find out what was wrong with me. I went to the local GP who, I’m told by many locals, is mainly here to get his visa by working in a rural area. This first visit to Visa GP consisted of an attempt to prescribe me steroids (I refused), an attempt to prescribe me birth control (refused again) and eventually $200 worth of blood screening. No worries.

The second visit consisted of looking at the results, finding everything is in normal ranges and an attempt to prescribe me steroids and birth control because it would make me feel better (refused again). It ended with the GP giving me a prescription for birth control ‘just to think about it’ even though I repeatedly refused due to past bad experiences and an overall aversion to putting anything synthetic in or on my body without good reason. It took him half of the visit to type out this prescription. He’s not a very fast typer.

He also referred me to a gynaecologist, with the words ‘she’ll give you some medication to make you feel better’. Little did he know that I didn’t want to feel better but wanted to BE better. I generally don’t believe in medication to make me feel better when no diagnosis has even been attempted.

Off  I went to see the gynaecologist, who spoke to me about combination pills and anti-depressants. She also mentioned that the medication that Visa GP wanted to prescribe would have probably made it worse. She eventually diagnosed me with severe PMS due to hormonal imbalance and presenting some auto-immune like symptoms. She did no tests on what kind of hormonal imbalance I had (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and although she suspected something was wrong with my thyroid, the fact that my blood tests came back ‘normal’ meant it wasn’t really treatable anyway.

I left the hospital with my new found knowledge, which mostly consisted of herbal remedies for PMS. Now I’m a big fan of herbal remedies, but again I felt no diagnosis was really reached.  I’d spent about $600 at this point and still had nothing but a little more experience with hospital furniture and the advice to get primrose oil capsules to make me feel better.

Last week I went to Visa GP again because I was worried. Everything was just slowly getting worse, and my sore throat had lingered for months now. I asked him to look at it, he shone a light into my mouth and said ‘yeah, it’s a bit red, you seem to just have a sore throat’. He then pressed an area I presume he thought my lymph nodes were at and asked if it hurt. I said ‘no’. My lymph nodes hurt, but they’re about half a cm to the left…

After this we had a chat. He attempted to give me steroids again because he said I probably have some infection or inflammation, to which I raised the point that I was under the impression that steroids can mask or worsen infections. I also asked him where the inflammation was and how the steroids would cure it. He didn’t answer either question. And didn’t try again. Success.

He then turned around on his desk chair to look at me for the first time and asked ‘when was the last time you’ve had a holiday?’. Which I thought was funny, since I’m on a working holiday. He then said he thought I’m working too much, to which I replied that I hadn’t worked such a small amount of hours in over 5 years. He then called me ‘stressed’, ‘worn out’ and ‘in need of a rest, a holiday’. And eventually he said he thought I had post viral syndrome. I’ve got lots wrong with me it seems but all I need is a holiday. *sigh*

It made me think of the women of centuries ago who were advised by their physician when dealing with hysteria, to go home and please themselves or their husbands. Yeah, cause that’s exactly what’s wrong… not enough naughty time.

Yesterday I did a cheeky thing, I got a second opinion. This GP is about 80 years old (without exaggeration) and lovingly called ‘dr. Meg’ by most of my clients. She’s old school, sometimes looks stuff up in old text books, but it was either her, or the other GP in town,  lovingly referred to as dr. Death…

Dr. Meg listened to me, did a blood test and urine test on the spot, took my blood pressure and listened to my heart. Things visa GP hadn’t done. She also didn’t stare at her computer screen, writing out my prescription before even asking. She didn’t even have a computer. I don’t necessarily think this is good or bad, but for some reason this time it was kind of comforting. I asked her about something that had started to worry me more and more; the sore throat. She stood up behind me, put her fingers right on the sore spot and said ‘ah yes, your thyroid is enlarged’. Now I’m fully aware this is not a good thing but I couldn’t help but smile and think to myself ‘yay! I’m not nuts!’.

Steve and I will be flying back to the UK in a month’s time but Dr. Meg scheduled me in for an ultrasound of Mr. Thyroid next week. Where Visa GP didn’t want to touch my throat and wasn’t really interested in a diagnosis, Dr. Meg actually touched me (I know, yuck!) and in 2 seconds started diagnosing. In the end I told her ‘I know this sounds weird, but I’m really grateful that you’ve actually looked at me’. She smiled and said in her Oxford accent ‘well, I’ve been a doctor for a long long time and I still know that that is important’. She also did not say ‘we’ll give you some medication to make you feel better’ but instead said; ‘what we need to do is get you a proper diagnosis’. Now I really appreciated that. Because that’s why I go to a doctor and not to the pub.

Oh and yay, I’m not nuts 🙂

 

Jude

 

Rock Paper Scissors – Issue 8

Though it has been out for a few weeks now, check out Issue 8 of Rock Paper Scissors! Also, feel free to contribute or give feedback!

Jude

Happiness…


If the last post was about depression, this one can be about happiness. I’ve started to think that for me happiness is not a permanent state of mind, but an emotion, like anger, sadness or annoyance. It’s passing, and that’s fine, I can actively try to get myself a bit of happiness by climbing a hill, cuddle or go for a wild swim. I won’t feel happy every time I do it but the chances are definitely a lot bigger than when I go to Tesco’s, sit in a doctor’s office or stand in line at a Starbucks (not so much because of the line, but because it’s Starbucks and I actually like coffee).

And sometimes they hit me by surprise, when seeing a little girl playing with a puppy, getting caught in an epic downpour, or sitting on the veranda at 7 in the morning with a particularly well made coffee.

I had a chat with Joe once about 2 years ago, outside the front porch of a small hostel on the Isle of Skye. We talked a bit about happiness and I wondered at the time if it was just contentment with what you have at that very moment. I had felt euphoria when on the top of a mountain or when swimming in the Scottish sea but never did I feel completely like that for an entire week, or day even, and very rarely for an entire hour. I’ve thought about it since, a lot. It’s the ultimate goal in life isn’t it? Happiness… but what the hell does it mean? How would you describe happiness?

So building on that old idea, maybe contentment or satisfaction with who you are, who you are with and what you are doing and where is sometimes described as happy. Lines like “I’m happy with my husband” “I’m happy living in this town” or “I’m happy to stay at home watching tv” come to mind. Maybe it means something like “I wouldn’t want to change anything”. Which is fine, it’s good. I think it might be the best you could hope for. I’m wondering though if that should be described as happiness.

In the old fairytales they would end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’. That sounds rather boring I think… Maybe, if I go back to wondering whether happiness is ‘just’ an emotion, the best I can hope for is to feel this emotion often and purely. I feel pretty happy waking up in a cuddle, or when walking on an epic Australian beach, but it does pass, and other emotions come up, and that’s totally okay. It doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy that day, it just means that I wasn’t entirely completely happy for the entire complete day. There wouldn’t be room for other emotions if I had been and enough stuff happens that calls for other emotions in the span of a day. And that’s fine.

When in love you get heaps of feelings of happiness, when being kissed, being looked at, being touched, but (at least after the first few weeks of euphoria) these emotions pass until you are kissed again or even just think about the other person. If someone makes me happy it doesn’t mean that I won’t feel any other emotions or won’t have any days of feeling like utter gloomy crap.

For me it means that he very often gives me little moments of happiness. It means these moments are very pure and he hardly ever fails at making me feel them. And I also think it means that I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in the world. I don’t know what you would call this feeling, but it makes me feel comfortable, at ease, excited, loved and happy. I guess the closest thing that comes to mind is not necessarily the word happiness though, but simply the word ‘home’.

 

Jude


King of Pain

There’s a little black spot on the sun today
It’s the same old thing as yesterday
there’s a black hat caught in a high tree top
there’s a flagpole rag and the wind won’t stop

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running ’round my brain
I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign
But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain

(King of Pain – the Police)

I’ve had this song in my head for a few days (the Alanis version though, I’m of that age) and you know the moment where you suddenly start listening to yourself and hear what you’re actually singing about? I had one of those moments this afternoon.

A feeling of depression can be normal when something depressing happens. Basically when something pushes you down, it’s pretty normal to feel down about it. But sometimes nothing in particular has enough weight to press you down as much as you feel. And sometimes the initial cause of your depression has been taken away, yet you still feel like you’re stuck in the hole that was caused. “Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person’s thoughts, behavior, feelings and physical well-being” (thanks Wiki)

Moving away from the science and back to the song: I’m trying very hard to not speak for everyone here but I realise that it’s recognisable. I think the little black spot on the sun is recognisable, though I’ve heard it said differently before, like having a black border around everything , or a sense of blackness just outside your vision.

The little black spot sometimes grows and takes out a lot of the sun, but usually it’s just there, often quite small, and I can see it and hate it for what it is and what it can do to me. The feeling that every day is the same, every day you look up and it’s still there, it’s hard to imagine feeling different. It’s hard imagining one day you’ll wake up and the black spot is gone and you can be just like everyone else.

Sometimes it’s like things keep hitting you over and over again, and all you can do is go with it, take the blows, the hard days and wait for the wind to die down. Like a rag on a flagpole in a storm. And it rips, and it damages depending on how strong you are and how long it takes.

Standing in the pouring rain, a force of nature and there is nothing you can do but take it. And then there is the world spinning circles running round your brain.  I think that there is no time when one thinks more about the world around them than when depressed. I think it makes you look and assess everything and because of course the world isn’t cleverly designed, a lot of things don’t necessarily make sense. It can turn circles for a long long time before it makes sense, a long long time. I think often the question arises: ‘why is this happening?’. Sometimes there’s an answer to that question, but sometimes there isn’t.  That’s hard to swallow though, when you keep looking at that little black spot.

I have wondered before whether maybe someone special would be able to eradicate the little black spot (or ‘end this reign’). When the only person that might be able to do this came along and wasn’t able to do so I wasn’t necessarily surprised. He brought a whole new spectrum of feelings, happiness, comfort, fun, but that little black spot was still there, it’s stubborn. It’s been there for a long time and even though I feel happiness, it’s still there, no matter how hard I try to not look at it. Sometimes it grows when he’s near me though and he can see the shadow on my face. And sometimes he cries with me. I hate the black spot for that.

Maybe  I am the king of pain, my own pain, or so I try to be. I try to master it with will power and a small amount of masochism. I try to actively manage and limit it so it doesn’t debilitate me in my daily life and for years I have succeeded. It’s starting to rebel though and has come to invade parts of my kingdom I never allowed it to enter, when I work, run, cuddle,  sleep. Yet, seeing that the kingdom has strong borders, we’ll have to deal with this internally. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be the king of pain, as long as this means that I can control it as much as I can with the smallest amount of effort necessary. As long as pain doesn’t become my king.

This has become a bit of a depressing post, but maybe that’s okay, as I guess it’s about depression. I’m pretty sure there have been times in my life where I was ‘allowed’ to be depressed, and though I’m not sure if this is one of them, I don’t necessarily care. I think maybe it’s healthier for me to not try and get rid of the little black spot on the sun, but to try and accept that it’s there while the reason for it is still present. Maybe I should stop gazing at the sun and hurt my eyes by staring at the black spot.  Maybe it’ll just disappear on its own one day. I guess I should feel lucky that’s it’s a sunny day anyway, spot or no spot, because it really is a beautiful day out there.

 

Jude

Happy Wednesday

Today was a long day, which started with a lovely elderly man, heavily in denial of his incontinence and thus having a house that smells quite strongly. His feelings get hurt easily and when I say lovely man, I really mean it. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. It’s easier to just do the job and deny along with him, while cleaning up when he’s not looking. I don’t really feel like I’m helping him, but last week when I visited him in hospital he said he was grateful beyond words for what we are doing for him and he wouldn’t be able to live on his own without us. That’s a great thing. I still find it really hard to visit him. But that’s my problem.

After that I visited a lady who responds to my ‘hi Win, how are you?’ with ‘ too bloody old’. I can’t really think of a good response to that. ‘yes you are’ or ‘ no you’re not’ both don’t seem to be the correct ones. So I do a little giggle that I instantly regret and get on with the vacuuming.

Rita is a dear and kind of has the figure of a blonde bombshell, who has just aged heaps. Slender, elegant and a massive cleavage that she still shows off at 79. Good on her.

My break was interesting, as I ran into the physio by the microwave, whose diagnosis of my shoulder pain is:  ‘it’s a pain problem’. No shit Sherlock. He recommends pain medication that will alter the way my pain receptors perceive pain signals, thus making me have the same amount of pain, but feeling it less. It can also make me feel quite a bit drowsy or euphoric. This pretty much sums up the effects of weed, but it had a more difficult name. I guess when it’s in a chemical white pill form, it’s suddenly pain medication and totally not very bad for you, promise, usually, or very probably at the very least.

After that I went to see a man whose last name is that of late president and instantly triggers the sound of a presidential fanfare in my head. His dog’s name is Kim, and she’s a special dog. She’s got her own little mentioning on the run sheet, saying: DOG VERY PROTECTIVE OF G. BY ALL MEANS IGNORE DOG!!! Kim is a particularly tiny Jack Russel that apparently didn’t pick up on my specific aversion to this breed, warmed to me instantly for some reason and continued to come over for a cuddle every 5 minutes while I was scrubbing the shower or mopping the floor (fair enough, causing some sliding-dog-entertainment for me). ‘Great’ I thought ‘It’s not just old men, but old men’s dogs that love me’. There are worse things. G. Had just washed his carpet and thought it’d be a great idea to dry it by roaring the fire to sacrificial heights. It was about 30 C outside, 42 C inside. I think I just invented Bikram homecare and I tell you now, it’s not going to kick off.

Another interesting thing I was thinking about: here in Australia you can visit the elderly all day long and still have to carry your own drinks and bickies. In the UK you’d probably have to be limited to 3 clients a day for fear of tea and biscuit and chocolate and probably fruit cake and sandwiches overload. I’m cool with not getting fed every time I walk into the door but a cuppa every now and then would be nice you know? Especially when they’re having one while I’m sweating all over the bathroom floor because of THE ROARING FIRE!!!

Agh well… Happy Wednesday

Jude

Francesca

Francesca met her husband over 50 years ago. She had many boyfriends, 2 engagements and one failed marriage behind her when she met Wally. Suddenly  life made sense to her, love was not just attraction or infatuation. Love was comfort, complete comfort, it felt like an eternal embrace, love filled her up and up and up. Francesca had met her soul mate and married him a year later.

They were happily married for over 50 years. Well in their 70s, Francesca would sometimes go on a trip with the local bus and William would be waiting at the bus stop for her to return. He would be there 15 minutes early, just in case the bus was early, and she would be the first one to get off the bus. Every single time. After 50 years they would still feel butterflies when they were reunited. He adored her, she adored him.

William would still caress her shoulder in the middle of a party, would still look at her from across a room full of people, would still hold her at night and kiss her in the morning. For over 50 years they felt happy, through tough and dark times, through good and blissful times. They could not have any children but this never made them doubt their relationship. Their partnership was one that held them both in equal union.

William fell ill with cancer, terminal cancer. Francesca looked after her husband and best friend, both knowing that the bond was about to break but still genuinely smiling at each other and still feeling in love.  He left the nurses in tears by telling them over and over again with tears streaming down his face that he couldn’t die because he couldn’t leave his wife, he never meant to leave her alone. He wasn’t afraid of dying, he was afraid of leaving her.

3 Years after William’s death, Francesca lives on her own in their house, surrounded by a few of his pictures. Her house is immaculate, and she just needs me to help her with the vacuuming. Francesca is 82 now, and often talks to me about love and happiness, grief and death. She tells me that being in love is the best feeling in the world, and she is the luckiest person because she had over 50 years of feeling it every day.

She tells me that because her love for her husband was so strong, her loss is larger than life as well. She tells me that every day there is a moment where her grief utterly overwhelms her and she feels emptier than a black hole. She tells me about how the fact that her husband was spared from feeling this kind of grief is one of the only things that keeps her going. She finds strength in knowing he was always perfectly happy with her.  Francesca is getting weaker, and it’s frustrating her. But in a way I feel she is at peace with this as well.

I don’t think Francesca will ever stop grieving, and as she told me her story I teared up a bit while holding her vacuum cleaner like a teddy bear. The value of her love for William was so great that when she lost it, she lost everything. Yet she still smiles when she talks about him and still says she is the luckiest person in the world, even though she is in pain every single day. I like Francesca a lot. I grief for  Francesca’s pain, and hope at the same time I’ll be just like her. She said the risk of falling so deeply in love is that when you lose it, it will leave a deep deep hole. She also told me it is worth it a hundred times over and I should never settle for less.

I think that was the best thing I’ve heard today. Today was a good day.

Jude