In the meantime I have been having a day of tidying. These happen very infrequently, and always follow the same arc: anticipatory fear, sulky intital heel dragging, resignation, a brief flurry of enthusiasm, afternoon despondency at the infinite nature of the task, followed by a manic second wind that keeps me up until 3am aligning tea caddies and polishing tea spoons. Final slump.
I am somewhere between afternoon despondency and the second wind that I sort of hope never comes right now. But most importantly I have dealt with the Box of Doom.
When I left the old house, I threw everything papery that belonged to me in one box. This ranged from passport, to tax retruns, to old birthday cards and scraps torn from magazines about good lipsticks. It has been giving me cold sweats every time I walk past it, inconveniently placed in the middle of the corridor in full view.
So I did it. Reader, it was fucking awful. But I learnt stuff. All manner of stuff.
Exhibit 1: Unopened letters from HSBC and ING
So it transpires that once in March, and once in October this year, banks cancelled my cards due to suspected fraud. I had absolutely no idea. I wonder what happened next? I will never know, there is no chronology in the box, it is merely a series of isolated events captured on crumpled paper.
Exhibit 2: Medical insurance papers to reclaim money (approx 40, each worth approx €20)
And here we learnt that I go to the doctor about ten times more often than both children put together. I find this depressing. It indicates that I am well on the way to becoming one of those elderly ladies who see ill health as a hobby and love nothing more than to discuss their 'condition' at length with any medical professional they can pin down. It was like a photo album of pain, filling in the stupid fiddly slips to reclaim the money. Look, the time I fainted on the tram! And this one's the 14 hour trip to A & E for the knee where they gave me morphine as a consolation prize after forgetting about me in the plaster room for 7 hours! Ah, and that was the ancient coughing gynaecologist with the African fertility symbols! Oooh and I remember that syringe. And that one! Etc etc etc.
I do not want to be that person. I am actually in perfectly good health, bar the stupid knee. . I have made a good start by failing to renew my prescription for antidepressants for so long that I have had all the entertaining side effects of withdrawal and can't really face starting again. I feel fine anyway. Maybe I'm CURED? (cue manic laughter and drooling). Let's see how cured I feel in January, the devil's month.
Exhibit 3 Long and carefully preserved Elle Belgique article on liposuction and who does it best
Finding this article was like seeing Crazy Emma preserved in amber. I distinctly remember being absolutely adamant that I would have liposuction as soon as I could afford it. I was planning to spend my next bonus on dangerous, painful, unnecessary elective surgery. Then, as now, I would have been about 8 1/2 stone. I always am, give or take, though I've long since stopped weighing myself (no good can come of that palaver when you're an ex-bulimic. Are you an ex? Or is it like alcoholics? Whatever). And I genuinely believed I should have liposuction. Truly. When I cut this article out, I had just worked my way back from 7 stone of pure crazy, scrawny, madness. Possibly the thought of liposuction in reserve acted like a comfort blanket, helping me feel ok about regaining weight. It was my transitional object, my doudou.
But doudou must go in the bin, in the same way I had to bin the 24" waist jeans, and the Madeleine Press trousers seemingly made for dollies that would barely reach my knees now. I've binned them all because I'm not going back to that half life and I wouldn't want to leave the door even ajar. It's crap. I know how thin feels and yes, I did love it, it would be disingenous to suggest I didn't like it when shop assistants said "you're TINY!" or when I fitted into, and looked good in everything, didn't have to think about what suited hips or tits. But I also remember how mad it made me, how brittle and angry; how joyless. I remember the permanent headache, and the feeling of my seat bones banging against the chair as I sat down. Worse still, I remember how delighted i was to feel that. I remember a whole year without complex carbohydrate, scraping the breadcrumbs off fishfingers, feeling terrified of going to someone's house for a meal. I remember trying to bargain with my my counsellor as she insisted I ate some carbs. "How about a bread roll with some soup?" I remember suggesting, madly calculating in my head how I could get a really tiny roll, maybe not finish it, not eat for the rest of the day...
It's hardly credible now. I truly, absolutely, eat what I like when I like. I might not always manage a balanced meal, but I eat enough and I eat everything. I wondered if I might get odd about food being on my own in a new house, but it hasn't materialised much to my relief. My body and my mind know how much I need the fuel, for these are tough times and I have others relying on me to be ok. Yet even so, I know how quickly the paradigm can shift and how easy it is to fall back into those comforting patterns of self-denial and restriction. My hands still occasionally stray to my chest to check how bony it is, because it used to comfort me back in the dark days.
So the article goes in the bin and I eat a meal, a real meal with carbs and I finish with a pudding, because way back when I was twenty and first in the throes of an eating disorder, I remember the wonderful, gentle and sharp Professor Russell telling me he always did. And that that was how you knew a meal was finished. (I have such gratitude and affection for Professor Russell. What a privilege to have been treated by someone so wise and humane. Thank you Professor Russell, and thank you Ellie at Lissom Grove too, even though I lied and wriggled and pretended to you I didn't have a problem. Fuck, what is this, the therapy Oscars? ).
Exhibit 4: Boys on Frogs
Quick! Let's lighten the mood. I also found this ridiculous picture, bought at outlandish cost from Antwerp zoo. It made me laugh.
And finally, the box is empty. I have hidden forty three bank statements in the recycling. I am still spectacularly stupid in lots of ways. But when I look at Exhibit 3 stuffed in the recycling with 478 electricity bills and unanswered Christmas cards c1998, I know that things are at least heading in the right direction.