On this day last year, I wrote the message and forced myself to click ‘Send’. With my heart trying to jump out through the throat, with my body refusing to breathe. Then I stood up, went to the kitchen and put the kettle on. I looked through the window at the Pentlands shrouded in the morning mist. There was no trace of yesterday’s snow.
‘I am alive’, I told myself.
In this new country, my new home, I was thinking about the childhood spent in a different place. So different, and yet so similar in many surprising ways. The Polish blackbird’s song in the evening that used to lull me to sleep on long summer days, the smell of rain in the air. They are the same in Scotland. They help me feel at home.
I was thinking about the place where so much was left, so little but memories could be taken into the future: my grandmother’s house in a small Polish town where she has taught me how to read and write, how to knit and mend my clothes, where she told me names of all the plants and creatures living in her boundless garden. She was the one to hug me when I cried, the one I ran to when my bruised knees or a broken heart needed mending. She has seen me as an infant, as a toddler and has almost seen me through my teenage years. I was fourteen when, all of a sudden, her heart could not have been mended anymore.
It was then that my eternally displeased mother took over. She has also taught me a lot.
That my needs were called whims.
That the pain I felt was just my imagination.
That there was only one right way to feel and I kept getting it wrong.
That I did not matter and whatever I had was hers.
That love had to be earned by being useful.
That I had to be there for her till the end of my days, never allowed a life of my own.
All these beliefs had to be burnt out of my mind in the roaring fire that my adult life has become.
I am still sweeping the ashes.
This is why, on this day last year, I typed: ‘Do not try to contact me again’ and pressed ‘Send’. Then I blocked some numbers in my phone, went to the kitchen and put the kettle on.
‘I am alive’, I told my trembling body. ‘I am still alive’.