When we’re facing a crisis, as I am at the moment, a few small things can make a big difference, even if it’s just a dab of mascara and a game of Angry Birds
“Passive” is not a word normally associated with fashion. Fashion does not have a passive bone in its body. Personal style, however, which is what I usually write about, has more to do with accepting what and who you are than it has to do with blindly following the herd. Personal style and passive acceptance fit more neatly together the older we get – as neatly as a well-worn Birkenstock to a battered (but pedicured) middle-aged foot. We know what we like and barring the occasional surprising discovery, that is that.
It’s appropriate that this is Invisible Woman blog No 90. Ninety is the age my father (the Aged or Ailing Parent to my Twitter followers) had ambitions of reaching. Alas, this is not to be. A little while ago he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and he, and we his family, thought that was it. Months and not years is what the doctors said and yet here he is nearly two years later just beginning the final leg of his journey. A lot is written of “journeys” and “battles”, particularly in relation to this wretched disease, but really all any of us can do is struggle through to the best of our ability and then hope for the best. Sometimes that means sitting, and waiting, and just being there for those we love. To continue the battle analogy, we have to sit on our kit bags, crack jokes and hang around for however long it takes. We have to accept, passively, that all that can be done has been done.
When that phone call comes and you need to drop everything and pack a bag; when your nerves are jangling like a dropped piano, just pause for a minute, take a few deep breaths and think about what will make you feel better. The things you are fond of are important at a time like this. They help you to cope and they provide you with some emotional respite. They are your grownup comfort blanket.
Having spent most of last week wrestling with hospices, the NHS, my peculiar family, the ridiculously hot weather and, of course, my dear old Pa, I realise that although I got a lot of it right (because I know my own style and what makes me happy) I forgot a few things that are entirely necessary for me. But we will have to go through other versions of this again over the coming days so, with the benefit of experience, here are some things that I’m keeping on standby for the next time the balloon goes up, and the time after that:
Good pyjamas – I bought some new ones recently (with the intention of doubling the jackets as summer blouses). Mine are Hush and they come in a dear little pyjama bag. Every night of wearing rose-strewn cotton jimjams was a little cuddle that I desperately needed. I also did not look stupid if I had to show my face, and pyjamas, elsewhere and in public.
Emergency makeup – probably the last thing on your mind but spend 10 minutes bunging on some concealer, blusher and mascara and you will feel better able to cope with whatever gets chucked at you. It’s called “putting on a brave face” and it helped me feel like a grown-up when all I wanted to do was revert to being six again and have my Pa take care of everything like he used to.
Ear plugs/eye mask – I napped in all sorts of weird places, and I would include the only available hotel (a whole other story). Even 40 winks helps keep you sane, although 60 are better, and if you have a bloke snoring for Britain on the other side of your paper-thin hotel wall you need a solution. I had to make do with my iPod and let me tell you, Voodoo Chile at 4am takes on quite an abstract quality.
Emergency drinks – not that I advocate drinking (ahem) and certainly not to excess because that helps nobody, least of all yourself, but you may find a couple of those little cans of G&T an absolute lifesaver at certain points. My mum, also lost to cancer, would call it “a stiffener”.
Things to do – take a device you can load with apps to help while away waiting time without requiring too much concentration. This is NOT the time to be tackling Dostoevsky. Twitter turned out to be my best friend, mainly because of my wonderful followers. Somewhere in the Twittersphere there will be someone else who is going through, has been through, or is about to start going through what you are going through. This is a great support and comfort in the long dark watches of the night. For all other occasions there is Angry Birds. Or really, whatever floats your boat. And don’t forget your charger.
And don’t forget whatever regular medications you take yourself. In an emergency the hospital will be able to sort you out but it helps if you have one less thing to worry about.
So that, in a nutshell, is that. I expect you have your own suggestions. My Pa took his Yorkshire Dales baseball cap to the hospice with him. Why? Because it reminds him of striding out across the moors on a glorious spring day with his favourite walking stick in his hand – the one he carved himself with the badger’s head handle and which is also there, beside his bed, ready for the next expedition.
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