I sometimes think about when I die. @MindCharity and others fill my twitter with discussions of depression and suicide and other nasties in the name of raising awareness. I like these, they are usually messages of hope. And there have been a couple of terrible news stories lately; the worst, probably, a father coming home to dead babies. Bad, bad, bad days for other people.
Having had depression I think it is easy to feel that death is very close. Partly because my depression has tapped into my inner melodrama and angry dog. But also because if you can fall into depression, if your path has been shown to be a complacent walkway, then you know that there is far more ‘but-for-the-grace-of-God-ness’ about bad news than it is comfortable to believe. A mind which has once played tricks on you, will never be entirely trustworthy. In short, you won’t ever exactly be able to trust yourself. And how do you move on? Find the force for good? Get over it?
I find it hardest to remember my depression and do something useful with it when I am closest to happiness. And when I am crossing the road. At my worst I never looked for traffic because I secretly hoped to be mown down and stopped. For time to freeze and the days to end. Brown Owl should take my Road Safety badge back – sometimes I used to close my eyes and step out. These days, feeling less shaky, it is all ‘quickly carefully / wave to the nice driver / wait for the green person’. But then, there was recklessness and the taste of angry exhausts. What a wicked girl I was, but at least this means the kerb is always there to remind me.
And morbid isn’t always bad. It can offer us a chance for simple reflection. Take today. If sentimental posturing is to be believed when I die my life will track back and forward through my head in edited highlights, like the most glorious facebook stream. As we embark on the ballache of the school run I wonder fleetingly what snapshots I’ll settle on as I lie dying? The sight of my husband on our wedding day? Warm words, silly jokes, easy silence with friends? Cold beer? The might of a jaguar? The thrill of a new book? Leaving the cinema after my first Scorcese film? The breeze in my hair and sun on my face near a gravelly beach? The lilac evening glow of new bluebells in our first garden? The sight of a boy in sandals eating an apple? (That is probably my favourite view in all the world, if not my favourite sort of moment).
I’m pretty sure when the show is done the final shot, my happiest moment, will be this. Walking down a warm pavement, little sweaty hand in mine dragging my back because we aren’t quite the right size for comfy hand holding just yet, another scampering creature running ahead (or holding forth from his father’s shoulders) shouting out a stream of consciousness: animals, predators, transport, friends, birthday parties, facts and, mostly, questions.
We may be late, like today when we were ushered into the playground to the tolling of the dreaded bell. We may be early, like last week, loping and stopping to look at what specimens and curios Haringey has offered us (a dead bird, some chewing gum, a pair of shoes, WHAT’S THAT MUMMY? A FRIDGE?.. on the pavement). We may see a bus in the distance and know we’ll miss it, or be licking ice cream dribble from our sticky chins, or just moments from the shadow of home. But we will be walking forwards, together, in an everyday scruffy way, looking both ways as we cross the road. That, to me, will always be what happy is.