For at least a couple of years, I’ve been driven, and tried to be driven, by urgent needs from the moment I wake: the need to run and get it finished; the subsequent, desperate need for my breakfast; the need to get people up for work and school; the feeling that if I don’t urge myself forward I will collapse, through laziness or exhaustion; the need to be busy to prove I’m a useful individual.
I’m released from this, now. My typical day starts with an enforced lie in. When I first arrived in Ascot House, the days were longer. I could peer at my book, trying not to wake my room-mate, as the light slowly strengthened and time achingly crept by. It’s darker, these days, so I can’t even do that. I ought to lie in bed reflecting on things, but there seems nothing to be said or thought. Miasmas of emotion, vague and ill-defined, eddy and moil through the echoing chambers in my head.
This idleness doesn’t seem unwholesome, yet the looseness and freedom, the apparent emotional neutrality, give me a (tranquil) sense of the profound slightness, or the profound hollowness, of the self. It seems to me that we are a loose and serendipitous association of sensory data and a few mild impulses: a cold nose and a slight headache, allied to apprehension about the future, say; sore feet, and a distaste for drains, attached to a dislike of conflict. We have no core, or essential being, no soul. Most of our DNA is junk, after all, and our useful traits appear to have developed by accident.
At 5.30, I creep into the bathroom, where I can read, while avoiding looking in the mirror. There’s a large, sash window and, on a fine, clear morning, a modest blush of pastel shades is lent to the misted panes. It’s a nice contrast to the variegated bathroom whites – gloss window frame, whitewashed walls, old, enamel bath. If the window is open a little, you can see the tops of the hedge and the few remaining trellised roses next door; often a single bird is singing in a spare, abandoned, autumn dawn. There seems to be far more depth and meaning to these perceptions, now that I’m better nourished. When you’re ill, you live in a world of un-affecting facts. Sunrise is simply sunrise – nothing more.
Leaving the room at 6.30, it’s like Piccadilly Circus out on the landing (these bloody insomniac anorexics!) It’s especially bad on Mondays and Thursdays, which are the days we get weighed, with our backs to the display so we can’t see how much we’ve gained. Those of us with abnormal blood-pressure, usually the thinnest among us, also have it checked by the poor, red-eyed night nurse.
Luckily, when I get downstairs, I’m largely left alone until 8.30, to luxuriate in BBC Radio 4, the papers from the weekend before, and my coffee.