What do I write about now? My world seems to have become very small.
There is the bedroom with its bed, in which I wake each morning, with a hope that, somehow, my back will have decided overnight to slot back into its old, painless, alignment.
This is the first disappointment of the day.
I tug back the curtains, and see a cloudless blue sky, and the wisps of mist in the valley, all washed in that rich autumn light that comes from a low sun. Because of the season, the sun is always relatively low in the sky, so the day has the light of countless sunsets.
Then my world withdraws into a bathroom, with its own difficulties that come from having to crawl around on the floor. I know the view from the bathroom window is my favourite in the house . . . into the valley, with its church tower nestled in old linden trees, and up to the summit of Pule Hill, with its crumbling drystone walls and its moorland slopes . . . but I can’t see it.
I go downstairs on my backside, revealing, step by slow step, the assorted collection of wheelchairs, zimmers and walkers that will control my day, making me both safe and mobile for the day. They are there to make things possible for me, but they also are a constant reminder of what I can’t do.
This is the paradox of all mobility aids, from the humble walking stick to the most sophisticated all-terrain wheelchair. It is why we are so reluctant, at first, to use them. They remind us we are no longer young and energetic.
Intellectually, I know age brings its rewards. I am calmer, I know myself pretty well, I know what I like and don’t do what I have discovered I don’t like. But the price of this calmness and self-assurance is my body, my senses, my energy, and I’m not sure it’s a fair price, whatever I may say out loud.
When I am on my death bed, as a loved one mops my brow, it is not the sense of calm wisdom that I shall cry out for . . . it will be the regrets, the missed opportunities of youth, the easy nonchalance of a body that does what I want it to do, the kisses.
So, while I am thankful for the life I have had, I really wouldn’t mind trying out some of those other lives I didn’t have. All that I would need to do was change one decision in the past, and everything would have been different. Everything.
I’m really curious about these alternative lives. This has to be a regret that even Edith Piaf must have had. From here, the places where massive decisions were made are very clear, though, of course, they weren’t at the time.
The crucial moments are not magical ones, like someone deciding to marry you after all, for that was never in your control. No, it’s the moments when I did something and had no idea what I was doing to my world. It’s as though my life has been a four-dimensional eco-system. Remove one element of the web I have created, and the whole system would have turned out differently.
And, of course, it is still going on. Every microsecond is offering me billions of choices, and I don’t know why I choose what I choose. It is the illusion of Free Will.
But I try to be aware of the web of possibilities that exists in every moment. It seems to give life the colour of an autumn sunset.
To have no choices seems the ultimate impoverishment.