The woman at the butcher’s brought through a large vacuum-packed batch of bacon. “Here was I thinking you had a bacon-slicer through the back,” I said. She grinned and shook her head. The butcher in Aberdeen had one of those, but that was in the 1980s. My grandfather was a butcher, and he did everything from slaughtering the beasts to serving customers- ninety years ago.
Yvonne had double-booked, so gave me half an hour. I have come away with more ways of thinking about The Issue, but that may be a bad thing.
-What did you get, last time, from curling up on the floor and screaming?
It really has been that bad. I am here because of the pain I have suffered. I am not here because of being useless or worthless or weak. Absolution has to come from me.
(It occurs to me that I have got something from curling up in the past- someone takes pity, and lessens the demands on me- but that is less likely in adulthood. A psychiatrist wrote my friend’s issue was “adjusting to adult life”.)
Crisis is coming. Early next year my benefit is not certain, but very likely to get cut by £50 a week, and possibly stop entirely. So I could get evicted. I accept that it is better to deal with that now than the day before: now, I have more options.
-You get out a bit. You do things with the- Mormons?
-No, Quakers. We like to think they’re the weirdos, we are perfectly normal. Or weird in a good way.
I want to survive- but just surviving has very little appeal to me. Any way I can envisage of earning money just seems a grind. I want instant gratification.
Counselling is not her telling me stuff. She said something, I forgot it, I asked her to repeat it, I forget it again. Something about my values.
-How do you see yourself?
-Ah. Long counselling journey there. I realised aged 20 that I see myself as the Centre of the Universe, and at the same time utterly worthless. Total arrogance and terror. In my forties I come to “I am a human being”- fearfully and wonderfully made, but one in seven billion; this seems a more rational way of seeing it; but the extremes are still there.
-What would you get out of volunteering at the charity shop?
-Getting out of the house, doing something worthwhile, being with people. I had a summer job in a hotel when I was at university, and a woman took me to task for being “The Lawyer, looking down on all of us” though my aloofness was partly from nervousness. I did not despise them. I think. I would get more practice with that.
-How do other people see you?
This is the new way of (over)thinking the problem. I notice, and am affected by, rejection far more than acceptance or admiration. Admiration is never enough. Just as winning every claim and appeal, at work, was never enough.
-What options do I really have?