I was washing our clothes. It was in a dream. I was with a group of other people. Things were being discussed, work things, seemingly important things. All I wanted to do was wash. Wash our clothes. His and mine. I put one load in the washing machine and was planning how I could fit in another. I thought about the clothes in the machine. It was so important to get them all clean. Perfectly prosaic but dreams aren’t like that. Things of apparent primary concern are jumbled up with trivia. All judgement is skewed. I abandon myself to sleep these days in a way that I never have before. Sleep used to be a nuisance, I wanted to be doing, working, making, thinking. Now it is something like joy, though a quiet one. I fall into it happily only to beĀ  pulled awake from it by the loud insistent ring of my alarm, to soon and with a struggle.

What is it? he asked me at supper. I don’t know. Sometimes I can find a cause, or at least a trigger. It is just melancholy. A heavy, weighty dragging of feet that turns every task, every expectation into one of dread. It’s true, the smallest thing. Yes, my natural state is one of melancholia but this fatigue of the mind and of the body is not inherent to me. As I walk I think about just accepting it. Living with it rather than fighting it – rather like this new stiffness in my hips. What is to be done with it? An endless series of prods, tests and physio – only to find nothing wrong? The mind stuff could be anything – the menopause, grief or loss of way. All those things or none. I watch myself to find reasons. I don’t want to go out, I go out. I don’t feel like cooking, I cook. I don’t feel like working, dressing, cleaning….But when I do them there is a moment of calm. I’ve done it. I am not defeated. I lap up stories of ill people, people given bed-rest. What would that be like? Could I yield and let my home, my world slide? I began the sewing projects as a way of making manifest my defeat, my loss of way. Are they still taking me somewhere? People have engaged with my ‘Sunflowers’ work. Is there more to say? I believe that the wise thing to do if you don’t know where you are going is to stay still. And yet, I relish the travelling. The travelling for work, at least. It’s the being in motion. So restful. Then I can let go. I am free, untrammelled, unknown. Anything is possible. And then I find my bravery.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.