I do it; I break the glass to retrieve the cream shoebox
within, the lid is snug but not tight and makes a lovely popping noise when
lifted up. Inside it is lined with
tissue paper in a comfortingly calm colour palette of Easter yellow and
gold. Folded within the unwrinkled paper
is a series of laminated A5 cards. They
are printed on a soft eggshell blue, with indigo ink - font, Garamond. This is my gift to myself, my gift from
someone else for just such a moment.
With blood pounding mercilessly in my ears and no means of reasoning, I
tremble with desperate, clumsy fingers to decipher the steps I must take. The card in front reads:Important! Read First!
What not to Do -
- Do not contact
anyone you have any unresolved issues with. This is not the time, my darling, to
make good your sins. This is the
time to ride out the storm and take notes - there will be time enough soon
for amends if they are indeed in order.
- Do not cut your
- Do not mix
alcohol with pain killers or sleeping pills.
- Do not post on
- Do not leave the
house without a thorough checking over in a full length mirror.
- Do not engage
acquaintances in idle conversation.
Speak to those you must, yes, but keep to such phrases as are
routinely made on the dullest of days.
- Do not answer
the question "how are you?” with anything resembling honesty.
- Do not see your
GP for anything less than a real emergency.
- Do not contact a
Fuck. I've done all 9
of those things in the last 48 hours - I misjudged the necessity (or lack
thereof, so I thought) of breaking the glass this time. Ok - the next card must have hope for me. Damage
course you didn't break the glass in time did you? Alright - so how bad is it? What have you done? All of them, you say? Right let's start from here. Please action these in order of the above
- Whoever you have
emailed or phoned is likely to know you are mad anyway - that is surely
why you have the unresolved issues isn't it? So all in all hopefully only one more
piece of straw on that camel's back.
Send a friendly and sane email carefully backtracking what was
previously sent and give it a day or two to rest. Re-evaluate.
- Your hair will
grow. If it is horrible get it
tidied and then put it behind you.
Really, it is only hair.
- If you are still
awake after the mixture of wine and pain killers, drink plenty of
water. Eat food. Google the odds of an overdose. Seek medical attention. You idiot.
- What have you
written? How long has it been since
it was posted? Can you get it
deleted? The key with the internet
is to beg beg beg for your account wiped and your posts gone. Or invent a drunken brother impostorising
on your laptop.
- Accept that more
than likely all you have done is look like something dragged out from a
gutter. Next time you go out be
delicious, and impervious to the looks of shock on your acquaintances' faces
that this is the same woman whom they saw yesterday.
- Cultivate a
reputation for being beyond the pale and unique in all ways so that your blabbering
is accepted as an endearing trait.
If you said anything truly awful, apologise immediately. Blame whatever you have at your disposal
- hormones - no hormones? - Insomnia, ill health, even a bad cup of tea that
threw the whole day out from 8:20 am.
The truly sensible appreciate it when the slightly odd is blamed on
digestion. Embrace this.
- Laugh as soon as
you realise your error.
- Remind yourself
exactly what you discussed and evaluate it in a calm frame of mind. As long as you did not say anything
criminal you are fine. They don't
think you are the full ticket anyway.
- Do not return
phone calls or emails from anyone wanting a fee. If they think your case is so good it
will pay for itself, take a number and call them back in a week.
Next card... You
Need Some TLC
know it seems impossible right now. You
must make it happen. If your child is
asleep it is easily done - forget every single thing you are supposed to "do”
and just pay attention to these cards.
If your child is awake then buy time.
You know best how that is possible.
No guilt though. Someone else
looks after them for a while - great.
Children's TV presenters are surely qualified childcare providers for
short amounts of time. If you can not
shift the child for a while change what you are doing with them - drastically -
until such a time that you can have some time alone. Take a walk, even in the rain, it can make
you and your child laugh and get some relief.
you groomed? Have you shaved and washed
and exfoliated? If not then do so - it
will make you feel better. Sleep if you
are tired. If you are not, do something
peaceful, read a book, but not a hard book, no no, read one you know will give
you pleasure and transport you into an absorbing and enchanting world. I highly recommend a very good quality
romance novel. Eat as much chocolate as you
want. Don't worry about the calories, it
isn't every single day and you can sort that out later.
I'm happy now - this card seems right. I am beginning the feel the lovely calm
feeling wash over me that this too shall pass and I should keep plugging
Deep breath, take the next card out;
hands are working a bit better now. Sort
that you are feeling a bit farther back from the precipice it is time to take
stock of the situation in a calm, compassionate, and rational manner. What has caused this? Did you get carried away on a wave of fear or
self pity? Were you angry? Has someone hurt you? Well my darling, pick yourself up and
reflect. You have so much to be grateful
for, so much to make you happy. This is
the time to remember that life is not about being flawlessly cool as a cucumber
no matter what may come. Feeling,
failing and generally being an idiot is part of the Human Condition. It is a facet of life we must all accept to
have the beautiful, sparkling, diamond whole.
You have perhaps made some mistakes, you have felt or done things you
are not proud of. Of course you must try
to be your own good person, and maintain happiness, but this is not possible
constantly. Itemise what needs to be
done to improve this aspect of your life and do it. Make amends if they are called for, do it
graciously, and then move on. I know you
are not a carelessly silly or hurtful person.
You will have learnt and it is added to your repertoire of Things That
Do Not Now Need to Be Done.
a friend, confide in your lover, hug your child, and reach out to the people
who you know truly love you and can see your day in the great train of days on
your timeline. Please laugh at yourself,
and wipe your tears. Things are not
normally as bad as they might have once seemed. And
next time, consult these cards sooner.
You do know, don't you, when you are on the slippery slope. I know the thrill of sliding is an enticing
one but the climb back up is such a drain.
In future please take a bit more time to reflect and resist the self
destructive impulse. Replace these cards
and get a new pane of glass.
I do feel renewed and this is both discouraging and
relieving. It is discouraging because I
have again attested to the fact that new lows are almost always available to
you if you seek them, without necessarily ending your days. But relieved, of course, because that also
must mean I have not done my own absolute worst, and it can go up from
here. I have a new chance and a fresh
store of strength. Just like having
fantastic make up sex can make a fight almost seem worth it... I feel more alive
and spritely than I did before the Emergency came.
I am tired and spent and for me, sleep is the best
thing. Thank you Emergency Cards, I must
get you patented, marketed and sold!