The Cure for Sleep: Regret
Season 1, 009: Our moments of painful awareness
“A story about struggle, class, opportunity (taken and wasted), art, sex and desire. About how to live once you’ve faced down death, and how to love. In laying out her life, Tanya has created a book with the capacity to change yours”
Jenny Landreth, author Swell: A Waterbiography
This month’s advance extract from The Cure For Sleep is about regret: those moments of painful awareness that often come at the end, when it feels too late - as when I arrived so suddenly at what I believed was my last minute of living.
After reading, do share a short true tale of your own - no more than 300 words – on this theme in the comments section. Have you experienced terrible regret as a result of your own actions - or failure to act? Did it change you? How?
Read the Season One stories contributed by readers over on The Cure For Sleep website: bedtime stories | memory games | bonding | choosing | promises | size & shape | time | desire | regret | faith | rebirth
I’M NOT DEAD I’M NOT DEAD I’M NOT DEAD
I bellowed this, over and again, with increasing force (although only my lips moved, I learned later, from the woman holding my hand). And each time I shouted, I came only a little further back, and with the unsteady motion got on a river, as if my voice and words were oars. The Awful Rowing Towards God: book by a poet who’d tried to die several times before she did. Yes. This was that. Where she had gone, I was going. Heavy now with duty, I fought the pull, even as I hoped it would carry me away.
The pain began.
Not the body. This was anguish. Of mind, soul: acute, unsparing. Regret – sharp and precise as a knife slipped inside an oyster shell – broke me open, exposing something raw, ugly and absolutely true.
How disgusting, to have my face brought so close to it, as if being forced to my knees with my neck held near a bowl of my own waste.
All the times and ways I’d turned away from risk and opportunity: moments not even Nye knew about, and absent from my life’s written transcripts. Parties I hadn’t gone to, job offers I didn’t accept, because I was without the right clothes, or shoes, or accent. Skills I never learned because I was too shy, too proud, to join with a group of other beginners. The jealousy that squirted in my stomach whenever reading in the weekend papers about those who had created something, as if their achievements were stolen from the reserves set aside for my own unrealised future (that wish to be a writer which existed only as pages in private diaries). Bitterer still: the sight of women my age walking together, when I’d been without a best female friend a decade, longer; never envying them any babies or small children, only their adult companionship.
These and more. Deep shames, held in some appendix-end of self, all coming back up.
And what passed for my status in the world: how separate it seemed now, like the gall around a wasp larva or the casing of a caddis grub. My degree result – strangely stellar for a working-class girl who’d grown up with so few books – and the scholarship it won me for a master’s. Rapid work promotions. Being asked back to my old school to give a speech. Even the amount I’d read, so that I recorded each title in a little ledger; miser hoarding coin. All this had mattered to me, very much, but felt now like a shell in which my real self lay formless, and recoiling from contact.
Admit it, if only to myself, in whatever new dimension it was that had cast me into such hard light.
How little I’d given. Or gone for.
Living through the words of others, when I might have dared to share my own.
Hiding in an office. Even (yes) my marriage and reluctant pursuit of motherhood.
That crabbed life of mine was ending.
With dishonour on me, who’d wasted it.