Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

New Year’s Resolution – Done + Dusted

January 19th, 2019
Up in the air somewhere

Be nicer. So simple, and yet so not. That NY’s Resolution lasted a day. I won’t go into what happened – Stretch has already had far too much airtime.

Why bother having a resolution at all, one might ask?

Old habits die hard. When I was young, my father used to go around the dinner table on NY’s Eve and quiz my sisters and me about what our resolution was for the coming year. There was a lot of pressure to impress him with our wisdom and thoughtfulness. My father died 13 years ago, but the tradition lives on.

‘Love myself more” worked like a charm in 2017.

Appreciating the little things – like red wine, cheese, coffee and dark chocolate – was another hit resolution last year. The key to any self-improvement plan is it MUST BE DOABLE.

I was at Heathrow the other day when the germ of a resolution for 2019 sprung. I’d had no word for two whole days about a recent brain scan.  I figured either I’m totally healthy so I’ve dropped to the bottom of my gp’s priority list, OR worse, and probably more likely, he doesn’t quite know how to break the sad news to me. We have a special bond, Dr M and I, this call would be very hard for him. My flight was boarding.

Hi Angie (Dr M’s p.a.- love her) Elena here. Did the results come back?’

I assume the same tone as when I ask for a medium, extra hot cappuccino with frothy almond milk if they have it. No biggie if they don’t. Easy chilled customer.

Oh yes, we emailed them over yesterday. Didn’t you get them? Your brain shows no signs of abnormality.’

My children would  beg to differ. Huge exhale (on my part, not Angie’s) I skip onto the plane, thinking I deserve a glass of bubbly.

I should confess that the brain scan was my idea, not Dr M’s. If I could I’d like to have a full-body scanning device installed in my bathroom. Brush teeth, wash face, scan body, shower. I  love the fact that our townhouse in Greenwich Ct is a five-minute walk to the hospital. Location, location, location. When my son Thomas had kidney surgery in San Francisco last summer, I made the most of his hospital time. While Thomas was being operated on, I didn’t dally in the lounge with other anxious parents. No siree. I dashed across the street to see not one but two UCSF doctors about things that were niggling me.

You could say I have a slight obsession with The End (and all roads leading to it).

As Woody Allen said, I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

I have imagined aspects of my death – in a good way. I only added that last bit because my daughter Kate thinks a blog about death is kind of a downer. Thomas refused to let me read the blog aloud to him.

No thanks, he said, as he rushed out of the kitchen.

So pretend this is a blog about something cheery.  Anyway, I have imagined how my children would cope without me. Obviously, they wouldn’t. My kids reassure me that they would. Kind of annoying.

I have pictured Stretch distraught – for about a month – until some friendly, pug-loving brunette in Whole Foods notices that they are buying the same brand of yogurt.

I should be happy for Stretch. I am not happy for Stretch.

Where to scatter my ashes- not over an ocean- too wet and cold and dark. Mountains are out – too many bears. And the music for my memorial?  I haven’t picked a single song!  I am so unprepared. The only thing I have figured out is my tombstone.

What if I throw caution to the wind and make 2019 the year where I stop  fearing imminent illness and its natural conclusion.

The resolution hatched up in the clouds proves tricky almost immediately. I love to catch up on old newspapers and magazines while flying.

These are the articles that grab my attention:

How Cancer Changes Hope  by Kate Bowler, a Duke professor with stage IV cancer, who says that not only has she learned to live in the moment, but “the mundane began to sparkle.”

The Best NY’s Eve Party is in Seat 17A about a woman who hated NY’s Eve until she met her husband and they celebrated by cooking cassoulet and inviting a few close friends over.  But then her husband died and so now she likes to fly on NY’s eve.  I get that. After my divorce I made my kids fly on Christmas Day.

And my final lighthearted read “Haulers of Junk Manhandled my Heart” about a woman getting rid of an old sofa – and how that unleashed cathartic grief- because, you guessed it, she’d bought the sofa with her husband who is now a goner.

I look around the cabin. It’s a wonder any one of us is alive. I’m not sure my new resolution meets Criteria Numero Uno: Can it be easily achieved? No pain, lotsa gain. Upon landing I call my wiseman Shomit Mitter to see if he has an easy 1-stop shop  cure for hypochondria.

Hypochondria  is a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) says Shomit. PTSD is when you’ve been through something terribly stressful and a part of you shuts down … where the trauma in question is associated around someone’s health or the death of someone you were very close to. That part remains in lockdown, it remains  a dormant part of you until a trigger, a memory of the old thing wakes up again. Everyone knows that they are going to die, but why do some people get very worried about it, because they have had previous experience of it. To deal with it you don’t deal with Hypochondria, you deal with PTSD.

Shomit thinks one session of hypnosis with him, followed up by a few more at-home sessions listening to a tape Shomit prepares for me, and bingo, I’m going to have to find a new hobby, needlepoint perhaps.

In the meantime, I’m trying to Be Nicer. Smiled at a stranger this morning. Go Team!

January 2019