Two months on I am back in the Ikea cafe. I look out over the pylons, gasometers and warehouses of north east London, including the bright yellow warehouse in which my possessions reside. Not all plans work out, I suppose, and I am back to liberate some belongings, now that my month of living in spare rooms looks like stretching out to four. Not all plans work out.
There is a risk, though, that plans may now unravel out of sheer downheartedness. I have made it this far, endured a certain amount of discomfort getting here and am at the threshold of the space and time I wanted. Hold your nerve. I need to make sure I don’t retreat back behind the fortifications now.
Of course I want to. The act of moving, the breaking of routines and the demands of looking ahead have created space for all manner of thoughts and fears to come in. The pressure of decisions – short and longer term – threaten to overwhelm and it’s easier not to face them. Of course it is.
So stay at the threshold, if you can. Diagnosis and its uncertainty have been around for a while now and neither is going to go away. The uncertainty of MS can imprison you and it is forgivable, I tell myself, to want to stick with the known and the secure – any shred of it – when the insecurities of incurable illness abound. It is the imprisonment narrative, not the liberation one, that seems to be winning out right now. Perhaps not without some complicity on my part either. At my most honest I know this.
Looking out over the industrial wastelands of north east London, my circling thoughts are broken by the arrival of a family at the next table along. The two young boys charge off to the play area, already mayhem despite the early hour. I look around and there are lots of families like this one. Alone in Ikea, I am in a tiny minority.
I look around at people furnishing futures they are prepared to take a bets on. People with futures no more certain than mine. More secure in some ways perhaps but no more certain. At my most rational I know this. So hold your nerve.