All the leaves are changing and nothing is changing and maybe everything is changing. My mother sings California Dreaming while she stands smoking at the kitchen window, just the first two lines, nothing more, she doesn’t know the rest – sometimes softly to herself, sometimes with vigour, with an excitement about the sky being grey, whether or not it really is. Sometimes I look in the mirror or catch my own mannerisms, think about my ways, and realise I am becoming her a little and I love it. I talk like my dad. I tell people to pack it in and stop mithering and find myself repeating sayings I assume are a bit northern and explaining it away with as my dad would say. My family is the best family to ever exist and we don’t need to be perfect because nobody is – I can only emulate the best people I know, and they are the best people I could emulate because they never left. Others left and said they had come back but they haven’t, not really.

I have learnt that people’s intentions are the most important thing but that doesn’t mean the outcome of their actions is excusable if it hurts you anyway. People can have the best intentions and do nothing. People can have the best intentions and still need to change. I intend to achieve zen but that doesn’t mean I will or that I’m any good at trying.

The trees are turning now, early September, and I keep meaning to tell you about that in a poem. Driving to work or friends or home I notice the subtle shades, the haphazard way they don’t stand in line or take it in turn, they just tinge green-yellow-orange, some skipping ahead, some drifting through hues in a haze.

Haz, I tell my work friend, you’re on the cutting edge of modern music. He says he is at the pinnacle. I have called Jason Jase for so long – since I met him, since before we were probably familiar enough – that he feels told off when I don’t. Nicknames, they’re like public displays of affection for friendship. Office-appropriate showing-off – look, these are my humans. They make my life.

I digress because hues and haze reminded me of Haz, because life is work and family and trees. What I meant to say is that the trees are turning orange and brown and another chance – that’s a new shade for me. The trees are turning over a new leaf in colour and telling me winter is coming, Christmas is drawing closer. I can’t wait for Christmas, but it’s the run-up to it that excites me most – so I am excited about being excited, anticipation on top of anticipation.

In six days it will be a year since my hysterectomy – I’ll be one year uterine-cancer-free. Two months later, all being well, I will be one year cancer-free, completely. And the trees know that; that’s why they’re turning. It’s time, they say, the spine of each leaf a clock hand. Time to feel further away from those things, to no longer be recovering, but to put everything once again into Christmas, into preparation, into enjoying life. It is wonderful but scary. When they can’t see that physically you are still recovering, people forget. You go back to your “normal” life and you get further from the medical world you were getting comfortable in. The further away you get from it, the harder it pulls you back with a thud when it needs you. Where do you think you’re going? I’m not finished with you. It’s difficult to know how far to walk your brain when you know the further away you go, the more exhausting it will be to walk the distance back.

I feel like sometimes I await further instruction. I feel like even though things are happening for me, they can’t replace the things I don’t have, and it hurts in the pit of my stomach sometimes, to know the things that won’t happen. And I try to remember what I do have, and concentrate on what I can get, rather than comparing my lot to other people’s. But it is very hard. And that is why, like I said, I might not be so good at working towards zen. I have good intentions. Life and work and family and trees and zen, life and Christmas and family and trees and friends and zen, and then, and then –

Watching the leaves change from green to another chance.