Set us free: British Library, London
“It’s an act of faith. It’s going on when you no longer believe. It’s walking right into that wilderness.” – Natalie Goldberg, “Wild Mind”
“I’ve had an elegant sufficiency, and anything else would be flippity floppity.” – my mum-in-law
What gives you comfort? And what do you believe in? How do you go forward when all you can see is failure, and grief, and loss? How do you walk “right into that wilderness“?
When it seems like all you ever do is fuck up, over, and over again? When we see that life is sad?
I write about loss a lot. Maybe it’s because I’m pushing 60, so close, ever so close now, and with what seems like precious little to show for it: and that what I do have, I don’t deserve. Or maybe it’s because I’m posting a card to an elderly relative, not knowing whether they’ll make it through their operation, or whether that card will go onto the doormat of someone who will never open it, never see it?
I write a lot about death, too.
True loss: London memorial to the women who also served.
Gods’ plural truths, I try and appeal to my better nature. Sometimes, though, it seems the “better” part just doesn’t exist. That god(s) created me, not in his/her/their image, but that of a maudy, angry old cow.
The quote from Natalie Goldberg is about writing. It was Goldberg’s response to a woman who had started several novels, got to around page 180 – no mean feat – then would “lose interest, or wouldn’t believe in the story anymore”.
I let the writing slats get kicked out of me, not long ago. No one’s fault but my own. I took something to read, but couldn’t face it. A waste? Not entirely: for one thing, it made me finally replace my printer cartridges. Cue much swearing, but I did it.
And so now more slats have been kicked out: and, once again, it’s down to me.
Time and time again, it is writing which helps restore me: which comforts me, and gives me hope. Am I writing the poem a loved one requested? Am I making my way to page 180 – and, gods help me, beyond – on my current work in progress (WIP)? Editing & publishing my next short story collection?
Nope, nope, & nope. I’m blogging. Which admittedly is better than putzing around on FB, Twitter, or YouTube: my usual refuges in times of stress, and anxiety, and sadness. Which, in turn, is at least better than hiding in bed, or being stuck to the settee.
Of course, my life isn’t all gloom and doom. For one thing, this merry traveller recently returned, after being missing for nearly a month:
Back in the camp chair again: Al, Beltane, 2017
All the things I love are still here: okay, not all of them. But there is enough: compared to many of the people I meet, I do indeed have “an elegant sufficiency”.
And it’s up to me to rediscover it.
I love you still: Detroit, 2006
Tagged: ageing, anger, anxiety, bereavement, cats, grief, Kate Bush, loss, mental health, Natalie Goldberg, nostalgia, poetry, Wild Mind