‘Don’t write about the thing,’ says one of the wisest men I know. ‘Write about anything else. I don’t know. Write about jam.’
He had been talking about Pirandello only moments earlier. For five days, I wondered if I could somehow work in some marvellously clever preserve-based theatre of the absurd parable.
I loathe unsolicited advice, almost as much as I detest dangling modifiers. The wise man is one of the very few I take it from. But this time, I cannot quite obey his good instruction.
I have to write about the thing, just a little.
Here is what happened:
I was hurt.
I got better.
It’s not the most urgent drama the world ever wrote. It’s a very, very small thing. It was salutary in many ways. It reminded me that I have absolutely no defences. If anyone wishes to shoot an arrow at my heart, it shall hit its target. On the other hand, what I am very good at is talking myself down off the ceiling. I wish I did not have to get to the ceiling in the first place, but we all have our weaknesses and that is mine.
In some ways though, I don’t want to build defences. I don’t want to be guarded, to put up sea walls, to tread with caution. My heart is worn, recklessly, on my sleeve; that is why it is so easy to hit. I’d rather it was there, than hedged about with chilly barbed wire. If I wanted never to be wounded, I should never leave the house, literally and metaphorically.
There’s an awful lot of quoting going on on the internet at the moment. Some of the quotations are the most bogus things I ever saw, like that fake Shakespeare one doing the rounds, where honour is spelt without an O. There are a lot of counterfeit Wildes cantering about, too. But some of the true quotes are rather good and often come in a curiously timely way. The one I saw three days ago which really struck me was by some old Yogi or other, and it said: meet anger with love.
Oh, I thought, do I have to? That really is quite tiring. Much easier to rant and rave, to lash out, to be intemperate, to wail and flail. Do I really have to a sodding grown-up?
Unfortunately, I am a grown-up and it’s too shaming if I can’t behave like one.
I could not not write about the thing, but I refused to write about it until I could meet anger with love. That was my rule. There would be no snide remarks or horrid passive aggressive grandstanding or phoney fatalism. I had to wait until the hurt was gone and perspective returned and I could return to love and trees.
Luckily for me, the dear old perspective police staged a massive raid. I went to HorseBack twice. I’m doing a lot of work for them just now and each time I lay my foot on their turf I am reminded how tiny my own miniscule troubles are. (For a start, I actually have a foot.)
It’s quite a good life lesson to stand in the sub-zeros, talking to a twenty-three year old who has had both his legs blown off. He is matter-of-fact and cheerful. He is funny. He has a puppy. He works hard. He does not give in to self-pity and navel-gazing. There is another fellow up there just now who has such bad post-traumatic stress that until he came to HorseBack, he had not left his flat for six years. He could not conduct a normal conversation or look people in the eye. Now he builds fences and constructs beautiful saddle racks and makes jokes.
Perspective and time and love; those are the balms. That’s all it takes to come back off the ceiling and realise one’s own absurdity.
There’s another really good saying which zooms about the Facebook with lovely regularity. It is from Plato, who knew a thing or two. It goes: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.’
Love and trees, my darlings; love and trees. That’s all she wrote.