I was going to do something perfectly horrid today.
Yesterday, two things occurred to upset me. Both were very small, hardly visible to the naked eye, but they left me wounded and unsettled. As I swung into my usual tired old technique of calling in the Perspective Police and talking myself down off the ceiling, I hit on the solution. I would use words. Apart from love and trees, words are my solution to everything. Write it down, write it down, sing the voices in my head.
So, I wrote it down.
It was quite late at night, and I wrote it as a blog. I did not name the people involved, and I believed I was bending over backwards to be fair and not to impute beastly motives where there were none.
In fact, I had to admit to myself this morning, I was indulging in a perfect festival of passive aggression. I was still so sore as I wrote that I was doing that ghastly thing of seeming reasonable, when, in fact, underneath, the six-year-old in me was wailing: BLOODY PEOPLE, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST SAY SOMETHING NICE?????
Even as I faced the twisted motives behind my apparently rational post, I raced around like a rat in a trap, trying to work out a way of not being passive aggressive, but still telling you the story of what had happened.
But here is the thing. Even if I worked out a way of taking the heat out of it, keeping it as vague and anonymous as possible, putting on my rational, disinterested hat, I was still flailing about, trying to punish because I had been hurt. I was not disinterested; I had skin in the game, and that skin was singed.
Fuck it, I thought. Be a grown-up. Be a decent human being. Adult humans get hurt all the time, take it on the chin, refuse to turn the thing into a three act opera, and, most of all, do not feel the need to tell everyone on the internet.
Adult humans also make choices.
I am not nearly as nice as I think I am. I really would like to be nice, an adjective I do not disdain but crave. I am capable of niceness, but I can think some unbelievably crushing and uncharitable and mean thoughts. I like to think that I don’t judge or harbour prejudices or indulge in ad hominem attacks, but when my skin is thin I can bitch someone up to beat the band.
However, in a slightly hello clouds, hello sky way, I do aspire to niceness. I really admire nice people, because I think it’s a fairly hard state to maintain in a very shouty world.
Today, I had a proper choice. I could be a passive aggressive horror show, OR I could be nice. I chose niceness.
I spent four hours doing things which were not for me. Several people have asked me for photographs of the last few days at HorseBack. My usual response is: yes, yes, of course, just let me find a moment, give me a few days, it’s all a bit chaotic, I’ll get back to you. Then, I don’t get back, because I’m sitting at my desk panicking about the two absurd books I am writing and being entirely unable to make the time to do anything else.
Today, I made the time. The whole process takes ages, because of course I can’t just whack a few snaps into a Dropbox album and send them off, but have to edit and re-edit, choose all the best ones, then change my mind and choose other ones, make manic decisions about whether I should saturate the colour or put them into black and white, crop and re-crop and I don’t know what. I’m not a good enough photographer to take a picture and let it be; it must be doctored. These were lovely people, and I wanted them to have photographs worth of them.
I started at three-thirty this afternoon, and I’ve only just finished. There are ninety-nine pictures which are now fit for public consumption.
I’m still a bit bruised from yesterday, and I’m taut as a violin string from a day of non-stop work. I did not even ride the mare this morning, but merely gave her love and food and went back to my book. (The agent is not yet quite happy, so I am still polishing and rubbing and shining, like an out-of-control fifties housewife who has lost her valium.) But I’m really, really pleased that I decided on a constructive act instead of a destructive one.
God, I wanted to be horrid. I was so cross I wanted to tear the buggery house down. But I built a little shack instead. I did the photograph albums, and they are downloading now and will soon wing their way off to their recipients. I don’t always manage it, but however wet and weedy it sounds, today, I chose niceness.
Here are some of the photographs I sent out into the ether:
A lot of these pictures were for Robert Gonzales and his lovely wife Patricia. Robert, as the Dear Readers will know, is the great horseman who was visiting us from California. I learnt more about horses in three weeks of watching him than I could put into words, and I know a lot about words.
He is not only a fine horseman, he is a great gentleman too. He would not write something beastly mean on the internet, under the guise of being rational and reasonable. I should think of his example.
In the last picture, he is waiting for the horse to soften. He can do this for half an hour at a time, as long as it takes. ‘Wait for the softness,’ he says. ‘Look for the softness. Let them find the softness.’
I can learn from that too. It’s not just for the horses. It’s for the poor old humans too. Next time I get bent out of shape, I’m going to wait. For the softness.
Oh, and PS. To the Dear Reader who said nobody needed my permission, you are quite right. I phrased it poorly, and have been filled with angst that I sounded like some ghastly, wafty, de haut en bas creature. What I should have said is that I often need permission. When a best beloved admits to faults or doubts or muddles or confusions, I find this enables me to confess my own inadequacies without terror. I need a permit; I need my passport stamped.
I’m working on this. One day I shall cross the border without passport control. I’ll hang out more damn flags on that glorious day.
In the meantime, I’m sorry for the confusion. It’s the kind of mistake that fills me with rue.