I was going to give this post the title: The Answer to Everything. Obviously, that would be crazed hyperbole, so I restrained myself. However, it’s not that far off.
Here, instead, is the Answer to Really Quite a Lot:
1. Do something foolish.
2. Hurl yourself into a defensive cringe, covered in angst.
3. Raise your head, and admit the folly.
4. Share the experience with a group of kind people.
5. Smile and smile as they all say: oh yes, I did the exact same thing.
6. Realise that everything is perfectly all right.
Everybody knows that everybody does perfectly idiotic things from time to time. Everybody forgets that everybody does those things, and so when they themselves do them, their irrational mind believes they are the only one. And that is the point when one goes into the garden to eat worms.
The power of admission is one of the great overlooked powers in life. It’s as strong as love. It’s incredibly tempting, when something horrid and stupid happens, to run away into a cross little lair, to turn in on oneself, to sit alone in a world shrunk to just you and your angst. The critical voices in your head, who are on their third Negroni and are punchy by now, are yelling that you are pointless and useless and feckless and there is no health in you. They find this hysterically funny. It’s impossible to argue with them because they are so convinced of their own rightness and they do that annoying drunk thing of moving the goalpoasts.
To use the simple declarative sentence, to say plainly this is what I did, becomes almost impossible, because everyone is surely going to laugh and point. Your folly is then compounded and shame comes storming down the outside with an unstoppable run and wins the race.
Admission is the only thing which can beat these brutal battalions. Because people really don’t laugh and point. What they do is say, kindly, ruefully, empathetically: oh yes, I did that too. At which point the sun rises, the orchestra strikes up, the bluebirds begin singing, and the world, which was dark and angry, is suddenly filled with light.
The thing is still the thing. It was folly, or silliness, or wrongness, or carelessness. But usually, it can be fixed right up, amends made, lessons learnt. The power of the thing, however, has been completely taken away by the kindness. The kindness is quite often, in this rushing age of social media, that of strangers. It can also come from one human you love. Either way, it works in spectacular fashion.
Words are important too. Yesterday, I chose my words wrongly, because I was so in the grip of the critical voices that I could not see straight. I wrote: I am an idiot. I was wrong. I’m not an idiot. I sometimes do idiotish things. (More often, perhaps, than I would like.) This is quite different. That nice shift of perspective was also what was brought about by the admission and the generous reaction.
I sometimes think the sweetest words in the English language are: me too.
Thank you. Thank you all.
The oystercatchers on the roof, singing their dear heads off:
The Younger Brother, who is off to Ireland, looking at the view of the hill from his bedroom:
The Sister, who is moving south, standing in front of her hill for the last time. I’m very sad, but I’m not making a big thing about it. Or, not too much of a big thing:
There was a lovely photograph of the Brother-In-Law too, who has generously completely forgiven me for the car fiasco, but he says he does not want to be on the internet. ‘You won’t put me on that blog?’ he says. I think guiltily of the times I have snuck in the odd close-up and shake my head. Here are the ears of the red mare instead, on our ride this morning:
And here she is, graciously standing for her photograph after the ride. She can do this for many, many minutes, untethered, only sighing a very little at the absurd antics of her human: