Thursday, 3 March 2016

A Manichean struggle.

I always interested in how one small bad thing can trump many, many good things. (If you let it, says the stern, rational voice in my head.) It’s like a rotten smell. Why is it that the stink of old fish or dog crap or that nasty soup that gathers in the bottom of dustbins always wins over the delightful scent of rosemary or fig or lavender?

Why does the bad news always triumph, leading the news night after night? There must be a hundred good stories of human kindness and generosity and hope, but they have no chance against venal practices or natural disasters or criminal acts.

(Oddly, I think the internet is on the side of the angels when it comes to the bad news. People laugh at the cute puppies and baby pandas, but every day on my Facebook timeline there is at least one heart-expanding story about someone rescuing an orphaned elephant or a service dog doing something extraordinary or, as happened this morning, a kind trainer reclaiming a racehorse who had been sold on into the wrong hands and cruelly neglected, thus giving him a happy home for life.)

Today started off with many, many good things. The sun shone. I rode the red mare with joy in my heart and my arms in the air. (I do this officially to improve my independent seat. I really do it because it feels like flying and because in my own mazy head I am proving all the doubters wrong, the ones who believe that a thoroughbred cannot do a dressage diva trot with no reins.) Dogs were gambolling about having fun, and humans were laughing. I had some proper work thoughts in my head, and was looking forward to getting to my desk and writing them down. The world news was not even that bad, for once, just a bit of a grumble about the Euro-argument on the Today Programme.

And then, a small disaster struck. It was my fault, and arose from a poor decision.

I am at that stage in grief where I can assume a simulacrum of normality for quite long periods. When everything is trundling along smoothly, I can feel the joy and see the beauty and count my blessings. But a death wears away at the emotional resources. The skin is thin and fragility is never far away. Small setbacks can take on looming proportions, and perspective flies away into the ruthless air.

So the small disaster felt like the end of the world. I cursed like a longshoreman and let my critical voices off the leash (always a mistake, especially when they have been at the gin) and shouted at myself for my own stupidity. I actually did this out loud. Instead of taking stock and putting the thing right, I fell at once into the elephant trap of pointlessness and fecklessness and uselessness and hopelessness. Into the garden to eat worms, said the critical voices, enjoying themselves hugely.

The small disaster might have entirely wrecked my day. All those sweet, good, enchanting things that had just happened might have counted for nothing. I would have gone on until evening with that bad smell singing my nostrils.

Luckily, there was a wise friend on the premises. I had help. The mistake got put right, but, much more importantly, I had a human companion to assist me in talking myself down off the ceiling.

I’m still cringing a little, from time to time. I think: I wish that had not happened. I wish I had made a better decision. I wish that I had thought.

But the potential shipwreck was averted. Today, because of a good person, the bad news did not win.

Oh, and I did go and write down those work words. Thirteen hundred of them. Yes, says the kind, reasonable voice, frowning at the gin-drinkers, not quite waving, but certainly not drowning. We shall not drown today. 

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