Thursday, 19 January 2017

Say the thing.

I am very sad.

I was not going to tell you that. I wrote in 77 Ways that the best thing to do with sadness and fret and fear is to tell them all. Tell them to a friend or write them down or share them with the group. I know this. I wrote this. In some parts of that book I actually did research and empiricism and every damn thing, so I’m not just clicking my teeth. And I still swear that all the things in it got me through the melancholy year after my mother died. But what I did not write is: how to take your own advice.

I know what to do, I know what I should do, I understand the things that really work. And sometimes I don’t do them.

So instead of saying to my friend this morning ‘I feel sad’ I was rather quiet and when I did speak I did small talk. I never do small talk. I don’t even know how to do small talk. I think that may have been her clue. So she asked what was wrong and I burst into tears and said, in a very watery voice ‘I’ve hit the wall. I am in despair and I feel ashamed.’

Oh, there is a lovely cocktail for you.

This is not old heartbreak or sudden missing of the departed; this is an actual thing that is happening in the actual world and I have to do something about it and I’m not sure what. And this week I went slam into the wall and I tried to put my wonky smile on and do a tap dance so I would not frighten the horses but in the end it was too much for me so I ended up weeping in a frosty field.

Of course, the amazing thing was that it worked, the telling. It worked not just because my friend was wise and kind and empathetic, but because it was out. I was not slinking around in the shadows any more, pulling my hat over my eyes, hoping nobody would notice. I was not pretending that I can do every single buggery thing on my own. I was not singing I’m fine, I’m fine, I’M FINE when in fact I wanted to say I feel like I’m bleeding to death.

The thing is still the thing, and it’s bloody scary, and I’m going to have to draw on all my resources, but somehow, in the simple act of telling, it became human rather than monstrous.

Then, freed by revelation, I got on my sweet mare and we galloped up to the top of the long rise and went bravely into the high woods, where we have never been before. She put her head down and struck out like an explorer discovering the new world. Then our way was blocked by a fallen tree. It was a little tree, making a barrier of about a foot high. But I’m frightened of everything now so I decided it would be foolhardy to try and jump it out in this unknown terrain. So we found a way round and went on. On the way back, I said to her, ‘you know what, I’m sick of saying I can’t.’ So we jumped the tree. You may imagine the scenes of jubilee that followed. You brave horse, I told her, falling on her neck, stroking her mane, laughing into her ear; you clever mare, you brilliant girl.

As we got to the top of the long slope and started to make our way down, we stopped. It is there that the blue hills open like a promise and the land spreads out like a story and the Scottish light glimmers gold. The hills looked ravishing, the cows looked ravishing, the sheep looked ravishing. I have all this, I thought. Nobody can take this away from me. I looked and looked and looked. ‘You see,’ I said, out loud, to the dreaming mare, ‘if you are frightened all the time you miss all this.’ She nodded, because she knows that already.

And then we went home.

The thing is still the thing. But I’m thinking about the thing in a different way. Someone else knows about the thing. And perhaps I will be able to jump the tree, instead of having to find the shaming way round.


  1. THIS feels as that golden Scottish light is pouring out of the page! Writing from the US, where we are all terrified - thank you so much for this beautiful post.

  2. What is the expression? A burden shared is halved; a joy shared is doubled. Or something like that. I've always found it to be true.

    I hope "the thing" turns out okay.


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