She sat there feeling defeated, sipping her coffee whilst listening to Massimo Viazzo’s ‘River Flows in you’. The irony of the title of that piece, she thought, her mind filled with visions of a life that flowed like a river: weightless, spontaneous, vibrant, free. Her spirit, however, laid so arid, almost inert gasping for droplets of hope that would then merge and cause her existence to effortlessly flow into a vast sea of yet unopened doors and passageways she felt inexplicably drawn to. By the age of 20, Esperanza had already travelled to USA, UK, Australia, and most of Europe. What happened to me? she thought. At what point in my life did I begin to regress; did I allow my hopes to be rudely replaced by all my fears?
Tears running down her face, sobbing, unable to hold it all in any longer. Maybe ‘Cry me a river’ would have been more apt, she laughed begrudgingly, maybe the purpose of all these tears is to empty out til there is nothing left. Maybe then and only then, she consoled herself, I will experience an epiphany provoked by the avalanche of the mountain of all my tears drowning out my sorrows, and the impact will be of such magnitude that it will force me to finally metamorphose into the butterfly that laid dormant all these years. Hope by name, Hope by nature. Hope was undeniably all she had left.
The problem was that when hope visited, it never came into Esperanza’s consciousness alone. She always arrived holding a mixed bag of responsibilities, a good conscience, a sense of loyalty and all the other laudable attributes we admire on others but know fully well stop us from living the life we really feel we were born to live. What an impossible mix of emotions she had been dealt. How does one live knowing they are sacrificing their dream for a peaceful conscience, when it is that very dream that helps us push on, take another step, breathe life and positivity into those under our care? How does one ingest a poisoned chalice being fully aware that the very act of salvation is irrevocably and simultaneously mired in condemnation?
The conundrum of whether life is an act of selflessness or selfishness kept her awake at night and riddled with anxiety in the day. Her mind told her one thing but oh how her robust beating heart told her quite another. She knew complete peace and stillness would only come when she breathed her final breath. And yet there was far too much joie de vivre in her to surrender into her fate just yet. This agonising battle of what’s right and what is meant was ironically the fuel that fired her soul; a quest for the hidden treasure she was determined to fulfill til she found an answer; even if it turned out it wasn’t the answer she had hoped for all along. Taking on that unthinkable gamble is what gave meaning and purpose to her life but it was also what was killing her restless spirit one bellicose day at a time.
It always throws me out of kilter how we live life with such breathless intensity, with such a sense of self-importance. We strain and strive to seek purpose and we convince ourselves that we are the movers and the shakers, that the entire world will cease to be, should we stop to actually take a deep breath and savour the act of simply being alive. And yet, at a moment’s notice all that relevance, meaning and feeling that we are right where we are meant to be, comes crumbling down, is pulverised when we learn about the passing of another or their terminally ill diagnosis.
I had such news about an old friend this morning, and quite frankly, I am shocked to the core. I mean, I am a fairly positive, driven person who is industrious and eager to make life better for those around me, those dependant on me, and at various stages of my life also for strangers in need. My life makes complete sense. I am on a journey, and I am increasingly aware that to every beginning there is an inherently tragic end, but nothing prepares you for the sense of weightlessness, irrelevance even, that the news of someone’s sudden, unexpected death inundates us with.
Humans are desperately born into an existential dilemma; and unsolvable equation: in order for our lives to be maximised, to garner the utmost sense and purpose, common sense forces us to become selfish, self-absorbed, limited in our sight. We choose a lane in our journey, and we stick with it, because we know a race is only truly won if we focus primarily on what is around us, if we persevere to the end. And yet, living that way equates to applying a tight blindfold on ourselves. We enter a period of denial about our rightful place in the universe, about our irrelevance when confronted with the bigger picture. Is it safe or even ethical to live any other way, though? Can we truly live if we are permanently aware and reminded of our own finiteness? Wouldn’t that be the same nonsensical behaviour as barricading our own exceedingly small window of opportunity to live in the moment, to savour every breath, every experience enjoyed or hoped for? When I heard the news of our friend who has had a severe brain bleed and whose prognosis, if he comes round, is to live the rest of his life in a vegetative state, my sense of self just went up in smoke. What is this absurd game called life that we put every fibre of our being into taking part in and winning, if that elusive higher power can just arbitrarily and abruptly throw us out of the game? What is the point of even playing if our odds overwhelmingly point to losing before we get to the end that we strived and hoped for? Numb in my kitchen in my family’s presence, time stopped, and I felt as if I were standing in front of a mirror, but I could see nothing. No before, no now, no tomorrow. Nothing, just a fleeting shadow embodying a gradually intangible lifetime. What is the point of it all if after all the striving, the worry, the suffering, the fear, we can just seamlessly go from being the masters of our universe to the dust in someone else’s journey?
I cannot believe it has been six months since I last wrote on my blog. It is funny, a couple of weeks ago I found myself having an etymological discussion with my four siblings about the origins and meaning of the word ‘procrastinate’. If only I had explained to them my absolute inability to summon my elusive writing muses to my desk, they would have understood the procrastinate notion perfectly well. No, we are not a family of nerds who choose lexical dilemmas as our favourite ‘catch up’ subject. We simply like to keep our WhatsApp group-chat fresh, jovial, and didactic. Otherwise, we all end up yoked by the all-consuming worry of a father battling and losing to Alzheimer’s and a mother whose precious last years are being devoured by the sense of sacred loyalty vowed to a man whom she no longer recognises and inevitably resents.
I suppose writing is like running. The more you challenge yourself, the better you get at it. Ironically too, the better you get at it, the bigger the pressure you feel to regularly oil the engines so as not to lose momentum, productivity, and quality of work. Sometimes that pressure to keep up with your own self can be so asphyxiating; it can create such a sense of dread of failure, that it is easier to just stop so as to avoid any disappointment.
Who am I trying to kid, right? We all know the real reason any writer worth his/her salt puts off writing, is because we are painfully aware that with every word, every admission, every nuance, another secret door opens onto our complex and wretched soul, and who voluntarily stands naked in public up close and personal for all to stare, scrutinise, judge or worse still, be indifferent to? You would have to be mad, wouldn’t you? Specially in this day and age where humanity takes much more pleasure in destroying, savaging, and breaking apart rather than building up, encouraging, and edifying others.
Writing when done properly, authentically, unreservedly is indeed a tremendous act of courage. And who willingly chooses to tread where the brave dare not go?
Another invigorating dawn full of promise and light. Verity had battled a premenstrual migraine for two days now and she resisted going out on the boat with her family and the couple who one day, not too far from now, would take over the business. She often succumbed to her partner’s will. She was no pushover though, but rather she was enamoured with her newly found mental tranquility and no one, not even her partner’s all guns blazing attitude was going to come between her and her hard-won new best companion.
Ten knots of wind may not seem much to a seasoned sailor, but she knew better than to put herself through any experience on the water that flooded back into her consciousness the memories of terror on the Adriatic Sea, especially in front of friends whom she was trying to impress with her dexterity in that vast untameable wilderness. Besides, she had now grown accustomed to guaranteed lush days out on the turquoise waters, bronzed skin, toned tum and legs, a vision in a bikini, wine flowing, the feeling of the water lovingly caressing her skin without expecting a reaction from her; the gentle rocking of the boat as she laid on her side admiring other fit bodies whilst being admired. She was the queen of her castle on the waves; she had now learnt to control her presence at sea rather than the sea controlling her, and no one was going to rob her of that place she had earned with sweat, blood and tears, so many tears.
Choosing to stay at home was not easy feat however, as it forced her to face other demons. It had now been two months since she had last sat down to write anything, and this weighed heavily on her mind. She was fully aware that writing, like a muscle, has a memory and the more you do it, the better you get at it, the more seamless the outcome becomes. Verity was loyal to a fault, mainly loyal to her own self. She detested anything that had even the slightest whiff of betrayal or deceitfulness. Her craft was her hidden treasure and like precious stones, no imitation would do. Her gems could only be identified as hers if born out of a purifying fire; a long process of sieving out the impurities until the real beauty of her misunderstood soul emerged for all to see. The long spells of drought in her creativity were for her the honesty she needed to honour and let breathe in order to later on produce anything she deemed worth expressing and more importantly, reading.
Initiating a writing session was for her like opening Pandora’s box or walking into a cave full of mystery and revelation; a cave where one could get lost and be confronted with the scariest of sights or maybe one which let in the sunlight; where one could see themselves reflected on its pools of water and like Narcissus be transfixed by one’s own beauty. Verity had always considered herself to be rather conservative and measured but what most attracted her to the act of writing was its gambling nature; the possibility of coming away from it a richer being or feeling completely robbed of her most guarded secrets. She loved the thrill of it, the unpredictability of it, its edginess; the way it forced her to lose herself in those pages and to explore who she really was in a safe private space away from judgement and expectation.
Here I am on the luminous island of Menorca about to enter into the final straight of my fifty first year, and what a year it has been. Despite the Covid pandemic starting halfway through it and turning all our worlds upside down, shaking all our priorities to the core, and bringing so many of us down to our knees, this past twelve months have been for me one of the best years of my life in so many respects.
Professionally, I have not gained more knowledge or experience, but our business has had its best year yet, which is rather miraculous in itself, bearing in mind there have been months during which businesses we work with were practically closed; work on various building sites slowed right down; huge delays and insufferable uncertainty were the norm rather than the exception, and due to the widespread lock-down measures and fear of contagion and possible death, we all took stock of what was truly important and suddenly empathy and philanthropy took the place of sales figures, competitiveness and profit. Perhaps there is a lesson of cosmic justice and karma in there somewhere. I would like to think so.
Perhaps the lesson to be learnt was for some learnt too late though. My husband is an addict. He is addicted to his work. He gets high on it; cannot live without it and finds his self-worth and identity mainly within it. And yet, as with any drug, there is a lurking, permanent, pounding hooded claw that slowly but surely gets hold of you and will not let go until the very thing we sacrifice so much for quietly leads us to a certain death. Last Christmas we came to our house in Menorca for what we thought would be 10 days. Covid had a very different idea and soon after our arrival, the situation changed and our flight back to UK got cancelled. At that point we decided that seeing as the number of cases in Menorca was miniscule compared to the UK where pandemonium was ensuing, it would be utterly senseless to not ease into what was initially an adverse circumstance and turn it into a blessing. And so, we decided to stay on a few weeks longer. Unfortunately, by the end of January my husband who continued to have his daily fix of insatiably getting new orders and sniffing out potential future ones, suffered a minor stroke that left him completely numb on the right-hand side of his body.
He is now almost fully recovered. He still has some numbness and pins and needles on part of his right-hand side but again, all in all, it was a miraculous miss, for it could have been the end right there and then. I refuse to take away from that experience the pain, the shock and the after shock of such a dramatic episode and instead, I choose to marvel at the abounding providence that somehow saved him from the dark tunnel at the end of which so many claim to be blinded by the light.
On a more personal level, I am truly easing into my older years. I truly am. The nervous energy of my youth that filled me with so much fear and anxiety is turning into acceptance and a laissez-faire attitude. I do not fret so much. I am not consumed by negative thoughts so much. I am learning to accept that I am just another microscopic grain of sand the sun magnanimously shines on one day and the wind heartlessly blows away another. None of it is about me, none of it. Acknowledging that has given me so much spiritual and emotional freedom. I no longer walk with a massive rucksack filled with the whys, how’s and what ifs on my shoulders. If there is a plus to our doomed fate is the fact that each day that goes by and you see the end approaching that much closer, you learn to live with just the essentials and to discard the clutter, the things and people who selfishly fill another rucksack that may drag you down and prevent you from truly living.
Slowly but surely moving forward in the race against time has also thrown a kind of epiphany my way. Whilst the end is certain, we have a say, to a point, in how the journey evolves. Our bodies truly are our temples, and we can, again to a point, control how healthy or how efficiently they work and for how long. Although riddled with body image anxiety for most of my life, I have been extremely lucky to always be thin without any amount of effort. It is just the way I am wired. However, as we all know, being thin does not necessarily mean being healthy. My interactions on twitter have been on the whole a massive source of a confidence boost regarding my appearance, and that alone has motivated me to try and maintain that shape for a few more years yet. When you are young and your body is in its plenitude, we do not need to do much to remain healthy or strong, but once we are on the other side of 40, subtle signs of ageing begin to nudge and wake us up to the fact that although we may have felt invincible at one point, every meteor does eventually fall and burn. That tragic end is what makes the journey across the universe so incredibly meaningful and desperately urgent at the same time. And yet, the only way to draw meaning out of each passing day is to wind ourselves down to a speed that allows us to see it all, hear it all, feel it all, smell it all and taste it all with every fibre of our being. Sadly, not many get to find in their lifetime that elusive magic button that takes them from sixth to first gear or by the time they do, the chance to truly savour the journey has already passed.
I loved running when I was growing up. I was incredibly fast. The boys my age used to get frustrated that I could outrun them, and being so withdrawn because of my body and shyness complexes, that gave me a great advantage and a confidence boost that at least I had something I was better at than most. As the years passed, doing well academically became my number one priority and I put my all into my studies. Sport or any kind of fitness took a very back seat. Suddenly, at 51 all the emotional baggage is beginning to fall off and I feel so much freer and lighter. Freer enough to take up running again, even though I have not done any kind of running for the last 35 years. It is truly lamentable how we put so many limits on ourselves. We get to a point when we stop believing, dreaming, trying. It is incredibly invigorating not so much to be able to run and be in better shape than many women 20 years younger than myself, but to prove to oneself that the sky really is the limit when it comes to overcoming, and that the biggest factor that stops us shining and leaving a blazing trail as we journey through time is simply ourselves.
The last few weeks have been nothing short of a psychological study for me on twitter. I did not set out to do one, but psychology found me, swept me up in this whirlwind of human need, and I simply could not just watch it all happen and ignore it.
Throughout this whole process, I have screamed, I have ached and cried inconsolably. I have laughed, felt overjoyed, been loved and rejected all at once within the same day. I have despaired and felt waves of stormy anger and frustration engulf me whole. I have been reminded by well-intended friends that social media is a tricky and ferocious animal to handle; that none of it is real and nothing is what it seems, and yet, this advice came at the hands of those who breathe in social media the moment they wake up and do not stop to exhale its poisonous, dubious air until their head hits that pillow. Any advice is rendered ineffective if those giving it conduct themselves in a way that disproves their own wisdom. Of course Social Media is real; a parallel reality it may be, but a reality nevertheless. Its deceitful, pantomime-like and bordering on sinister dark corners, often remind me of a Venetian Carnival where people hide behind the most alluring and exquisite of masks to reinvent themselves and step beyond the boundaries of what they would never contemplate doing or saying in real life. The mask however does not alter the person behind it, not really. It may appear so for a while, but eventually one can truly see the gaze behind the glamour and the glitter; the cracks seeping out past traumas, deep hurts and weakening fears that though deeply hidden, betray our newly found identity & automatically exclude us from the romanticism and Utopian mirage of the Masquerade Ball.
There is much that remains a mystery to me about human behaviour, but I have been able to draw some conclusions from my interaction with a number of people on twitter. Most of all, I have been able to find truth as we often do, by simply stepping away and like a fly on a wall, watch it all unfold; letting individuals show their true character and betray their own perceived integrity when they thought no one was really paying any attention.
I have learnt that at an age when we have all the gadgets and the gizmos, when we can be on the other side of the world on the same day and social media dominates and dictates the lives of so very many, never has our need to feel included and loved been greater. There is an impossibly achy loneliness abounding in the secret chambers of the virtual world. Society, even pre-Covid, has been bleeding out and failing to live up to its definition, because the social element has been abducted from right under our feet and a poor substitute has made islands of each and everyone of us trying to find ourselves and each other. The most alarming element of this phenomenon is the fact that most of us have loving families around us and a network of friends or support of one kind or another and yet, we are the lost faces in a multitudinous crowd crying out for acknowledgement, begging to be heard and understood. There is a desperate need to matter at a time when circumstances have made us finally acknowledge that in the scale of things, between the now and the beyond, we truly matter very, very little, and so we gasp desperately trying to hold on to some sort of significance. The more we realise we are but a grain of sand on the beach, the more egotistical and self-centered we become; the more we veer towards mob mentality instead of accepting each person on their own merit and essence. And of course, the power of social media is boundless and so trends that dominate on the virtual world, irremediably feed into our daily lives, our homes, and ultimately our surroundings. Before we know it, we are turning our society into the most inhospitable place there ever was; an Eden made into a hell, and it is all of our own making.
I have also learnt that at a time when we have more resources than ever; when we are potentially more powerful than ever; we are the weakest beings we have ever been. We lack backbone and deeply rooted convictions. We would rather be a Judas than a Peter; we need to be all things to all people in order to find worth, instead of remembering that it is our uniqueness and not our tribal ancestry that defines us and sets us aside to pursue our own purpose; to make that small difference that no one else can make. We have become cowards that hide behind the group instead of standing on our own two feet when we see injustice, lies and witch-hunts. Our morality and creed blow whichever way the wind takes them. We are chameleons that change colour depending on who is watching. We take a side in an argument with our words but then our actions discredit the very point we have just made. We are in essence regressing to a herd mentality where the blind is leading the blind; where leadership stems from popularity as opposed to integrity tested in the furnace of adversity and going it alone.
I have learnt, and this is the one that has broken me the most, that there are individuals who are indeed beyond rescue. I had two uncles who committed suicide, but I have always believed that what led them to such an unthinkable tragic end was probably a lack of a supportive network or adverse circumstances. Well, I have encountered on twitter individuals who by their own admission are rotten apples, messed up and broken; they hurt others because they simply do not know how to be any other way; they carry deep scars from the past and open wounds that are beyond healing. They look up to people who are no longer around, and they live their lives through their eyes instead of their own. I have learnt that no matter how much light you see still shining within that person; no matter how clear you see the path that they need to follow, nothing will change until they make a decision themselves to break loose from their ghosts and their demons. I have learnt that being rejected by such individuals is not a reflection of my inability to be loved or accepted by them but rather their dismal failure to love, accept and forgive themselves.
So tired of being the oasis to all people. They take, they take, they take, so relentlessly consumed with their own wanting. They suck the life out of me one day at a time. Selfish and unaware that the oasis slowly fades and dies too, if the rain does not come to replenish its springs, its foliage, its magic shadows. I am the mirage in the distance that is so appealing. You quench your thirst for a time; the time when you gasped for refreshment, the time when you grieved, the time when you felt unloved and unappreciated; the time when you despised yourself and needed me to remind you of your exquisite reflection.
And yet, no one cares for the oasis, because no one can truly discern or comprehend such beauty, such miraculous splendour in the midst of a barren desert. They find such unfathomable magnetic force intimidating, imposing, sobering but impossibly attractive. They use it and abuse it, because they find its bewitching secrets laborious, and so it is just easier to only scratch its surface, drink the water and gorge over its beauty than it is to dwell deeper and question where the oasis’ radiance emanates from; to figure out what such a unique, valuable presence needs itself in order to retain the freshness and vibrancy that sustains everything within it and around it.
It is human nature to desire the most unattainable of things and yet never strive to do anything in our power to preserve such unique, splendorous life source. And yet, I am tired of justifying human nature, for I am human too but take no one for granted, no one. My calling is to lift others out of their struggle; to enthuse them with life when it is ebbing away from them. Are the givers condemned to blaze like meteors and then be buried in the depths of oblivion? What is the point of their awe-inspiring ephemeral presence if they are instantly forgotten or replaced with the next best attraction?
I am tired of being the butterfly whose dazzling colours men gasp over and wish to penetrate. Why didn’t they care to be around me whilst I was wrestling in my cocoon? Why couldn’t they come alongside me in the midst of the struggle that got me to my quivering flight today? Well, I tell you what makes this butterfly so exquisite and bewitching. Her colours, despite your self-inflicted blindness, are not vanity or the guise she chooses to allure you into admiring her. Her colours are hard won in the battle of humility and self-sacrifice. A silent battle within that only she knows about; a raging fire of unthinkable disappointment followed by self-assertion and endless self-love. The intensity, the depth of her unique colours stem from the furnace endured in her cage.
And now, she is finally free, and she shines; she glows for all to see.
The oasis needs rain too but no one cares to give it. Life is so much more effortless in the sunshine of satisfying our own needs and wants.
I would sure like to have a crystal ball that gives me insight into people’s brains, into our dreams, my dreams. Wouldn’t it save us tons of money on doctors, therapists, and meds if we could understand earlier on in the journey who we are and what makes us tick?
What is it with recurrent dreams? What is the point of rehearsing in our head a chapter of our lives that will forever remain inconclusive no matter how many endings we dream to that old story? It is not like we can change its outcome by our subconscious playing out different scenarios on different nights. And yet, the brain regurgitates that same chain of events over and over. To what end? There has to be a point to so much time of our lives consumed by an alternate reality where things pan out differently to what actually took place; where we are offered a glimmer of hope that those chapters of our lives we resent, do not define us, because there is still a chance to act differently, to explore new choices.
My most recurrent dream is one where I enter into a sexually charged relationship with an ex-boyfriend with whom I never even held hands or kissed. We were extremely attracted to each other. That is what brought us together in the first place. The chemistry was tangible, but we were a couple of very shy and inexperienced youngsters, not ready to handle what would have unfolded, had we let our passions run free. Unfortunately, we lived in different cities during the winter, and so our only form of contact was the occasional meet up and frequent letters, which did not help matters. Eventually, our determination to make it work dimmed and what initially was countless promising sparks between us grew into dynamite threatening to explode with every exchange. Frustrated and heartbroken I broke it off in the end, because I could not bear him flirting with other girls in front of me in an attempt to ignite my desire so I would be the one to take that first step. He went on to meet another older more experienced woman who clearly initiated him into the wonders of sex within a loving committed relationship. Indeed, he married her and lived happily ever after or so I hear. I am not saying sex cannot be fantastic outside a relationship. I am just saying personally, I reach worthier heights when the connection is both spiritual and physical, when the souls as well as the bodies are harmoniously intertwined. Sex for the sake of sex is as exciting to me as drinking water when I am thirsty, frankly. We met up many years later and though we were both married with kids by then, one brief but intense interlocking of our eyes is all it took for me to know he wondered as much as I did what if we had both behaved differently. I deeply believe in spiritual connection and I am no clairvoyant, but I am pretty certain I appear in his dreams as often as he in mine.
That was back in the 80s when sex was still a ‘sacred thing’ a special ritual that happened between people who felt an inexplicable bond, an unstoppable urge to fuse into one; to be one and the same, if only for a few exceptional moments. These days, sex is all around us, is forced upon us; trading in sex has even become a widely accepted profession for so many. It is no longer a case of I resort to prostitution because I cannot make ends meet any other way, because I cannot sustain myself and those dependent on me any other way. Sex sells and it is easy to shop for it and make considerable money from it pretty effortlessly and quickly. Unfortunately though, it is not just pushed on to those who want to consume it or buy it, but forced on us wherever we look, wherever we are. This is particularly apparent in the entertainment industry and social media. It is not longer a question of personal choice but of forcefulness, of manipulating the herd into certain behavioural patterns and morals or lack of; normalizing even amongst our youngest what should be something special and wonderful in its uniqueness.
I missed the ‘sanctity’ that used to go hand in hand with the process of meeting someone and falling in love, or maybe just discovering each other emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Now it is all so void of any romance, any mystery, any longevity, in essence of any meaning. We trade partners like we change socks and values like trust, respect, humility, gentleness, kindness, honesty have all become dinosaurs too frightened to rear their heads in a world moving so fast, consuming it all so fast, even each other, that one wonders what humanity will do next to satisfy its ravenous appetite for indulgence and self satisfaction.
It is excruciatingly painful to try and feel inspired to write these days. People tell me I am a positive person, but most do not realise that although I am instinctively so, the negative voice in my head never lets up. For every positive thought that my brain labours to produce, the hooded claw bounces it back with a double whammy of negativity, smashing any hope of gaining ground; of turning a mediocre day into a day fully lived.
The truth is COVID-19 has revealed for many of us an uncomfortable truth: what are we without a purpose? Who are we if not clogs in the economy machine? What is the point of us if not to keep producing, to keep consuming insatiably? Nothing seems to make sense unless we are rushed off our feet working, striving, competing, gaining, comparing ourselves to the next person. On the one hand, COVID-19 is giving us enough time to ponder on the fact that many of us are not truly sure of who we are when you take away our social circles, our jobs, our sustenance, our communities, our freedoms. The hours go slowly and uncomfortably as we have too much time to think and realise that maybe half our life has already been wasted busying ourselves with busyness but not really living, not really being, not really participating in the miracle that our life and life all around us is. On the other hand, we agonize as news of thousands of deaths is hitting us daily; we struggle to comprehend the gargantuan effort it takes for so many to simply keep on living, prospering, growing and yet, the strife, the battle can be snatched out of our hands unexpectedly with one swift final breath, in one achingly solitary instant. What was it all for? Did we really live or was it life itself that went in and through us?
This last year has also acted as a filtering process which has set apart those who like to swim with the current and those who have enough discernment and courage to think for themselves and act accordingly. As a result, so has increased the number of people who appoint themselves as judge and jury; often individuals who lack the initiative, the bravery, and the curiosity to stand up and challenge the status quo. Instead, they sit in judgement of those who do, because it is easier to detract the attention from their own ignorance, cowardice and fear and focus it instead on those who break from the herd and follow their own path at all cost. Much has been discussed about ‘Herd Immunity’. Perhaps the real point of contention here should be ‘Herd Emancipation’.
A few years back my family and I were holidaying in St. Vincent, the Caribbean. A huge storm hit our beach resort which was located in a valley by a river leading to the sea. As the sea surged, the riverbanks overflowed and within a short period of time our resort was almost completely flooded. The resort management instructed everyone to head to the emergency meeting point which happened to be one of the restaurants on the edge of the resort right by the beach, not that much higher up than the rest of the resort. At that point, I suggested to my husband that the sensible thing to do was to go higher up. We discussed it as a family and in that instant, we knew our lives were at risk and keeping with the ‘herd’, obeying instruction was not an option for us.
We sought higher ground and managed to climb various floors within the concrete block of flats where the resort staff lived. From the balcony of the flat where one of the members of staff lived who kindly let us in, we watched in shock and horror as rain continued to pour, the river began to burst its banks, and the beach was rapidly being taken over by the sea. Hours later, a member of the management team came looking for us as we were the only residents of the resort unaccounted for. They took us down to the restaurant and we had a very mixed welcome. Some showed joy and relief when they saw us. They were kind and found us chairs and a blanket to sleep on. Not surprisingly, in stark contrast there were those who frowned and gave us hateful looks for daring to challenge authority and act based on our own judgement. We were being punished for having the audacity to think for ourselves. And so goes the human race.
Whilst we regret enormously having caused concern and worry to those who came looking for us, we will never regret having made that decision in such extreme life-threatening circumstances. As morning came, we saw the devastation caused by the storm and learnt that people had died that night right there in our resort. The restaurant where everyone was gathered was ok, but it could have been very different. They were just incredibly lucky. They could have all been swept away so easily, had the surge been any greater or the storm lasted longer.
That night I went to sleep with a clear conscience. As a parent I took the decision to challenge authority and follow my own judgement and gut instinct to protect myself and my family. If anyone wants to judge us for doing that, it is on them, not me. I would do exactly the same now with hindsight, if a similar situation ever presents itself again. I will do what I have to do to protect myself and those entrusted to me as best as I know how, even if that means breaking from the herd, going against ‘the rules’.
This global pandemic is also pushing people to their limits in more ways than one and it is revealing people’s true character or lack of. Will you be the person that sits in judgement of others’ choices and right to choose or will you be the individual who extends a blanket and tells you they are so glad that you are still alive? I know whom I would rather be and whom I would rather have by my side.
Finally, alone and unharassed her subdued persona could reconnect with her rebellious by design self; she could listen to the pangs of her longing heart and feel present and alive within her mortal body and not through the relentless latent demands and laments of those near her.
She leant back on the door frame exhausted, agonisingly searching for that support she felt was being eroded day after day; searching for a conduit that would give way to her newly found exuberance and uncontrollable fire. Her stoic backbone pushed firmly against the wood, each vertebra finding solace one at a time, aligned and secure against something she knew would never change, alter or collapse; something that would never let her down. This was the one fortuitous encounter she knew would live up to her unattainable expectations. Two surfaces coming into contact with each other; one inert but unbreakable and unchangeable, the other so alive but frozen in time like the myriad of shapes fossilized in the wood-grain never to be released, and yet so much more present, lasting and transcendent than she would ever be.
If the pig, the lance, the pelican and the hippo can be so vivid whilst trapped by countless years of growth and change, why can’t I shine with such fervor? Why can’t my imprint overcome the limitations of circumstance, uncertainty and fear? – she asked herself over and over again as she also tried to figure out why she was the only one in her large family who could clearly discern these weird and wonderful creatures, otherworldly faces and implements all over the surfaces of the family home: floor tiles, kitchen splash-back, floors, doors. What is the point of such a supernatural gift, if it serves no purpose? She wrestled.
Her anger bubbling up inside at the thought of a higher being all knowing, all seeing and all understanding who played with human beings like string puppets; their lives literally hanging from an almost invisible thread pulled from high above, enthusing them with miraculous glimmers of joy, movement and light and yet condemned for the most part to a life in a dark domestic box wondering when the next bit of ecstasy and meaning would come. She hated being toyed with by humans and Gods alike. She surrendered all of herself in her vulnerable and transparent state to anyone who could glean her mysterious alluring nature. In her universe, no offence was greater than to be lulled into a false sense of security to then be let down and done with in the most savage of ways: silence and indifference.
‘Anger and frustration lead nowhere’ – she heard the frame’s unequaled wisdom reverberate onto the back of her chest. ‘Believe and trust that you have been made to feel and wrestle like this for a reason. Keep the faith, trust your instincts’- words edged and burning on her pronounced rib cage. Rooted once again, having gathered strength and regained balance from that familiar timber refuge, she stood at ease gradually letting go, confidently detaching herself from the one place in her life where she was fed authenticity, hope, meaning and the very much needed reminder that rejection came repeatedly because she did not belong in this world in the first place.