The Lost Word

The weight of words

Two very unexpected things happened today. Number One. I found myself at a loss for words – which, if you know me, isn’t a regular occurrence, despite the tumble weeds rolling through the blog of late. Number Two – which really should be called ‘the reason for number one’ – a letter.  Not a bill, though it demanded my attention. Not one of those ‘get-rich-quick’ scheme, though it’s given me something money can’t buy.  A letter from someone who in quiet moments of reflection still occupies a place in my heart.  And whose letters I’ve kept, along with a book or two… This latest note I’ve read and re-read this afternoon. I still don’t know what to say. It isn’t a love letter, but it was written with love. Strong feelings underpin every word.

It took courage to write – but even more to send. Which got me thinking about the weight of words. Heavy words for heavy hearts. Lost words for lost lovers. Those things that go unsaid because we carry the burden inside ourselves. Unspoken.  I know why silence is the preferred option for most of us. When we are angry or hurt, words become weapons. But they also have the power to heal. Sometimes all it takes is for one person to have the courage to speak first.

Lessons in love…

 

My own Valentine arrived early this year. Not once but twice! On Saturday, a card from the US arrived – a dear friend and her husband, who worry about my singleton status and send me a valentine’s card every year…It’s nice to know I am loved. That’s a good thing!

And…After months of feeling rubbish, a series of MRI and CT scans, blood tests, and countless X-rays (any more and I would feel like a microwaved chicken with a bad tan)…still no news, no card in the post. No hearts or flowers…That’s probably a good thing, too!

Both events have got me thinking. If life is a gift, then love is the ribbon that ties it all together. It’s been over a year since the man I loved ripped my heart out and handed it back to me on a platter.  It’s been a year since the pain in my side has meant extended visits to the local NHS hospital. Long. Complicated. You really don’t want to know, but… ok...I’ll admit, It still hurts...

Nevertheless instead of a diatribe against the perils of love…instead of being morose and despairing on Valentine’s day…I’ve decided I’m going to focus on the gifts love has given me…

  • Gift #1. The gift of poetry. My first serious boyfriend at uni was partial to Irish poets. He gave me a ring engraved with the words from a William Butler Yeats poem.  The ring was tossed into the Thames a long time ago, but the poem lives on!
  • Gift #2. The gift of humour. My 2nd serious boyfriend was English. He endowed me with a love of British humour, and the ability to see the profound in the ridiculous. This is why I can laugh at myself!
  • Gift #3. The gift of music. Another amour taught me love to all music, to the point that I am now the arbiter of cool for my younger sisters as far as beats go!  Well, in my not so secret life I blog for a music website! Thanks…now I know there is more to music than Randy Crawford…
  • Gift #4. The gift of forgiveness. Aforesaid man… he of the heart-ripping, platter-handing mode…well, that was my greatest gift of all. He taught me to let go of things I don’t comprehend and cannot fix. He could only lie, so he taught me to speak the truth even if it meant risking the loss of what I thought I held dear.  He taught me to choose my own destiny because he could not choose for himself.   He made me laugh. He made me love.  But most of all he made me cry. He also made me see what I was not when I was with him…and that…that was enough to set me free!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Magic Mirror….

November is always the cruellest month. For me. Not for Harry Potter. At Hogwarts, November heralds the heroic moment just before the monster gets slain and everyone gets to sit down at a fabulous banquet. For me, it’s never a good time, because it’s also the month my father died. 

Like most days, he left for work.  Like most days, he kissed my mom.  Like most days, we thought he’d be coming back. He didn’t.  A pilot, he died from a massive heart attack in his early forties.  He was reading a book while his co-pilot flew the plane. At least he was doing something he loved.

I was sixteen, my sisters nine and six respectively.  Losing a parent at such an early age has left an indelible, but distinct mark on each of us – and although the scars have faded, they are still there if you probe hard enough. Anyone who has lost a parent, a lover, a sibling or a child will understand what I mean.

Harry Potter lost his parents too, and in one of his adventures, he finds The Mirror of Erised, a magic mirror that shows the ‘deepest and most desperate desires of ones heart’. He stares at that mirror for a long time, because in its reflection, he sees his parents as if they were alive.  I’ve always found that particular piece of the story very moving.  No piece of shiny glass would bring my dad back.

What I didn’t realise was that eventually, I too would find a magic mirror of sorts. An acquaintance sent us a YouTube video link which shows footage of my dad.  It’s part of an old TV documentary filming the Shackleton bomber. It’s extraordinary, because we never had a video camera, so we only have photos of my dad.  I can’t really describe how it felt to see him on that clip – captured in time, but very much present, very much alive.  It made me feel happy and incredibly sad at the same moment. 

So…this is my own reflection for today. The people we love and lose are never far from our hearts. The magic is in the remembering.

Wild cats and other animals…

Women’s lib has clearly failed judging by the latest ‘article’ in the magazine at mylocal hairdressing salon. I use the word ‘article’ loosely since it implies some degree of intelligence and more than a smidge of writing ability.  Neither were evident in this tawdry piece of journalistic tat!

Yet again, the object of my ire is one of those really vacant essays on the relationships between younger men and older women. In this nobel prize-winning segment (not!) we were invited to pass judgement on Pumas, Cheetas and Cougars – the implication being that if you like younger men enough to sleep with them, you are either deviant or desperate!

What really got me was that this was described as a ‘new trend’.  Well, hello!  I, and a select band of my female friends have been doing this for years… The first boy I kissed was in the year below me – Ok, I was the same age as him, but in those days that was tantamount to being an older woman!  Most of the men I have dated, had serious relationships with, and almost married have been younger than me. So. Blinking. What!

What really got me was the ageism implicit in the article. Women in their 20s and 30s dating younger men were just about ok – women in their 40s dating younger men, were badged as ‘predatory’. Puh-leeze! It takes two to tangle! Besides, not being one for convention, I’ve decided to be an Ocelot! Salvador Dali had one as a pet, they are rarer than snow leopards…and… if you happen to find one in your bed, just thank your lucky stars it’s a nuzzle, and not a death bite!

I really resent the implication that as a woman, you can’t find happiness with someone younger than yourself.  Let’s be honest here…no one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that wrinkly octagenarian males are free to shag, marry and obey nubile young women several decades their junior. Put that in an article and most red-blooded males are ready to go ‘whoop, whoop’!  Why then, does society judge older women so harshly.  Has anyone stopped to think that they might actually enjoy being with someone who doesn’t expect them to conform. Has anyone stopped to think that men their age might actually be a) boring b) have baggage and c) just be really disappointing in bed?  Not to mention incontinent!

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. As for me, I’m a cat person, and always will be.

Dead Poet’s Society…

Apart from my nephew, one of my most treasured possessions is a book of poetry by Robert Graves. It was given to me by someone I loved. A lifetime ago. Like the book, I imagine that now he’s a bit battered and threadbare at the edges.  As am I. I found the book at the bottom of a box of keepsakes, and it put me in contemplative mood. I feel like sharing this poem as a reminder that the past is always another country.

The Pact by Robert Graves

The identity of opposites had linked us
In our impossible pact of only love
Which, being a man, I honoured to excess
but you, being woman, quietly disregarded –
though loving me no less –

Truth or consequence…

Truth is relative.  A few  months ago, compelled by a need to be true to myself, I revealed something little known, but much suspected.  It cost me dearly…the love of someone I adored, the loss of myself. Well… the loss of my former self. I am different now. Still, it was a heavy price to pay. I feel the consequences every day.

As human beings, we often say ‘be honest’ when honesty is the last thing we want. I’ve realised perfectly sane, intelligent  people are happy to accept and to live lies because that is better than facing the consequences that arise from the truth. Of course, truth depends on who is telling it.  It’s not an absolute, simply a perspective. You cannot argue with facts in the same way you dispute versions of the truth.

My favourite role model, Einstein (love him and if he was alive would have his children!) once said: ‘Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters’.  I think he’s saying that we need to be honest in the small and big events of our lives, even if that honesty brings consequence. And…I guess he’s making the point that people who cannot be trusted will betray you in tiny increments. The first cut won’t hurt at all, the second only makes you wonder!  Less said about that, soonest mended.

I tell the truth, because I think it’s important to accept responsibility for our actions. Our integrity depends on our willingness to own up for the decisions we make.  We have to face the truth – even if it’s unpalatable – and live with the results. Quid pro Quo.  Truth and consequence.

L is for…Love, Lessons & Life

This is the first blog in a while. Thank you for being patient.

A few weeks ago, it could have been  ‘L’ is for the…’Life is shit, and then you die’  blog, but having been to a wedding (my sister’s), a funeral & rebirth (my own) and to hell and back…(least said, soonest mended)… I have to say it’s good to be here again. Blogger on planet earth.

This I know…

1. Your love is not a small thing. It is the most precious gift you can give. It is not always gratefully received, but that does not lessen it. Giving love makes you capable of great things.  You can cross continents, gamble your future on the stars, and sacrifice yourself…all for love. Love is in the letting go…but it takes great love to watch the person you adore walk away, knowing they will never come back. Hate is not the opposite of love, indifference is.

2. Lessons are almost always about the learning, not the experience. The experience may be humbling, painful, humiliating…but as long as you learn from it, you grow. There is an old Buddhist saying ‘ When the student is ready, the master will appear’. Often we don’t think we are ready for the trials ahead, but when they happen, they show us who we really are. Our choice is to fight, to surrender or perhaps...and this may be ever so un-pc… to ‘smack’ the zen master as a reminder that we are human and have fire in our bellies. Whack! How was that for you, Obi Wan?

3.Life…never ever works out how you plan it. I don’t care if you are the supreme deity or a secretary…this is true! So you can spend your days feeling miserable about the cosmos and the fact you cannot use ‘The Secret’ to manifest pizza, money or love… or you can embrace uncertainty. Oh crap!  ‘Uncertainty’, are you sure?  I’m all for the darkside, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t scary…Life is wonderful, but it is also weird. It makes us who we are. It’s lessons make us who we can be.

My advice? …Live well, Love long, Laugh loud…

Forest Fire…

Wagner Dodge was a smoke jumper who was called to fight a fire in Mann Gulch, Montana in 1945.  Gulch wildfires are notoriously difficult to control – the safest route was for the fire team to make their way down the slope towards water.  But the fire jumped from one side of the valley to the other, and a wall of fire began racing up the hill towards the men.  They ran away.  Well, when faced with a wall of flame 200 feet high, what would you do…? 

Wagner Dodge didn’t run.  He realised that if he ran from the fire he would die. Heat rises.  Fire accellerates uphill.  Wagner Dodge stopped, lit a match. He made a circle of fire around himself, and laid down in the charred earth while the flames raced towards him.  Fire can’t burn what’s already been scorched.  This seemingly crazy, counter-intuitive and irrational action, saved his life.

I’ve given Wagner Dodge a lot of thought since mid-September.  My own forest fire has been of the emotional kind. Like an inferno, love sparks disaster and has the power to melt rocks. Just not the ones in my heart, the moment I realised someone I love was lost to me. There was only one thing to do. To save myself from total immolation, I took a metaphorical match to my heart’s desire and set it ablaze.  Fire can’t burn what’s already been scorched. 

The inspiration for today’s blog was Lloyd Cole.

Dharma…

The one thing that nobody tells you about being an adult is how hard it is to do the right thing.  Matters that were really clear cut when I was younger have somehow developed blurred edges and hues of grey, as I become more of a grown up and less of the shy, spider-legged girl I used to be.

So, what does doing the right thing mean?  Hard to say as its different for each of us. For me…well, I’ve learnt not to judge people any more. (I of course would make an exception for those who would harm children or animals!) Still, everybody has their own spiritual journey, and you never really know what is going on in someone’s head or indeed their heart.  As adults, we become very good at dissembling truth. Grown ups lie for all sorts of good reasons.  Guilt. Fear. Love. Still, I wish people were more honest and up front with eachother. It might not lead to world peace, but it would save a lot of time and agony.

The right thing can also mean knowing when to walk away, and when to stand and fight for what you are passionate about. On balance, I think it is always better to act out of great love rather than great fear. I don’t think it is possible to love what you fear, though perhaps love can turn into hate. Or maybe we just fear the consequences of what we do and think. Another lesson that comes with being an adult.  Taking responsibility. And, knowing when to take a chance. For change. For happiness. For success. Sometimes the right thing, and the hard thing are the same thing.

First kiss…

The first boy I ever kissed, was the same age as me, but in the year below at school.   I was extremely shy and scared as hell, but he was more experienced (Tick) and very good looking (Tick). He was also a good kisser (Big Tick).   He leant across the stable door at the front of our house and kissed me, casually. It was lovely. In fact, it was perfect.

I remember that kiss because it was the first time I had been that close to a boy who really liked me.  Well, that’s not strictly true.  When I was fourteen a boy who really liked me tried to kiss me and … I ran away – yes, literally! I just wasn’t ready to give my heart. And frankly, trying to kiss me in the middle of a department store (in public…eeuuww!) was never going to work, was it? 

 Rodin sculpted it, Eisenstadt and Doisneau photographed it.  Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy princess found her prince by kissing an amphibian. Hell, Heshey’s even turned it into a chocolate! O.K., maybe that last one doesn’t count, but kissing is an intimate act. It’s a way of being close to someone. And maybe a way of keeping out the cold of  loneliness by starting a fire.

And yes, some kisses are rash (no, I really didn’t mean to…honest), some are an affirmation of life (it was a funeral and I was sad) and some are just what they are (in the moment for the moment…I was curious). Some kisses herald the beginning of great happiness (a.k.a. lust – or love – at first sight) and some mean unwelcome obligation (a.k.a. I kissed you and you were so rubbish I need therapy!) A kiss can give you power, or enslave you. (Just think of Judas! )

For me, kisses are a form of divination.  You can tell from a kiss if its meant to be, or meant to fizzle. Some are fun, but the ones that count are the ones that really make you tingle.