I love stories. I love listening to them, reading them and creating them. Fact or fiction, true or false, they weave themselves round me and connect me to people, places, ideas, cultures, and concepts. They educate me, entertain me, fill me with joy or break my heart, but most of all they remind me of my humanness.
Recently I’ve been having another spate of ill-health. This time it’s a little different, a little bit more debilitating, a little more frightening because the cause has yet to be diagnosed. So I’m existing in a kind of limbo, trying to be patient, doing what I can to try to improve things. But there are times when it gets too much and I feel like I’m just hanging on by my fingernails, concentrating on taking one breath at a time. It’s at these times, when the black dog is scratching at the door, that I resort to writing to get me through. If I can write it down, then maybe it’ll make sense. If it doesn’t, then at least I’ve named it, given it form and got it out. But not everyone agrees with my methods.
Someone told me, “People don’t like to hear never-ending tales of woe,” and that may be true of a lot of people, particularly those who subscribe to certain New Age philosophies that espouse only thinking positive thoughts and ridding yourself of all negativity and negative people. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the power of positive thinking and have been aware of self-fulfilment prophesies long before the concept was picked up and re-named; whatever you think about yourself, good or bad, becomes your reality and to change your situation you also need to change your attitude. However, I don’t feel that this constant need to purge every particle of negativity from your life is actually healthy or helpful, and in lots of ways can be downright dishonest. Why pretend to be fine when you’re not? That you like something when you don’t? Or that you’ve achieved something when you haven’t?
Apparently it’s all to do with vibrations. Whatever you vibrate at a certain frequency the universe will ‘hear’ and send it to you, so if you want positive outcomes you have to think and act as if you’ve already got them, then all the positive things you want will naturally come to you. That may be true, I’m no expert, and it sounds as good a theory as many others. But what I don’t like about it is that I want to learn to live here and now, with the world the way it is, me the way I am now. In this bubble of positivity where’s the meat and blood and bones of people’s lives? Where are the opportunities to demonstrate courage, honour, self-sacrifice and compassion if we live in a world where people don’t want to hear/see/speak anything negative?
In ‘Easter 1916’ W. B. Yates wrote “A terrible beauty is born.” He was writing about the Irish uprising that lead to the deaths of political activists, many of whom he had known. Whilst he disagreed with their methods and disliked some of them personally, he couldn’t fault their courage or the fact they were prepared to die for a cause they believed in. He was acknowledging the duality of life, that from the worst acts humans can do to one another something beautiful and enduring can emerge.
Gold, silver and precious stones are hidden deep in the earth and you have to dig down in order to discover them. Similarly, to see properly you often have to shine the light into the dark, and literature throughout the ages uses these images as metaphors for finding Truth. So tell me your stories of despair, of triumph, sorrow and celebration, let me hear about your fears, uncertainty and grief and I’ll listen, growing close, will cry and laugh with you, acknowledging our shared humanity and the truth of our lives.