There is a full moon out tonight. There has been one for a couple of nights now, but this one is different. It’s, I don’t know…kinder maybe; it’s hazy and grainy against the sky – which is deep, deep blue rather than black – almost like it’s an unfocussed photograph of itself. Speaking of unfocussed, it has been a long while since I posted. I’ve spent so much time writing for other people that sometimes I forget how what I do is about more than examining other peoples words for clarity: it’s about finding my own somewhere in the midst of all this noise they call life, and living. In its remembered place, the constant reminder of how easy it it is to get lost. To be honest that’s sort of how it feels at the moment, like I’m a Lost Boy (or girl in my case) who knows they’re in Neverland but has forgotten the reason why that’s such a good thing to be. It gets harder to know what to make of anything.
I have no pirates, no daring sword fights, no princes in disguise or fairy dust to sprinkle over my grown up life.
What I do have is the ever constant enemy of my own procrastination; no fight but that against my own laziness; no princes in disguise, but plenty of plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face good hearted average Joe’s that either walk on by as though I were little more than a piece of the scenery, or with whom I become that good girl friend that they spill their darkest hearts to; no fairy dust but plenty of wishing that I could just pack up and go back to a time when things were simpler and not quite so expectation laden. But then maybe that’s all of us in one way or another. Specific as things feel a lot of the time, I am under no doubt that the questions I ask on a daily basis have been asked by every generation before me and in the same way will be, even by its last.
I learned a long time ago, perhaps more eloquently for having been reminded of it after spending so long with my nose in one Bill Shakespeare play/sonnet or another rather than a maths text book, that while society and life and times change, people essentially don’t. Joy is still the same feeling now as it was back in Ancient Egypt. A scullery maid in Henry VIII’s house hold would have felt the same despair at the sight of a stain on a good table cloth as my mum finding one on hers as she gets the table ready for Christmas dinner in 2010. A thousand years from now, a kind word will still have the power to bolster someone’s confidence, and a sad sight will still bring them to tears.
All that said though, the last few months have helped this little leopard determine to change her spots one way or another. No waiting for another new year to make resolutions. My resolution was to be resolved – why not start now? Why wait to be the things I needed to be? Why not just start…being? So thats what I did I guess. Started putting money away to go overseas for a couple of months. Started making plans and being grown up about the fact that no-one else can live my life for me, and that I cannot wait to live it until it’s convenient to someone else’s plans. It sounds stupid, I know. A total Captain Obvious observation that anybody in their right mind can see is the case. But still. It’s that old adage – the wood for the trees.
And I think that the latter – waiting for that convenience – has been what I’ve been doing for far too long. Waiting for someone else to be a part of my plans before I counted them as valid. But especially over the last few months – new job, future uncertainties to deal with that I haven’t dealt with for a long time, new challenges and new ways to deal with old challenges… – I’ve realised that if I keep living like this, well…I won’t really be living at all, will I? Have I. Sheesh. That’s a scarier thought now that I think about it.
Either way, tonight, I consider myself possessed of a different attitude – the hybrid mindset of realistic expectations and big hopes – one that I hope even I can build on. Me, the flake. That girl who plans the epic bang then goes out with a whimper all the time. That girl who hates being ‘that girl’ more than she ever has before. She has a new attitude she would like to try on, knowing that it’s the first step, that it’s a small step, but that every journey – big or small – has to begin with that step.
So here I am again. Writing. Thinking out loud.
But I confess, it’s been a few months of learning some home truths too. Things about myself and some bad habits that I’ve tried hard to block out by pretending they’re not really the case. If you know me, you’ll know I tweet something chronic. I swear. You want to talk possession? Somewhere in the last twelve months I’ve turned into a twitter junkie, itching for a hit in 140 character bursts and giving in so often…well, I feel a bit pathetic sometimes, so great is that need for immediate action and reaction to the random, weird thoughts of this mad little mind of mine.
The home truth of this however, lies elsewhere in my online experience of this new and instantaneous phenomenon.
I’ve been really blessed with the opportunities I have had to write since meeting people via Twitter. It’s weird to think you can have so many kindred sorts of spirits out there in the world, living and existing out there in a world in which you have no idea they even exist. But they do. Sometimes passions run a little high, and discussions can get intense, but on the whole I find myself thankful on a daily basis for this wonderful group of people who genuinely encourage me to want to be a better writer. They make you realise that it’s not all about you getting your ideas and issues out into the world. It’s about your audience, and relating to them. It’s about taking this thing you do that can afford you so much selfishness, and making its purpose unselfish for a change. I can’t tell these people how thankful I am that they constantly remind me of how important this is. I think of my characters, how easy it would be to just…I don’t know, live in a mental world with them: these people that I got because they were an extension of what I knew and believed and understood in one way or another.
A dear friend of mine, after suffering one of the worst tragedies that can ever befall someone – the loss of her little boy – started a blog in which she detailed her journey through her grief, and out into life on the other side, a life that now blooms with the lives and love of three other boys as well as her wonderful husband. I can’t tell you what it was like, as her friend – especially in the beginning – to read her entries, in all their jagged and blistered detail about how the world had completely shifted and reformed in the light of her loss. But I think what struck me more were the comments people had left after reading. People who knew her and her family, and strangers from the other side of and around the world, all moved by the power of my friends words. She is a constant reminder to me that even if it’s only one person in the entire world who reads your words, what you say can still make all the difference in the world to them, therefore what you say? It matters. Why? Because there is so much power in the words ‘I know how you feel’ when you realise the person saying them has been in the exact place you are coming from. My friend is so courageous, so strong, and I thank God for her willingness to let people into what must have been such a dark place. By doing what she did – and continues to do – she became a light in a dark place to other grieving people, be they mothers, or fathers, friends or family, or just a stranger in an internet cafe who needs to be reminded that for every night through which they suffer, there is a dawn waiting on the other side.
Sadly, though, somewhere along the way, I forgot exactly how profound this was. I forgot about the true nature of why it’s more important to speak of what matters, whether you know the ears your words will fall upon or not; much like I forgot the true and ultimately selfish nature of what it is to speak words that are only meant to attract the particular attention of particular ears. You see on twitter, theres this person – in essence, really a very good writer and creative talent, who is blessed with that kind of incisive wit that gives birth to all those witty retorts you wish you had of come up with in the moment you really could have used one. They are sharp, occasionally cutting, and if I’m being honest, somewhat exclusive sometimes in their replies. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – by nature you can’t always respond to everything people throw at you. This writer is no exception. Months ago, when it was still the case, I felt these happy little pangs every time I tweeted them and they tweeted back. It was like these short sparky little electrical bursts connecting me for a second to this witty and somewhat famous-er other person, and…you know, it was sort of cool, really. But – for one reason or another, quite frankly I’ve never really been game enough to ask – they don’t tweet me back anymore ever. At first, I wasn’t sure why. But then I realised over time, how I was stupidly obsessing over this person’s opinion of me and wondering if that was the reason they weren’t replying.
For the record, yes: this is every bit as paranoid and stupid as it sounds.
But I realised just how alarmingly addicted I had become to the immediate good opinion of people like that. It was a stupid and very bad habit for me to get in to, and if I’m honest, one that people like me are probably easily susceptible to. We believe in our own failings but never fully in the kind words of others. We search for little fragments of validation from often unrealistic sources. No matter how pastel they hype, we never feel like we live up to it. Not completely anyway – sometimes we feel like we’re closer than at other times, but either way. It’s like a destination that regardless of the distance, you never quite reach, so you spend an awful lot of emotional travelling time with your end goals in the rearview mirror and the lights of the familiar, safe but ultimately unhelpful, growing brighter by the second.
In short, for a while it stopped being about what I was saying. It became all about who was listening. Neither end of this extreme is good, and it took being reminded of such petty stupidity to make me realise what a panderer I was turning into. And that’s not me. That’s not who I was raised to be. That’s not who I was born to be. I know I can be better than that.
Words are powerful things because of the innate control they can possess. The presence of too many can reek of insincerity. The absence of any can sometimes seem like snobbery. But ultimately, what gives them their power are our responses to them. Relying on them to validate you, even in the tiniest way? The passing ear-pleasing words of a stranger, who knows you with little more than the same depth of a car park puddle will never, ever match the beauty of the honest word of a friend, or the honest advice of one who has gone before.
As it is, I can’t follow this person any more. Not because of anything they’ve done – and for the record, if you do read this, and I have done something to offend you, I really am very sorry; my offence was not intended, I assure you – but because I need to stop being stupid, even in this small way. If life has taught me anything, it’s that to do the greatest damage doesn’t always mean being a complete idiot in one massive way; sometimes, it’s the consistently being just a little bit dumb in an awful lot of small ways that is ultimately the more harmful between such evils. So in this way I am chosing to be smart. Removing the person means removing the reminders and triggers of a bad attitude. At least for me. Which for the record still sucks a bit, because they make pretty awesome use of their 140 character allocation on a regular basis.
Despite being a maniacal little fella on most occasions, Napoleon Bonaparte once very wisely said: “Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them.”
I’d like to think…I don’t know, that maybe that’s what owning just such an attitude is: a treasure, one that regardless of whether or not we feel worthy of it, we somehow have to use it to live the lives that we were meant to live. No amount of planning will allow us to go backwards and undo the things we wish we’d never done, the same way no amount of hindsight can prepare us for a future that could ultimately turn out any one of a thousand different ways. All we can do is learn and go forward.
So here I am. Going forward the only way I know how.
In America, the first pin on my map as I prepare to travel this year, they are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday we don’t have here. But as I sat there today, and found my tweet feed fill up with tweets containing the tag #I’mThankfulFor, I realised that I was in some small, graceful way, handed another treasure to make use of. I realised anew how the good opinion of a stranger is but a drop in the ocean of all the things I have to be thankful for.
They say that possession is nine tenths of the law. This treasure of thankful thought, tonight, I’ve realised is mine.
Which begs the following two questions.
What’s yours, and more importantly, what do you plan to do with it?