You can listen to this post here (5 mins)
There is a place I walk out to. A special place, which has a mix of solace and solidarity, out at the edge where wind meets the wild. I have been there many times. I go to write, to think, to sit, to be in conversation. It is a place beyond my definitions of beauty.
But this gets me: each time I walk out, the path is different. It is never clear. It is full of thorns and brambles, and a thick, unforgiving sludge which is a mixture of mud and cow shit. I fell three times yesterday. I stabbed my hand on some barded wire. Milly turned the colour of sodden earth. My feet were so wet I could have rung them out. This is the path less trodden. Sometimes it is full of shit. Sometimes it is full of savour. Mostly it is both.
As in life, so in life.
I want to tell you this: there are times I think I should give up on this freelance life, this working way part-lived online, this walking on paths which are not paths at all. There are days which are shadowy, and days which are slippery. There are days in which I feel all the sludge. Somedays I feel lonely. Somedays I feel like I want to hurl expletives at the next person who claims to have a definitive solution to the complexity of life, or who offers a ten step guide to having your life sorted, as if life is this thing that can be boxed and bound.
Then I remember the castle. Then I remember the path. Then I remember the choices. Then I remember the stories. Then I remember to sit in the mud and enjoy the silky coverings of sea-spray. Then I remember to phone a friend.
We read poetry to each other. Rilke’s words:
‘This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
We sit in silence for awhile afterwards. It feels close to truth. So close. By listening to each other we reaffirm the power of flight. The listening is a way of saying: ‘I believe in you. Keep going’. The listening is an act of stirring up resilience, in us both.
I think this is so much of the real work; the work of accompaniment, this act of dedicated attention to cultivate hope in the spirit of endurance and the creativity of tenacity. For each other, over and over, it is needed when we stop seeing the truth of ourselves. It is so we have each other to mirror back our strength, to help us find the next turn of the path, to remind us of our castles.
I don’t want to give up friends. I don’t want you to give up either. But sometimes we have to realise that we can’t do it all alone. That we need to phone a friend who can help us to trust in the weight of our convictions and remind us of the longer arc of patience needed to take us there. Maybe sometimes that is all we have: our vision, and each other.
Later, I take a shower, washing the mud from my fingernails and unknotting my hair. I give Milly a wash too, returning her to white. As the full moon rises, I read more Rilke. One line shimmers.
‘Through the empty branches the sky remains’
Then I throw some more fuel on the fire and feel the heat rise. As the flames light up the room, an email arrives from another friend. It says: ‘let’s do this’. I respond, simply ‘Yes, let’s’.
So this is a note to all of you today who may be thinking of giving up. But instead of giving up maybe it is time to phone a friend, or walk out to the equivalence of your castle, or take a different route for a while. Sometimes it is not the vision that’s the problem, but how we are approaching it. Sometimes we just need to take a detour for a while, or a pause, and notice how the moon always rises across the arc of open skies.
Sending you love, for wherever you find yourself today,
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