The weather isn’t playing ball at all this Summer. Each day delivers a smattering of rain and then grey clouds shroud the sun we were so blessed with last year.
The odd thing is that already I believe I have started to romanticise the Summer of the Pandemic. That in years to come I will tell rosy-hued tales of what it was like to be in isolation. Believing that we were all blessed with endless sunny mornings in the garden, and too many evenings in a twilight garden with a gin in one hand and a barbecued cob of corn in the other, to count. But it can’t be true. The roads may have fallen silent, and the birds corralled to sing from dawn to dusk, but I do believe it must have rained occasionally? Ye gads, this is England. And what of the sheer stress of not knowing where the next loo roll was coming from or if loved ones would live to see another day? How, Dearheart could I have whitewashed all that? To me it has become all parasols and strawberries as if the very reason for the order to stay at home has already vanished from my memory bank.
I have always been this way. The day after I gave birth to Finley, I wanted to do it all over again. I wanted them to slice open my stomach and pop another child out because I was so besotted by my little one, that I had quite forgotten, in the shortest space of time, what torture I had considered pregnancy and was apparently prepared to set aside the searing pain in my stitched belly in order to have baby-making sex right then and there on the ward so that I could experience what it is to have that singular moment of having a new-born child placed in my arms all over again.
I am so good at setting aside the ugly, in order to paint life as something to treasure instead of to despair of. Despair is so dull isn’t it? Instead I am Pollyanna in black pants. I process terror, disappointment and pain, in weepy, dramatic silence and then I set it aside and write it into a beautiful lie in my own head. In this way I survive.
So it is with pregnancy and pandemics. With painful knees and preposterous relations. I bewilder others by chuckling my way through terrible tales and barely register the ill-concealed horror on their faces. I fail to engage in relentless negativity after I have recovered from rejection or pain and instead remember the good times: what they meant to me once, what lessons I can take away now. Not understanding, I think, that this simply isn’t how most people operate and that it is my ability to forgive and to forget that makes me odd. For it is both my greatest strength and the most dreadful of all weaknesses. It is the thing that makes those who love me shake their heads in despair for me.
Why aren’t you outraged?? Why aren’t you screeching from the hill tops, or destroying those who probably deserve it by telling all and sundry the truth? Where, they say, IS your rage?
And the answer is, I don’t know. I don’t seem to have any, once the shock of whatever it is that should have been my undoing has worn off. I understand anger. I feel it, I just choose not to dwell in it. Better surely to wander through a haze-inducing meadow full of beautiful poppies, than to write my rage on the walls of a prison cell of my own devising. Better to forgive, and to try to forget the pain, and instead to remember the joy, with the lessons learned tucked firmly under my belt. To move into tomorrow with hopeful caution, and to remain willing always to wear my heart on my sleeve, instead of stuffing it into the crook of my elbow like so many snotty hankies?
And so it is that I polish the cracks of my heart with all the same fervour as I would if it was still intact. When the dark claustrophobia of fright has passed and unbidden tears have finally stopped, I find clarity again. It is I suppose a kind of denial. It did rain during Summer 2020. I did find pregnancy horrific.
Intellectually I know these things to be true. I know too that others will deflect judgement from themselves by casting it on other people, and that there are those who will remain irrationally angry for always and do not want to forgive because it calls into question all that they insist must be true. But people are broken in so many ways and I do not have it in me to keep on calling them out for destruction they leave in their wake. I want to see grey, where others see only black and white. I want most of all, given the opportunity, to understand.
So instead of rage, sorrow or disappointment, I choose gratitude. Grateful always for the memories and the lessons. For the baby who was tucked into my arms, (without resentment for the second I did not go on to have) and the peas that grew like so much mint in my garden during last Summer. For a childhood that taught me creativity and resilience and now, a future, of my own making, without its guiding hand.
This then is what I want you to know: bitterness is both ugly and futile. It carves grimaced wrinkles on disgruntled faces and forces vicious words out through gritted teeth. It consumes us and destroys all those who come into contact with it, because bitter is rage’s best friend and the two together are the most formidable and destructive of all forces.
Thank heavens then for dignity and empathy.
So it’s ok, if you too are Pollyanna of the Black Pants. If you choose to forgive and forget when all around are encouraging you to hoard your pain and let it make you hard. For when we share stories from our yesterdays that focus only on the pain they inflicted, we bury the memories we would otherwise consider beautiful. And I don’t want to forget my beautiful by dressing it in bitter rags.
Won’t you too polish the cracks in your heart? Life is too short not to.