Last night I listened to the darkness; an owl hooting in the distance made me shiver for the mouse, hiding beneath the skinny branches of last year’s brambles; the cries of an oystercatcher across the sea-loch cut through the black like a white hot blade and, as it grew quiet again, I could hear the little burn mumbling and tumbling its way down to mother sea. The thoughts that went through my mind at each encounter came randomly, as thoughts always do. Was this sound the sound of imminent death or just the music of the night? Did the mouse get away and, if it did, is that a good thing? Not, I suspect, for the owl. And oystercatchers always sound like they’ve got their nickers in a twist, whatever it is they might be saying.
I know my thoughts are plentiful and noisy. I know that my thoughts can be very black or as bright as a summer garden in July, depending on how I feel about life at the time. Giving credence and an audience to any thought allows it to develop, so it is my choice as to how the next scene is played out. Before I knew this refreshing and freeing fact, I considered all thoughts to be of value. They have been sent to me; they are real; they are my fault (if black) and just lucky (if bright). Now I know this to be just so much nonsense.
If I have control, not over the appearance of a thought, but of its lifespan, then I am truly freed from all that has ‘defined’ me over the years. I am not my thoughts. I am, however, the result of any action I may take in response to them. I am my actions, for this is how I show the world who I really am, not who my mother made me, or my gym teacher or my past influencers or even my present ones. It isn’t what I say that shows me as I am, but what I do, and what I do is always influenced by what I think, hence Shakepseare’s mighty wisdom ‘ for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2.
Most of our day is spent in private thought. We process and sort these thoughts every second of every waking moment. The domestic thoughts are generally quite simple to address and to process but the thoughts that cause us to doubt ourselves, to beat ourselves up for not being enough, searching, as we all do for the why is everything, the root, the reason for that thought being there at all are the thoughts we must stop in their tracks. If thoughts come unbidden and unsought then they are not necessarily welcome. To allow a thought to grow requires us to give it audience. If we have a tendency to self-deprecate then we must be mindful of such thoughts. Chewing them over in search of an answer that will lift us into a smile again has never worked before, so why would it now?
I have learned to acknowledge each thought as just a thought, as if each one is on the wind, blowing at random through my brain. Over time I can recognise the self-indulgent bad girl thoughts and send them packing, although this does not mean I ignore any thought that might be there to guide me. I make many mistakes, in what I do and say, and my thoughts help me to put the things right that I have made wrong. But, after that is done, it is done. Although attending thoughts like unecessary bridesmaids keep flowing down the aisles of my mind, whispering that ‘sorry is not enough, you have to grovel, you dreadful person, you who keeps on getting it wrong over and over and over again, and at your age, for goodness sake’……………..I let them flow right on out and into the ether for they bring with them the trappings of a false guilt and I have no desire for such trappings. Life is altogether too wonderful for that.
This morning I rose to birdsong and the whoop of a hyena. I think a local dog has learned to whoop in an hyeniac way because the chances of a hyena in the neighbourhood are slim. I remember waking in an African night to that call, close by and it thought me of the simplicity and the complexity of what it means to be a wild animal, acting without thought on consequence of action. I doubt a hyena bothers much with guilt or self-deprecation as we might.
And yet we are never at the mercy of our thoughts, and we are always in control of what happens next.