I watch the sea. The sea is my friend. A lone gull floats by on a slip wind, calling to no-one I can see. The hills stand as they always have, silent, bedecked with the end game of summer, a clear rise and fall against the tissue paper sky. The water ruffles against the breeze and lays down flat once more. Flowers nod like wise old women, their heads still high, not ready, yet, for the fall. But we all know it’s coming. The sea looks cold today and even though I know it is always cold, it can still tell me different on a warm summer’s morning when a higher sun lifts a music from its salty face in hues and tones that will not return till next year. The garden birds have changed their diet, abandoning some of the feeders I had to fill twice a day not so long ago. The siskin and goldfinches have already gone and the swallows are preparing to leave, abandoning this sky for another where the sun bakes the ground to a sandy crust by 5 am. This is what I see and what I see is a fact. Anyone standing beside me will see the same thing. However, interwoven with this visual fact are my feelings about what I see, and my feelings are, in turn, driven by my storyline, my history, my incomplete bank of memories. Turning our backs on the sea, we might describe a different picture. It is thus when we look at ourselves, when we look at others, for you will see me one way and I will see me another way and that ‘another’ way will flip and somersault like a circus performer depending on my currency of feelings at any given moment. Any shifting moment.
Sometimes I can feel as tall and as solid as a pylon. At others as transient dust floating on a passing breeze, going nowhere in particular. I don’t know how this happens because if I look down I still see my human shape and beyond a change of trousers, I am still me, the me you see. But inside this form there could be a right flapdoodle going on, as if an entire migration of birds just clattered up from my gut and found themselves trapped. It is extremely uncomfortable at best and very tempting to push these feelings away in a mad rush to do something that takes my mind off me. However, I have learned that my feelings are gifts, the happy ones and the horrible ones. They come from nowhere, after all, catching me off guard every time. But they come for a reason. If I let the feelings flow through and around me, just notice them, name them even if I cannot explain them, they will teach me. If, as in the past, I lay the blame for them on another or swish them away, denying them further access, they just bury themselves until the next time they feel like flight.
So how I see you and how you see me show only one side of the whole. We can judge, often too quickly, another person and be almost entirely wrong. The ancient wise ones knew this eons ago. They studied their findings, wrote about them and left us guidelines by which we can live in a more balanced way, if we so choose. Or, we can spend money we don’t have, running endlessly from this shiny thing to the next until we really do become dust. We can run from feelings we don’t like by explaining them in relation to the world. I need to change my three-piece suite, that’s the problem. I always hated it anyway. When I change my job, my life will be perfect, as it will be when I leave school, move house, leave a relationship, have my hair dyed blue, lose weight, buy a puppy. Although doing these things can certainly lift a flagging soul, it isn’t a long term fix, even if we are certain it will be. Laying blame for our discomfort on another person, or thing is simply our way of avoiding a jolly good poke about inside – the chance to sort through our incomplete memories as we sort through old clothing for the charity shop. And to recognise that the way we remember something is only one side of the whole.
In the process of clearing out my mental cupboards, once I finally give in and get on with it, I find a cartload of junk. I am not right and you are not wrong. My storyline needs changing and the only way I can let that process come about is to really understand and accept that this view of mine is not yours, nor is yours mine, and it matters not one jot.
I remember one wise man telling me that the only calling we have in life is to first observe another, all others, and then to do whatever it takes to uphold their dignity. Although I liked what he said, very much, I didn’t really understand it, nor did I now how to live like that. Opinions flutter like birds inside my mouth and I am certain that I am right. But who on this goodly earth am I to think I can judge you on anything? What might I learn just by watching you in silence, allowing my feelings to flow and stilling my own storyline as I consider yours?
I call this love, pure love, something to strive for, something elusive and incomplete in all of us, but something, the thing, the only thing we can give without losing anything at all.