Although this phrase has come to mean something dodgy, like bad behaviour or offensive language, it is not what it meant at first. The pale comes from the latin word, palus, meaning stake, as in fence or boundary. I like this meaning better and it isn’t because I was good at latin, which I was, by the way. I just loved words and their origins and, it seemed to me as a miserable schoolgirl that words were my power so it behoved me to learn a lot about a lot of them. Every day now I find new words, great long things that nobody ever says anymore and I employ them just for the hell of it. They thrill me, like numbers do other people. Sometimes, and you probably already know this, I like to make new words because the actual word is dull and unmusical. It has no timbre, no reverb, no harmonies. So I invent one that has.
This daft way of being thinks me. What is it that makes me go beyond the pale of literary correctitude? I know the answer. T’is the imp in me. that imp has served me both well and not well throughout my life. To be able to see the immediate nonsense in something weighty with sense has elevated me and, on many occasions, those around me. At times of inner gloom when the old drudge woman within sinks fatly on to her bottom, refusing to rise for anything or anyone, the imp tickles my fancy. Go away! I might growl, but she is persistent. She wants me to get beyond myself, again. Out there, she cries, look out there! See how majestical, how glorious is this day, this life, this moment! Well, I see no glory at all, I might grumble. It is just a day, just a life, just a moment, after all. Yes, yes, (she is now yelling at me) but it is all yours! Think on that, old drudge woman, think on that.
So this business of staying inside the pale is not an indulgence I am afforded for long. She won’t let me, the imp. She says, look not at the wound, but at the healing; she says, look forward, not back; she says, look around, look out, look NOW! And, she adds as my eyes roll heavenward, be thankful for it all, for the shadows, for the dark, for the doubts and the fears because they are always there for everyone. Just don’t study them, that’s all I’m saying. Acknowledge them and move beyond, beyond the pale, beyond the fence that, btw, you erected all by yourself. And she is right. What I did was to study a shadow, let it grow and develop until it did what they always do; it blocked out my sun.
So, when someone asks me “how are you doing?’ I reply thus. “I’m doing great!” even if it’s a socking great lie, because, in saying it, speaking it out from my own mouth, I hear it. My ears take in the response and shoot it quick quick to my old brain giving it a right kick up the bahookie. Oh, says my brain, what??? I had better reprogram myself. Brains can do that. Immediately it makes an inner change. There is no apology of course and no guarantee that it will remember the next time a shadow blocks my sun because it is I who need to develop a new programme for it to adhere to. The trouble with brains is that they are emotionless and, well, rather staid to be honest. They, brains, give out what we put in, thus perpetuating old thought patterns and giving them gravitas. We think we hear the truth, but unless we keep updating that truth, our brains will give out old information. We must work daily to update. We must notice our thoughts, our patterns and revise constantly if we are to move beyond the pale.
‘It sounded like the truth when first I heard it speak. But it’s not the truth today.’ Leonard Cohen