We were married in a wood.
Our friends came and danced,
Drank and juggled fire.
We were so happy,
So full of hope,
As we flew off to Sri Lanka.
So confident in our ability to save the world.
We celebrated our first anniversary on a hospital ward in Sheffield.
Waiting for results from blood tests, scans and spinal taps.
A year of waiting.
My wife’s body slowly shrinking and hollowing
My resolve alongside it.
Till the doctor pronounced “cancer. Two weeks. You should make arrangements.”
I don’t remember tears, though there must have been many.
Tears are inadequate at such times.
All you can do is grip tightly and endure.
Later, I lost all balance.
Could no longer stand steady upon the rock.
Waves licked my feet and a tremor kissed my right arm.
The doctor said “Parkinson’s. Progressive. Incurable.”
No tears. Tears are inadequate.
We knew to grip tightly and endure.
Sometimes doctors will find a way to treat the untreatable.
Sometimes the treatment will work.
That’s not the point.
The point is to endure.
Life is not the pursuit of happiness.
Life is not about spiritual development.
It is not about understanding.
It is not about securing a place in Heaven.
Life is not about what you achieve.
It is about what you endure.
Life is about bearing the unbearable with grace.
And the thing is
You cannot learn this from a book, a guru, a lecture or a workshop.
Read all you like about spiritual growth from difficult life experiences.
Reading about it will do nothing.
You must live it.
And it is horrible.
You would not wish it on your worst enemy.
But you must live it.
You must feel the awful hollowness in your belly
That comes when there is no hope.
You must feel the terror that comes
As you watch your world be torn apart.
You must surrender all that you hold dear in this world
For you are about to cross into another.
There is no going back.
This is initiation.
What were treasures in your old world
Are now just empty bags snagging on branches.
You must let them go
Or you will be forever trapped in the dark woods.
You must let go of everything.
Let go of your old life.
Make no mistake, this is a hard thing.
It will leave its mark.
It is far easier to not go there,
Easier to deny that the other world even exists.
But you must live it nonetheless
Lest, on your deathbed, you too lately discover
That this passing of days has not been
A preparation for some future wish.
No. This was your one opportunity
To live a life of appropriate splendour
But instead you chose, or, worse, let your choice be made
By fear, shame or a neighbour’s opinion,
To die whilst still breathing
And your life was a thing of air,
An inflated doll with perfect smile and glassy eyes.
A polite construction
Lacking any scars of substance
Devoid of the wounds of authenticity.
Today I listen to the politicians
All their plans and manifestos
And I just hear inflated dolls.
Nowhere do I hear acknowledgment of the simple truth
That our time is over.
We cannot go on living as we have been.
The planet has had enough of our plunder.
We have been behaving like children for long enough
Demanding more. Throwing tantrums.
Unwilling to give up our toys.
We have murdered our elders and forgotten the old stories.
A Peter Pan culture, we have refused to grow up.
We have denied initiation.
So, now we, as a culture, are going to be made into adults.
You would not wish what is to come on your worst enemy
Let alone your children and grandchildren.
Fire, famine, flood. It’s all coming.
It’s happened before.
It’s going to be Biblical.
Where’s Noah when you need him?
But there is no avoiding this.
It’s just part of the process.
It’s why we are here.
Now we must learn to grow up
Learn that there is always a price to pay
Now we must learn what it means to be an adult
To endure unfair hardship for the benefit of others.
We must learn to bear the unbearable with grace.
That’s powerful Andy, wise and sadly . . . true. Isobel x
I usually have something witty to say but now I don’t even know what to say. That just shows you said something important challenging wise cut-to-the-bone I have no idea what to call it. So many thoughts go through my head when I read this. How did you get to this place where you just leap out there with your words to say the unvarnished truth? You’re not the only voice crying in the wilderness (thank god!) yet I love/fear your words (I’m might ramble now) Am I an adult? Can I do what an adult needs to be done? Am I still a child clinging to my old ways? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. Maybe if we have more adult moments than childish moments going forward things will change for the better. One step backward. Two steps forward. I agree with everything you say. I have hope. I sense a way forward. I don’t feel sad. I square my shoulders and try to stand tall.
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Hi Renee, you always respond to my posts with great sensitivity and thoughtfulness. I sense that you are more adult than most folk. But I fear that it is a cultural thing. We are all children struggling to make sense of the world in a culture that has abandoned us. So, as you say, square your shoulders and move forward. It’s the only option. Good luck.