Ted and I return home tomorrow after 5 weeks in Brittany. There’s been some stormy weather on this trip, both literally (we were virtually trapped inside the camper van for a few days last week) and emotionally. We’re both ready to go home now. Today we’re driving to Mont St Michel and we’ll stay in a hotel to save unpacking the camper van. She’s served us well but I’m ready for a bath and a bit of luxury before the last leg of the journey tomorrow to Le Havre and the ferry back to Portsmouth.
I had a hunch, earlier in the year, that the busyness of everyday life was beginning to get in the way of the real business of living, and that following Chris’s death, I needed to make space to discover what I was avoiding and to experience whatever feelings came up.
And what did come up was just about everything: loneliness, yearning, joy, contentment, sorrow, pleasure, confusion, rage, despair, self-loathing, and love.
Nothing new there, you might say. Maybe so, but the difference is that I have been forced by the solitude of a “retreat” to face them without distraction or self-censorship. The experience reminds of that wonderful Rumi poem, The Guest House. Here’s the Coleman Barks translation:
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Of course, I’m not an enlightened being like Rumi and it has been very tough at times, especially the days immediately following Chris’s birthday, though I’ve found writing to be a great solace and a way of getting out of a hole when I’ve fallen in and generally keeping things moving. I’ve written two new stories, a love letter to Chris, a dozen blogs, and a handful of poems while I’ve been away. In the shifting landscape of my identity, “writer” has become figural.
I realise that writing helps me find meaning and a sense of purpose, without which I could easily slip into anomie and depression. It is also a way of trying to connect with the world from inside my own lived experience. I read recently that WB Yeats once said: “Art is the social act of a solitary man [sic].” In my case, as a melancholic introvert, it’s certainly true.
So, I’m very grateful for all the comments I’ve received about this blog. They help me remember that I’m not alone in the world, even if it sometimes feels that way.