And if there is a trapdoor will it lead me into the deep, winding corridors of an underground fairground?
Where aluminium horses dance in circles, and mouths agape on clown faces that gulp at the sweet scent of soft pink fairy floss. And tall, tall men walk in wide, wide shoes and short, fat women rise high above on skyscraper stilts and smile down upon us with a secret in their soul and a stench in their chests. Where the taste of cheap bourbon floats on our taste buds as we swim through lion-hearts and snickering monkey minds, hand in hand under a sea of stars. A dangling killer python swinging recklessly beside me, haunting me with its’ neon sugar striped rage. Your heart, a thunderous city of blood and sweat and tears crashing against the distant sound of waves. But our own secret lies with that snake and heart and sea as they lie in wait, poised to lasso any freak or fool who dares to take us down. And so we fearlessly take our seat atop the penny-farthing wheel of life and cycle through the dawn of ages.
Is that where we will be?
Or if it’s not in a fairground, can it be a long walk down to that rocky shore, beneath the rollicking waves and into our seabed upon the ocean floor?
Where we can leave this airborne world behind for our deep sea farming destinies, growing great muscles of courage that form calluses and mould into hard shells upon the rock face of our love.
And when the fishermen come to carve our love away and feast upon their hard earned cash, we’ll flex and bend with indulgent supply, and watch as their souls start to burn with that beautiful aphrodisiac of delight.
Or are you on that speeding train holding out your hand as I slowly lose ground, my legs burning, my chest heaving my bones, my skin, my heart forwards,
Until you charmingly adorn the drivers cap and make proud racket with bursts of steam and hooting laughter so loud that it calls all the world to a halt?
Or is that you in disguise upon that small throne in the corner of the dark, wooden coffee shop, nose sniffing the pages of a novel, neck deep in the mist of another world entirely? If I dive into that paper bound locket and poke my head out from the other side will your eyes see for the first time that treasure chest of adventures that you went searching for? Will we still act surprised when the trees between those pages melt back into the earth, flesh falls away from bones and the sun stands still just long enough to dissolve that mirror between us into a pane of glass, so that we can finally stand face to face with the truth?
I would search the ends of the earth for you and leave no stone or wave or fish or wheel or star or page unturned.
What if I just missed you for the rest of my days?
Where would I be then?
I have no words for this Ted Talk, other than… gratitude.
Gratitude to the very special friend who put me onto Sarah Kay by sharing her performance of ‘When Love Arrives’ with me (do yourself a favour, scroll down to the bottom to watch it). Mel and I were sharing a bottle of wine and waxing on about how and when love shows up in our lives, whether you can make a choice to fall in love or whether it is something that happens to you, against your will even. And I’m not even talking about That Big Decision to marry and commit until the death do’s etc. I suppose it’s possibly a rehearsal for what that might be – for some, at least.
We decided it was probably either or both, depending on the circumstances – and the people involved. But even now, I can’t help wondering if by making the conscious decision to love someone and enter into a relationship with them isn’t in fact the relationship safe route. And maybe it is – but is that the point? Is that when it actually works out? And isn’t that what we’re looking for? We certainly have been taught to think that we should want it. And we all know the marriage certificate alone isn’t quite enough these days. Something happens before that. There’s more to it than that.
Interestingly, I was at a Hen’s Day for another very great girlfriend of mine this weekend, and again another fabulous woman (not the bride-to-be, I should clarify!) shared her story with me about how she made the choice to fall in love with her best friend. She quite despised him up until that point (which, I know, sounds like the makings of a highly successful sitcom, right?). But it made me wonder – is this something that women do, and not just in their thirties, but by their very nature? Do we feel like we have no other choice than to make the decision for ourselves and our unknowing – but soon-to-be-willing – partner?
If so, this idea doesn’t feel very natural to me. My brain is a little unsure as to the workings of my feminine heart, particularly at the moment, but I tend to think I often don’t have a choice in matters of the heart. I also have never quite been able to shake off those relationships that ‘made sense’ or were ‘good for me’ – constantly questioning should they be reconsidered? revisited? reignited? hanging around in the back of my mind like that fucking tub of ice cream sitting in my freezer that keeps nudging at my guilt and saying, ‘I’m still here…’
But I can put those broken nerve endings back together and find that spark again, right? I can be one of those people who says:
You there, yes, you – come over here for a moment, would you? Oh god no, not you – you’re a bit pale and needy. No – YOU. Yes, thank you. Now, let me see… You look nice. You smell ok. You sound like a human being. Ah excellent, is that some lose change in your pocket? Ok, good. And how’re your privates? Everything in working order? Just in case motherhood ever starts to amuse me. Brilliant – I have decided I think I’d rather like to fall in love with you. How does ‘life’ sound? Or perhaps let’s start with 10 years and go from there, what do you say?
Yeah. I could. Couldn’t I?
I know – I’m hilarious. Of course, it’s not that simple. But perhaps some people just know what is good for them. And then they actually take action and go for it.
I hope they know how inspiring that is to watch.
Sarah’s wise words of advice…
Step One: I can
Step Two: I will
Step Three: It’s not just the old adage of ‘write what you know’, it’s about gathering up all the experiences and knowledge that you’ve collected up to now in order to help you dive into what you don’t know.
Righto then, here goes…
Ten Things I Know To Be True
1. I just ate half a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I bought it two nights ago when I was drunk. The probability of buying ice-cream had I not drunk the three double-shot gins and half bottle of wine is significantly lower.
2. My chocolate-peanut-caramel-swirl-ice-cream chaser was a packet of fruit Mentos.
3. I felt guilty about eating both of these things about ten minutes before I even peeled myself off the couch to get them from their respective safe keeping spots. I know I can’t have these things in the house otherwise I will eat them.
4. Both times it was definitely a choice, and yet there is a small part of me that feels I was being held hostage by the processed sugar gods.
5. I need to let go of my negative relationship with food because I’ve just wasted the first five of my ‘ten things I know to be true’ list focusing just on that. Either I’m really unintelligent with nothing in particular to say – in which case I should shut down this blog right this second – or I’m wasting my time on distractions and negative thoughts and not getting on with things. Important things. Like life. I only came to this realisation, however, after watching both the videos I have shared here.
(Right. Watch this, here I go…)
6. Music speaks to me in a way that I imagine religion speaks to its devotees. (ah, well done, that’s deep…)
7. Writing makes me feel like I am home. (Now I’m surprising even myself – that’s actually true. I should write a whole lot more than I do. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, shut it…you lost it – this just got boring…)
8. I wish I had half the courage to believe Sarah’s first step, in order to do step two, so that I can achieve step three.
9. Number 8 is actually bullshit. I’ve done it before. I could/should do it again. I am clearly choosing not to.
10. I miss love frequently…and yet perhaps I should be open to the fact that it may not be good for me. And perhaps that’s a good thing to know and take action on.
And then there’s this…
We’ve made an astounding mistake in that we’ve actually believed Freud who said that the most basic instinct in man is sex…the most basic instinct in man is to bond with another person.
When two people meet and fall in love, there’s a sudden rush of magic. Magic is just naturally present then. We tend to feed on that gratuitous magic without striving to make any more. One day we wake up and find that the magic is gone. We hustle to get it back, but by then it’s usually too late, we’ve used it up. What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start. It’s hard work, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.
When we’re incomplete, we’re always searching for somebody to complete us. When, after a few years or a few months of a relationship, we find that we’re still unfulfilled, we blame our partners and take up with somebody more promising. This can go on and on – series polygamy – until we admit that while a partner can add sweet dimension to our lives, we, each of us, are responsible for our own fulfillment. Nobody else can provide it for us, and to believe otherwise is to delude ourselves dangerously and to program for eventual failure every relationship we enter.
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not. Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning or an end. Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm. There is only one serious question. And that question is: ‘Who knows how to make love stay?’
1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if loves stays, it can have half. It will stay.
2. Tell love you want a momento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a moustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.
3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
REAL FRIENDSHIP OR LOVE IS NOT MANUFACTURED or achieved. Friendship is always an act of recognition. This metaphor of friendship can be grounded in the clay nature of the human body. When you find the person you love, an act of ancient recognition brings you together. It is as if millions of years before the silence of nature broke, his or her clay and your clay lay side by side. Then, in the turning of the seasons, your one clay divided and separated. You began to ride as distinct clay forms, each housing a different individuality and destiny. Without even knowing it, your secret memory mourned your loss of each other. While your clay selves wandered for thousands of years through the universe, your longing for each other never faded. This metaphor helps to explain how in the moment of friendship two souls suddenly recognise each other. It could be a meeting on the street, or at a party, a lecture or just a simple, banal introduction, then, suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing. Love opens the door of ancient recognition. You enter. You come home to each other at last. As Euripides says, ‘Two friends, one soul.’
In the classical tradition this is wonderfully expressed in Plato’s magical dialogue on the nature of love, the Symposium. Plato adverts to the myth that humans in the beginning were not single individuals. Each person was two selves in one. Then they became separated; consequently, you spend your life looking for your other half. When you find and discover each other, it is through this act of profound recognition. In friendship, an ancient circle closes. That which is ancient between you will mind you, shelter you and hold you together. When two people fall in love, each comes in our of the loneliness of exile, home to the one house of belonging. At weddings, it is appropriate to acknowledge the gracious destiny that enabled this couple to recognise each other when they met. Each recognised the other as the one in whom their heart could be at home. Love should never be a burden, for there is more between you than your mutual presence.
– Extract from John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World