At the end of the tunnel was a door.
I walked over to it.
I turned the handle.
I pulled; the door resisted but it opened.
All the colours of summer thrust in.
There were poppies, like bloody splashes, at my feet;
marigolds: each a dazzling, pulsing sun
beheld by the warm air.
Nettles pricked with purple tips.
Cornflowers spurted blue
amongst the grass.
Vines flowed through the door,
their liquid, limber tendrils
reaching for me
ripe with purple fruits
that burst under the gentlest press of my fingers.
Juices flowing, warm and sweet and sticky.
I licked my fingers clean
and watched the bees
dip from flower to flower
drunk on their heady pollens.
How could I know
from the darkness of my tunnel
such abundance as this?
I groaned with it,
it taunted all my senses;
I tumbled down
into the long grass,
the sensation of all that delicate contact,
my nerve endings.
I close my eyes:
I am attempting to fast today, my first proper attempt at limiting myself to 500 calories for a day. No this is not true fasting. True fasting would be eating nothing, drinking only water. I’m not doing that, I’m allowing myself to eat a little today. It is not that difficult. I am not forbidden to eat food, I have food available to me. I am not a person starving, being denied food like people living in Yemen. This is a choice. It is a choice because I am replete with everything, because the idea of denial is self-imposed in Western society. We are not supposed to deny ourselves. Television tells us everything is permissible – we can fuck who we like, eat what we like, buy whatever we fancy, use whatever we want, throw away anything that bores us, that we have lost interest in. I find myself increasingly rejecting these tenets of Western lifestyle. I need to be less, to have less, to need less, to want less. But I can only experiment with what is in my daily life. Food, reading, buying, consuming. Consumption, once, was most well known for being a disease. When did it become a positive attribute? Some time before I was born. And I, I believed in it. I submitted to it. I thought my life would be everything I ever wanted if I could only break the bonds of my childhood poverty – relative poverty – and become ‘successful’. Yet it is only recently that I have truly begun to ask myself what success really means. It is nothing that I have achieved.
I am fasting, and in fasting I am thinking of all the ways in which I have been thoughtless, and all the many ways in which I can become grateful. When I eat my evening meal tonight, I will be grateful for my food. It is rare that I am grateful for the abundance of food which is available to me, the ease with which I can sustain my body. In fact I have not been sustaining my body, though my diet is not terrible (yet it could be better). I have been eating for pleasure, out of habit or routine. Fasting is bringing this all into focus. I am not suffering, I do not feel desperate for food though it is quite some time since I’ve last eaten. I am not obsessing about it. I know I could go into my kitchen at any time and make a sandwich. But I won’t. I won’t. I don’t need a sandwich. I need to use the resources that are available to me, the stored body fat, the excess poundage that has crept up over the years because I stopped paying attention.
I’m paying attention now. I am trying, if not fully succeeding, to pay attention to everything. Where I spend my minutes. What I put into my body. How I deal with other people. What I expose my mind to. It is liberating, yet it is the opposite of freedom. I am mindful of these words from Bjork’s song Alarm Call “the less room you give me, the more space I’ve got.” It is a tenet I think I can believe in.
Last night I tried to eat mindfully. I chewed my food slowly. I paid attention to the texture on my tongue, the sensation of the texture blending into a single tone. I tried to concentrate on the various flavours of the food mingling in my mouth: the salt taste of the tuna, the sweetness of the fried onions, the sting of chilli, the mellow-sweetness of the tomato, the creamy, caramel textured cheese. It was more difficult than I expected. In concentrating on the flavour, I almost forgot the taste. I chewed, I took my time. I became full. I realised that the taste of garlic is difficult to describe, it is at once sweet and bitter, pungent and sharp, and I began to wonder if I even liked it. I do like it, the smell of garlic never fails to make me want to eat it. Yet this time the experience was different. I couldn’t finish my meal; I think this was a good thing.
Because we are all born equal
and love transcends every limit we place upon ourselves
and those others try to place upon us.
I have been thinking, today, about forgiveness, about how hard it is to forgive. We can move on from pain, we can bury it, we can defy it and regret it, but forgiving, absolving and letting go requires a step which is often too hard to take. Forgiving others takes both strength and humility. It requires us to let go of our sense of self, of our sense of ourselves in relation to others. It requires us to stop thinking about status, to give up our status. Often forgiveness, the need for forgiveness, comes when someone has humiliated us. Perhaps they have cheated on us, or embarrassed us with our friends. Perhaps they have hurt us, exercising a power over us which they should not have – physical violence, sexual assault, emotional manipulation. Perhaps they have taken something from us, and in so doing have shown that we are powerless, vulnerable. To forgive requires us to submit to that vulnerability, to admit that we are powerless but, more importantly, that it doesn’t matter. The universe is bigger than us. Someone is always more powerful than us, they have power over us or strip power from us. To forgive is to let that go, to say ‘this is my power‘. I cannot master you, I cannot beat you, I cannot overpower you, but I can absolve you for your actions and in so doing rise above the mire in which we have buried ourselves.
There are things that I need to forgive, that I need to let go of. The past is the past, what has happened has happened. I cannot change it. By dwelling on it I am only harming my own present and I am preventing myself from believing in a hopeful future. Perhaps, most of all I need to forgive myself. I think this is the hardest step of all. I need to forgive myself for being weak (I am weak). I need to forgive myself for being blind (I am blind). I need forgive myself for not being perfect (I am imperfect), for allowing myself to be trapped (we are all trapped), for being naïve (I am naïve). I need to forgive myself for the choices I have made, and most of all for the choices I didn’t make (the future is always dark). If I can forgive myself, then perhaps forgiving others will be a breeze.
Sometimes it is nice just to close your eyes and let the sounds of the world gather around you. Dogs barking. The rumble of car engines growing louder and then more faint. My husband breathing. A TV set. My son chattering in his bedroom. A buzzing in my left ear. A gentle breeze blowing. My own breath and, if it’s quiet enough, my heart beating.
There’s a fine drizzle falling outside, and it is grey and darkening inside and it already feels like the long days of summer are well gone. I am wearing a jumper and dungarees, though it is not really cold, and I am sitting cross-legged on the sofa. My left foot has gone slightly numb, but I’m not moving yet. I feel like I could wrap myself up in a blanket, a cup of warm chocolate grasped gratefully in my hands. The cat is sleeping on the carpet near my feet, she knows that it’s not worth going outside today. It hasn’t been like this all day. There was a spell at lunchtime when the sun shone, and I went out running then. My first day trying to make a habit of running. No wonder I feel like curling up with a blanket now. The low light makes my eyes feel heavy, I feel enclosed by the world, sheltered, embraced, safe. I feel tired, but not in a bad way. Rather I feel like I could quite gently and easily flow into sleep, dreaming cosy dreams.