8th August 2017

At the end of the tunnel was a door.

I opened the door, I walked through.

I entered a room.

There were desks lined up against the walls,

the room was full of people,

people working,

the chatter of keyboards clattering.

I went amongst them,

they welcomed me.

I took a seat

and I worked.

 

That was the first door.

After a while I grew tired of typing,

I stood up,

I turned around

and there were cakes on a table,

candles, balloons, a banner that read

‘congratulations’

people clapped me on the back,

they celebrated,

they hugged me, they said

‘you made it’.

I didn’t know what I’d done to deserve it

but I ate my cake, I returned the hugs,

and then I saw another door.

I walked through it.

 

The second room was dark,

there were only a few people inside.

They looked the same: grey faces,

grey suits, a grey miasma

filled the air, their faces were serious,

the had the same eyes and the same mannerisms,

they wrote in identical books with identical pens.

I took my book,

I took my pen.

I sat at a desk and started writing.

They spoke in their grey tones, but they did not listen to me.

When I wrote with my pen, my words came out wrong

in all the wrong colours.

My pen was blue, my voice was all yellow and bright,

my eyes lacked seriousness.

 

They took the book from me and pushed me towards a door,

they pushed me through it.

Inside it was dark, I was alone.

I knew I had done something wrong, but what?

But what?

7th August 2017

There’s a kind of tiredness that manifests like a fuzzy ball of wool wrapped around your head, and it mutes the world making everything that happens around you arrive as though in slow motion. You think this is a good thing, a kind of protection that allows you to connect with the world through a safe layer of cushioning, but really the reverse is true: the pain is all on the inside and that layer of cushioning only serves to keep it all in, trapped there right inside your skin, suffocating.

6th August 2017

We have been cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, getting rid of (nearly) all those bits of kitchen equipment which have built up over the years: the blender, the bread-slicer, the coffee grinder, the excess of mugs and baking equipment and ceramic dishes. My husband wouldn’t let me throw out the deep-fat fryer, though we haven’t used it in years and are not likely to. We sorted through all our jarred things and disposed of everything that’s expired including that jar of wax beans that dated back to 2014 and I was sure we would use one day. The only cupboard that was spared was my collection of teaware and crockery, though I will have to sort that all too one day. But the best thing about having a clear out is this: it necessitated a trip to the tip.

I love the tip. The tip is the pleasantest and happiest place in the world. It is all neatly laid out and labelled like a well-used rolodex: electrical goods here, clothes and textiles there, inert waste on the other side, plastics, wood, metals. There’s even a place for asbestos, though I’ve never seen that used (thankfully). The staff are present and friendly, they love to help you find the right home for your waste and will take things for you if it’s quiet or they’re passing. Everyone is happy at the tip. I guess throwing things out has a sense of liberation to it. Where else can you toss your crockery so hard that it shatters into a multitude of pieces (except, perhaps, a Greek restaurant)? Where else can you legitimately take out all your pent-up frustration on the colander that’s been sitting on a shelf for 10 years collected dust in its holes? We toss things with flair into the far corner of the giant-sized skip, run back to the car and get more.

On the way home I was thinking up schemes that would enable us to visit the tip every week without being compelled to reduce our home to a few meagre sticks of furniture. Or maybe it would be worth it just to experience the daily pleasure of throwing things out and sharing that knowing wink with the person tossing their footspa into the small electronics bin, and the way they clap their hands together afterwards tells you that you know exactly what they’re feeling.

5th August 2017

Sitting in my living room this morning I came to a strange realisation that nothing I did mattered. It didn’t matter how many books I read or how many I didn’t. It didn’t matter how I chose them or what they were about. It is not important. It doesn’t matter if I eat chocolate for breakfast or nothing at all, or how many cups of coffee I have or how little water I drink or whether I brush my teeth or wear the same clothes day in day out. Very little is important, very little in my life anyway. I do not harm anyone. I don’t significantly change anyone’s life except, perhaps, my husband’s or my children’s and there we are so interconnected we change each other’s, and yet our lives are so small and insignificant, and have no bearing on anyone’s outside ourselves, that it’s impact is negligible. I could do anything, but by anything I mean many small things – I won’t kill anyone, or change the world, I won’t bring about social change or change our political system. So what I do matters only, really, to me. It is obvious, of course, but also liberating to think that whatever strictures I place on my life I can remove them more easily, and however I behave it impacts on barely anyone at all.

2nd August 2017

There is something wonderful about wandering the library stacks, smelling the old books and examining their myriad titles. I love making the mobile shelves move, individually or in unison, the gentle whirr of the motors puncturing the silence. There is reverence amongst the books. Somehow I never find what I’m looking for, but still. It is fun to try, fun to look and always the possibility of finding something else, something unexpected and thoroughly wonderful.

30th July 2017

It has been one of those extraordinarily busy days, a day in which I have bumbled from one task to another not quite getting around to what I want to do. But there are bunnies in the garden and 30 bottles of wine resting in the cupboard under the stairs and I think that counts as a worthwhile day. My bones are aching. I sat down to meditate and I could feel the lumpen, misshapen bulk of my body: the left shoulder all collapsed, the ribs bunched uncomfortably under the bauble of fat that is my belly, the base of my spine aching, the balls of my feet feeling bruised and raw, my hands all dry and papery. This is my life, my self and my body. I said a quiet thank you between the count of my breathes, expressing my gratitude for all that I have which is nothing but this collection of errors and missteps, the aging, broken and unappealing mass of flesh that is mine and without which I could not think nor write nor make anything. Life is like this: imperfect, a compromise, a making do with the finite time and resource and capacity we have to do anything with anything.

29th July 2017

I have been thinking today about the gulf between intention and impulse, about the primacy of desire and the ability to satisfy it so easily, and thoughtlessly, via the internet. I have been thinking about buying a zafu, a meditation cushion. I have been meditating more regularly. I have also been thinking about clearing out, decluttering. These two desires are not at odds, not inconsistent with each other. I might mediate more, but have fewer things. The meditation cushion is £18, not a huge sum of money, but my impulse to buy it does not guarantee I will meditate more. If I had to buy a meditation cushion in person I would think about it more carefully. They’re heavy and unwieldy, and if I bought one from the Buddhist Centre it would likely cost more than £18 and with good reason. The internet makes it possible for me to buy without thinking. I could buy just by clicking and the act of buying and the act of owning are separated by a distance in time which allows me to buy more things that take time to arrive. I want to meditate more, but waiting for a cushion to arrive is not solving the problem. Then, whilst waiting for my wine to filter (an act which might take a small eternity) I sat for a while on my beanbag watching the slow drip, drip, drip, relentlessly slow and it occurred to me that my beanbag would make a perfectly good meditation cushion. Nothing acquired, nothing lost, cash in the bank, resources spared. My intention is met, my impulse avoided. Sometimes we need to just sit by and think for a while before acting. This didn’t used to be such a ground-breaking concept.

28th July 2017

Out on the lake the wind whips up the waves, sending out kayaks bobbing crazily up and down. Behind the protection of the islands, all is calm. It makes for a strange contrast: cold and warm, effortless and effortful. The body is pitted against itself and against the wind, the movement of the water, all stronger than our pitiful arms. Yet it is exhilarating: water in our faces, our clothes soaked through, the warmth of the intermittent sun, the motion of the water, the incessant pull and thrust, the relentlessness of it all. We see islands, the interplay of light and shadow on the hills in the distance, the glistening of the water. We grow tired and cold, yet the spirit is never dampened.

27th July 2017

Yesterday was a terrible day, a day of failures and wasted time and I was tired in a way I haven’t been in a long time, tired as an expression of dismay, of resignation, at the things life throws at me. This, I thought, is suffering and I had to laugh at myself because it was not suffering at all, or if it was it was a kind of self-inflicted suffering which comes from false hope and expectation and disappointment rather than the kind that comes through actual loss or grief, or a catastrophic injury or starvation or war or all those other terrible things going on out there in the world outside my comfortable bubble. But yes we had driven all day to no purpose, and yes we had expended considerable time getting nowhere and doing nothing and time, that precious, nebulous substance ran through our fingers like air and no matter how we grasped at it we couldn’t capture it. And the meaninglessness of it all seemed overwhelming, like one of those days of relentless rain that seems to flow and flow without end, and my tiredness made everything insubstantial like a beautiful landscape glimpsed through opaque glass so full of promise but so broken-up that I could only imagine it and dream.

Yet it is always meaningless, all this activity, all this filling of time with endless nothings that are lost the instant we go to sleep or turn our attention to something else, something absorbing. Not to mention death, through which everything we are is lost entirely and only the echoes of what we’ve left behind remain. And what will I leave behind? Not that wasted day, not all those hours spent in cars pursuing dreams, but rather a handful of people I’ve connected with, the people who have shared this meaningless car journey with me. They are all that matters, so why do I expend any effort on anything else? All my stuff is meaningless, the words I read are meaningless (except in so far as they make me connect more meaningfully with those around me), all my anger and dismay is meaningless, all the disappointments in the world count for nothing. I should let it all go. What use is all of this stuff, all of this activity, if it does not make me happy, if it makes me churlish and grumpy and a little bit pathetic?

23rd July 2017

Cwm Idwal. The mountains rise around a lake, creating a craggy bowl blasted with shadows and light. The water on the lake ripples like shards of mirrored glass. Everywhere there are signs of collapse: boulders torn down the mountain side, cascades of tiny shards of rock and slate. We clamber up the hillside, mounting great boulders, moving with all of our bodies, hands grasping moss and grass, crushed bilberry like blood in the palm. Mist in the heights gathers like a menace but the shadows are pleasingly cool, out in the light the heat burns the salt on the back of my neck and the air is too unforgiving. We cross waterfalls, sit restful on rocks overhanging the water. There is silence here, and the sound of our breathing loud in our ears. My heart beats, and I feel it.