How’s your day so far?
Mine’s been good. A long plod on the beach (not raining! hurrah!) followed by a meander through The Times, and then our Sunday service online. That was half the day done! Smiley face. Time becomes an often measured thing in lockdown. On the beach I’d been told about a dog-walking friend who had a big kitchen fire yesterday (I’d heard the engines clanging past and sent up a little prayer, not knowing where or who) and he’s had to move out to a holiday let, so this afternoon I made a batch of blueberry buns for him, and some apple and walnut cake for neighbours (and a slice kept back for me, obvs) and now, at half four, I’m sitting down, job done. Another neighbour has just delivered buttered chicken, a roti and all the trimmings. Can you hear me purring? This is my kind of Sabbath, full of calm pottering, thoughts about people I love, time to think about the message of the morning, no clock to watch, no shops to visit, just peace and silence and three dogs dozing in a house full of baking aromas.
Sounds idyllic, eh? Nothing to complain about in my life. You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But I do. Oh, I do. I really do. And yesterday, yesterday my friends, was a very unhappy day.
I’ve really struggled emotionally this last week. Let me adjust the tense there, “I am struggling emotionally this week”. It’s a bit tedious when every time a Christian tells you about some internal struggle it’s always in the past…. they have struggled but we-hey!… they’re out the other side and victorious. Beaming and full of joy. I am not out the other side yet. I may not be throwing a Bible verse at your head for a few days (or until the end of this blog, whichever comes first). The weather is grey and wet, coldish and blowy, we’re in bloomin’ lockdown again, the prognosis for the winter is dire, I’m quite bored, desperate for a coffee with a friend to chuckle over life’s little annoying twists and turns and I would give anything, almost anything, for physical human contact, a held hand, a hug, a punch on the arm…. anything. Almost. It would be so lovely to meet someone’s eyes, not on a bloody doorstep, or in a gale in a garden, and just drink them in. Be with them. You know…. be with them. Listen to them breathe, hear the silent seconds between words, see the smile, sense the mood…. be with them. Take time to let the conversation grow.
I realised how thoroughly miserable I was becoming only when the postman delivered a box of my newly published book. It’s about my childhood, so it took a whole decade to live, and it took a year to write, and for another year it’s been at the publisher’s, and the printing’s been delayed by Covid, and then by a mix-up at the printer’s, so I have been pregnant with this book for a long time. Much awaited. It got so bad that when friends asked “What’s happening with the book?” I felt as if I was lying, a con-woman, when I said “It’s in the process.”
Anyway, when the book finally arrived it came out of the blue, in a rain storm, no fanfare, not even a smile… just dumped in the porch and it was hard to build up any enthusiasm or to care. The box was soggy and I was quite soggy too, having just come back from a beach walk. I opened it, and there were the books. Twelve copies. But there was just me to see them. No George to show them to, no one to crow with, no one to laugh with. I didn’t even open them at first. Put them on the table and fed the dogs, changed out of my wet clothes, made a coffee. Ho hum, so what. Like that song “Is that all there is?” or the Book of Ecclesiastes “Meaningless, meaningless, all is meaningless.”
Flip me. Proper glum.
Just another book in a world of books. All that work. The story of a little girl 60 years ago. Who cares? But I longed for someone to say “That’s fab!” or to grab one and pore over it, and tell me that the colour was OK and the font was great and the photo (me in 1956) was funny… nothing. Just rain on the window panes. When you live alone you’re responsible for your own mood, no one else cares or knows. So I grabbed myself by the collar, threw myself up against the wall and snarled into my face “Sort yourself out.”
And I did. Sort of. A bit. The next day I delivered (shush, an illegal journey of two miles) a copy to a dear friend… but it was wrapped up against the rain and there was just a brief word on the doorstep, covid style.
Then I went to Tesco’s for another friend, and delivered her copy with the shopping but by this time it was all so humdrum that I even forgot to say it was in the bag with her milk and toffee pudding.
Of course we don’t write for the money (there ain’t any, unless you write fantasy for kidults) and we certainly don’t write for adulation (ditto) but there has to be some sort of encouragement, or creativity is exhausting and even erosive. We all need encouragement. It sparks energy, spurs us on, strengthens us when we’re failing, recognises the great gift of life, celebrates our differences, delights in our similarities, buoys and guides us. It says “You’re loved, even the daft bits of you.”
A day passed. Grey.
THEN, last night, just when I needed it most, I received a lovely email and a video… and it mended all the so-whatness, it made up for the silent house, the soggy box, the anonymous dumping in a dusty porch, the nothing and the nowt.
Here it is. I hope it makes you smile, as it made me smile (and shed a tear) This guy is a writer and stand-up comic, with a fabulous gravelly velvet voice (stage name Arthur Smith) and he’s the partner of a very dear friend…. whose delight you can hear behind the camera.. Thank you, my lovely mad pals. A little encouragement goes a hell of a long way.
And then he read the whole poem………
And that, my friends, made up for everything. These two nutters don’t know they’re a gift from God but they very deffo are. They were used by him. Because of them I could enjoy today, start again, listen the Word, bake and smile and potter, take a step away from the blues. Because of friends.
God never leaves us floundering. He picks us up and dusts us down. I’m still in the blues, but I’m walking towards the pink …. I know it. Hold on, I’m getting there.
Oh, alright, here’s that Bible verse… you knew it was coming:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.