The tangle of knots

imageIt’s cold this morning: a common theme, given that it’s October. Summer has most certainly gone. I feel bereaved, an unwelcome shift my mind is struggling to accommodate. Right now, there are too many changes, too many new elements. The dilution of light, heat. Dawn arriving later. Me, waking in the dark, watching the sun crest the horizon. The field outside shrouded in mist. The grass covered in dew, everything glinting. As for my body: it resents the departure, drawing inwards and tightening. My feet ache like those of an old woman. My shoulder blades are locked. If it wasn’t for the chair and a chance discovery, I wouldn’t be able to move. Who knew the pole of a wooden back could release so much tension, unravel the tangle of knots? It will save me a fortune in physical therapy, although I shall miss my masseur. At any rate, it is a positive to celebrate amongst a bumpy run of events.

September and October have been challenging, forcing much discussion and thought. Plans have been altered, dreams unpicked, goals rewritten to house minor detours and different along-the-way’s. Voices have been raised, too, and toys flung outward, forcing together to separate and complete to come undone. Although maybe that last bit is a little extreme, given that there are other elements at play. Looking back without glasses, there was never that much sun to begin with, not in the inside/outside, story-of-my-life sense.

As I stand at the close of my current adventure, saying goodbye to the last three years – years spent here and years spent elsewhere – making sure I close the box on each separate situation and circumstance I could possibly miss: I struggle to travel ahead. November scares me. A leap into the unknown, I am not yet sure I will be held. I fear that in returning I will be rewinding and all that has been achieved lost.

Attempting to reflect, I pull separate pieces together. As with my art: things that alone mean one thing, together become another one entirely. In moving, I have achieved much and learnt many things. I have also destroyed several fantasies, not least of which are these:

• the past cannot be outrun
• pain cannot be left
• you cannot become another person
• the picture postcard ‘happily ever after’ does not exist,
  not without work and help and burial and resolution

In other words: your suitcase (or caes) WILL follow you, wherever in the world you go.

People, on the otherhand, can be removed. Bad places, too. And attitudes and behaviours can alter slowly, given time. Strength can come from the unlikeliest of allies and a person can grow taller overnight.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Laughter

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It’s not easy to make me laugh; I’m more the reserved type. However, there are some surefire ways, the majority of which are clichés. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t find most of the normal avenues people my age generally take pleasure from remotely funny, but that I do fall for the obvious ones. Like me, my humour never quite managed to grow up.

So what does make me laugh? Tickling my feet always seems to work. As does watching cheesy comedies, stuff designed for kids. Or easily-accessible sitcoms, like Friends, Frasier, A Modern Family, Silicon Valley and, being a bit more adventurous, Curb your Enthusiasm. But I’m not really into comedy as a rule, so tend to avoid it, preferring, instead, psychological thrillers and gritty dramas that challenge my mind and exercise the remains of those little grey cells. If I want popcorn, which is what ‘in my model of the world’ comedy is, I will rent a laugh-out-loud rom-com; that way, I get some romance thrown in with the smiles and a guaranteed happy ending to boot: much better for the soul and the heart.

I’m also helpless inside the walls of a church, especially if I’m attending a service. A silly line, for instance, in a serious hymn (like “the purple-headed mountain” in All Things Bright and Beautiful) and I’m doubled up and choking. The fact that it is impolite to laugh, only increases my need. Jokes don’t do it but funny stories do. People walking into glass doors or tripping up steps also has me in fits, although the guilt that follows finding humour in another’s humiliation or harm is painful to me and these days I try to look away or, if in the vicinity, run in to help.

Off the top of my head, that would be it. But more may surface later. I haven’t had cause to laugh for a while, so I have forgotten what makes me tick. I can’t even remember what uncontrollable laughter feels like and only get close when witnessing it in other people. Then, I watch closely and take notes, gaining quiet pleasure from my voyeurism.

I do, however, smile: at thoughts, at memories, at ideas, etc. As a task, it is easier to accomplish. To make oneself laugh, on the other hand, is a whole lot more challenging, requiring tools I don’t have. I’m also far too serious. If you could climb inside my head and listen for an hour, you would get it. The incessant ranting never lets up: my inner voice is relentless. Last night,I kept myself awake for hours just thinking and worrying about things I have no control over or power to predict. Accepting that would have been far wiser: I could have rested, woken refreshed, been happier.

But this is about laughter in its purest form: laughter that erupts; the kind of laughter that explodes, whether you like it or not. This kind of laughter doesn’t need permission to take: it does as it chooses. Or maybe I should say gives? After all, it is a gift, precious and vital. Laughter heals. Laughter helps. Laughter inspires and motivates. Laughter joins us, befriends us, diffuses negativity in both ourselves and in others. I love laughter more deeply than I love anything. Sadly, at least for now, laughter is yet to love me.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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