I woke up this morning and the Scottish sky was translucent outside my window and the sun was pale and delicate and my lurchers were gazing at me as if I were Dorothy Parker and Jane Austen and Maya Angelou all rolled into one.
(Actually, now I come to think of it, perhaps they were giving me more the Molly Keane and May Sarton look, but that’s a whole other hill of beans.)
I had the most radical thought. That thought was, ‘Everything’s going to be all right.’
I felt, in that moment, in my silent house, hope. I felt profound gratitude. I felt as fierce as a lioness.
I ran with it for a bit. I damn well took that lioness energy out for a spin. I did some useful and meaningful things and I made some optimistic plans and I wrote things down.
And then the critical voices started laughing. They were late to the party but when they arrived it was like a scene out of the Rocky Horror Show. ‘Everything is going to be all right?’ they hooted. ‘What sodding planet are you living on?’
(For readers starting here, the critical voices are those negative, cross internal voices that besiege and roil the mind. Pretty much everyone has them. Mine are many and various; sometimes they come in single spies, and sometimes in battalions. One of them even has a name.)
The critical voices reminded me of all the things I have to worry about. It’s not just that there is a pandemic out there, and people are dying and people are fearful, and all the politicos are fighting, and everyone is going tribal, and each day there is a new Twitter storm. It’s that I have intense pressures and frets in my personal and professional life, hills to climb and challenges to face and failures to look in the eye. On paper, the critical voices are quite right – because even a stopped clock is right twice a day – everything, objectively, is really not all right.
But in that moment, in my clear, limpid Scottish morning it was all right. And I made a choice. I could listen to the critical party and fall into my usual start the day panic – too much work, not enough time – or I could stay with that spreading feeling of gratitude and good fortune. I could stick with the all rightness for a little bit longer. I could decide not to look at the news, not to get the proof that everything was, in fact, not all right at all. I could choose the stillness and love and peace. I could look at my funny dogs and remember that they think I am all the great humans rolled into one.
It was a really good decision. Because of that decision, because I stayed with the light instead of moving into the darkness, I could give the two writing clients I had this morning all the good stuff. I damn well did give them the good stuff. They both ended their sessions smiling instead of frowning. It’s 11.29am as I write this, and whatever happens for the rest of this day, that stands.
I want to write this down because I want to remember. Nobody can magically make everything all right. Nobody can wave a fairy wand and banish the darkness. Without the darkness, there would be no light. But every so often, I can choose to stay with the wonderful feelings, just a little bit longer. I can ask the critical voices to take their party next door. (There’s a full cash bar in there, and lots of gin, and they can make as much noise as they want.) It’s so easy, at the moment, to step into the fears, the disasters, the terrible headlines. It’s so easy to believe that we are all going to hell in a handcart. But I have this dogged belief that even in the saddest, baddest day, there is something of beauty, something of wonder, something of goodness and truth. As long as I can hold on to a bit of that, my tiny ship will keep sailing on. And today, I did hold on. And it made a difference.
PS. The photograph is of the view from my window this morning, when I was having the everything will be all right feeling. It is of the literal light. I thought, ‘When I have that view, I can’t complain about anything.’