Once upon a time, I would write to conjure up positivity, to attempt to push the boundaries of human feeling, and to break through problems even as safeguards formed around them. Now, sadly, it’s darker arts that have the lasting hold. This is what tests relationships with writing and with the self to their extreme.
Last May was unremittingly sad, and the utterances that wept ink-stains upon my memory show no sign of departure, despite recent attempts to wallpaper them over. The turn inwards back then, as my reaction demanded, produced some of my best ever written material (May 2011). Yet this, it must be said, recognised its debt to failures.
I have come to accept being a fundamentally unattractive kind of person, and even to grace the benefits – it heightens my reactions to the promise of nicer things and nicer people – but I have not yet come to accept being a target of invective and ire. If only I could show any sign of giving back rather than just absorbing it.
Thus emerged an increasingly awkward recurring motif. January saw a topical piece on confidence as academic work came to be inspired by, and proved the perfect foil for, more mental dissection. This time, the sentiment was more direct, albeit just as carefully packaged. “It’s not a nice thing to write, but I do so with composite calm…”
As I had said the month before, there’s a responsibility in writing. Truth is important, but so is protecting others from it.
And since then, quite simply, I have not been able to raise that protection. Dorian Gray-like, my behind-closed-doors battle (if not fascination) with the darker shades is what sustains my mask of normality on a daily basis. Much of my writing from this year has been abandoned because it has routinely descended into gall in a way that’s been frightening to witness.
Reading aloud Shadow Seasons this weekend was a beautiful, if temporary, moment of redemption. Beauty, art, music, colour, sentiment, thought; a concerted effort to find the best of me. There are times when I think I’m telling a story that would bask in endless shades of maudlin beauty were it not my own.
This May has been social and eventful. It’s brought smiles, some memorable days (and nights), and there have been signs of promise. Why then, does the light within feel like it’s going out? Fine lines, Shadow Seasons decreed. And that’s still the case; the finest of lines and yet the greatest of divides.
Life has come to teach me a grave lesson: that days of sunshine and optimism are always borrowed and must be paid back with interest.
Dare I argue that I’m due a rebate, or might a thunderstorm smite me down?
He fortified the double gate,
And rarely thither came;
For, with one spark of these, he straight
All Nature could inflame.
The kind of epic that keeps a flame lit.