“There’s Bravery in Being Soft”
Autumn has been stunning in Cornwall. And looking back it’s been a beautiful but bittersweet few months. Our days filled with both joyful highs and aching lows. There’s been birthdays and baking days; canoe trips on the Helford and bonfires in the field. We’ve gathered with loved ones for parties and picnics; attended Cornwall Film Festival screenings and had days out to new places, finding fresh sites in the world around us. In so so many ways it’s felt like such a sweet start to married life and a fitting end to the year. But there’s also been days of alienation; feeling lost, confused and completely out of place. Receiving news that hits like a fist in the stomach; taking the air from your lungs and the energy from your bones. There’s been moments of frustration; feeling unheard and misunderstood; small and insignificant and overwhelmed all at once. Moments of trying my best; cautiously and anxiously with trembling timidity and being told it’s not enough. Moments of feeling so flimsy, fragile and flat-as-a-pancake, it seemed as though the slightest breeze would blow me over or lift me up and take me away.
As a person, on the whole, I’ve astonishingly little resilience or persistence or will to endure. In times like these I want to hole myself away like a hermit; shutting out the world and simply stating “I am done with people”. Maybe taking to the wild? Or signing up for the Mars trip? I all too easily want to abandon ship. I think of it as self-preservation. My way of holding onto my confidence, my sanity, my general faith in the world. My way of avoiding not bursting into tears when asked how things are going. Sometimes everything just feels so bad and hurts too much. And I can’t bare it. My wide-eyed peaceable self, was not made for this. I have too soft-a-heart. My feelings are all too acute and I get affected by things in a way I suspect isn’t universal.
With so much to process and make peace with, some days have to be taken at a slightly slower pace. And in some ways I’m uncomfortable with that. It ignites a certain guilt in me. It feels indulgent. Unnecessary. Like a more responsible response would be to hide my feelings and carry on like normal. To plough on and pretend like none of it ever affected me. To to grow numb and cynical; indifferent and detached. To shhh my sensitivity, my inner alarm bells that ring out, over and over, “this is not gracious or good or even slightly okay”. Some days I have the capacity to; to hide my hurt behind sarcasm, behind a louder personality or facade of sceptical pessimism. But I don’t want to. I find there to be little imagination behind the notion such behaviour makes you stronger; that such behaviour is intelligent or to be endorsed. If anything, having a soft heart in this difficult, messy, cruel world, is not only a considerable strength but something of a miracle.
As I’m writing this now, I’m sat on the pillows of my bed. Feet tucked up under my bottom, laptop balancing on my bent knees. My coffee, gone cold, sits on my bedside table with a number of low burning candles. And through the window beside me the world looks damp. But birds are flying as the sun is setting and I am warm right through.
I suspect vulnerability – much like rejection, shame, failure and loss – is one of those umcomfortable emotions we work through with time. It wracks our bones and we wring our hands. But more often than not we grow. For maturity is not earned with years like rings on a tree, but with the experiences we weather; leaving bird-droppings on our branches and marks on our bark. It’s in these rough seasons, that ideas we can’t find words for, crystalize into stain glass windows. And we see more clearly than before that image, those words, that idea, that we will try to recreate a thousand times, with our own hands in our own work. It’s often with this weird uncomfortable energy, that we find fresh passion to create. Channelling the pain onto the page; our characters speaking our confusion, our frustration, our fear. We know more, for knowing this unquiet emotion. For bearing through it bravely, tracing it’s intracies with trembling fingertips and little lionhearts.