A truly sad date. For those who have read this website for some time, the significance will be clear, and it may be that some of those readers will have felt today as strongly, or perhaps even more so, than I have. In four years, I have, as I have written several times over the last few days, cried more than for the rest of my life put together. When they talk about 'life-altering' injuries, this is one of them, if not one that could be easily detected from the outside.
Here's a thought, part-question, part-observation. At times today I sat in a big room full of people, people who for various reasons might have had and perhaps even should have had their own reasons for marking today's significance, people for whom grief has been renewed recently, and I put every effort I could into not breaking down and crying. There's that thing where you lean your head back, so the tears don't flow. Blinking over and again. staring, not speaking. That was me today. Should I have put that energy in? Should I have accepted what was going on inside me, and allowed whatever I was feeling out? It is hard enough letting yourself cry in private, but in public? I somehow felt responsible for holding it in. I'm not sure I should have felt that responsibility.
Two things that nearly finished me off were when a colleague brought me a cup of strong coffee from her own (classy) reserves in a cup-with-a-lid, a gesture that showed that there was kind thought there, a metaphorical hug from a friend. Later, that same colleague was upset by the subject matter of our work, touching as it did her own neurodiversity, and seeing her leave the room was a huge wrench. Should I have followed? I don't know. I didn't, but she did return after a little while, and I gave her a real hug. Not as good as the classy coffee, though.
That this person should describe me as 'human' may not be obviously significant, but it felt like kindness, on a day when tenderness and kindness should be remembered and celebrated. Another colleague, one whose unexpected death towards the end of last year was and is a cause of untold grief for so many people, used the same word to describe me once as well. She had put a question to me that I could not - would not - answer, and recognised that my sadness was somehow similar to her own, even if the causes did not map on to each other.
In my writing, I try to capture these most intense moments of humanity. I may not be very good at it, and it's certainly the case that not very many people have read the books to find out, but that's why I do it. It makes life richer, somehow, to live it once through my own experiences and again through those of my characters. In the end, I suppose I'm making art of the purist kind, because I'll be doing it whether or not anyone cares in the slightest, and whether or not anyone buys it.
But just to be clear, buy the books. Or the ebooks. Because then I might be able to do the writing and not the other stuff...
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought