Read After Burnout.
In truth, the certainty of anything is temporary. Time flies, it waits for no man, it is a healer and a destroyer.
Time could be on my side or it could be playing for the other team. After a lifetime of treating life as a tapas bar, I find my choices now limited to a decision to stay or go. If, and for a two letter word it is massive, if I stay there will be changes and I know that my wife is not good with changes. If could mean that we are thrown into the abyss of uncertainty again and if could be the undoing of everything we have worked for, including our marriage. If we move here, there will be a household of ifs, each demanding our attention. If is a cliff edge that presents us with a possible panorama of possibilities and potential anxieties; we could move to the edge and take to flight or we could plummet.
This is where my father comes in again. For my eighteenth birthday he brought me a framed copy of Kipling’s famous poem, If.
If you can dream and not make dream your master,
I f you can think, and not make thoughts your aim
Yes, I get it. I was supposed to dream but not to become a dreamer. This, I failed in. I was expected to think and not make thoughts my goal in life. I failed in this too. Sorry, Dad, but by your reckoning I have never have become a man. The conditional would never allow me to graduate from teenager to manhood.
I dream and I think, therefore I am (a two-penny tosspot). And yet, IF stands in my way. IF, IF, IF. All a bloody bit IFFY is you ask me, but you won’t because the pun is too bad or you’ll never get to read this bloody whatever it is.
I am still here. Again, I open my eyes onto a world that remains in place. The night has only brought dreams; no resolutions.
There is a chill in the air. It is summer and yet it wants to be something else. I wrap myself in the promise of tea and descend the stairs.
Mornings have become this. They have become times of acceptance and resignation. This is how it will be for each of my days in which I wake. There is no world out there that offers sunshine. Only slate grey skies await.
Still, I rise.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
In evangelical mode, I rose from sleep this morning. The dream that had played upon my sleeping self had been about betrayal. One person after another person turned their backs upon me even though they saw what the world had done. I wasn’t begging nor pleading, I was only continuing with my grey dawns. And yet somehow they had me down as a charlatan and a fraud. Face after face, friend after friend, family after family, all turned away.
Shunned. I was being shunned.
Somebody had been planting the seeds of doubt around my home. Somebody had been turning the earth, refreshing the soil for another plague of locusts. And they were coming, as true as the slate grey skies would come. But this time, the skies would be grey and clamorous with the multitudinous beating of their wings. And when the blighted crops would raise themselves, deformed and devoid of hope, the plague would descend and devour them.
In my dreaming self, I walked towards the sower who was turned against me. My arrival brought him to slow his activities. He would not turn, but I knew it to be my father.
My father is long dead now. I believe that he wouldn’t betray me, but something has. Each day when my eyes open to greet a new world, the old one smirks back at me. Each time I allow the seeds of hope to fill my palms, they shrivel and die.
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.
Yet, still I rise. I rise every morning because that Is what I have always done. I rise to the promise of sunshine even when only the grey of the world awaits. I will rise, not for my mug of tea, but for the chance of something better. I will not bother God or any other deity with my concerns, but I will rise.
And there I go, all preachy and full of promise. The world awaits to knock the shine out of my hope. Yet, still I sit here at my desk and write the words I now cannot say. In a darkened room, all alone, I may whisper them so as not to be overheard. I may be cursed with bad luck, the worst kind, but still I rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Whoever that cloaked character was, it was not my father. It was doubt dressed as man. Me dressed as doubt. When it has all betrayed me, I will rise. I will rise every mother fucking grey day and I will go about my business of keeping the flame alive.
I need to rise each morning and feel that, for that day, there will be some sunshine, some rain, some life-affirming pain.
Eighteen years ago, my middle daughter was born. It was a momentous day and the sun was shining as if in confirmation.
She was born sometime in the early evening after delaying her entry to the world, in the way a seasoned performer delays their re-entrences on stage to garner the applause of a grateful audience. If our eldest daughter had remained inside the comfort of her mother’s womb for a decent amount of time, after the designated kick-off hour, the middle one set about beating that record; and she did.
Her eldest sibling could not wait to see her freshly grown baby sister. Her anticipation had been simmering towards fevered excitement and by the time we brought the little one back from the hospital, we expected an eruption of joy. What we got instead was a sudden realisation that her place within the family had been usurped by this pink staring thing that didn’t even make baby noises. Our middle daughter was so unlike our eldest one as she did not scream or yowl at the passing world every single minute of the day.
No, our new daughter remained wide-eyed and apparently zen-like in her appreciation of her newly-found state.
Time flies. It moves with invisible wings across the span of our lives; and then beyond. Now that she is eighteen, she has reached the first stage of being an adult. I think that that means being somebody who is really still a child but is made to pretend otherwise. She is treading into this territory by spending the day revising for her A Levels. Only in the evening will she allow herself to relax, kick-back, and enjoy the moment.
“Several years ago, when the Author retired to his native mountains with the hope of being enabled to construct a literary work that might live, it was a reasonable thing that he should take a review of his own mind, and examine how far Nature and Education had qualified him for such an employment.
“As subsidiary to this preparation, he undertook to record, in verse, the origin and progress of his own powers, as far as he was acquainted with them.
“That work, addressed to a dear friend, most distinguished for his knowledge and genius, and to whom the author’s intellect is deeply indebted, has been long finished; and the result of the investigation which gave rise to it, was a determination to compose a philosophical Poem, containing views of Man, Nature, and Society, and to be entitled the ‘Recluse;’ as having for its principal subject the sensations and opinions of a poet living in retirement.
“The preparatory poem is biographical, and conducts the history of the Author’s mind to the point when he was emboldened to hope that his faculties were sufficiently matured for entering upon the arduous labour which he had proposed to himself; and the two works have the same kind of relation to each other, if he may so express himself, as the Ante-chapel has to the body of a Gothic Church. Continuing this allusion, he may be permitted to add, that his minor pieces, which have been long before the public, when they shall be properly arranged, will be found by the attentive reader to have such connection with the main work as may give them claim to be likened to the little cells, oratories, and sepulchral recesses, ordinarily included in those edifices.”
And so it was. And so it must be that a teacher of literature should venture out one afternoon into the choppy waters of GCSE revision. After stealing a boat before lunch, he feasted before returning to the lake.
The students were bloated from their own repast of fizzy drinks, crisps and other such snacks, and bone-melted candy. Nevertheless with a wind in behind him, he set off on the guilty adventure of rowing this group through the last waters of their preparation for the next day’s examination.
The lake of tumultuous despair had already quietened. It was flat as glass, straightforward, nothing that could challenge his recently found boatmanship. And, I hear you think, there would be catch, the vault-face, the moment when the teacher’s vain-glorious nature would be sunk.
And in the other world of words, that is what should have happened.
In my classroom, on that sunny afternoon, with no sight of overbearing peaks, or undue currents, and with the aid of a four-wheeled swivel-chair for a boat, he rowed up and down, the classroom door to his back then the windows, and his lesson ended with a note of things having reached their natural end, and he being able to square himself with what had gone before and what was still waiting for him.