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Face it, after what's just happened in the polls, the only way is up

By Nuala McKeever

Published 11/05/2015

Seeking solace: Diane Keaton in Love and Death
Seeking solace: Diane Keaton in Love and Death

After a weekend of weeping and gnashing of teeth, it's now time to look forward to the Stormont elections next year. As Naomi Long said, quoting another famous redhead, "Tomorrow is another day". Gavin Robinson's win in East Belfast doesn't mean that respect and decency aren't still worth standing up for.

Mike Nesbitt's pact with the Dinosaur Party doesn't mean that there are no caring people with integrity left in Northern Ireland.

The fact that millions of people voted for the Tory party, which is intent on privatising healthcare and punishing the poor with even more savage cuts, doesn't mean that human beings are inherently bad, or that there's no point in consistently speaking up and speaking out for love and fairness and justice.

It's easy to feel that we stepped into a time machine last Thursday and woke up on Friday in Jurassic land. It's easy to be downhearted. It's easy to feel powerless and defeated.

So, let yourself feel what you're feeling. Really feel it. Feel what it feels like right in your physical body. Where is the heaviness? Where is the dull throbbing? Where is the tightness?

Feel it. Acknowledge it. Listen to what it's saying. Thank it.

Then lift your face up to the light and say, in the words of that great sage from the 1980s, Yazz: "The only way is up". (You can leave out the word "baby" if you feel more comfortable).

I will not have my attitudes dictated by fear-mongers. I will not have my personality silenced by the apathy-mongers. I will not have my hope extinguished by the resignation-mongers. I'm a monger-free zone.

In the middle of Thursday night/Friday morning, as I woke up and checked the latest results, I was reminded of a Woody Allen film, Love and Death. It's a bit of a pastiche of the War and Peace genre, set in Russia at the time of their war with Napoleon.

Diane Keaton marries Voskovitch, the herring merchant, out of desperation, because her true love-interest doesn't requite her passion.

But the herring-obsessed Voskovitch isn't much of a substitute. She describes him thus: "He is a man who has reduced all the beauty in the world to a small pickled fish."

It feels here that the grey men in suits who now represent us, have, for the most part, reduced all the beauty in the world to a small, fearful, judgmental, flag-waving, pickled creed.

How does anyone with vision respond to this? Can a pickled thing be encouraged to come back to the fullness of life by being immersed in warm water?

Or is it a better use of energy for those who see the beauty of the world in diversity, tolerance, fun, laughter, creativity and mutual support, to pour that energy into consistently talking about what is positive?

Don't we risk actually feeding the pickled fish by bemoaning it so much that the undecideds in society become downhearted and feel there's no alternative?

If you have a responsibility in this life, surely it's to be an example of what you preach. Actively. Simply engaging in rants and depressed moans about how it's all useless is to feed the pickled fish.

I say park the pickled fish in a wee jar and put your energy into focusing on what brings you alive. And accept that perhaps not everyone shares your view.

It's hard to do that, but if we don't, if we meet the world with fists up metaphorically, we fall into the same mode as the very mindsets we wish to consign to the past, where we believe they belong.

Hollow victories are just for losers

Winners. Losers. Interesting terms. Who's the winner when someone takes your seat through bigotry and fear?

Or when someone gets away with murder?

Or when someone swindles you professionally by stealing your ideas and refusing to pay for your work?

It may look like they win. But what do they win? You rise above and have your integrity to keep you warm, while they can only keep warm by polishing their anxious, brass neck.

But arms get tired and, sooner or later, they feel just how cold their world really is.

Get in the mood for charity walk

Last week, I recorded a radio advert for the mental health charity Aware Defeat Depression. It was for their Mood Walk, happening on June 12, starting at 6.30pm at the Mary Peter's Track in Belfast.

The idea is to lift your mood by walking - exercise has been proven to do just that - and to raise money for the work they do in the process.

I'd say a mood-lifter would be just the thing for many of us facing into another five years of more of the same.

If you want to take part, check out aware-ni.org. One step at a time, that's how we transform everything.

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