Belfast Telegraph

The peace that came when I was between a rock and a very hard place

By Nuala McKeever

Last weekend I had the greatest of pleasurable experiences. I went back to a place on the North Antrim coast which has been special to me for quite a few years now. I've gone there at times of great sadness or confusion or positive change in my life. It's been a touchstone, if that's the right word, an anchoring certainty in the midst of flux. A rock. In fact, it IS a rock. It's a cliff.

From this cliff, right out on the edge of the landmass, next stop the Arctic Circle, a big rock out in the water draws the eye. Most likely I'm sitting on the top of a mountain looking at the top of another mountain that has been almost submerged by the sea for centuries, millennia. Under the water there is land connecting us, unseen.

I come and I go. The rock never moves.

Scotland votes. Ebola rages. Planes crash. Children die. Mothers die. Couples wed. School days begin. Workers retire. Teenagers fall in love. Houses are bought. Dreams are dreamed. First breaths are gasped. Last breaths are sighed. Life begins. Life ends.

The rock never moves.

The sea is ceaseless. Swirling, sucking, covering, retreating, advancing, playing, attacking, retiring, beginning again. World without end.

The rock never moves.

After several weeks of personal, hellish, sadness, depression and desolation, I went to the edge of what we call Ireland and gazed at this unchanging rock. Mute, I sat down on the earth and felt it beneath me. My bare feet rooted into the grass, the heather, the lichen-oranged rock. My surrendering arms lifted skywards, palms open, fingers splayed.

And I felt it. The energy, the beat, the pulse of the earth. As I stared at the rock and it stared back at me, a circle was completed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, eye to rock, rock to water, water to land, land to body, body to eye, eye to rock. And driving it all, the big beating heart of this one life that courses through everything and everyone. Life. Energy. Atoms moving, constantly shifting, appearing still on the surface.

It is a mystery. You can dissect a body, a brain, a heart, a vote, a sudden death, a relationship, a feeling, a pain, a joy, a moment, a lifetime and you'll never find the start or the end of life. It just is.

The 'isness' of things that don't speak, that have no opinions, no hopes and fears, no agendas, no desired outcomes, no hatreds, no resentments, no disappointments, no falling shorts, no winning or losing, no crashings down and no shootings up, the 'isness' of these things, that is where we find ourselves, our real essential selves.

The constant chasing after meaning in life is a hamster wheel. Get off the wheel now and again and get a sense of the 'isness' of yourself. Give up the illusion that you run things, just for a moment. Give up the illusion that you're powerless, just for a moment. Meet yourself in this very moment, right here, right now and experience the pure isness of what you are.

Black, white, Scottish, British, male, female, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, married, single, sad, happy or somewhere inbetween, beneath your costume, your feet are in the ground, your hands are in the air, you are as the rock, assailed on all sides by the ceaseless tide of life with a small 'l'. You shall not be moved. And when you get that, there's no need to shout it.

Maybe Scots can split difference

More than once I've heard couples who have decided to split up or divorce, comment that they started to get on better once they'd decided to part.

With nothing to lose anymore, they find a way to talk more honestly with each other ("I always hated the way you sniff in bed as you're reading." "You always give me rubbish presents").

Once the silly stuff is aired, it seems less important. They find freedom to be themselves because they stop hiding their real thoughts for fear of offending or losing.

Maybe post-referendum Scotland can find such a better footing with England now.

A man is a boss, a woman is bossy

Speaking at an event for schoolgirls, designed to inspire them to see themselves as leaders in the world of work, I was impressed by a video shown of the ad for Pantene shampoo. It shows how the same behaviour in men and women is described differently.

A man is persuasive, a woman pushy. A man is the boss when he takes charge, a woman is bossy.

These labels start so early in life. When your wee girl or granddaughter is telling her friends how to do something, maybe you could praise her leadership skills rather than telling her she's being bossy.

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