Change is the only constant, and how we respond to it makes all the difference
We all have many different people inside us. Sometimes it takes a stark turn of events for them to come out and make themselves known.
We get used to the normal patterns of our behaviour and our attitudes and our tastes. We say: "I like red wine, but not white." "I don't like heavy metal music, never have." "I always sleep on the left side of the bed." "I can't climb a ladder, I'm scared of heights."
All these certainties go to make up the person we present to the world and to ourselves. "It's just the way I am."
And then something big happens. Something we've no control over. Death, leaving, moving away, breaking up, finishing. An ending. And the usual patterns get jolted, like a train moving onto different tracks at a switching point in the line.
This past week, I've experienced directly, or at one remove, several endings all at once. The most pertinent one with regard to writing this column to you, is that this is the last one I'll be writing. To quote Jim Morrison: "This is the end." No more columns.
And suddenly, I am adrift. Through ups and downs over the past five years, writing this page every week has been a small, but central, constant. In the life of a self-employed writer/performer, regular jobs are rare. This has been mine. And until it was stopped, I hadn't realised just how much shape it gave to my week.
That's the way with loss. You rarely realise how tightly the person, or the job, or the pet dog, or the neighbour, or friend, or place of socialising, was woven into the fabric of who you say you are.
And when that thread stops, you are forced to stop and look at the tapestry of your life. You see that the solid mass of your identity is actually made up of all the different parts, constantly inter-mingling, in motion. What looks constant, is actually constantly changing. As the saying goes: "Change is the only constant."
But we fool ourselves for long periods of time that what's beneath our feet, holding us up, is solid ground. It's not. Even the earth isn't solid when you get right down into it. It's always on the move. Every living thing is.
And in the middle of the shock, or the sadness, or the grief of feeling suddenly bereft, sometimes, if you sit quietly and don't try to cover up your feelings with drink, or loud talk, or food, or shopping, or exercise, or social media, you create a space where a different part of you walks out into the clearing and is heard.
You meet yourself. In all your pain and all your glory. Into the ring come all the yous there are. The Judge, The Critic, The Chorus of Disapproval, chanting their well-worn negative assessments: "Well, what did you expect, of course you've lost, you don't deserve anything better, who do you think you are anyway?"
But if you've done your inner work, you'll also hear the voices of your great self, challenging the neg-heads. "You are enough. You are not alone. You are loved."
And sometimes, in the reeling silence that settles after any loss, the best thing you can do is simply let it be. Let each and every you be heard without any meaning being added.
Just let them be. Grant yourself acceptance of everything you are and everything you're not.
As Louise Hay says, "What if your job in life is to be exactly who you are?"
Well done. You're playin' a blinder.
Peter exits the stage as real theatre star
Peter Quigley - actor, director, teacher - died last week after a short illness. He was a flamboyant one-off.
My favourite of his many stories was about "Johnny", a gay man who lived around Sandy Row back in the day.
"He was tolerated," said Peter. "Nobody bothered him. One day Johnny said 'Why can't I be in the UDA like everyone else?' So they brought him for an interview.
"Johnny, do you think you could kill a man?" they asked him. Johnny paused, squinted his eyes, pursed his lips, took a drag of his cigarette and said: "Eventually."
The beauty of all our colours together
Hasn't this been the most beautiful spring into early summer? I've developed a bit of an obsession in the past couple of months for taking photos of natural things very close up.
The collection now is like a huge shout of colour. Maybe this noticing the beauty in the detail of a flower, or a tree, is yet another compensation of getting older.
I don't move so fast and so I'm rewarded with noticing beauty in places I was too busy to register before.
In nature, orange and green and red and white and blue sit happily together.