When I want to make sense of my life, I write. I write lists to organise the thoughts in my head. I write plans to determine the way in which I want my future to unfold. I write about big ideas to forge my opinions. I write about my life to understand my history and my present. I write stories to experience other people and other lives. And when I don’t know how I feel or what I want, I write and see where it takes me.
This week, I attended the funeral of a woman I knew fairly well as an old friend of my mother, but whose personality I didn’t connect with and sometimes found unpleasant. I went to her funeral out of duty rather than affection and so the sense of grief I’ve felt at other funerals was absent. The morning was bright and full of spring. As the crematorium was filled with traditional Northumbrian pipe music, I became transfixed by the window above the altar. The window is arched and leaded but made of clear glass, so the light that shafted in was white and clean, casting hatched shadows on the wall. I thought about the cemetery outside that I’d walked through on my way here. Daffodils in full bloom, crows hopping grave stones, collared doves foraging and magpies squawking through the trees. I felt calm and curious in the crematorium as I listened to the summary of this woman’s life.
I struggled to begin this post. Although I have many prompts for future writing, none of them seemed to reflect my current feelings. Since we returned from the forest, I’ve been unsettled and dissatisfied, yearning for some kind of escape. My creative ideas have stalled. I’ve found it hard to focus on reading and my concentration wavers. Attending the funeral made me reflect on the direction of my own life.
Eventually, I decided to write without a destination in mind and see where it led me. And what I kept returning to, was my belief that it’s through the act of creativity that I can come to understand my life. Life, in my view, is about exploration. I believe that the reason we have so many unanswered questions about why we’re here and what will become of us, is because if we knew, there would be no reason for curiosity. Because I think our true purpose is to discover – to learn about ourselves, our universe and what it is to be alive.
And to do this, I think all of us are furnished with certain gifts or skills, which are the lens through which we really see the world. My gift is to create through art and writing and through these I’ll eventually find understanding. Others will view life through science, or religion, or physicality or caring and learn those lessons they need to learn. I see life as a vast web of energy and I believe our discoveries feed that web, spinning new threads and making the universe a wiser (though not necessarily better) place.
We become lost, I believe, when we look at the world through the wrong lens – that is, the wrong lens for us. If we don’t recognise our gifts, or fail to use them, or we’re prevented from doing so by circumstance, that’s when we go wrong. Of course, even if we do use them, that doesn’t mean there won’t be sadness, or insecurity, or terrible experiences. But we can see the truth of the bad as well as the good through the lens of our own gift so that we can come to terms with it and learn from it. And if this is true, it doesn’t matter if we never get published, or sell a painting, as long as we use our abilities to see our lives more clearly.
What is the gift you use to see life clearly and how has it helped you to learn?