Thank you – to everyone who has reached out to me and offered their support. To those I know, those I’ve lost contact with, those I am yet to meet. To my friends, my family and M. To the world that inspires me. To the music that lifts me up, tosses me around and makes me cry. To crying and being OK with it. To words, and their potential power. To escaping this world through composition. With you all, I am doing better every day.
It won’t come as a surprise to you that reading and writing are my refuges when times get hard. There’s nothing I like to do more when in pain, physically or emotionally, than to curl up on a sofa with a blanket and a cup of tea and read or write. I can stay there for hours and hours and not know it until I happen to glance at a clock. It’s a realm of worlds to escape to, to find yourself in, and to learn from. There are days when I feel like I’m reading about myself. There are days when the text seems so foreign I find it hard to relate. I laugh. I cry. I’m inspired. I’m frightened. I escape.
But it’s often writing I turn to when things are hardest. I didn’t have much of a chance in hospital. In fact, I couldn’t even hold a pen to try to write. But that didn’t mean I didn’t write. There were lots of words going round in my head – too many, I was told. “Why do you look so pensive?” one of my Doctors asked. I didn’t have a reply, because I know when I’m writing, it sort of becomes a state of being. A sort of all encompassing energy that fills the soul and provokes, encourages, and makes you pensive. I’m probably an awful bore when I’m in a writing mood, sitting or lying somewhere, and messing about with words in my head until something seems right, like it perfectly captures a specific mix of emotions at a specific moment. Sometimes it doesn’t fit. Then I tweak, and try again, until it’s perfect. Then it’s transcendent. Then it hits the paper, and becomes real. It’s hard to describe if you’ve never experienced it.
I have always found music powerful. Anyone who has sat beside me regularly at concerts and services will account for my spontaneous tears during works that hit me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. There is always some melody, some harmony that binds me so intensely to the music. So I’ve always thought that words were inferior. They could never have power alone. But a conversation I had a couple of months ago made me realise that words can have power too. A different power, but one nonetheless. Words in a line can be like notes on a stave – each is placed specifically, with purpose, with precision, to give a special emphasis. Each line, each stave, contributes to a work that introduces itself, builds, reaches a climax, fades away, reflects upon its themes, and comes to a conclusion. Both have the art of composition.
It seems first wrote about this at the end of March, but it was only on clearing out the notes on my phone earlier today, having just spent a while writing, that I came upon it, a musing I had profoundly (!) entitled ‘Composition’ :
I’m watching you and the notes spinning around in your head
Until one stops you, and holds your attention. I see it in your eyes.
Like the key in the lock, it’s the one that fits.
I don’t think you can see me standing here. Or maybe you just don’t want
To talk today. That’s OK. I understand.
The strands of music floating in your mind almost seem to sing before you.
I can almost feel the joy of your music before you even reach me.
We don’t need to talk to feel it.
Now – your anger, the desperate beat of the drums, like thunder in the night.
Now – your pain, that distant violin. It’s far away, a secret voice.
You’re trying to hide it, but struggling to keep in tune. It’s OK. I understand.
Now – a hint of joy, a skipping flute, climbing higher and higher into a bubbling of laughter.
And now – the righteous organ, steady, steadfast. The assurance of your love. Powerful.
Each phrase is just one thought, in one second, in one day.
Will you sketch out your daily symphony today?
Not today, I feel. But maybe tomorrow, today’s loose thoughts will weave together,
Into a music that will stir up a whirlwind inside every longing heart.
And I? Well I think my composition is less measured than yours.
There’s nothing official about it. No rules. No bars to confine my notes.
Just the pen in my hand, growing sickly warm, and the paper,
Scrunched up to hide the truth. It’s my pain, raw and bitter.
It’s my hope, lasting but renewed. It’s my faith, constant yet terrifying.
Maybe somewhere you’ll find my love in my words.
I’ve just scribbled them down, words streaming out like screams or laughter or tears.
It’s done for today. Too painful to carry on. Maybe I’ll also try again tomorrow.
Do my words have melody and harmony?
Do I consider each one as you do your chord?
Is there contrapuntal movement or fugal themes? I don’t know.
Maybe you can see something I can’t. But for me, well I forget what I’m writing.
I toss words about, no structure, no plan.
They’re special because they’re the words written on my heart –
Streams of words, each one just one thought, in one second, in one day.
But maybe you feel like that too. Maybe you and I are more similar than we think.
For we’re both composing, you and I. We both sing.
We give it our joy, our pain, our stress, our anger. We give it our love.
It helps us to love in return. To serve. To appreciate. To grow. To learn.
Words and music, they can dance alone. They can dance together.
So I’m standing here, thinking about my words, and your music,
And knowing the gifts that they are, and the gifts that they’ll bring.
And I’m hoping they’ll change the world, recompose how things ought to be.
Clearly, written word as having the power, like music, to convey something that is beyond the spoken is a preoccupation that my mind has been dealing with for quite some time without me realising. And it’s a preoccupation that has not left me since leaving hospital.
One of the hardest parts of dealing with my diagnosis and life since, has been knowing how close I was to dying. They told me, when I left, that if I had left it another hour before being taken to A&E, my chances would have been far lower. When ketoacidosis takes hold at critical level, it takes hold fast. And indeed, I wrote about Graham, and his death in my last post. To see someone die is horrible. To be surrounded by death, and feel it close, is something I never want anyone to have to experience.
I had to find a way of writing about it, dealing with the ‘what ifs’ that have been bothering me. What if I had died? What if I had left the people I love behind, some without ever telling them I loved them? How could I bear the pain? So I wrote. And since, I have better escaped the thoughts. It will take a lot longer to put this behind me, if I ever can. But I’m hanging on, surviving through composing. I can only hope my words are some way to be as powerful as music. They made me cry, at least. But then again, I find tears are quick to my eyes today.
Onwards, soldier, to the end.
At last, Night is come. How softly, sweetly
Her footsteps tread upon the earth
Which was my transient home! And O, how
Tender her voice, singing Peace, and proclaiming that
I am come through the wilderness, the darkness
apprehended, though yesterday I knew not where to turn.
For here is the Way; I trace it, written on my heart.
And I am heading onwards to the heavens, to the height of
Those gold tipped mountains, sustaining the
Last remaining rays of light and calling me home.
My tears flowed fast when I slipped away, as
Dust through your fingers, too terrified
To stay to hear the anguished cry when you saw
Life’s heaving breaths shallow into stillness.
But here is the Truth; a sting oppressed by comfort:
There shall be neither death, nor sorrow, nor crying.
So, it is time now to go onwards, to the stars, to the radiant
Stars, to bathe in celestial light, relieving me of
My tired breast, heavy laden with day’s
Cruel toils. And so, I walk, placing step by step,
Gaining strength from some invisible spring of life. And
I perceive how great a war life is to be fought; how I was marked
To fall at the very height of battle. And oh – how I have fallen!
But somehow, I traverse the valley, by a gentle breeze
Lifted beyond the weeping grey clouds that at present beset
Your heart. Do you see, my love, that here I am
Free? There is no longer need to mourn; it is
Here, with Love, that I am called to be.
For here is Life; I know Him well.