History yawns, showing me its untidy gullet of bare-faced lace-work, poorly stitched. It’s the knitting of a beginner. But aren’t we all… beginners, I mean, setting out to form the garment of our lives? Trying to reform, and rework as we grow; mature; regret. When we sit down with our children, can we teach them the stitches we dropped? Can we tell them the beauty of mistakes when we wince at our own?
I sometimes listen to “How to Fail with Elizabeth Day” – a British podcast which explores how failure is a contributor to success. Elizabeth Day gently interrogates successful, often well-known, people about 3 failures they have nominated from their own lives. Sometimes the failures are big like bankruptcy or divorce. But sometimes they are small and hidden and personal. And it’s the personal ones that touch me the most, and strike the note of honesty. But they are still just missed stitches, aren’t they? How do they add, in the end, and not subtract?
I am a little person. I don’t mean in stature, I mean in dreams. I never aimed very high. My goal was to be a writer but I haven’t done that. This blog is my closest attempt. All my paid jobs were supposed to be the money-earner so that I could do what I really wanted (ie; write) but jobs take it out of you. And then there’s socializing and chores and eating. Eating takes up so much of our time. And sleeping. And then children. And unless you are disciplined, it’s hard to fit in the stuff you thought you really wanted to do.
Daisy Edgar-Jones – the lead actress in “Normal People” – was interviewed by Elizabeth Day. She talked about the French painter – Cezanne – who apparently would go out every day (for I don’t know how many days) and paint the same mountain over and over and over again, trying to get the light and shadow just right. He did it because he wanted to do it. He did it because, as Ms Edgar-Jones said, there was no social media in those days and he didn’t have to post a glossy photo to continue his online image that day. He did it because he was a painter and believed he should paint.
I have a friend who is a real writer. I have mentioned her before – Jessica White. She has that same drive to be true to herself. Maybe, with the help of this blog and a few dear people who believe in me, I will find a real writer inside me too. Some days, in the last few weeks, I have almost been able to believe it. For the first time, it has been a feeling more than a plan.
I haven’t felt that Lockdown has been a time for introspection. My days in Lockdown have been way busier and less my own than prior. But in their own way, they have allowed me to reconsider the world and my place in it. I have realized how grown up our kids are getting and how I want to be with them even more than I already was. I have realized that family really is at the core of what is important to me. And I have realized that, to avoid regret, one must act. One must say things to people, show ones love, do whatever will make the knitting look right in the end. It’s not the missed stitches that matter. It’s the overall design. That’s what Elizabeth Day means.