Nothing ever ends. Not really.
As a story-lover – and occasional story-teller – this is difficult to accept. Traditional narrative requires – sometimes demands – an ending. Whenever I read or hear or watch a story I am always wondering, “How will this end?” Because endings are a point where everything makes sense, where motivations, events, actions and reactions have a purpose. A place where a line is drawn under that which went before, leaving a creamy blank sheet to start a new story.
Life is not so easily contained.
My last blog post was on October 15th, 2010. It was never intended to be an ending. But today will be my final post here. So, while my brain rails against the ease of narrative structure, my romantic heart still loves a neat(ish) ending. Today, the first day of the year, I draw a line under this story and start a new one.
But, nothing ever ends. Not really.
The stories I shared here are still here. They still come with me, loyal companions, wherever I go. They are the invisible thread of my existence. They haven’t stopped being. They haven’t finished their noisy, joyful, wrenching, messy reverberations.
Between then and now there have been other stories. Some I can’t tell because they are not mine alone. Not that any stories are ever really mine alone to tell. When we choose to write we plunder the lives of those unfortunate souls whose paths cross ours. But, even in my haphazard pursuit of truth, beauty, wisdom and wonder I know there are stories which can’t be told to all. These I share in private circles. Safe, protected circles where tender hearts and sadnesses are watched over. Where stories of pain and confusion are held to tiny lights and examined and, by the power of telling, set free. Not to end but to move away. Often they return, changed, evolved. Sometimes they bring a new pain. Occasionally knowledge. Always a growth – a leaf, a branch, a bud or an ugly gnarled offshoot which becomes intrinsic to the whole.
The last two years saw a gaping rent in the gossamer from which I’d woven my stories. A rent which isn’t an ending but a delineation. A signpost between then and now. The dangling threads in my fabric – tiny imperfections – got caught on a sliver of the sharpest steel, and there followed a heart-in-mouth tearing sound that always bodes ill. Frantically I grabbed to salvage what was left, catching the ripping fabric before it tore entirely in two. Over time I have patched it back together with scraps I have found littered around me. New stories. New friends. New life.
And I love my new, messy cloak. Now it’s authentic. It is speckled and peppered with love and laughter as well as those old faithfuls: sadness and confusion. These days it feels like home.
My cloak is not a dress that I wear for the world any more, but a blanket to enclose myself in. It’s a rug that I lay upon in the sun and examine, picking and caressing the gold here, the silver there, the black, purple, yellow and orange patches all over. It’s a shield I hide behind. It’s a flag I fly when I feel brave. It’s everything and it’s me. But it isn’t new. It’s woven from everything that never ended.
Because nothing ever ends. Not really.
This time six years ago I was newly released from hospital. I had two small children and had just given birth to – and lost – my third – a tiny daughter. On New Year’s Eve that year I recall feeling as if I was in a bubble of exquisite alone-ness as I walked to the corner store for orange juice. In the surreal December morning I felt heightened and alive in the aftermath of losing her, and almost losing my own life. It was my first realisation that nothing ever ends.
In the space of loss, if we look hard enough, what remains are heart echoes. Things that still sound when tangible evidence is gone. Maybe it’s the words of a lover, an inflection of their voice, their sigh as they sleep, the tears that they gave you. Perhaps it’s the dreams for a child who never was. It might be a wisdom shared, a scene glimpsed, a fragment of conversation that drifted on the breeze. A secret kiss. A dead snake or a coloured feather, found on a walk. A sudden gust of wind. The season’s sweetest cherry. A friend’s laugh. These things echo in our hearts and halt the very idea of endings. These things say: I was here. And so were you.
One of my favourite ways to capture – and watch others capture – heart echoes, is with words. Words I read. Words I write. Words I hear. A constant for me. The nuts and bolts of storytelling. My lifelong companions.
But I have become wise to the ways of words. Their tricks. The paradox of words is that they can appear as truth, and yet truth is the most elusive of all things – more elusive than heart echoes built out of memories. But words do offer a glimpse of transient truth. Something that is true for now. Something that resonates at this moment. A changeable, malleable truth that needs to be looked at constantly, refreshed, made more true.
Stories are a way into that truth, no doubt, but the very best, most true stories are the ones we create ourselves. And the most wonder-filled story we create is the story of our own lives. My story is different to yours. And to yours. And yours. But within the pages of my story and yours are the similarities which connect us. I write my own story, I choose my own adventure, but the intersection of our adventures is where the magic is. This is how we put an end to endings. This is how we make heart echoes. By connecting our stories. By making an endless patchwork quilt across humankind.
The first day of a new year is a sweet construct, tricking us into believing in endings and new starts. I’m not comfortable with neat packages when life is a spectrum of faltering footsteps and unexpected headlong plunges. But I will use this quiet morning, with the sound of splashing summer children outside my window, to think about a creamy sheet of paper upon which to write today’s dreamed adventure. To draw an imaginary line under the tellings contained here. To end this Best of All Possible Worlds in an artificial way so I can go on living in it authentically. But how to end a piece about things never ending? Well, there has to be a closing song of course…
This song was given to me in its original form by someone very dear to my heart. A strip of light in my darkness. Since then it has come to me over and over. This collection of words has created heart echoes in ever widening circles. Magic.
And then I found this version. Yes, it’s an ad campaign, but ad people are some of the best storytellers in the game. There are layers upon layers of meaning for me in this representation. Every time I watch it a new layer is added, making its echo stronger and louder for me.
And today, as I rode my bike and I listened to it and thought about words – these words I needed to write, future words that I want to write – I knew who I had to dedicate it to. On this, the first day of the new year. Or, simply, yesterday’s tomorrow.
So, Muse, if you’re listening, this is for you. Come sail your ships around me.