I just had a sudden, desperate urge to be back in Bradford.
Back in a place I know at a time I knew it well.
Back in a place and a time when everything was in place. When people I loved were all around me, and I had no concern for what the future held.
Back in a time where I was filled with that total euphoric carefree joy of youth.
Before I knew he was ill, before I really understood what a mess the world was, before folk moved on and moved away, and I began my own journey, carving out my own lines through life.
Back to a time and a place that felt like getting into bed, all the time. In the best way. In the most comfortable way.
Back to a time where I still fitted on my mum’s lap (when was that ever a time…I’m big like my Dad was).
Back to a time where I roamed the rooms that I wore like a second skin, where I imagined whole worlds within them, aided by my furry stuffed friends. (Toys, not taxidermied animals, I’d like to point out…)
Back to a time where I was held, and had to do little holding of others in any kind of meaningful, self-aware way.
Back to a time where, in my memory, nothing was wrong.
Rose-tinted, deluded, painfully nostalgic.
I know these memories are false; I know I construct them against these painful times I live in now, I know I feel this through the lens of what has happened in my own life since. I know I perpetuate the myth of what ‘back then’ looked, felt, smelt, sounded like.
I know that what this is, is a helpless longing for something I can never return to.
I ache to return sometimes.
He was ill for so long, from the age of 16 there’s plenty of those ‘back thens’, filled with pain and sorrow and fear and worry. Filled with precisely that uncertainty of the future which I was sheltered and sheltered myself from for so long. Filled with the realisation of the impermanence of everything…
To be held, to hold, should be a reciprocal act. I cannot, should not and do not expect to simply be held forever. What are relationships and identities but things which occur in relation to others? A two-way process. We all need to find someplace to stand, which we sometimes need help to do, but we also need to help others find their place to stand, too. To hold is such a joy, although difficult and sometimes the weight is heavy, but we do it because love.
I itch and wriggle and sometimes fully refuse to accept my adulthood with any kind of grace, a lot of the time. I resent growing up. It takes me away from places and people that I love. It takes away places and people that I love. But, it brings me closer to the world. It brings me closer to the experiences which happen when I allow them in, or seek them out. Because I am learning to understand more deeply all the time; gathering and collecting fragments of knowing, like the conkers my Dad collected for me every autumn, shining deeply, these kernels symbolising growth, presenting me gently with the reality of the changing seasons, with the reality of the cyclical nature of everything. The reality that I still struggle with.
This manifests in my research; not only in the act of doing it, which has been and continues to be a struggle, punctuated here and there with joy and lots of incredible humans, but mostly gritted teeth, but also in the knowledge I have gained through it of the complexities of home, self and the lineage of who we are and how we live this in our present, in our everyday lives alongside those we share this world with, and what this means for who comes next.
I crave solid ground on which to stand, but have slowly come to realise that this solid ground is never so solid after all. It is a translucent skin made up of memories, stories, narratives, histories, rituals, habits, bodily tics, learned belief systems, truths, lies, certainties, but mostly uncertainties, places, people, times, objects, meanings, which we stitch together and wear, and which we are ceaselessly altering.
I feel tired by this, but that’s only because I am not so good at accepting this. Yet.
I don’t know where home is. I think it’s my mum, but she is impermanent too. It’s not Bradford anymore, it’s not really Glasgow, yet, it’s not London, or Manchester, or Leicester…or maybe it’s all of those places. Or maybe it’s me.
“When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.” – Trees are Sanctuaries
by Herman Hesse
It is precisely that impermanence that I, that we must harness now. Nothing lasts forever, so we must cherish it. Nothing lasts forever so we must work hard to make the dark lighter as long as it is so. Nothing lasts forever so we must accept that this yearning for times and places can never fulfil us once they are gone. Nothing lasts forever, and that is precisely what I find so hard to accept and live with. This impermanence; of places, people, experiences, can be exhilarating and powerful and should enable us to make the most. But it doesn’t always, and that takes a lot of practice. So I guess there’s nothing to do but keep practicing.