THE BLOG

Lost for Words

30/03/2016 13:49

I haven't written for ages. I've written almost nothing this year, apart from work-related items and to-do lists. It's not so much that I gave up writing for Lent as that writing gave up on me... there's been so much going on that I have struggled to find the words to quantify it all.

It's like that with writing, sometimes: months of silences slip past. There are months when there's simply nothing left to say. Things go on happening, but the days are just too dark, and you somehow can't find words that flow to an encapsulation of a thought. Your feelings and your observations seem to freeze on contact with reality: an icy screen of winter and passing time and growing old. Your inspiration freezes into a white cloud of frozen breath, which dissipates before the thought grows old. You try to write, but all you hear is the rhythmic punctuation of the keys flying down as you type. You're doubting yourself again as you try to think aloud; your words seem to echo in hollow emptiness against the starry black silence which surrounds you. You feel yourself turn cold. Anything you write, you think, you say - it's all so insignificant and transient; such an insubstantial barrier against your own insignificance in a landscape of wordless, white, treacherous perfection.

Things that I find I cannot write about are urgently reminding me that life is short - that an hour which feels like forever can telescope itself into a week which has somehow flown and then vanish in the origami folding of a lifetime reduced to an document. Am I saying that life's too short for words? The opposite - that the overwhelming truth of life being short is so imposing that it intimidates my mind to a state of wordless blankness: no words at my disposal just when I needed to be able to rationalise things or make them seem worthwhile.

Things that I find I cannot write about are reminding me that life can be full of cruelty: that illness can strike where it was least deserved, and that people can turn and be destructive where compassion or fellow feeling might have been more merited. Like what happens when people who should know you - with whom shared memories or support ought to have archived themselves into a friendship - make it obvious that their only concern is for themselves. It's as obvious and as irreversible as that lost hour as British Summer Time begins: time you can never recover, time you've lost to caring about someone when you haven't been cared about. That terrible sick feeling of recognising you've been used.

Because really, thinking about it: all I am is just one more human resource. When I go to work, I'm there to fill a job description and if it's all too much then I'm sure that someone else will take my place. If I'm not a satisfactory family member or friend, someone else will rapidly be favoured. If I don't say much on social media, someone else will certainly get 'liked'. If I don't write, I doubt very much that anyone will notice. Having a job description isn't unique to the part of your life through which you earn a living: it's increasingly evident that it's part of living itself. And I seem to have got so bad at simply living that I exist in permanent fear of being found out... can you be fired for just not being very good at life?

So there it is. I haven't written much this year because the words I need have been elusive: the words sit in darkened corners and watch the latest unfurling narrative of things, and keep in their shadowy hiding places when I grope for a means of telling how it is. What's happening feels as though it would take some sort of polysyllabic cacophony to express, yet all that's left when I try to pin it down is the wordless eloquence of birdsong at dawn, or the theme and variations of the waves breaking on the shore in different seasons, weathers, tides. Not so much Lost In Translation, to quote a favourite film, as simply words which somehow got lost in thought.

The meanings we construct from what happens are like the snowman children build when snow brings magic to their gardens. When the rain returns and the snow melts, there's that moment when the shrinking snowmen are all that's left to remind us of the silent iciness - standing like diminishing sentrymen in the gardens of the suburbs and the towns. But eventually these greying guardsmen will go too. Time will erase the meanings we construct, just as surely as it ends each day. Eventually even the truest words will fall to silences, and that wordless landscape is an overwhelming one.

Finding some remaining words of meaning, empathy and compassion are the only defence we have against the indifferent landscape which doesn't care how we react. Knowing that our thoughts will drift into silence too makes searching for the words, which might give us the confidence to formulate a thought, feel almost overwhelming in a wintry landscape, reaching as far as the stars.

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