I started to suffer from insomnia when I was pregnant with son#2. It went away when he was born but returned in recent years. I have been doing everything in my power to banish it but still it insists. It was only last night I realised why. It is for the silence. My inner writer calls to me in the middle of the night and up I must get and sit at the laptop and wait. I need the night. Because the night brings me silence.
The silence brings it to me, that feeling, the feeling that I am on the cusp of all understanding. I listen through the silence hurting and on the other side of that note (they say it’s B #) lies the truth. And this truth is what I have been afraid of for years, for I may well not like that truth. I must be prepared for that. I will continue to disappoint myself. Truth sets us free, and this is the lesson my father tried to teach me, the lesson I would not listen to. Tell the truth, boy. He meant your inner truth. I thought it merely a phrase, a cliché badly used. But his truth is not my tuth. My truth is not your truth. This is the only tenet by which we all should live our lives. Truthfulness.
I’m not talking venial sins here, venial sins are a necessary part of life but truth with ourselves vital. If we are not truthful with ourselves we are committing mortallers, fatal blows to our inner selves, killing our inner Gods, our conscience. I suppose that’s why they are called mortal sins for they are a sin against ourselves, our bodies, our beings, demeaning us in our own eyes, not some celestial God’s, for we are truly God. Each one of us. This is what Christ and all the great writers and philosophers since time began have tried to tell us, I think. Life has whatever meaning we give it. Random stuff will happen and our lives will go astray from time to time, we will lose loved ones- bad shit happens and we will turn to drink and drugs and shopping (particularly shoes!) to block the pain. But we have to feel the pain, let it in, let the anger out. And forgive ourselves. Above all –forgive ourselves.
When I was fifteen I started to understand this but couldn’t articulate it I didn’t have the language. I tried to put it in an English essay. I remember sitting at a table writing an essay on ‘Silence’ for Beatrice Ryan, my English teacher – a woman who loved words – I couldn’t describe silence because I never heard it. I was a teenager but had never learned to like myself, I sat outside of everyone else, earnest intense – a bit bloody scary actually!. I saw a society that judged one on how one looked or dressed or spoke or on wher one lived or on the car ones father did or didn’t have and I couldn’t relate to that. So I built up walls and hid behind bookshelves. Disappeared into the worlds of Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens, of William Shakespeare. Of storytellers. I was happy in these worlds.
There were nine people in our house growing up. Nine different egos. Nine different sets of needs. Not all of them could be met and the noise was bloody awful. So I wrote in this essay for Beatrice all this stuff. And Beatrice read it and recognised it as truth. But perhaps it frightened her too- for when she was returning our marked essays to us she said, ‘They were very good, but some of them were too personal.’ I was mortified. I immediately assumed she was referring to me because I knew I felt uneasy handing up the essay wondering had I overstepped the mark. That mark that everyone else seems instinctively to know but I for some reason don’t see. Or maybe I see it and say, hang that I’m telling my truth whether they like it or not.
Once I wrote a story that upset a family member – not deliberately, I knew they wouldn’t like it because it came too near the bone but it was never intended for this person’s eyes. It was an expurgation from my soul - something written to make sense of what I saw, to try to understand. Anyway, another family member said ‘you shouldn’t have written that’. I was stunned. Censorship. At my own door. Is that not what has been wrong with this benighted little country of ours? Don’t tell. Don’t tell. Keep quiet, it’ll all be the same in a hundred years. Yes, it will be the same – if we don’t speak out and stop it. I have to write it. You can choose not to read it.
So sit back, close your eyes and listen through the silence hurting to find that inner core you know is there. And accept that nastiness also dwells in your soul side by side with goodness, matter and anti-matter if you like. In order to move forward you must acknowledge the badness and vow to try to overcome it. For we are all human and everyday we must battle against our selfishness, our envies, our petty grievances. And it is only in accepting all these things and vowing to try to forgive ourselves we can
And I’m not drunk. Or drugged. Or insane. Or ‘special’. I’m Irish!
And Etty Basgetti….don’t be crying!