I wake at night. Not every night, but often. I wake with a start, with a definite thought in my head. Sad things or stressful things have me sitting bolt upright at four am, wondering how to solve them. But sometimes – rarely – a moment of great kindness comes knocking instead, hazy and dreamlike.
For a lot of our lives we wander, head down and shoulders to the wind; following a road we chose or one that seemed to choose us. We tip our hat to life’s rhythms: we breathe, work, eat, blink, sleep and wake. We live and fight and love and get jealous and laugh. And the odd time, out of the blue, something brilliant comes.
I should keep my eyes on more than the road, in case I miss it. It’s easily done in the daily grind; it’s easy to focus on the desperate news, or on the sadness that lives in me and might one day float to the surface again.
But unbidden, like a great joyful phoenix lit in red and gold glory, a remembered moment of kindness can banish it all.
ONCE upon a time there was a party, early enough in winter and in life not to care about doors and windows left wide open for the cold air streaming in. A night to celebrate my new Antipodean life. So many people. Loud music and laughing and dancing and people eyeing each other up. Wildness in the air. Or maybe that was just me, with my passport stamped and my visa gleaming and my New Zealand dollars as shiny as a child’s new shoes.
PILES of cards and wishes and kisses and a leather-bound notebook with secret messages waiting to be found many months later. A tiny wisp of silk wrapped in tissue paper upon which Joan had scrawled “a little gift for down under”. Fireworks that Brian had brought to set alight for me in our tiny, city centre garden. And my darling friend and housemate Cathy, who kept producing food to feed the horde, never showing that she didn’t want me to go.
TWO months before Cathy had signed for the package that brought my stamped passport back to me. She called me downstairs, handed it to me and said, “you’re going. You’re really going”. She hated me leaving but nonetheless helped me pack my life into boxes; she drove me home to my parents’ house a week before I flew away. And at a party filled with our fellows she kept an eye and made sure I was the happiest I could be.
That party is the bird of memory that flew into my room and woke me last night. There were fireworks – for me! – great whizzing, crackling, fizzing balls of light and love. And there is a friend, a gem of a human who loves me and will still be my friend when we’re a hundred.
Kindness is too easily forgotten. We need to keep the moments and plant them in our fertile memory and paper our walls with them. These should be the things that make us sit bolt upright in the four am darkness.
So begone, bleak stories. These are the ways I will call myself beloved. I choose to look up at the phoenix, in all its red and gold glory.