For those who are SO sad, SO angry, SO without hope.
I’ve written and talked before about how I started to write but this is my first blog post about it. I could just as easily be writing about how someone came to make music, paint pictures, sing, dance – turn their life upside down but for the better.
In my early forties a relationship ended. I should have seen it coming but I was born an optimist or maybe less appealing, I was born complacent. Whichever is true, almost overnight it felt as if I’d been reduced to a flimsy sheet of paper, the paper torn into scraps and tossed into the wind. I recall an evening - although it could easily have been one of many identical evenings, - when I sat on a hard-backed chair in the middle of my front room and wailed aloud my despair. It seemed that producing that sound was the only way to relieve the pain I was feeling.
Within reach on the coffee table was a creased brown paper bag. I don’t now remember where it came from – but I smoothed it out on my knee and with a biro I scratched down incoherent phrases and words. This didn’t represent a Eureka moment – it was an only option, taking the place of talking to someone who would understand and sympathise.
Weeks and months passed. When I was really low, I continued to jot down how I was feeling, sometimes even producing lucid sentences. I found a small notebook, that I’d been given for a birthday – with ornate covers and expensive hand-made paper pages. I’d hung on to it because although it seemed too fine to actually write in, it was also too pretty to throw out. I transferred much of my scribble into that notebook. Unrealised, a change was being effected. I was still in a fragile invalid state but not every moment of every day. I would describe myself as ‘quietly sad’.
I joined a writing class. On some level I think I wanted to make friends as much as learn to write, because I had no friends at that time. I managed to do both! When a few years later the next personal bombshell fell – as ill prepared as once again I was – I was able to articulate the experience in the simplest of written words: how my dyed hair seemed to grow two inches of dark root during the course of a week, how my journey towards old age had accelerated although at the time I was only in my late-forties, how I resented even hated those close to me because they seemed so safe and smug in their cocoons.
When I re-read my old note-books, I hardly recognise myself. I use the thoughts and descriptions not as ‘therapy’ because that seems dismissive – for my enlightenment. I’m stating the obvious, but when I was looking up from the bottom of a deep well, I overlooked the obvious - that pain, hurt, loss, offered me an opportunity, a pause in my normal okay life, to make changes. Now, when I look back over my considerable years, it’s the unhappy times I recognise as being pivotal. Not in every case, but often they moved me forwards to a better place.
VG Lee's second short story collection Oh You Pretty Thing is published by Tollington Press & launched at Polari Salon at the Southbank on 15th February 2019.