Sometimes, not very often, life develops a wondrous smooth surface and glides along in a silky flow. At other times there are exhausting swamps or seemingly infinite mountains to cross. But most of the time life is some measure of grainy. And just like sandpaper, there are different levels of friction.
Here’s how this works. Fine grain is when most things bumble along quite well but maybe there’s an annoying boss, or some apparently endless road works that you have to traverse every day. Medium grain is when a pile of things are getting much less than smooth but still manageable and with places to find respite. Then there are the times when the grain can turn coarse, relentlessly scraping over your mind, stealing your sleep and your equilibrium. There are myriad stages in between these three. You could probably place where you are right now on this scale.
Currently I’m slowly retreating from the coarse again and yes, the chickens are helping, but not in the way I had imagined they would.
How funny the world and this life is. I have just listed the things that had recently happened to me in a way, I suppose, to justify why I had been feeling so stressed. Whilst not decrying myself for feeling stressed at such a line-up, I also saw the list from the point of view of others. How whiny and boring it looked. How indescribably insignificant when measured against, say, a Sudanese or Syrian refugee woman fleeing violence with her remaining children. I have so much to be grateful for.
But where do the chickens come into all of this? Well, hang on and I’ll tell you.
When I returned from my trip (reported in my last post) and Rita, Sylvia and Doc (especially Doc) ignored me, I stopped feeling affectionate towards them. I retreated from them just as they retreated from me. I even, dare I say it, wondered if perhaps we could eat them after all. The business of looking after them became another chore to add to the list. I wondered about how this had so quickly come to be. There was something in this behaviour of mine that wasn’t right.
My chickens have highlighted something that now I look at it is blindingly obvious. I have developed some form of attachment issues.
When I look back over the years since those horrible events there is a pattern of retreat, of running away, of withdrawing at the smallest sign of hurt. Thankfully, I’ve never before considered eating those from whom I flee, but the withdrawal of affection is a repeated theme with my family, friends and partner. That’s not to say that feeling hurt was unjustified, it’s just that I could have handled many things much better. My life could have run much smoother. In other words, I have often created my own sandpaper.
Having seen that this is so, I have set about trying to rectify my behaviour. I cannot undo my past but I can change the present. I am consciously reinstating affectionate behaviour towards my partner following our last round of arguing some weeks ago. And guess what? When you behave affectionately you start to feel it again. So here’s a corny line (please forgive me) whose sentiment you’ve seen repeated in so many sayings and quotes but which I have only belatedly really understood. Opening your heart opens up the love. And love is the world’s number one best cushion against the frictions of life.
But the chickens, I here you ask. Are they still alive? Are they in a pie?
I’m happy to report that relations with Rita, Sylvia and Doc have been rebuilt. Ascending the steep hill to take care of their needs every day drew me out of the house and into the glorious green of our valley when I might formerly have stayed in bed. It was during these walks up and down our garden that I began to unpick my behaviour, to see my actions more objectively.
And slowly the chickens began talking to me again. Now when I sit in my favourite spot I have again found peace there.