I write this from a very misty train platform, waiting for my daily commute to work in Belfast. I would share a photograph with you all but it would show nothing but a grey shroud. You couldn’t tell if it was a train platform. I could be at the Grand Canyon, Yankee Stadium or standing outside your front door. Don’t worry, I’m not standing outside your front door. I would have called in advance if I was calling over.
The mist is rather beautiful. I can make out the morning sun struggling to break through and resume its mantle as the main attraction in the sky. The birds are happily chirping away and it looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day. I’m running later so can look forward to the prospect of seven miles without being soaked to the skin or battered by hurricane strength winds.
There is a sense of calm on the platform. The schools aren’t back yet which might have something to do with that, no armies of chattering hatchlings to battle past in order to secure a highly sought after seat. Everyone seems fairly relaxed after the final bank holiday of the year, the last now until Christmas. Did I just mention Christmas? Has 2019 really scuttled by so quickly. It feels almost autumnal this morning.
Yes, all seems well. I look at my fellow commuters to be met by largely blank, unemotional faces. The shutters are down as we all adjust our 9-5 masks for the working day ahead. If this were a poker match or quick draw competition I reckon we could have a few world champions in our ranks. I recognise the regulars as they no doubt recognise me. Some of them I’ve known for years, but we’ve never exchanged a word in all that time.
Nobody is giving anything away, for to do so would be a sign of weakness and that wouldn’t do at all now, would it. We all exist behind a mist, where our real selves are but a shadowy outline in the background, reserved for a favoured few if even that. Some trundle through life never revealing their real selves to the waiting world. They fear the consequences, what their peers would say if they knew the truth, if they saw the real deal.
Us writers are an exception. We think, create, explore and most of all reveal. We reveal who we are, an act of bravery if ever there was one. What you see is what you get, hearts on sleeves, staring defiantly into the crowd. We are not perfect, we are weak and flawed and broken. Yet we don’t fear the mist. Our words burn it away just as the sun will prevail over the dank skies enveloping me this morning.
The mist can be a thing of beauty but only if we know it is a temporary feature. Some of us are prisoners, unable to escape its chilly tendrils. The mist is their world. They are trapped by guilt, shame and fear, unable to face reality. Some cannot open their front door, others are unable to crawl from under bed covers. Ensnared by addiction, mental illness, childhood trauma and any other number of internal demons.
Mastering the mist is no easy matter. Some of us don it as a suit of armour to discard at the end of the day. It is a flag of convenience which we walk under, safe in its protective shadow. Others are less fortunate. They will never see the light unless we focus less on ourselves, recognise their pain and reach down into the abyss. We reach down blindly and grasp their cold, helpless hands. They squeeze ours in gratitude. It’s a beginning.