We’ve all seen them on Facebook, those Oprahesque quotes trembling with worthiness and heavy with exhortations to share if you are a human being with a shred of moral decency. If there’s a picture of a sunset or a beach, my usual approach is to ignore them and carry on scrolling down. But one day I spotted this in my newsfeed, and something made me pause to read it.
Oh, it’s rather trite in parts, and the background photo is rather offputtingly sentimental. But these words resonated with me. Perhaps not the part about relationships, because I’m not willing to expose myself to the risk of that kind of hurt again, but so many of these points were a reminder to me to stop fetishizing my misery and focus rather on the fact that I have survived. “I am that which has emerged from the fire” was especially meaningful because on New Year’s Eve this year I sat alone beside a fire in the bush and methodically burned pieces of paper on which I’d written the names of things I knew I needed to let go of. Anger, regret, sadness, were among them. So too was this dragon, the one I need to slay once and for all:
So “I am not my past/ I am not my pain/ I am that which has emerged from the fire” was an obvious line to write into one of the works I was preparing for my exhibition. These were words that also resonated with the woman who bought this work, and in whose home it now hangs. Fiona Wallace arrived one Saturday morning with her son Stuart, a young poet I knew through Twitter but had never met. They were just two of the wonderful people I met thanks to the Pulse of the City exhibition, and to whom I now have a meaningful connection.
“I define myself by the courage I have found to forge new paths.” Not entirely, to be honest, because I still derive far too much perverse pleasure from focusing on my failures. Being a good person is a maddeningly iterative process, as it turns out. But knowing that I was able to create something that was meaningful to somebody else – meaningful enough for somebody to want to possess it for themselves – is an important part of that long journey towards a better place.