I am prone to thinking about things this week – the deep, gut-wrenching kind of thinking.
Easter does that to me. People too.
I saw an old friend this week who has been in hospital. A suicide attempt. Horrible, stark, totally confronting situation which if you think about for too long makes the bottom start to fall out of your world.
What do you say when you see someone who’s been through that? What do you do? Do you adopt an attitude of false cheeriness, talking with a kind of manic enthusiasm about every positive thing you can think of? Oh, look at that flower. Can you believe the colour? Who would have thought such wonder could appear in nature? Look at that little girl’s dress. Isn’t it cute? Oh, and there’s a bright yellow car….
Clutching at straws. That’s what that is. The big old spirit of avoidance stands in front of you, waving his finger as if to say: Stop carrying on like an idiot.
And when you see that big old spirit there is only one thing you can do, there is only one way to express the inexpressible.
Put your arms around that person and hold them.
Hold them for as long as they need and say: It’s good to see you. It’s really good.
And here’s the weird part – the hug, the embrace, actually has power. You can feel it. For the briefest of moments it is possible to believe you might just have a little bit of Wonder Woman* in you and that your arms are like her magic bracelets deflecting all the pain in the world. Keeping all the vulnerable people safe.
When my old friend went to hospital her husband did a terrible thing. I know it was his grief and disbelief (and his fear) that made him do it but it made me cry when I saw it.
She had a garden full of hydrangeas. I personally really like hydrangeas. Those bluey white ones are like the colour of summer dresses in the south of England where you have plates of sandwiches and jugs of lemonade on the lawn. They’re not just the domain of elderly gardeners named Ethel or Hortense who plant them because they’re easier to grow than roses. Word on the street is hydrangeas are actually cool. You heard it here first.
My friend’s husband ripped out all her hydrangeas and threw them into the road. I stood there on a wet day and dropped my umbrella in the gutter watching it twirl and spin in the stormwater unable to chase it as the water carried it down to the intersection because all I could focus on was the bluey white hydrangea petals turning to mulch on the road and the stalks, stumps – sombre as old mannequins in department stores that have lost their fingers.
Oh, what being forced to face the unfaceable can do.
But this morning as I was walking (strangely enough, it was raining again) I saw that not all of the hydrangeas had been destroyed and that some of them were growing back, replenished by the rain and perhaps a deep knowing that they need to be where they are and their place in the world is important.
Seeing them made me feel so good. It was as if they had reached out their long, petal-ly fingers and were actually hugging me. And they meant it. Really meant it.
Oh the power of a humble, simple, unconditional hug. It can change so much in an instant.