Green Car

I could’ve stayed in bed, it is Christmas day after all. But I’m not much good at stepping out of my routine. It holds me. It holds me tight. And I wanted to be out on this day, out in the silent anticipation of what is to come. So much is expected of it. And all it becomes is a heavy, somnolent sort of day. An inner day. An overly cosy, claustrophobic day. I’m not good at it. That kind of torpor. I like to move. I miss what it could be. For it never was that. As a family we didn’t do well in enclosed spaces. Emotions ran high. And edges became frayed. And yet I longed for the perfection of those images. Even amongst other peoples families it is the same. I pick up all that stuff up, even if it has nothing to do with me. I want to observe yet be warmed by it. To dip my toe in and then withdraw. I feel too much. And my light flickers.

I could be happy. Right now. It is in my gift, in all of our gifts. It is a matter of choice. I know this.

The forecast was wrong. It rained and my coat got drenched. It made me irritable. And then I let it go. Tried instead to concentrate on the sensations of it. To step outside of my self-pity, my tetchiness about life not being how I’d like it to be. The rain wasn’t lashing after all, it was a misty, layering sort of wetness that cooled and washed my face. That was nice. And the wind too. It was fresh, enlivening, pushing at me, jostling. There was nobody about except for a small green car that sped past me along Llanbadarn Road and a man whom I saw walking ahead of me along the Prom.

I wondered about the etiquette. Should I wish him Happy Christmas? I prepared myself to turn and greet him as I walked past him (he’d slowed down by now) but saw that he had earphones in. So I left it and walked on by feeling rather bereft. He looked closed in, too closed in to welcome an interruption. I thought of all the times I’d forced a greeting out of foreigners, in Spain, Norway, France and Denmark. It is for myself. I want to be acknowledged, to be shown that I exist, can, even for a short time, belong. I am more self-conscious in my own country. Funny that.

One of our neighbours has strewn his tree with lights. It looked beautiful in the dark. What a fillip. As with the electrician’s wife, though hers hang from the eaves. Blue light. Blue-white light shimmering. They shunkle, said the girl in The Red Shoes. It must mean shine.

Her loneliness is palpable, made all the more so by her denial of it. Her brittle carapace blocking it in. She cannot cry, I think. And they are so unkind.

Three classes of women sewing. Mrs Hale, the fallen petit bourgeois (she ‘married for love’), working a decorative tapestry on an embroidery hoop, Fanny Thornton, new money, tugging away at her needle as she prettifies some linen and Bessie Higgins, mill worker, mending. Mrs Gaskell’s North and South. Sewing is a necessity, a distraction, a means of money, an acceptable accomplishment. The active women, Mrs Thornton and Margaret Hale aren’t shown doing it. They are too busy being out, out in the world.

I think about why I do it. There is not one reason. I hide behind it. I do it to keep busy, keep going. I do it because at the moment I cannot do much else. I am lost and it grounds me.

I can be happy now, in this moment. All is well. There is nothing I need. I can be happy now. My mind tries to scupper me. To upend and capsize me with its pursuit of success. What is that exactly? I am trying to understand, to make for myself a rich life. And yet I am dogged by this lowness. This fear of fraudulence, of being found wanting. By whom exactly? Why not just let it be? Let the so-called failure, mediocrity be. Live it. Be it. Let go of the fear of it. Don’t suppress it. Fall if you must. It is called living. Live it. Be happy. Not in the empty smiley face sort of happy but the deeply peaceful still sort of happy. Be it now. Moment by moment. And remember.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.