The Dark

In the middle of my life I am walking through a dark wood. So said Dante while writing the Divine Comedy, according to David Whyte the poet, who I listened to as I walked this morning. I don’t walk the dark woods but the dark streets and the dark Prom. Though in June, now, in the blueness of now, it grows lighter faster. I woke from a dream in which I was working for the royal family and living in the Palace. I wasn’t doing to well, there was still so much I didn’t know. I forgot to change Prince Harry’s lunchtime menu. He was going to end up with Roast Beef two days running and there was nothing I could do about it, save make up for it with an irresistible sweet dish. Then I was working in a shop in the palace, a canteen with a shop. Someone was teaching me the ropes. There was so much to learn and I couldn’t remember it all. There was something to do with a bonus payment but the procedure was so complicated. And yet I was left to my own devices, trusted with it all. I was scared but not scared. But I do remember looking at my watch and realising I had a whole day ahead of me to get through in this state of not knowing.

I caught the tail end of the TED talks and heard an author and ex-Olympiad swimmer talking about failure and how the fairy-tale myth perpetuated by story and mass media is that failure is also followed by some meteoric success. There is not always a rise, she said, not everyone rises. Sometimes this (this ‘failure’ for want of a better word) is your life. I found her words profoundly restful. I fell into them like an eiderdown. The pursuit of success if so tiring. I’m not sure I want it. Not anymore.

I’ve decided to begin writing. A curtain, thick and black comes down before my eyes at the thought of it. It is timely. I need to reduce my fear of it.

I’ve always been afraid, I thought as I walked, for as long as I can remember. Mostly unnamed, unimagined fears – sometimes it was her, or school, or just being alive. And yet, physically I had enough, was fed, watered, kept warm. It was just in me. Was it hers, a hand-me-down dread? Or was it of my own making? I will live with it. Working with it even if fear is a counterpoint to creativity able to sabotage, strangle the joy and courage out of it.

So, coffee on and write.

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.