en «regardant par mon hublot»
Greetings to 2017, and to all those who have resolved to look forward with renewed hope, etc., despite atmospheric turbulence encountered last year!
I took time out between Christmas and New Year. I did not force myself to do anything as systematic as review last year’s goals against what I actually achieved. That would have been senseless. 2016 was a year bogged down with contingencies which seemed to swing into action at every turn. I know I did not achieve most of my personal goals; the goal posts shifted at will and I missed the mark several times. Conversely, I scored a few goals by way of some fluke ricochet—or perhaps because one or two contingency plans induced corrective action sufficient to keep me on track, and allowed me to accept the sensible proposition of my daily motto inscribed on a digital Post-It® on my desktop: go on.
The first anniversary of my father’s death yesterday culminated in a series of wacky, unmethodical and, quite frankly. chronologically frenetic mental activities. The unexpected upshot was that I remembered the second and third lines of Samuel Beckett’s French poem quoted below. I love this poem because it encapsulates in few words the expansive and reductive theme of almost all of his literary output, and offers a perspective on the concepts of time and space that I think are worth pondering—and worth pondering three decades after first immersing myself in this world seemingly so far removed from my own. The English translation by Samuel Becket is below for those who know no French.
que ferais-je sans ce monde
que ferais-je sans ce monde sans visage sans questions
où être ne dure qu’un instant où chaque instant
verse dans le vide dans l’oubli d’avoir été
sans cette onde où à la fin
corps et ombre ensemble s’engloutissent
que ferais-je sans ce silence gouffre des murmures
haletant furieux vers le secours vers l’amour
sans ce ciel qui s’élève
sur la poussieère de ses lests
que ferais-je je ferais comme hier comme aujourd’hui
regardant par mon hublot si je ne suis pas seul
à errer et à virer loin de toute vie
dans un espace pantin
sans voix parmi les voix
enfermées avec moi
Samuel Beckett’s own translation from the French:
what would I do without this world
what would I do without this world faceless incurious
where to be lasts but an instant where every instant
spills in the void the ignorance of having been
without this wave where in the end
body and shadow together are engulfed
what would I do without this silence where the murmurs die
the pantings the frenzies towards succour towards love
without this sky that soars
above its ballast dust
what would I do what I did yesterday and the day before
peering out of my deadlight looking for another
wandering like me eddying far from all the living
in a convulsive space
among the voices voiceless
that throng my hiddenness”
The thematic connection
Prompted by something I saw on the morning of 31 December 2016 about patting oneself on the back, I have exhausted myself writing out in long hand—from memory only—a catalogue of things I did this year.
The first part of this mammoth essay to myself is headed
“2016–THINGS THAT HELD ME BACK”
written in block capital letters. Everything resulting from perhaps a too generous giving of my time privately has been lumped in this category.
I like helping people, and I do not regret or resent having done so, but I should have kept a tighter rein on the number of hours in any given month devoted to this type of work quite simply because the downstream effect of over-extending myself in this area has been poor time management combined with waning energy levels.
Each bulleted point had a consequence. Many had undesirable outcomes for me in that they detracted from my primary purpose of getting ahead. In all honesty, I have to question just how fervent my desire to get ahead was if I were the author and initiator of all these activities which turned into stumbling blocks.
Each bulleted point has a note—very negatively phrased on purpose I might add—of the result. Each bulleted point also has a note serving as a trigger warning, together with an instruction to myself as to what to do, and what not to do, next time something similar happens. It seems stupid to me that I have had to take such drastic action with myself, but hope springs eternal, as they say.
Some things that held me back had positive outcomes. The realisation that I do not have to repeat such actions to perpetuate the positives achieved came as something of a light-bulb moment at some point during the week when I found myself in the kitchen in the wee hours making myself some tea, and stuffing my face with dried figs while the kettle came to the boil.
The next section of my mysterious essay scribbled in my favourite purple ink deals with
“WHAT’S CHANGING IN 2017”
and constitutes a distillation of my rules. It forms the basis of how I will make my decisions every day in my work. I do not need to try new things; rather I need to regress to ways of doing things I have already proven work for me. It is a kind of retrieving of good habits I once adhered to, and the all-important chucking out of the bad.
This brought me to the final, uplifting, part of the exercise:
“GREATEST HITS OF 2016”
I am too much of a cynic to remain smug for long, but there were some fabulous moments—products of my hard work and focused effort—at intervals during the year. Here’s the thing: all these fabulous moments involved other people; working and collaborating with colleagues and clients. This is where I made true progress. This is what I meditated upon as I cut a path with clearly defined edges to the shed at the back of the garden the other day.
I have spent my life beating a path to the door of 2017—and so have you. What say you to entering this year, right foot first with purposeful step so that we can—in thought, word and deed—go on?
Excellent idea! Avante!
©2017 Allison Wright