I had a ‘chick night’ with my bestie last night, an Italian orange soda and Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd (this is not a movie review). While I have read some of Hardy’s other works, The Return of the Native and Tess of the D’Urbervilles, somehow this one has escaped me. I must have a lovely copy to linger over because I found something extraordinary and personal in the movie.
The opening lines spoken as a voice over by Carrie Mulligan knocked me to my knees. She is introducing herself, she says her name, Bathsheba Everdene and then says “I have grown accustomed to being on my own. Some would say too accustomed. Too independent.” The air rushing from my lungs in the darkened theatre was nearly audible, accompanied by a feeling as though I had unexpectedly fallen hard on the ground, the ‘wind’ knocked from me. How often in the last 24 years have I expressed exactly the same first sentence? I have also heard others say I am too independent. The span of the movie (and later, I am sure, when I acquire a copy of the book) would subsequently tear away so many protective layers I would sit crying in Jennifer’s car afterwards acknowledging a different kind of fragility I have thought I had well under control – of not needing people, a well-honed self-defense mechanism resulting from repeated disappointments bestowed by those we let take a piece of our heart and who have ultimately betrayed it. This awareness that has been washing over me a great deal of late, it stuns me, it catches me off-guard, it swamps me because here is the truth; even when a habit is formed over many years, one that serves to keep us from faltering in life, tiny kindnesses crack open our hearts and those fissures let a different kind of light in, of letting people touch our souls and feel our raw essence in an amplified version of what the world is allowed to see, and in the process, we hope that we don’t scare them off, but rather that they take care of the tender vulnerability we are at our core.
On the surface Bathsheba’s story appears to be one of three men courting her, but I think it’s something more. I think hers is the timeless journey of coming to understand the most important things in our lives are often standing squarely in front of us, that these must almost slip from our grasp because of pride and then, as heroes or heroines of our own lives, we step into the fullness of our being to own our destiny to reach for what will give our lives their greatest meaning. I have given much love away, yet I have been a (very) poor recipient of it which, upon reflection, this is unseemly in the extreme. I am learning to truly receive, and it is stretching me into a version of myself I am sure I was always meant to be but sometimes it makes me reel with faintness, I do not recognise myself against the familiar filter in which I have defined myself. This is good.
In this video found on YouTube Mulligan describes a passage from Hardy’s book in describing Bathsheba as being, “passionate, wild and honest as the day” – again, if for no one other than myself, I recognised the essential ‘me’. Earlier in the day my girlfriend Kirstie replied to a question I had posed with “we need the mirror provided by others to see all of our sides” and in some way, because I have a Pisces Moon in my Aquarius sign, this description by Hardy of Bathsheba resonates – I am childlike in my innocence, honest, and passionate and like Hardy’s character often in saying what is on my mind that makes others wince. Passion and honesty guided me toward (or pulled me?) what is clearly my life’s work and a new life. There are days when I am overwhelmed by my free will choice to move into something very foreign, and yet familiar. The path toward this life includes an alarming set of variables to consider or work through, but each day I find an answer, an opening, a shelter to take cover beneath or refuge in metaphorical arms. I am stunned by the outpouring of support and love from the physically near and those thousands of miles away. At the same time everything I have ever read, experienced, or come to believe provides tools from which to draw upon to make the scope of this ‘work’. I wrote a letter this weekend, potentially a very important letter, but the inspiration which allowed me to create it came from a document written in Scotland in the 14th century – widely regarded as the most important piece of diplomatic language ever penned (no, not the Magna Carta). Very early yesterday morning I found myself pulled into a Facebook string related to a seasoned public relations practitioner (whose choice of client I happen to be fighting over the environment) and as thoughtful as I was about choosing my words and citing external resources to document my points emotions are running high, the topic is polarizing, the people involved are lightning rods, so much so that people involved feel assaulted and insulted despite my efforts to be respectful of the skill if not how it was being used it against humanity (my opinion).
You can practice authenticity but you can’t create it, authenticity is an intention, like waking with gratitude. And everyone’s version of authenticity will be nuanced, singular. I would like to think we are all capable of living with such intention, such authenticity, but I have come to realise that so many of my fellow humans are just trying to survive each day, get through the living of life, there is not a spare ounce of energy for more. I can’t. Perhaps that is why I have been so comfortable in being on my own for so long. But I feel the shift happening. Bathsheba addresses the tenant farmers and hired hands of the estate she has inherited from her uncle; she says “It is my intention to astonish you all.” So too is it mine (as well as myself in the process).
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