NEWS: I shall be appearing at the Blenheim Literary Festival on Sunday 27th September at 12 noon. BBC Radio 4’s Ernie Rea will be interviewing me about my new book, ‘Bel Mooney’s LIfelines – Words to Help You Through.’ We’ll be talking about advice columns, love, forgiveness, pain, joy, faith, cynicism and change….for starters. It should be a marvellousconversation – and I guarantee you will go away with a spring in your step! So if you are in the area do come along. Tickets are available from www.blenheimliterary festival.com
Now – this week’s THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
…every choice has its history, so many moments of our existence are shoved into a corner, waiting for an outlet, and in the end the outlet arrives.
From Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (2013)
An extraordinary quartet of novels by this Italian writer (who mysteriously uses a pseudonym) is currently the toast and talking point of Europe. These ‘Neapolitan novels’ add up to one long story about the narrator, also called Elena and her friend Lila – their extraordinary lives, their friends and families and frailties. The first is ‘My Brilliant Friend’, the second ‘The Story of a New Name’, the third the one named above and the fourth ‘The Story of the Lost Child.’ I’m completely immersed in these books – and find them all the more engrossing because the period of history described is that of my own life. Yes, that will be the time of ‘sixties student unrest too….. Looking back it makes me cringe to think of the stuff I believed and stamped my feet for….so maybe we’ll draw a veil over the foolishness of youth.
But this short quote encapsulates something of which I often remind my readers: all actions have their consequences. I’ve had letters from men who ran off with other women and are subsequently miserable because their children won’t forgive them. As it happens I think forgiveness is essential – in most cases at least – and the bitter lack of it can cause as much damage as the original action. But that’s not the issue right here. The point is that all of us have to realise that the things that we say and do reverberate for years.
In a sense it’s rather frightening – to think that ‘fate’ has pushed the buttons and we are then programmed, like a robot set on a timer. Nevertheless if we stop thinking of ‘fate’ or ‘destiny and realise that we always have choices about how we act, then it can be instructive to look back and follow events to their source. To give a personal example, I think I can trace the break up of my long marriage in 2003 right back to things my ex-husband and I believed as well as what we said and did – as long ago as 1970. To acknowledge that is to admit an important truth: that to place all the blame on the Other (in this case, the one who left) would be wrong.
Do you see what I mean? A woman can push her husband to extremes of anger and pain and then still play the victim (today’s main letter) because she denies any wrong-doing. There’s a lot of such dishonesty about – but I believe each one of us has to take clear-sighted responsibility for our own lives. This means realising that you may be waiting for the outcome of lies told – and secret sins and mistakes. That might sound ominous. But do you know something? Once you realise this and can be honest with yourself at last, you might feel the weight miraculously lift.
Here is one of my favourite poets, W.B.Yeats:
I am content to follow to its source,
Every event in action or in thought,
Measure the lot, forgive myself the lot.
When such as I cast out remorse,
So great a sweetness flows into the breast,
We must laugh and we must sing,
We are blest by everything,
Everything we look upon is blest.