Neither one thing, nor the other
Life is neither one thing, nor the other
I’ve been through the worst of times, yet with the benefit of hindsight, been able to see that what seemed like the greatest possible disaster, was actually a blessing in disguise. That doesn’t mean there aren’t times when I wish my life had turned out differently, but those times are in the past. Standing in the present, looking out towards the rest of my life, that’s where I live now.
I have been comforted and supported in this by what might like seem like an unlikely ally, William Shakespeare. I’ve always loved his plays and have appeared in and directed several of them as a keen amateur. The ones I like the most are the problem plays (apart from the madness and magic of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which will always be a favourite).
Comedies and tragedies
Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies are much more well known and loved. The comedies, with their traditional happy endings when everyone ends up with the right person and the tragedies, where the characters face disaster in the face and we are often left on an empty stage where the characters that remain can do nothing but mourn fiercely. I’ve been there, I’ve mourned fiercely and I’ve rejoiced joyfully and neither have been the final experience of my life. Jeanette Winterson, in ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ wisely writes, ‘No emotion is the final one,’ and I have seen that manifest and become true in my life repeatedly.
In the problem plays, there are no happy endings, but there are no tragic ones either. The endings are ambivalent, grey areas, happiness tinged with regret, love tinged with awareness of the unknown.
Life is what I make it
I’m happy to see my life as a problem play. Sad and difficult things have happened, but my life is not a tragedy. Joyous and wonderful things have happened, but my life is not a comedy. It is somewhere in between, complex, and real. Freed from the pressure of making everything turn out for the best, or fearing that everything has turned out for the worst, I can live my life as it is, embracing the ambivalence and the lack of any guarantee, and living as if I have one life, and it’s what I make it.