Mindfulness at war

The warplane streaked across the sky, a tiny triangle barely more than a dot. I was searching for it for some time before I saw it, perplexed by its thunder. As it was supersonic, its sound peaked long after it passed over, and continued drowning out the nearby cars for some time; it was a noticeable low roar minutes after.

Liz enjoins me to mindfulness. I can’t. I have not knelt in my ritual space, because I would be curled in a foetal position, in the heart of my misery. I read that book until it enjoined me to be aware of my feelings, and there I stopped. Better not to know.

Could you not be a solicitor again? asked H. No, for so many reasons. I cannot explain them to you. I had good and bad luck, character, choices. I stubbed my toe once, many years ago- I have not got over it-

for who can judge whether my hurts are objectively sufficient to so overwhelm my mettle that I skulk at home? They just have. This really is the best I can see, now. At AM another Liz suggested I become a carer for the elderly. She has carers come in. I did not tell her to mind her own business. At least I am past explaining: if I dredge up reasons why the idea terrified and revolted me, I open myself to judgment. I said “You would have to ask my psychiatrist”, as a block. She only desisted when I held back tears. Later she gave me the flower arrangement she had prepared for the meeting.

I sit outside in intermittent sun with The Iliad, translated by Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox. Birds sing. Groundsel has erupted through the tarmac. The natural state of man is war, and though they love peace they are delighted by fighting. Agamemnon and Achilles have taken women by force, and when Apollo forces Agamemnon to give his back he takes Achilles’. Achilles calls Zeus to kill the whole Greek army, apart from his Myrmidons, rather than back down from this insult to his honour. Hera objects, pointlessly: at the end of book I Zeus joins her in bed.

H had been watching a thriller, though revolted by the male fantasy of the indefatigable man, winning interminable fights and car chases. I feel in Homer, which I bought years ago and never opened, I could seek out this manhood, destructive and glorious. I need to understand humanity and possibilities.

And it seemed to me in the sunshine and birdsong I was conscious of my feelings, my misery anger and fear. I was mindful and present, and they were bearable. No-one can suppress those feelings, not with the whole World; this is the only way to be.

Gerda Wegener Ulla Poulsen

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