A quick note before I start the post proper. I’ve noticed my stats have been steadily declining in recent weeks, and I’m aware that there have been technical problems (subscriptions failing to send; moving my blog etc), so I’m not overly concerned about that. However, I’m figuring out a sort of blog schedule in order to blog more consistently, which you may notice soon. In addition, if you’ve any comments on how I could improve my blog or what I’ve stopped doing that you used to enjoy, I’d be delighted to hear them.
I’m not a peaceful person. My anxiety conveys itself in restlessness: unable to keep my hands still, I’ll twitch my fingers, clicking the knuckles and drawing on my wrists and hands to try and distract myself. I grow irritable and snappish, and when I’m feeling particularly on-edge, I’m really not a particularly nice person to be around.
And I’m prone to getting angry. It builds up inside me, and I don’t know what to do with it. Sometimes I just punch my pillows, hoping that will help. It rarely does. More than once I’ve found myself thinking that I really need to find a way to take out that anger in a productive manner, rather than letting it build up inside me, self-destructive frustration and impotent rage alike.
So on the occasions when I find peace, I remember them.
Last year I went with my parents to Ireland, where I’d hoped to go since I was about ten years old. I had high expectations, having dreamed about the country for so long, and I was afraid it wasn’t going to live up to them. The first day that we were there, we went to the Cliffs of Moher and walked all the way along to Hag’s Head, which became a setting in one of my novels later last year. We went then to the Burren, to Poulnabrone dolmen (fun fact: that dolmen features in City Of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare), and drove around Lisdoonvarna looking for the fairy hill where my character was born (we didn’t find it) and then we found a huge stretch of limestone going down to the sea.
As I half-ran, half-walked across it, jumping from rock to rock under a setting sun and with the cool sea air on my face, I felt at peace. Happy. As I kept going despite my parents suggesting we turned back and went and bought dinner, I felt a great stillness and contentment inside me that I don’t know as I’ve ever entirely recaptured before or since.
It’s a peace I’ve been unconsciously seeking to recover since then, yet while half of my brain says, But it was the place, it was nothing to do with you, the other half says, It was nothing to do with the place. Oh, I know that an almost-empty limestone pavement is a far cry from a tourist-magnet spot in Derbyshire, and there’s going to be a level of inherent peacefulness in being so alone, but at the same time, I don’t think the Burren has quite got magical powers.
I’m terribly afraid ever to go back there in case I bring my restlessness with me and allow it to destroy that memory I have, yet I’m well aware that finding peace is often a choice. It’s a case of deciding not to let myself think about the things that are worrying me; a choice to surrender to the moment and the place; a choice to close off other distractions.
This year, on holiday, it’s easy to see why I didn’t entirely find that same peace. I’m distracted waiting for my exam results and confirmation of my university place. (I keep dreaming about it.) My body is weaker than it was a year ago, even if my wrists are getting stronger, and therefore I’m more often in pain, which needles at me even when I’m not thinking about it.
But there was a moment where I thought for a second I’d found it.
Wading in the water near this waterfall and feeling the cold of the river on my ankles, aching and swollen from the heat — stepping from rock to rock to take pictures and trying not to drop my camera in the water — the crash of the waterfall blocking out the conversations of strangers and making it feel like we were totally alone — there was a kind of peace there, a kind of serenity I hadn’t expected to find.
And we had to leave, of course, to continue on a walk that prompted me almost to despair because the hill was so steep and I was so far behind my parents and my friend who can walk so much faster than me, but there was a moment of peace and a moment of happiness.
Peace is what you make it. I didn’t go to either of these places looking for peace — holidays tend to be more a time of excitement and exploration than relaxation in my family, even if I do my best to be left in coffee shops while others go walking — but I found it nonetheless. Trying to capture it is impossible. It’s too fleeting even to really be able to remember the emotion, and it’s not something I’m able to preserve and experience at will the way you sometimes can with an amusing memory that makes you laugh even months later.
But I’m grateful for those moments, that teach my restless mind to pause just for a few minutes, and prove to me that it’s possible. I can find peace, often when I’m not looking for it, and with that in mind, perhaps I can tame the restlessness.