I’ve just finished reading Nora McInery Purmort’s book It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too). It was one of those impulse buys in Waterstones – and a compulsive read (I’ve now passed it on to a friend).
There’s an awful lot in the book which reflects things I have thought and written myself, albeit triggered by different events and reasons. She comments in one chapter on how grief makes you quite self-centred: I had been thinking recently how introverted and rather insular I had been as I moved through my depression. To a certain extent I beat myself up for not thinking about others more, but I think it’s probably a survival of the fittest thing – face up to your blackest thoughts and moods on your own and come through them the stronger for it, and also give yourself the time to do so in order to recover. Sadly, one of the things which stopped me being quite so self-centred was a friend’s husband leaving her: I began to think about her and supporting her rather than being quite so wrapped up in myself, although having said that I have only been able to do so as I had moved on enough from my blackest place.
I’ve always believed that too much time on your own engenders being self-centred in any case, but I also now think that sometimes it’s just necessary. It’s like the passage I have previously referred to from Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow, about walking into depression. Recognising such feelings and living through them, instead of trying to sweep them under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist, is just sometimes what you have to do. Nobody can be happy all the time: though Nora Mc P’s title is significant in that it is perfectly OK to laugh even in the middle of the worst grief you’ve ever suffered. I’m sure the inmates of the concentration camps managed to laugh at times despite the appalling conditions in which they existed – they made the effort to form orchestras and play music, so why not also to laugh, difficult as that may seem?
There were a handful of passages in the book which I noted down as I wanted to keep them. One chapter was, I think, perhaps as much as anything the writer wanting to make herself feel better – it was full of positive self-belief comments, and was about how you’re doing a good job. I especially liked “you’re single because you just cannot be tamed right now”. She also had things to say about marriage (I’ve always loved the comment that marriage should be to someone you can’t bear to be without, and also what she says which is “don’t marry a friend” – something which I’ve realised for myself (you need passion in a marriage): “Marriage isn’t supposed to feel like a cage, it’s supposed to feel like a hug that lasts just a few seconds too long”.
Related to that was her philosophy about life generally, and about giving up certain things, and taking risks: “the world will keep spinning, and your life will get a little bit better every time you give up on the shit that is taking you away from your one wild and precious life”. And along the same lines, I can’t remember whether she wrote this or quoted it or I read it somewhere else: “Life’s journey is not to arrive safely at the grave in a well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting ‘holy fuck, what a ride!’ “.
The book was a fantastic reminder to live life to the full – to follow dreams and take risks (without being stupid about it). Most of us still have to pay the mortgage and be responsible for our children, but we can surely do so whilst being true to the very essence of who we are. And usually when you take the (sometimes brave or seemingly foolhardy) step of following a different path, of taking what appears to be a risk, things just amazingly slot into place and you find a happiness and fulfillment you never dreamed possible: your one wild and precious life.