The Unbearable Whiteness of Swans.* Thursday March 2, 2017
"Oh, how revolting!" I thought, as I rounded the corner. "Some people have no consideration."
I was attending my monthly Women's Business Networking Group. We have the great fortune to meet in a delightful venue converted from an old water mill. It is surrounded on three sides by the river Ouse and its backwaters and, in summer at least, is idyllic. In winter, it is merely pretty. It's always a pleasure to walk around from the car park and across the bridge over the river to the Mill.
Only today someone had discarded a white plastic bag in the water. Yeuk! It spoilt the whole view. I walked over the bridge and tried to avert my eyes. I looked up at the intricate crochet of the leafless branches overhead and then back to the water. There was no ugly bag there. Instead, a serene swan swam on those silver ripples.
As I watched, the swan dipped its head and dived underwater, leaving its back half sticking out; looking, for all the world, like a discarded plastic bag.
A lot of life depends upon the way we see things.
Many of us see our lives like that plastic bag. Others do not see us like that; they see the swan. One of my friends said recently, "Facebook presents us with a series of lush green lawns, all on the other side of the fence. It is only our own lawn that is patchy, moss filled and beset with molehills. It is only when we travel to the other side of the fence we realise other people's lawns are as bad as our own."
Someone else then commented on our habit of idolising – and idealising – our heroes. When we find, as we inevitably do, that those heroes have feet of clay (they are, after all, only human), we feel almost personally betrayed.
Some of us are desperate to keep up appearances. We dare not admit to vulnerability for fear the world will fall upon us like ravening wolves and tear us apart. This is especially true in some work environments. For others of us, it is the world around us which is just as desperate that we keep up appearances. Our friends and family are invested in our perfect life as it gives them a sense of security. After all, if we can keep our lawn green it must be possible to actually have a green lawn and it therefore gives others a sense of hope and even security. They do not wish to see our moss and molehills.
But none of us has the perfect life. We can have stable and loving families and relationships; we can have work which brings us satisfaction and joy; we can be financially secure, but still we can feel like that discarded plastic bag: hollow, waterlogged, and worthless.
But remember: that plastic bag is really a swan. It's just that even swans cannot be elegant all the time.
A Moodscope member.
*With thanks to Alexander McCall Smith for title inspiration.
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