The Adventures of Tom
They are everywhere, especially at this dreaded time of year. Pithy little quotes, thoughts, sayings and messages telling me how to be happy, how to have a better life, how to make other people’s lives better, how to love more, and how to be loved more. Quotes like, “The world is a fine place and worth fighting for” (E. Hemingway), “Kiss me and you will see how important I am” (S. Plath), and “Some people go to priests; others to poetry; I to my friends” (V. Woolf), are all examples of the sagacious snippets that appear across the interweb in flamboyant fonts on backgrounds of saccharine sunsets and surreal seascapes.
You’ve probably guessed what I’m doing here. The above quotes are all from people who wondered at just how extraordinary life is but in the end celebrated that wonder by sucking on a shotgun barrel, spending too long contemplating the interior of a gas oven, and taking a dip in a river with pockets full of rocks.
It is unfortunate that when these platitudinous pearls appear on my Facebook I rarely assume that someone is having an epiphany or feeling ecstatic enlightenment. Nope, they tell me I should probably call the police to check they aren’t swinging from a light fixture. Unless the quote is one of the Dalai Lama’s. He’s an insanely positive guy and usually pretty spot on.
My problem, generally, is that such quotes are too often presented as something original and significant, pasted onto a picture of sunlit clouds to somehow emphasise just how profound, and potentially life-changing, a dozen or so words taken totally out of context can be. If quotes, sunrises and pretty flowers are really the sort of thing that prompt aspirations of a better life, then get down to the flower market next to the Ping at about 5 a.m. Sunrises happen every morning and flowers are everywhere, but we rarely go out of our way to really notice them.
But, I’m not here to slag you off for not sniffing the flowers, or even to have a go at the internet. No, I’m here to take a total u-turn on what I’ve just disparaged. So here’s my prosaic platitude: “Tell everyone you love that you love them.” There you go. Bit crap really, isn’t it?
Do it anyway. Call everyone, or text them or email them or Facebook them, and tell them you love them. Do it now, not because I just suggested you should, but because you want to and you mean it.
I am well aware that what I’m saying is about as unoriginal and trite as you can get, but I’ve just returned from home where my family and I set fire to our mum.
I had a difficult relationship with my mum (again, something I’m not claiming is unique) and we hadn’t communicated for about a decade until about six months ago. But this is the thing and the reason for me telling you to use the words “I love you” more often than anyone with all their marbles usually would. We got a lot off our chests during those months and I was able to tell her how much I love her and she me. She created me, I am her; how can one not love the person that did that? Anyway, I reckon if I’d had to fly home to turn her into ashes without having told my mum that I love her several times before her death, I’d be in a straight-jacket right now.
So do it. Tell everyone that you love them whenever you can. Break off an argument with: “You know I love you?” And then get back to your pointless row about whose turn it is to wash up the nappies or deworm the cat. Tell people you love them even if you suspect they’ll think you are stoned, drunk or mad. I promise that there is nobody out there who will not reply to “I love you” with anything other than “I love you, too,” or possibly, “Are you feeling okay?”
I know this because after my mum died, people I barely know sent condolences, and I so appreciate it. My heart is broken, nothing can fix that, but the elastoplast that was every message of love helped to keep it together more than I can describe on this keyboard. And all I had to say in return “I love you very much, too.” Except for my old drug dealer from Camden – Terry. I did reply to that one with, “Are you feeling okay?” before telling him I loved him.
I realise that by writing this I’m being remarkably self-indulgent. We all lose people, and it’s unfortunately inevitable for the living to have to go through this. And I appreciate that most of the lessons we learn in life are our own business. However, this one really is too big not to share and I learned it in a big way. So in the tradition of frigging unoriginal, banal, everyday Facebook posts I abhor – everything I’ve ever said in my life is complete drivel compared to: “I love you.” There’s no copyright on these three words; they are never trite and they are far more powerful than any picture of a bloody over-saturated sunset or some slightly defocused flowers.
Oh, and cry. Why don’t we cry more? Especially with those we love? It’s like blowing your nose and being able to breathe again. I don’t know what it releases, but heck, it makes everything more bearable. So please, let’s all say “I love you” and cry more. It’d be like one big Richard Curtis film, and anyone who has read me before knows how I love Richard Curtis.
Next month I’ll be back to the usual bollocks, but for now: I love you.