Tuesday, 16 September 2014

From across the divide, a sign of hope

Living with a person who says 'No' a lot is hard. It's a life of protracted negotiation without resolution, where things stop before they start. It's a life of knowing any tiny step forward is unlikely and would in any case be followed by ten steps back. It's an existence that requires many deep breaths a day.

It's hard living with a person who greets you in the morning with a No. It's hard living with a person who glares at you when the light is still not fully in the sky and you are still coming around from sleep and figuring out how to feel about the day. It's hard at the other end of the day too when any feelings of satisfaction or lightness about other aspects of your life must be weighed against the No's that have accrued from that person, who always seems to be waiting to shut you down again.

There are big No's that are like a punch in the face. There are slightly smaller but no less insistent No's that are like having a wall built around you. There are tens and hundreds of still smaller No's, on the surface less important, but that still fall like someone has upended a bucket of nails over your head.

It would challenge the sunniest of dispositions. Mine was never particularly sunny to start with.

Yes, I feel sorry for myself - it's an indulgence, I know. But I feel sorrier for the person who says No. It is awful to see that person's unhappiness and anxiousness. It is awful to see how they shut down possibilities and let things go undone so long that the sadness and stress of it is crushing.

I would so dearly love to see this person looser and lighter. I want to see them learn to say 'Yes' and to see the freedom that it brings.

I have joked in the past, a bitter taste in my mouth, that this must be what it's like to live with a sectarian divide. But even Ian Paisley said Yes, in the end.

And yet.

History shows that dark years of misery are still marked by momentous days.

Last week was particularly bad for No's. As a result the weekend, predictably, saw tears and upset when the consequences came around.

Then yesterday - there is no way of writing this but that sounds mundane, though trust me it was not - there was a Yes.

In fact, there were several. One after another, after another, like the sound of bolts sliding open across a long-locked door.

And she smiled, and her heart lifted, and with it so did mine. I know what an effort it is for her to take a path suggested by someone else. I am grateful, and very proud of her.


A day like today is not a day for soundbites, really. But I feel the hand of history on our shoulders. I really do...



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