In church this week, Debbie told us that her Grandma Emily used to exclaim “Good Gar-dening stuff!” in place of swearing. Aside from being obviously pleased to learn a charming new synonym for s*** on my Sunday morning, it was good to be reminded of the merits of poo.
As I write this, I am sat woozily in bed with covid, feeling the loss of plans I was greatly looking forward too. I am feeling much more compost-heap than flower-bed, much more fallow-field than spring-meadow.
This is not just because of covid. I am also suffering from an affliction I have recently declared to be named Narrative Disappointment. In the last few months there have been a couple of big changes which have run counter to the narrative I had set-up for them. I feel sad, minorly bitter, and adrift.
As a sufferer, I can tell you that one of the symptoms of narrative disappointment is desperation: being driven in vain to engineer plot twists and re-write the backstory to accommodate unwelcome developments. In contrast, as a prospective survivor, I can tell you one of the cures of narrative disappointment is acceptance: summoning the grace and wit to rename the chapter “Good Gardening Stuff”.
The causes of my current affliction are very run-of-the-mill, and I should (and do) know that life doesn’t owe me conformity to my own whims, much as I should like that. Nevertheless, I am also experiencing the other main symptom of narrative disappointment: feeling hard-done-by.
In the recent BBC documentary series ‘Freeze’, which follows Britain’s top ice-skaters, athletes routinely miss out on qualifying for tournaments, fall over on the ice, get injured, and receive disappointing scores. The seeming randomness to these variables is maddening, and the possibilities for cases of narrative disappointment seemingly endless.
The best athletes, of course, readily accept setbacks and use them as fuel to grow. Rather than ask, ‘why me?’, they ask, ‘why not me?’ …I am clearly not in the same league as these athletes, because I feel rather more inclined to sulk!
For the moment, writing out some of these feelings will have to be enough. It’s a statement of intent towards finding the grace I need to traverse this time, rather than treating it disdainfully as a write-off.
After all, I am told good gardening stuff is an excellent fertiliser.