Its an old joke I have with myself (not a particularly funny one) that my husband collects letters after his name and I collect chronic conditions. He has so many he struggles to fit them on a business card (not that he bothers with one of those any more…) and, well, I find it harder and harder to regail people with mine, so I’ve learned to prioritise what is relevant in that moment. Dealing with a hotel, I explain that I need a bathtub and firm mattress because I have hypermobile joints, or speaking to a restaurant I explain I have food intolerances. To be honest, it makes me cringe and I would rather not collect such things, at all.
Yet we all collect things, far more avidly than we like to admit. Kleptomaniacs to the soles of our shoes, we might not think that we collect anything at all…but it can be subtle, oh so subtle. Like fly-papers to the wind, we pick up these things from our birth and, at some layer of our being, we orgnaise them into shapes…like a stamp album we’re very proud of or, at least, that bolsters our sense of self, the very structure of “who we are” in an attempt to “explain ourselves”, to ourselves (and others) in an otherwise abitrary-seeming universe.
Like armoury we use to face the world, these definitions link together like platelets of “hard fact” against the amorphous sea of circumstance. So, we clunck around in our hinged exoskeleton “suits” of self-explanation, armadillos against the world.
These things we collect could be reasons or beliefs. They could be, for instance, all the reasons we don’t trust the world, “evidence” we’ve gathered and stored-up to remind ourselves that life isn’t friendly, the world isn’t safe, people can’t be trusted and are fundamentally different from us. That we are that one-off original and they don’t really understand. Evidence that “they” all made mistakes and now the world is ruined, headed to disaster, and we saw it coming.
We migth collect reasons we feel abused or unloveable, undeserving, why “things never go our way and never will”, why we are doomed to disappointment.
We might collect criteria by which we judge other people even before they open their mouths. Or, behaviours we won’t accept, beyond limits set around some ingrained status quo we won’t ever agree to venture beyond, lest it rock our version of reality to consider that things are wider, less pigeon-holed, than we once thought they were. We might collect criteria for determining what is factual, scientific, reliable, beyond which we refuse to, ever, open our perceptions and posibilities.
Rather, we might collect signs and symptoms of how things are subtly improved today or, even in just this brief moment, how we are feeling a little or a lot better, brighter, against any other odds or logical reason that might seem to stack up “evidence” to the contrary.
We might even collect reasons to be grateful, to believe in the transformative power of hope, even when things seem desperately gloomy yet still scanning for the pinprick of light. We might gather people’s smiles, the light in their eyes, their beautiful quirks, kindnesses, ingenuity and breakthroughs, those things that ring out the highest bells of humanity and all the signs we are collectively waking up.