I’ve been thinking about bravery and about curiosity – the former because I’m more in need of it than I ever have been; the latter because it was a characteristic of Matthew’s. I started off musing on them separately. I’m now convinced they are two sides of the same coin.
There will be some among you who immediately comment that I am brave. Thank you. But in many ways I’m not. I endure. I stand up and go on again. Both of those have an element of bravery. But my sort of bravery tends to be dependent on closing my emotions down, putting my guard up, getting all my defence mechanisms in place – and then stepping out into the cold, hard world. That mode of bravery is at the expense of what therapists have repeatedly encouraged me to call self-compassion; it can also be at the expense of taking joy in life. There are reasons for that behaviour on my part, and those are not the point. The point is that my particular pattern only takes me so far.
Matthew had less of the push-on-regardless type of bravery than I do. What he had in abundance (what spurred him on) was curiosity – a willingness to open himself to the world, a delight in new people, new places, new thoughts, new experiences. His curiosity could be infuriating: he had to look at every single restaurant menu in a new town before deciding on a place to eat; he tried to read every book review, and hoarded unread literary magazines for years in case there might be something in them he didn’t want to miss. But his curiosity was a fount of enjoyment and a revelling in the richness of the world.
Just today my world does not feel rich or warm. I am deep in the post-adrenal crash that was – apparently – inevitable given what I succeeded in getting through between August and November. I don’t regret how I got through that period. I’m proud of the services we put together for Matthew, and every ounce of energy it took to honour him was worth it a thousand times. But it came at a cost, and I’m paying it now. (Maybe also it is the cost of love.)
There’s a way out of this place which I’ve taken many times before. That way is to stand up as soon as I can stand, and to move forwards whatever it takes. I will need to do some of that. But it will be easier if as I stand and move I am aware of the richness of the world around me, if I absorb the kindness coming my way, if I’m curious about what life is bringing, and if I see novelty as I go. With curiosity about myself more compassion may come as well.
That’s the goal. But in the meantime here is Matthew on a summer evening in Salzburg, taking an inordinate amount of time to order, because he was reading the whole of the wine list, line by line.