I was just about to share with you a fulsome complaint about the state of the Signs barnet (I am having a bad hair month) when I was struck by a profound thought. Bear with me, as they teach them to say at call centres, especially when it looks as though there may be trouble ahead and no possibility of resolution (our fridge light is not working, it has been kaput for several months, we have a British Gas kitchen appliance service agreement that should deal with this, they are apparently working 'night and day' to resolve etc etc). There is much that I could be complaining about. The state of my fake Ugg boots, fact of the heel being conspicuously worn when I hardly, I mean to say, really walk any length to brag about; I have put on weight and it isn't even Christmas yet; it is cold in the Signs bedroom because the loft has never been properly lagged and we just can't - etc; and so on, including the hair and the fridge light, as outlined above.
The profound thought that barged into my consciousness is this: complaining is really a luxury activity. Don't get me wrong - I am all for complaining often and loudly, especially about poorly-administered service agreements. My 'musn't grumble' stance is ironic, not from the heart or from any conviction that there is merit in keeping stumm about the variety of aggravation that life throws at you. But complaining, if you are going to do it properly, takes energy, life forces, sure ground beneath your feet of the sort that stems from a feeling that all is fundamentally well, were it not for the malfunctioning fridge light (the sound on my computer has gone mute btw, and there is a crack in our recently-acquired toilet seat, just so you know).
Consider this: when you are in your mid-thirties you complain about the fact of getting older. You crack on about how you are now, technically, middle-aged, you don't stay up all night drinking as you did in your teens and twenties and you can't so easily ignore the bronchial cough from all the cigarettes you smoke. In your mid-forties you are much less loud about all this. You paint over the grey bits and generally stop drawing attention to age-related matters especially as some of them might have become embarassing. In your mid-fifties you either kind of shut up about it or you say something properly interesting, or write poety. You understand in your soul that we are mortal and memento mori becomes a mantra worth considering. It is all too close to the bone for mere complaint.
When life becomes properly hard, with fear, pain, illness or hunger as constant presences, things go quiet, or something quite different happens.
The silver swan, who living had no note,
when death approached unlocked her silent throat.
I do not think you will easily find someone with M.E. complaining about what the disease has done, is doing, to their lives. You disagree, perhaps - think that there is an endless stream of complaint from the M.E/CFS community, enough to make you want to switch off, but what you see does not touch on the heart of the matter.
I have said this before and will say it again: there are people living the severe version of the condition you have heard referred to as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and what they endure is unspeakable and heroic. Some, with difficulty and extraordinary tenacity, manage to write about it, speak the truth. When they do, the words are song-like. They give utterance to something mysterious: how we can be in seemingly impossible conditions, maligned and forsaken, and yet bear witness. Lament is the purest form of song I know.
Greetings to y'all this newly starlit Advent - and to you, the singers: I listen, I hear, I lend my voice.