I’ve been thinking recently about how responsibilities grow with age. Freedom too, in many ways. When I was younger happiness came readily, bubbling and buoyant, easily read from the smiles on my face. That happiness is no longer a constant effervescent source. It has eased instead into a contentment I have to work at. It’s easy to get swallowed up in the irritations of daily battles and forget to be grateful for what we have.

On days that are hard I have happiness tricks. No over-analysing, a change of environment, returning to tried and tested methods to lift my mood: favourite tracks, favourite books, a bath, a walk, anything to get out of the rut. Even with these tricks, sometimes life is tough through loss, health, circumstance or complexity. Then it’s no longer a simple choice to be happy or not, no longer something you control. It’s a wave that you ride until you come out the other side, and the best you can hope for is balance and forwards motion. Light alone is frivolous, a respite, a mirage. Darkness is absence and weight.

I have a list on my phone to remind me of what makes me happy, what not to forget in the whirlwind of daily routine. It helps to remind ourselves of our own power. To know that we have choices and talent. We can slow down, reprioritise, create rather than consume. Shake off the shackles of expectation and comparison. Be kind to ourselves when we don’t measure up to our own desires. Dig deep and still find our passion and belief despite setbacks. Choose to spend time with people who enrich us, protect our energy, know our worth. Seek to understand, rather than judge. Realise that working in absolutes is dangerous, that everyman has his own truth and no truth is whole. We can cry and rage and still be enough.

So many rules for something so simple. As if walking a tightrope. Does it seem more complex now than when I was younger because innocence has fled, and I am more aware of people other than myself? Of the baggage that everyone silently carries, each walking their own path? I am grateful for the complexity. I prefer it to the comfort of a false dichotomy. It makes me more human. There is light and dark in us all, and that balance shifts throughout our lives.

Below, a pair of poems on light and dark:

Night Warrior

The night rages in her
the stars are extinguished
until only silver fragments
pulse in her palm

She is complexity and quicksand
a warrior goddess unleashed
a churning mass of power
an ache of emptiness

She stalks her prey
through worlds in her starship
twisted by ambition
every word a howl of hurt

When she has hunted
the last particle of light
she will rise up victorious
ecstasy unleashed

Light Chaser

He bows to the sun
prostrate and knowing
every sinew and cell
vibrant with life

He collects light
in a shimmering satchel
a reservoir of calm
for the steadfast

His breath mirrors
the pulse of the ocean
fully inflated lungs
finding synergy and potential

At his core
a nucleus of power
nourished by passion
weaponised by clarity

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About Nillu Nasser

Writer of literary fiction. Book hoarder, barefoot blogger, tea drinker.

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