Years ago, as a child, I read the amazing poem Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith and the words have stayed with me since. It’s so powerful, and has the ability (as all great written works do) to stop you in your tracks and contemplate the world, the people in it and your own position as a tiny fleck of something. To know that nobody can hear you and yet you still keep making a sound. You still cling to that desperate need to be heard, to be saved. To signal so desperately for help help HELP but to be misunderstood instead. To have people smile, nod, wave back to you. Nobody has the time. Nobody wants to get involved. Nobody wants to save you. To prefer to believe excuses instead of accepting that you stood by and did nothing. Nothing. Wow. It’s little wonder this poem haunted me for so many years, and probably always will.
And it’s been pertinent for me, because for a long time after my son was born I was that man in the water. I was the one trying desperately, in the only ways I knew how, to attract attention and to make people understand. I was the one who was still moaning, long after they’d turned their backs and walked away. I was the one waving madly in their faces like a loon, while they simply waved back with a smile. I’m sure we’ve all been that man before.
I’m not saying I’m ‘cured’ or that I am 100% a new person, but I do feel I’ve changed my perspective. That’s the only way I know how to put it! I haven’t moved on because I’m not sure I ever can, nor that I ever really want to now. But I HAVE changed my perspective, in that now I am not downing, but waving….