Once more, I have resumed an aspect of my Old Life and am in Germany, at one of the hotels I used to frequent about once a month for the last 20 years or so. It feels both grindingly familiar and at the same time, very different.
It is nearly nine months since I was last here. Not a significantly long time in the Grand Scheme of Things, but a lifetime in what has transpired in the intervening time. I confess, I feel very different.
And perhaps this is what is at the root of this apparent paradox. Events which on the surface may appear familiar may be experienced in a profoundly different way based upon our internal state or attitude towards them. It's a perspective thing perhaps.
So, here I am in Paderborn, at the Arosa hotel awaiting a meeting about arcane technical and logistical matters and not feeling particular fussed about the whole thing. Time was, I would be very concerned to be making the right impression, to be ensuring my presentation said what I thought it ought to, to present the right image to represent my company.
Now, I feel that the overwhelmingly defining factor connecting myself to those I am meeting is our shared humanity. Ok, their business and mine are co-dependent and there are aspects of ours that if they were optimal, would be significantly less advantageous to them. That's business.
But underneath it all, we are people and this somehow renders these superficial differences irrelevant to me now. I feel much more connected to the human condition as I perceive it to be shared by myself and by others since my little mishap of earlier this year.
Feelings in general have been something I have been thinking about quite a lot in recent weeks. I have not felt like writing. Oh, there is material a-plenty. I ponder and muse about things as much as I ever did, possibly more, in fact, but I haven't had the urge to write the resultant thoughts down or share them. They are mine. Who else would be interested? And why should they be?
So, I haven't committed them to words. And to be frank, getting even this out of my head and onto the page has been like passing a kidney stone.
But here I am, in a familiar external landscape, looking out from a new internal landscape. It really is most interesting. Refreshing is perhaps a word I could use which encapsulates my feeling about it all. Refreshing and calming. Matters are not so pressing as I used to feel. And I wish I could share this realisation with all those people at the airport fretting loudly over the telephone about this deal or that appointment. It is surprising how little that previously seemed important enters into your thoughts when you are lying flat on your back in a hospital bed wondering if you will ever be the same again.
But feelings, they are slippery blighters aren't they! As Autumn progressed, I noticed that a calm and comforting melancholy came with it. Not that there is any Summer to mourn the passing of. Indeed, if ever there was a rubbish year in which to spend months of convalescence, this was it!
But it is very odd to experience feelings which are a melange of atmospheres and memories but for which words could not possibly exist.
The brown and orange leaves blowing about in the street, the damp coolness of the air, its woodiness hinting at decay and fruitfulness. Simultaneously, all these engender a feeling of.... what? Cosiness?
Retreat? Sanctuary? The sense of something having run its course as the Natural Order decrees? I really could not articulate it. But I know what it feels like. And I suspect, so do you. But we cannot explain it to each other, as we can't be sure what we feel is the same. We could just sit and both feel it perhaps, and know somehow that, probably, we are sharing a concensus on what Autumn feels like and represents.
And then there is the strangeness of the suddenness of the appearance of such feelings. They can lie dormant until called to mind by some time, event, song or scent. We may forget we were able to ever feel this way until reminded. And suddenly perhaps elation, inspiration, a sense of the world holding greater possibilities, erupts into us and we wonder where the feeling went in the interim. And we perhaps concern ourselves briefly with how we might retain such feelings to lift us out of the daily anaesthesia of routine and the seemingly endless supply of grey Autumnal days.
For instance: When Winter is relinquishing its grip and, perhaps in late March, the first smell of a cut lawn reaches us through our newly opened windows, how powerfully the feelings flood back. Suddenly, we remember there was Summer and we were really really ALIVE. And Summer smelt fresh and wonderful and brought us to life in a way we had forgotten. The scent of cut grass sets off a cascade of emotions: A feeling of hope, of possibility, of a more enlightened and carefree existence, floods into us and we cannot quite remember the ebbing away of this as Autumn crept upon us. But POW! Back it comes and we recognise it immediately and welcome its reminders of how invigorated we are able to feel.
What other feelings are lurking unremembered and inspirational somewhere within our memories, awaiting the trigger to awaken us to a different and elevated sense of existence? And how do we get to them? Or do we wait until it is their Time? If ever such a time should recur.
Gosh. Writing is hard. What used to flow, now has to be squeezed out unwillingly. It has been like moving furniture around in my head to get to the words and only finding some of the ones I wanted because others have fallen behind the piles of clutter and objects put aside in haste to keep even a basic level of access open. I wonder if it will get easier, or if I can even find the drive to find out.