I have a ring. Like many things I reflect on much, it quickly gained symbolic significance. It is stainless steel, not precious metal, and not a complete circle. But in that point of apparent weakness it grasps an amethyst. It has always meant for me strength that does not corrode, with an element of seemingly naked vulnerable beauty and colour. I remember the day I bought it, and where, the circumstances, the tentative permission-seeking to buy a ring that was feminine, and the feelings running through me on that day, the pub lunch that followed, the dawning fear and awareness that my life was about to change and that there was nothing I could do to alter that.
The ring has been with me, long worn now on my left hand, third finger. At times I wondered whether that might be seen as relevant to others, whether anyone held back, wondered if I was in a relationship, or if indeed it had become a replacement for the wedding ring now worn by a small rabbit sitting by my bed. The ring is between me and myself, and still is a reminder of what acceptance and love are, and that both begin in oneself.
Dealing with loss
After a year, maybe less, I was careless enough to not remove it when doing some DIY task. The gem was lost and I could not find it anywhere. The empty stainless ring looked truly broken, and it seemed also relevant that I knew my marriage was well and truly over. In a back road in town, I found a craft jeweller able to find a matching stone, and it felt that any price would have been acceptable. I think maybe the stone cost more to replace than the original ring. The ring stays on my finger night and day, and I do rather less DIY than I did, mainly for living in a flat, not a house. I do sometimes take it off for safety, but not much.
Some time later, I was clearing things from the loft in the house that was going to have to be sold. I was moving out, and being the only one who dared to take the awkward jump into the loft, it was down to me to sort everything out for who would keep what. Schoolbooks, boxes of cuddly toys and past affection, a spare bed, cases, Christmas decorations, stuff; all sorts of stuff. Part-boarded by me, deep in rockwool by me, wired by me, and a place only I had actually been into, among our family … It was an awkward space that I should probably have spend money on fully boarding, which meant stepping on rafters some of the time. There I lifted an awkward heavy box, caught my finger, and realised I had again sprung the ring and the gem was gone. Casting around, I realised that surrounded by loose rockwool insulation and gappy boards, I was even less likely to find it than the last one. I stopped after a few minutes, because short of a truly time-losing forensic and meticulous search, I was unlikely to find this tiny purple dot. Instead I did what I had done before and spoke to it. ‘If you want to be found, you will be.’
I picked up one suitcase and carefully set it aside, and there it was. Immediately I set to resetting the stone – a lot more difficult than it was knocking it out. I have done this with other things. Maybe I forget the things that don’t turn up, maybe I just need to calm down, maybe a dowsing instinct takes over (and I can do this, though somewhat untrained). Either way, I felt that whatever weakness had lain in the original ring, my determination since, to add something precious to strength, had been reinforced. The symbolism felt stronger.
That’s all it is. No superstition; just a reminder to self, which is important. Where I wear it is a reminder too, that I am a committing person in love and relationships. I can read all sorts into it, but I am left with a feeling that it also wants to stay with me. I am strong. There is something held in me, incomplete as I am, that is precious and sparkles. Together those two attributes give me a better sense of self than ever I had when I was just supposed to be plain, complete and strong.
We are all embedded in constant change. We can try to sit still while it washes over, like a rock in a river, and become beautiful and worn, or we can become the river and be just that – wherever we flow, whatever the change, whatever the pace. Sometimes we try too hard and miss things that want to be found. A year ago this week I walked into a room and met my partner for the first time. I was the more noticeable, just three months after surgery, and had decided that if I stayed out of the flow, I was going to get nowhere and neither meet nor be met, nor change anything. Our eyes did not ‘meet across a crowded room’, and I was immediately something different, rather than a future friend, let alone more. It took time (not much), but we both jumped into the same river in the end and started swimming it together.
I maintain that many things require more letting go than sheer effort, skill or knowledge. In fact, gaining skills and knowledge can be helped by letting go of ‘I can’t’.
This week I again read a poem by Mary Oliver in her latest volume of poetry, Felicity, which says how I feel in a short and lovely poem:
Not anyone who says
Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be
careful and smart in matters of love,”
who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,”
but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all
but were, as it were, chosen
by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable
and beautiful and possibly even
only those know what I’m talking about
in this talking about love.
Loss, change, letting go, finding
We are all trans. Transient, that is. Everyone of us and everything is temporarily what we are. You have nothing to lose other than what you have had the privilege of having or being. Loss is gaining space for something else. Change is moving from one space to another, where hanging on to anything may become a barrier to another possibility. Many things want to be found. Maybe it’s the future you.*
I have real regrets about a young girl’s life never lived, about a daughter’s life detached, about a love set aside … but also a gratitude for insights I could never otherwise have gained. In a very real sense I have been given a second life; maybe two half-lives that can be equally complete. I have had a very tangible sense of being led through these past years of transition from one place of transience into another, and of being found rather than lost.
I have understood what it is to be strong and resilient, to complete the circle, and to hold onto something precious.
* The workshop where my partner and I met was called ‘Future you’.