This morning a commuter who had been about to get off the train at Salisbury came rushing back into the carriage. Surprised just for a moment, we watched with increasing understanding as he – slightly sheepishly – picked his laptop case out of the luggage rack. ‘This would probably help,’ he grinned ruefully, before then making his way off the train. ‘Lucky you remembered,’ said my friend Martin. ‘I’d have had to chase it to Southampton,’ replied the now relieved commuter.
For him, it would have been more than a slightly hashtag awkward moment to have got to a meeting, reached down for his laptop and had that awful realisation that he’d left it on the train. Thankfully he remembered. But for the thousands of people who – it seems – leave all sorts of important things on trains every day, it’s a different story. For some it’s an irritation, for those who lose something of great sentimental value it might feel as if the world has come to an end.
I once took my then six-year-old nephew on an outing to see Thomas the Tank Engine. Unfortunately my car broke down on the way there and I had to call one of those nice men from the breakdown services. As he inspected the engine, soon identifying what was wrong, my nephew made all of us laugh by announcing, ‘This is the worst day of my life.’ ‘At his age,’ remarked the man carefully putting my car to rights, ‘It probably is.’
Quite often I’ve heard people say about something, ‘It’s not the end of the world.’ Usually that’s a coverup for the fact that they feel like it actually is the end of the world. It’s sometimes – not always – something minor.
These days my perspective on what counts as being at the end of the world is different. There’s a reason for that. The thing is that I have been to the end of the world and I know what it looks like. Most other things that go wrong really don’t matter that much. In fact many of the people that I know read this blog have also been to their particular end of the world and know that terrible darkness and devastation of being in that place. REM’s song ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it,’ goes on to say ‘And I feel fine.’ Actually, at the end of the world no-one feels fine. It’s dark there for a reason.
But what it does do is gives you a different, possibly sometimes better, perspective of life around you. When life as you know it changes beyond recognition and you have to adjust to what one of my best friends refers to as ‘the new normal,’ it does tend to put other things in context. These days I have to admit that problems and difficulties that I may face tend to sit in a wider context that makes me feel less affected by them. That’s not to say that I don’t have days when I could happily shut people in a room with someone learning to play the bagpipes (my current favourite idea of punishment). After all the splinter in my thumb hurts momentarily just as much as my broken leg…
What I do find myself thinking and sometimes saying now though is, ‘It’s not the end of the world. I’ve been there and I know what it looks like. And I am, though bruised and bearing still quite raw wounds, thanks to the love with which I am surrounded, still here.’