First things first. It’s COLD!
I haven’t been having too good a time of it this Monday morning – I’ve been awake since the early hours. I wasn’t feeling too well and I just wasn’t able to sleep. Luckily, however, I’m feeling better now. If I could just sort out the fact that my workspace is currently minus two degrees Celsius, I’d be good to start the day.
I look a bit like this:
I have a feeling I’ll be working on pen and paper today, muffled up in a warm corner somewhere. Days like this, I wish I was a cat. No matter what the weather, they have a knack of finding the best and warmest places to take a nap… I mean, work.
One of the things that’s on my mind this morning is the inter-connectedness between people and the importance of relationships. This is probably because of the fact that among the things I did this weekend was watch a movie – well, more like a documentary – which I’d been wanting to see for a long time. It’s called ‘Dreams of a Life.’ (If you haven’t seen this film, and you’d like to watch it, perhaps this post might give away a little too much about it. Just a warning!)
This is it:
It tells the (at times, very sad) story of a woman named Joyce Vincent, who passed away in December 2003. Tragically, though, her body was not discovered until 2006. She was still in her home, her television set was still turned on, and she was surrounded by a pile of Christmas presents which she’d been wrapping at the time of her death. Her body was only discovered when her landlord came looking for three years’ back rent – at least, this is how it’s depicted in the film – and the scene when she is found has been in my brain ever since I saw it. This lady was not a recluse; she had friends, she had family. She was loved, but she was forgotten. The film asks ‘how can something like this happen?’
The film-makers tracked down her old friends, some of her ex-partners, and people who’d worked with her during her life. None of them had anything bad to say about her as a person, besides the fact that she wasn’t the best at cleaning the bathroom; everyone loved her, and shared their good memories of her. One of the men with whom she’d had a lengthy relationship in the 1980s (which then developed into a close friendship for the rest of her life) was interviewed throughout the film. At the end, he breaks down and says ‘I wish she’d have called me and asked me for help. I would have helped. I would have helped because I love you.’ He forgot, momentarily, that he was talking to a camera, and he addressed his lost friend directly. It was a terrible and tragic moment, and I was very moved.
Her friends seemed to think she was off doing something fabulous with her life, and they didn’t miss her for that reason. She had always been a ‘flitter’, in their terms, someone who didn’t like to be tied down to a job or a particular way of life. But, somehow, she managed to stay in contact with certain people down through the years, albeit sporadically. She was (in their words) a beautiful, talented, popular and bubbly woman, who had never lacked for company or material comfort. At least, as far as they knew. One of the most striking aspects of the film was the fact that everyone had slightly different impressions of who she was as a person – they were united in their opinions of her outward existence, in other words her beauty and stylish way of dressing – but some of their opinions about who she was in terms of her personality and her inner life were flatly contradictory. Some friends said she seemed to have no direction or ambition, and others that she was a very driven and ambitious person, for instance. Most of them were making guesses as to what she may or may not have been thinking or feeling at certain points in their friendship with her.
The film made me wonder about several things, including the idea of living your life without letting people into it. I’m wondering why people see themselves as a burden on others when, sometimes, their friends would welcome a little more contact or a little more inclusion in their life. Why is it that most people’s reaction, when approached by a friend seeking help, is to give that help without question – but they may not feel they themselves are worthy of being helped in a similar way? I began to think about my friends and how worried I’d be if I didn’t hear from them for weeks or months at a time; then, they don’t live the sort of carefree life that Joyce did. They don’t regularly disappear or put themselves out of contact with everyone. So, if one of them vanished it would seem strange and out of character, and it would flag as worrying behaviour. But, still. Knowing that a person can simply vanish, and be missed by nobody, in 21st-century London, is frightening.
We like to think that we matter, and that we’re important. And – of course – we do matter, and we are important. But Joyce Vincent’s story happened, and I’m sure it’s happening every day all over the world. Perhaps it happens because people don’t believe that anyone could love them, or that anyone could care whether they live or die. I hope, perhaps in my naive way, that it’s rare to find a person about whom nobody else cares at all. Everyone has someone who loves them, and who would miss them if they died. At least, they should have. The thought that a person – a life – who had been so important to so many people could be so easily lifted out of the world made me feel sad for humanity. If one of us is lost without anyone noticing, it lessens the whole.
Every one of us has value – including you. Every one of us brings something unique to the world. I hope, if I were to suddenly disappear, that I would be missed and mourned and remembered with love.
If we all lived our lives like we mattered, and like everyone else mattered in exactly the same way, wouldn’t it be a better world?