We all have our moments don’t we? I suppose like most things in life, you could read this opening sentence in at least two different ways depending on your frame of mind. You could consider it to be a reference to a good moment, a moment in the sun perhaps. On the other hand maybe I’m referring to those moments where we need to be alone, or perhaps even, those moments when we need to be loved just a little louder.
I’m a bit of a moment man. To be absolutely truthful my melancholy me, perhaps the real me, dresses up 90 percent of the time in loud bright colours, dances to Uptown Funk, and performs to the gallery at the drop of a hat. I did it this very morning. It’s never hard. Someone referenced an item of clothing, the detail is not important and one guy said it made him look like Matt Lucas in Little Britain. We all got the reference and laughed. I immediately said that I had tried one on and I had looked great. There was a chorus of “You look great in everything” and the room erupted.
They all know me so well. I strut around like a matador, all proud and fabulous in manner despite my lack of actual fabulousness. I give off the air of a man who knows just how wonderful he is as though I believe it and for the most part, that shell works. It only works because I allow a tinge of vulnerability to seep through and those who know me. They know I believe none of it but they admire the guts of my swagger nonetheless. I think they enjoy the balls of it all and have fun watching new people figure me out.
Confidence is an illusion and I am the master illusionist. So I have my moments. I need them. Usually I try to tuck them away where no one can see them. I’m like the kid writing answers in an exam covering what I write with my free hand so no one else can see, perhaps not realising that seeing the cover up is enough to tell a story in itself. I guess I’ve learned over the years to even disguise the cover up.
When I write I never cover up. I suspect every writer spills a little of themselves into their work. It’s what gives me my voice I guess, my unique flavour. I suspect if I wrote a children’s book you’d still hear it because it isn’t restricted by genre.
But back to my moments. I had one when I was canyoning last year, an activity which I have to say while it was enormous fun, isn’t for the feint hearted. I remember being asked to slide down a rock face on my back into a pool of water. The ridiculously handsome and fit young Spaniard offering advice on how to ‘pencil’ into the water, didn’t tell me that while he was standing chest deep in water, the space I was sliding into just a few meters away, was for all intents and purposes a bottomless, dark, cold pit of man-eating water. Nor did he tell me that despite its buoyancy, my wet suit would facilitate a speedy slide into the water and the mini waterfall that encouraged my decent would become a hand, to hold me under once I hit the freezing cold water below.
Did I have a moment? Too flippin’ right I did. Cockiness is a mistake let me tell you. I saw a six foot slide into maybe six feet of water and I didn’t even bother to take a breath. I closed my mouth and when I discovered the light disappearing above my head as I descended into the depths of Hades at one hundred km per hour, let me tell you, I was no longer cocky. OK…I may be taking a few liberties with the truth here, but I was having a moment – Alright! That’s how it felt… in the moment.
Now this type of moment… the fearful kind, the bringing you back to reality kind, can have knock on consequences. No sooner had we all had our little slide into the depths, than we were hiked up the side of a rock to jump thirty feet into the water below. Now Ok it sounds bad, but I was sort of up for it until I stood on a ledge eight inches wide, waiting for Miguel to say “Go.” But first he offered some advice.
“When ju jump, ju mus keepa straight…lika before…lika pencil. Puta jour hands over jour jewels lika this.” He cupped his testicles, not a confidence building gesture. “Thena stay straight and jump.” He wasn’t finished. “Butta whatever ju do… Benda ju knees when ju hit the water. Not before – but after.”
Foolishly I asked why.
“Rocks.” He simply said. “Itsa not so deep here. Ju bend ju knees – or ju keep going until ju hit rocks… but only after ju hit water OK?” He gave me the thumbs up and smiled as though I might somehow feel reassured that my life was not suddenly in danger. “OK Ju ready?”
Despite his best efforts to inadvertently put me off, I was ready. I had been ready throughout the instruction hoping he’d hurry up as I was concerned I’d slip off the ledge before I got the chance to jump. It was my time so I looked down. It was quite a drop now that I looked. This time I took a huge breath – something he had still failed to instruct me to do, clearly assuming I was intelligent enough to work that one out for myself – I pressed my hands against the rock, leaned back to get a good push off when Miguel says …
I nearly fell. Sweet divine …
“Not there…Rocks… There…”
Four words. “Not there” was said as he pointed to the place I was clearly intending to jump. “Rocks” meant not there, because there are giant boulders six inches below the surface you idiot can’t you see them? Of course I couldn’t. I was blindly following half-arsed instructions from a way too fit looking Spanish man and I never considered the possibility that I had to actually aim for a particular spot. Now when I say fit looking it is to put him in perspective, to give you a sense of him. The younger men with me ,sucked in out of competition and because they felt inadequate standing next to the feckin’ Spanish version of Thor. I sucked in to pull the zip up on my wet suit. “There ” was accompanied by his pointing finger which I followed and yes…right then and there I had a moment. Bugger!
Now I’m no coward, but the near drowning moment earlier and the near jumping into rocks moment seconds earlier, reminded me of my journey to the light the previous year and I felt a creeping doubt. For sure it was a moment and I call it a moment for a reason. If nothing else the one thing I am as I mentioned earlier, is someone who can fake a swagger. I couldn’t linger beyond the moment.
Now here’s the thing. The moment once it arrives, tends to stick. There’s no getting around it. Balls of steel are one thing and having a neck like a jockeys trolleys is all very well and good but testicular analogies aside, a moment’s a moment and there is no getting away from it. That particular moment wasn’t a joyous “Oh my God it’s a girl” moment or one of my more familiar moments of melancholy. This was a ‘Nah I shouldn’t be doing this’ moment or perhaps it can be better described with the more accurate vernacular term. “Fuuuuuuuuuuuuu*k” if you’ll pardon the French, moment.
It is moments like these where knowing your limitations are important. You either know them in which case you don’t climb up there to put yourself in the predicament in the first place, or you don’t. In the latter case, you’ve pretty much made your bed and the only way out is to make a complete arse of yourself or bypass the moment altogether. Fear is subjective. I’ve seen fellas jump off cliffs in nothing but a pair of speedos and take half an hour to hit the water they are up so high. This was nothing in that context.
But the moment is the thing. It’s literally a moment. If you allow it to be anything more it becomes a ‘thing’ and you don’t want that, believe me. When a moment extends beyond five or six seconds you start to make logical estimations. You work out odds; remember images or stories of some poor kid falling six inches and hitting his head on the way down. In that context you are jumping from a plane without a parachute and you really aren’t.
Before you know it you’ll be saying “Get me down I can’t do it.” Then it’ll be the embarrassment of everyone else being supportive and encouraging, to help you make the leap of faith. But I’m Irish. The lads I was with were Irish. They’d support you until you belly flopped into the water and then they’d slag the livin’ Christ out of you until you died.
But worse still, if 5 seconds creep to twenty then you get stuck.. There’s no more hope of jumping and the eight inch ledge becomes your prison as you panic and start to cry for your mother. Oh No! Never! That wasn’t going to be me.
“There” he said and with one big intake of breath, another lean back and a push I was airborne. “Pencil” he said. A pencil I was. “Cup jour Jewels”, he had advised – My jewels were better protected than the gold in Fort Knox. “Bend Ju knees after ju hit the water?” You’d swear I’d done it before.
Fear is a funny thing. You either get brave or get beaten and it all happens in a moment. Most fear comes when we think too much about anything. Telling your Ma that you are the one that broke her favourite plate when you are seven? You know that one… The longer you leave it the bigger it gets. Afraid to tell someone the truth because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but instead you hamstring yourself and have to put up with crap you don’t need in your life? How many times do people do it?
Fear of the dark, fear of the unknown, just plain old fashioned fear of someone else, all of them have a moment. You find yourself, in that moment. As terrifying as those fearful moments are, they are the opportunities to change everything about yourself. The moment can set you free or enslave you and the only person who can make that choice be free or enslaved is you.
I write about the moment all the time. The thing I have discovered throughout my life is that the moment will always come around again. It’s like life gives you a second chance. You don’t have to be defined by one moment. You get another go.
I have my moments. I don’t get carried away by the great ones, nor overwhelmed by the fearful ones. Sometimes the darker ones get too close for comfort for I think that is in my nature, but ultimately, I decide what to do with each one. I am grateful for my moments for they light the way for my stories. I sprinkle my books with moments and they help define each and every one of my characters, even the minor ones.
Sometimes they require a leap of faith or you have to just take a gamble and you don’t always get it right. I know that’s true in my case but that’s the nature of having a moment. Now I’m afraid I need to go and lie down, all this blogging is taking its toll. I think I’m having a moment.
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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