• Finn Dervan

It's just the way the sun catches the water...

When you're punting along the shallow waters of life and all is well with the world, it's virtually impossible to see, or even imagine, that sharing the same waterway as you - just inches below the surface - are a quarter of the world's population.

450 million souls.

Every fourth person you'll ever meet.

It's just the way the sun catches the water that makes them invisible to you.

And sometimes all it takes is a wobble; a momentary loss of balance and you find yourself treading water alongside them. And you see for maybe the first time what the sun and your self-certainty has hidden from you: friends, lovers and colleagues struggling to keep afloat.

Weighed down with sodden clothes and personal baggage, but paddling onward nonetheless.

You always knew they were journeying downstream but blithely assumed they were buoyant; just like you.

Approximately 25% of us will experience some sort of mental trauma this year - but how many of the lucky 75% will even be aware of who about them is working twice as hard to keep their head above water?

I am celebrating a birthday this week. I'm older and wiser in ways I probably wished I wasn't.

But wiser all the same.

I was one of the 75% who knew the stats and 'liked' the memes- yet was unintentionally blind to the real anguish about me. When I slipped into the proverbial soup and came up for a rasping gasp of air I found myself bobbing seaward with some of my dearest friends.

In some ways, I was lucky; I have never been afraid of talking about myself - in fact I have barely ever stopped talking about myself.

So naturally, I talked about it.

A lot.

To anyone that would listen.

And to some that wouldn't.

Including people at bus-stops.

And because I did, I've experienced an overwhelming show of support from everyone; the dry and the drowning and everyone in-between.

It got me thinking about a watch I own. A beautiful, old watch that I inherited from somebody I really, really loved. But for years, this exquisite timepiece irritated me. It was automatic, and I knew, quite expensive. Despite the fact it worked on nothing more than the magical mechanics of Swiss wizards and my own erratic hand movements, I expected it to rival an atomic clock for unerring accuracy. If it lost a couple of minutes over the course of a week, I made a big song and dance about it. I grumbled and griped and stamped my feet. I became quite joyless about something that should have filled me with joy.

And then I fell into the water and opened my eyes.

I realised that it's madness to expect something as delicate and wonderful as the human mind to work perfectly all the time, for ever. All I needed to do was wind and reset every morning and things would be alright.

Like the watch, I am keeping better time now.

So what have I learned this last year? If you're lucky enough to be on-board, be well stocked with life jackets and keep your eyes trained on the surface of the water to save loved ones.

If you're in the water, call for help.

It will come.

The world is full of beautiful people.


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