The Light Years & the ‘Beautiful Awful’

by belinda

I’ve been trying to tap into my creativity more recently. I lost my way creatively a bit this year, due in large part to stopping my old blog I think. It was certainly the right decision but it’s taking me a while to find my groove creatively, which is probably normal, but no less frustrating. Anyway, so I’ve been diarising “creative dates” for myself, setting aside time to finally watch that TED talk I’ve been meaning to, or listen to that podcast. And the one I listened to today was from Alyssa Monks an artist, on how loss affected her art, and also on dealing with the death of a parent.

There were obviously loads of synergies I could find with Alyssa’s story, how the loss of her mother opened up her vulnerability, how it changed her work, how it altered her entire outlook on life. She also mentions a concept called “The Light Years”, those years when you are no longer a child and are a 20-something adult, but before the full responsibilities of adulthood have met you. Before illness or death has knocked on your door. The Light Years.

I had most of those years in London and they were indeed filled with light. The issue with the light years though is that no one tells you that you are in them, while you are in them. So you treat them quite carelessly, without a full appreciation of their worth. You are living them but you do not savour them that spectacularly, because you may feel that they are a sort of dress rehearsal for your “real” life, the one where you are a proper grown up and have a house and kids and a partner and stuff. Only when you reach that proper grown up phase (like I’m in now), do you start to savour moments. And look back at the ones you wish you had savoured more.

The other concept Monks speaks about in her talk is the time she spent with her mother while she was dying: together they called it “the beautiful awful”. It’s such an apt way to put it, because watching someone waste away from illness is indeed one of the most awful things you can witness. Especially if those hands have cared for you from birth. They have always been the strongest, safest hands you know, and then suddenly, they are not. Suddenly YOU are the safe hands, even though you will never feel ready. But amidst all the awfulness, there is also beauty. I’ve written about that beauty before, about being surprised to find it shining in the darkest of places. Certainly it seems even more beautiful due to its context.

Together it is the “beautiful awful”, and thanks to Alyssa for reminding me of that today. It’s all very serendipitous, because tomorrow is nine years since my mother passed away.

That’s how it works when you invite creativity in, it starts to show you beautiful truths, just when you need to see them.


Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

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Beryl Alexander October 11, 2019 - 4:48 am

Beautiful writing thank you Belinda. The circle of life hey! I’m watching my kids in their light years right now. And my husband and his siblings were able to help their mom nurse his dad to the end earlier this year. It’s awful to watch them slowly fade and grow weaker but at the same time it allows things to be said and issues addressed and they all benefited from the time spent together. I’m so sorry you lost your beautiful mom so young.

belinda October 11, 2019 - 7:14 am

Thank you Beryl for your lovely feedback x

Bridget McNulty October 18, 2019 - 8:56 am

So beautifully put… My experience was completely different, because my mom got sick and then died all within 13 days. But the week we were all with her at home was awful, and beautiful, and kind of magical, and dreadful. So I understand what you mean x

belinda October 18, 2019 - 9:05 am

You’re right: it’s beautiful and awful and magical and dreadful all rolled into one. Confusing as hell. I’m sorry for what you went through Bridget, and for the loss of your precious mom. x

Tanya B November 21, 2019 - 8:14 am

Ah Bee I often reflect back on my London Light Years and wish someone had told me they were to be some of the best years of my life- I now make it my business when crossing paths with those in that space to tell them exactly that !

belinda November 21, 2019 - 9:15 am

That’s such a good point – although even if we tell them I don’t know if they will listen;). I probably wouldn’t have!


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