Column: Moments of Clarity

Collage Crystal Clear Moments
©artwork by Charles Bals / Another Slang

I wanted to like the book Moments of Clarity by Jackie Thomae before I even knew what it was about—those three words described exactly what had preoccupied me over the last few months.

For one, there was this last scene in one of my favorite films, A Single Man, written and directed by Tom Ford and starring the wonderful Colin Firth. It’s the moment that he decides not to take his own life in spite of terrible heartache—a moving scene that inspires great empathy, as melodramitic (and ultimately unrealistic) as it may be. And yet it reflects the following sentiment: You’ve consciously and unconsciously pondered something, and mostly decided on plan A because it’s reasonable, because it makes sense or because you think it fits into the life plan you’ve cobbled together. But then you feel these pangs in your stomach that signal, “Wait, you’re fooling yourself” or “Well, if I’m totally honest, I don’t want this at all”. And another and another. You distract yourself for a while, go for lots of runs, beautifully manage all other areas of your life and then, all of a sudden: Bang! Point of no return.

Pushing things aside or just swallowing them doesn’t go unnoticed anymore. Your intuition won’t let itself be fooled and, one day, the courage it needs to stand by the uncomfortable version suddenly bangs down your door. It’s difficult when other people are involved with whom you might have forged a close bond, and you already know that breaking this bond will be painful. What would it have been like in hindsight to break this bond out of nowhere and without an outcry—all of it boring and above all meaningless. But looking back, the little wise voice that sits on your right shoulder says: This isn’t first time that you’ve been here. When this is over you’ll feel better. Setting yourself free will bring you relief, losing the heaviness will make space for new, inspiring alternative designs. A few weeks of peace, potentially a new beginning. But these are luxurious circumstances when you take a closer look. And if you’re really lucky, the person across from you understands you with great empathy (that’s how the aforementioned author Jackie Thomae explains this in a video, unfortunately only in German): “…In this moment, your thoughts are not particularly noble and you would never admit it. These are the thoughts that you might never communicate to anyone. I think it’s often like this: banal and uncomfortable. And the other person will never hear it but if they’re empathetic, they’ll know exactly what you mean.” Of course, it doesn’t always take a dark, dramatic interpersonal storm to open your eyes. Tiny, sudden inspirations can help you realize exactly what it is that you want on a smaller scale. Accept them! Accept them with arms wide open and look forward to the inspiration and clarity ahead.

Translation: Sophie Schulte-Hillen