I recently read this amazing novel by young Aussie author Hannah Kent. Her debut novel ‘Burial Rights’ garnered much attention from critics and readers alike.
While the tale may sound a little bleak, (the last execution by beheading in Iceland, 1829) it is much more than a well researched and beautifully written account of one woman’s plight.
For me it was a reminder yet again of that very poignant question when it comes to looking at the sum of all our parts and past: Are we victims of FATE or our CHOICES?
This novel teased us in deciding which of these applied to the main character Agnes. But likewise it made me consider what our struggles are, how we choose to view them and what we do as a result.
We all struggle, everybody does at some point in time and on some level. The demands placed on us by others, not least ourselves, mean inevitably something has to give. It may be our health, our emotional and even mental wellbeing or our relationships with those around us.
My husband and I, my work colleagues and I, my friends and I, can grumble about pressures, stresses and dilemmas we all face, some larger than others. Wine usually helps us face these to some extent, but they are all very real and in most cases require attention, conversation and sometimes even action.
From this we should draw strength, confident in the knowledge that we alone are not the first and only ones to be caught in life’s challenges. But how easy it is to quickly level the blame at others, or at circumstances. I’m so guilty of that.
When I was younger I used to blame my loses at Monopoly on my brother’s frustratingly frugal habits. I’ve claimed an oven at fault for a ruined meal. I even regularly blame time, as the root of all my misdemeanors.
But just how much of our predicament is based on the choices we make? Is it right to disregard the part we played in getting to where we are now?
“You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult.” Helen Mirren
In Agnes’ case, fate certainly seemed to have taken its hold on her, like the grim winter that stifled her existence in Iceland, in that era; she was a woman, born a bastard and poor. Choices were extremely limited and so luck, fate, providence, chance played the greater odds.
I’m thankful to say that in our modern developed world, being a woman is no longer a hurdle we have to contend with from birth (although some may still disagree)and being born in a developed nation, choices are abundant regarding our social movement, opportunities for work and lifestyle. Meaning it’s not as easy to claim fate as a result of our suffering.
But what about those random events, those ones that just knock you for six. The ones where life freezes momentarily and you are left feeling helpless in a numbing way? Fate like a force of nature, does like to remind us at times that we are not always in control.
I am slowly learning that it is at these moments when the subsequent actions I choose to take, determine the fallout, just as much as fate controlled the initial situation.
Emotions can quickly direct me and not always towards the ‘better’ choice, but the fact is, there are choices. They may not always be ideal or the preferred choices. They are more often than not the harder choices, the less appealing. But they’re there, if I choose to acknowledge them.
“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling