Something will happen

When I was a young man, still in my teens, Cathy was my best friend. I guess it was, and still is, slightly unusual for a relationship like this to flourish without any romantic involvement, but that's the way it was. She was a bit crazy in a very endearing way. but it was only in retrospect that I realised that Cathy was probably engaged in a daily struggle with her demons. My guess, now, some 40 years later, is that she was what is now referred to as "bi-polar". She was impulsive in ways that were sometimes quite fun and sometimes scared the life out of me. I'd get dragged along on various adventures, not all of which went well. (And to the staff and proprietors of the Bon Accord Hotel in Aberdeen, I can't apologise enough. Sorry!) But, most of the time, being with Cathy was a gas and I wouldn't have had it otherwise.

Take the time we went to Iona. We spent days hitching lifts across the Highlands and Islands until we arrived, exhausted and broke, on the most sacred island in Scotland, a staggeringly beautiful place. Only - we didn't have anywhere to stay, and we didn't have any money. "Don't worry, something will happen." she said, as she always did on such occasions. "Something will happen."

And it did.

Within an hour of landing on the island we had benefited from the kindness of strangers and were given the use of a little tin "bothy" a mile up the road from the pier. It was cold but comfortable and we had a bed for the night. Something had indeed happened, and it wasn't too bad.

Then it was time to go home. The only trouble was, we didn't have any money. And I mean any money. Even the little passenger ferry to Mull wasn't going to take us for free, let alone the bigger, more expensive ferry we would have to take back to the mainland. I started to worry. Worrying is my default state in such situations and it seemed the rational thing to do. Not for Cathy though. "Something will happen. It always does." she said. I could have throttled her. Then, as we sat there on the shoreline, gazing across to Mull, me despondently, Cathy serenely, a £10 note fluttered on the breeze and landed at her feet. A genuine Clydesdale Bank £10 note, a lot of money in those far off days. Cathy casually picked it up.

Cathy eventually lost her battle with her demons but I think of her a lot, even after all these years, and the lessons she taught me. "Something will happen. It always does." was the slogan she used to navigate her way through a particularly chaotic life. But there was genuine wisdom in it. Of course, something was going to happen and of course it always does. The present moves into the future and we can have no idea what it will be. Even the next few seconds are a complete mystery to us, let alone the next year. Why is that so difficult to remember? Why do we want to control the future and expunge any unpredictability from our lives? Cathy knew nothing about mindfulness and, at that time, neither did I, yet she knew, quite naturally, that life was what was happening right here and now. As for the future, let it sort itself out. Something will happen. You don't know what it will be, but something will definitely happen. It could be a £10 note, or it could be a dose of the 'flu. Who knows.

There are lots of times when you need to plan for the future, don't misunderstand me, and there are times when it's best not to rely on miracles, but there are plenty of times in life when you find yourself stuck in a difficult place with no idea how you're going to get out of it; you've lost your passport and all your cash, the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, the boss announces there are going to be redundancies. My own tendency is still to worry like hell.

Until, that is, I remember Cathy. And when I do, I'm transported back to a perfect Spring morning in 1974 on Iona. We're watching the gulls wheeling in the sky and listening to the waves lapping at our feet. She puts her hand gently on mine and says, "There you go. I told you something would happen."





Donald Murray2 Comments