Full in the panting: on dealing with disappointment and dodging the black dog

We’re still conducting the grand experiment, Atheist-man and I. A year of living religiously – well, in the sense of religiously going to church each Sunday, anyway.

It’s making a big impression on both of us. We relish the time to think  –  about life, society, others, not ourselves. We revel in the language and the stories. Assemble some animals for sacrifice, says God. Cut them all in half. Except for the birds. Leave them whole. Why? On all  sorts of levels, why? And of course, there’s the chance to sing. ‘Bread of heaven’ twice in two weeks. Amazing the roof’s still on. (Join in, go on!* )

But this Sunday I confess (well, it is a Catholic church) I’m a tad disappointed. What with a new Pope and all, I hoped we might sing Full in the panting – a hymn to, ‘our Pope, the great, the good,’ in which ‘the note redouble till it fills with echoes sweet the seven hills’. I loved the words as a child. (Yes, it is redouble not redoubles. Just because.)

We don’t sing Full in the panting. It’s not even in the hymn book.   

It wouldn’t normally register as a disappointment – and it’s not much of one. But black dog’s circling at the moment. He can sense I’m disappointed in more than just a hymn. His baleful eyes are on me and he’s dribbling, waiting for me to acknowledge his presence. I ignore him and stare at my computer screen.

I write. At least, I try. It’s been a while since my last blog and I write many pieces. Rubbish pieces. Boring pieces. Priggish pieces.

 Disappointments.  Self induced.  

I disappoint myself quite often – that’s what attracts him, the sniffer dog of self-flagellation.

 It’s bad enough when you let down people you respect.

 ‘I’m disappointed in you.’

 Chilling words from a parent, teacher, friend. How demoralising, then, to disappoint yourself. Day after day.

A spark of life emerges from my fingertips.

Detective Inspector Mike Gorman jumps from the page. Friend of motorbike-riding priest and amateur sleuth, Gerry Carroll, he of whom I blogged a few posts back. Another bit of back-story, to give you a taste for the book.

I finish it with a flourish and show it to my mentor (Atheist man has many guises). He loves it. I ready myself to put it online. Then I re-read it.

Ping. That unmistakable dart of conscience.

My shoulders droop with my morale.

There’s an emotional twist, a vulnerability, an Achilles’ heel in the tough cop’s life. A fictional tragedy, part of my character’s life ever since I created him. But now it has befallen someone real, someone I would not wish to hurt.  I cannot put it online.

At this point black dog’s come nearer. He’s sitting at my feet. But I turn my back on him. Apply my fingers to the keyboard. Seek my solace in words.

Inspiration strikes once more.

It’s one of those days when my fingers can’t move fast enough, when exhilaration trips along the keyboard as I write. I’m breathless as the words gush out. It’s not always a good sign. Sometimes I read what I’ve written – and cringe. But this time it’s worked.  I can feel it. My entry for MsLexia’s short story competition, sorted.

I set it to one side, excited, tense, wondering if this time, maybe, possibly, it will be short-listed. Or win. Black dog wanders away, dejected. I wash dishes with gusto.

Mentor-man reads it while I hide in the kitchen.


I hear a long sigh as he finishes. Then silence.

‘That’s good. That’s very good.’

I format it. Edit it. Check it again. Then – ping.

I lie awake at 3 am on the day I have to submit. I can’t do it.

The story’s inspired by a trauma, a trauma I was closely involved in, which affected me deeply. But it was a friend’s tragedy. That friend, is far away. That time was long ago. But this is the internet age. Nothing is long ago, or far away.

So this is all I’ve salvaged. This piece. Not a lot. Not a story. Not a breathless piece of prose. No competition entry. Not even a great blog.

And yet, I feel a little bit better. I’m not disappointed in myself. I may have lost the best chance I had of winning a short story competition. But I’ve been true to what really matters.

And the sun is out.

I’ll hop on my bike and leave black dog howling in the garden. Let’s hope he’s vanished with the early morning fog when I return.

 * Make your day!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJCxt2DjZK0

I didn’t post the You Tube version of Full in the Panting because they used the Wrong Tune aaargh! Is there no end to the disappointments?

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3 Responses to Full in the panting: on dealing with disappointment and dodging the black dog

  1. Christa says:

    “…..beneath the Apostles’ crowning dome….” oh, doesn’t this just bring back memories??? I do hope you’ve banished the black dog, though – nasty fellow, down boy, down! And what a shame your friends’ traumas are holding you back from publishing your writing – that can’t be right (or is it that Catholic guilt again?).
    This is so good, M. Can’t wait for the next one!


  2. Elizabeth S Ferguson says:

    Hi forgot that hymn but wasn’t it roof raising , why isn’t it in the hymn book will look in mine. Get rid of that dog , send it for a long walk preferably near the motorway ! Had a chilly time in Scotland. A And Z are good and seem very happy with their situation, house is a true scottish bungalow giving them plenty of room and lovely views . Liz x



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