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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Anne Townsend

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

The Chimney

Several years back, when I was still inclined to pursue unavailable people, places and merchandise, I read a small online article about a woman who suffocated in a chimney.

She was so desperate to either spy on, or make contact with a former lover, that she climbed onto his roof and prepared to sail down the chimney. Persistent attempts to gain entry to his house had failed so she did what any self-respecting determined woman does: she became creative.

Sadly, or perhaps fortuitously, her life ended in that narrow entrance.

What, I wondered, as I scanned the piece, were her final thoughts?

What were her options?

Had she tried climbing up, or had she wedged herself further downwards?

Here’s a thing:

The wrong path has only one destination.

Despair. Shrinkage. Death.

For those of us who pursued emotionally unavailable partners, friends, family members, for those of us who contorted, shrank, slimed, slithered and forced, we can only feel empathy and understanding for that desperate woman’s final journey.

Here’s another thing.

Once you’re on track, the path broadens, it’s huge; it’s the ocean.

Once you’re among soul mates, kindred spirits, genuinely empathetic and safe people, that chimney looks incredibly unappealing. That narrow slither, that wedged and forced manoeuvre is as appealing as eating a live toad.

Here’s a final thing.

The chimney doesn’t care. The chimney doesn’t discern. It’s a chimney and it does what chimneys do. It takes the smoke from the fire up to the roof. It’s not punishing you. It’s simply not designed to carry live humans from one spot to another. It’s a chimney and chimneys are narrow.

So once you notice that any interaction that keeps you shrunken, diminished, reduced and degraded is simply a sign that you’re incompatible, that you’re in the wrong place, exiting becomes almost laughably effortless. Exiting people and places and cities and careers, exiting family constellations, conversations, investigations and social events that have you panting for air, are merely indicators that you’re in the wrong place. The chimney itself is not bad, wrong or evil.


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