A Staggering Work of Heart-Breaking Genius

Godiva by Collier

The realisation is finally dawning on me that I may never live anything but an ordinary life. There may be no extraordinary events or extraordinary talents to discover and to share with the world. This may very well be it. And for some strange reason I find that discovery to be as uncomfortable as a pair of this seasons’ Alexander McQueen shoes.

I am restless again. Always when I feel this restlessness upon me I want to move – house, state, country, and I want change – myself, my environment, and my life – as if this will ultimately change everything for the better. As if in change there lies salvation for this ordinary girl and her ordinary life. And for a while it probably will, despite the obvious realisation that while the external things may change, I – the central character in this middle-aged movie that is my life, will remain exactly the same.
Yet always the feeling is of a need to escape the now – the ‘what is’ in order to find myself in a better tomorrow. I’ve never been very good with the now. Being present is so supremely uncomfortable to me that I simply do not know what to do with myself when I am here. And so I distract myself with activity, with food, with reading (and writing – ahem) and thinking. The problem is of course that as soon as I go to bed, my jaw clenches, wakefulness descends and the weight of my unlived life slinks into the once-comforting darkness like a malevolent spectre.

I used to think I was a woman of some potential. It never seemed too important to pursue it unduly, I just knew it would happen eventually. Now I seem to just watch my life happening like it’s being lived by someone else and I wonder just what the fuck happened. I think it’s called a mid-life crisis (and according to Jung, it is a normal part of the maturation process) but I do think that these utterly miserable episodic attacks of ‘what the fuck happened to my life’ do serve an important purpose. They are a wake up call. They offer an opportunity to re-direct, re-evaluate, redress and, hopefully, they lead the way into a life less ordinary.

Now I know that there is nothing wrong with an ordinary life. (Indeed there may not even be such a thing. Surely every life has something extraordinary in it?) I guess what I mean is that I fear that I will disappear into this life I am creating and that all ambition, all desire to make a difference, will simply melt away. That I will become someone whose days achieve nothing tangible and the highlight of which will be sitting in front of the TV with a take-away, a spare tyre and a slack jaw. I fear the unlived life. I fear MY unlived life.

I always used to think that I would become ‘someone’. Someone that was known, a someone who helped people live better lives in some way, a someone who earned great money, lived in a great house and enjoyed a life that was the envy of most people she met. A small amount of fame would be expected and enjoyed. Now I realise that they will probably never happen. Sure. It could. But it probably won’t and I have to figure out how I feel about that and what I am going to do should that probability become reality.

I am fat, nearly forty, pregnant with my second child and stuck. The restlessness that is nearly shaking me to pieces is also making me want to cry. I know, I know – I’m hormonal. Some of it at least can be blamed on that, but it doesn’t really matter why it’s happening, only that it is. It’s been brewing for months and despite my acute awareness of what needs to be done – meditate, breathe, let go and be still, I have never been less able to do any of it. Laziness and lack of discipline are certainly factors here. I make no bones about that fact but I genuinely feel panicked at the idea of being still. As if what lies in that stillness will shatter me more surely than a heavy set man with a big baseball bat.

What music lives inside me yet? Why does mediocrity hold such utter terror for me? Why do I think I’m mediocre even? This wonderful life that I live with a beautiful child and a man that loves me deserves more than a title of mediocre and yet that’s how I feel about myself. Not about them. I love my family. I love living here and yet I know this is not where I want to be right now. Maybe it simply is this desire to escape when things get tough. I know a lot about that and I am, and have always been a gypsy at heart. I love to ramble on. But still. As absurdly grateful as I am for this life (even when I forget or take it all for granted), I am searching for something more. I am afraid of where this path will lead me and what it may take from me in the walking of it.

I know myself to be someone that has an unfortunate ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. Not always you understand, but too much of the time. I am, conversely, someone who can, every now and wonderful then, be so completely present in the moment that I experience genuine moments of heartbreaking joy simply looking at a garden or an apple tree or sunlight on a meadow. I feel things to a ridiculous degree yet am unable to express how much love I feel or even let people close enough in to feel it. I keep people always at arms length when what I desperately want is to hug them close enough to me to melt the ice around my heart.

If I died tomorrow what legacy would I leave? How would my child remember me? As an angry, unengaged, uninterested mother who never had time to play with her? Probably. How would my husband remember me? As a once pretty slender woman who knew her own mind but who slowly became a fat, bored housewife with PND and a reluctant mother. Someone for whom intimacy means sharing a snickers.

God, I sound so utterly self-absorbed. (Is this what a blog is? And when does self-exploration become self-absorption? Where is that line between something that is positive and life affirming and something that is obnoxious and indulgent?) And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the antidote to this is to focus on those less fortunate than myself. Maybe for someone else my life is positively magical and I’m just a spoilt little bitch who can’t see it for myself any more. I’m sure there is more than a grain of truth in that.

Still, it doesn’t change the fact that there is something inside of me that is in an absolute panic at the moment. Outward focus will help, I know it, but I also need to acknowledge how I am feeling right now. Acknowledge that there is a grieving process beginning for all that I once was or could have been and will be no more. Just as a mother must grieve for the person she loses when she steps into the mantle of motherhood, so the 30-something must accept the loss of youth and all the dreams that may have clung to it. There is a rich cloth of myth that we cleave to ourselves as we wander aimlessly through our 20’s and early 30’s. Eventually those myths become such a part of us that we think that they ARE us. They are not. They are simply the stories we have told ourselves, about who we are and may become. The dreams we have held dear and which we must now hold out over an inky ocean until our grip loosens and they hit the cold waters of our reality below. It’s time to see what floats and what sinks. Whether I like it or not, whether I agree and co-operate or not, it will happen anyway. I may as well be willing to go along with this stripping of my skin, my soul and all that I know as myself. It doesn’t mean I like it, it means I understand why it must be. Maybe it will be liberating. Maybe it will be heartbreaking. Probably it will be both and, with any luck, it will lead me into a place of balance (and potential genius) again.

Feck.

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4 thoughts on “A Staggering Work of Heart-Breaking Genius

  1. oh goodness…i have been away from your blog for too long. reading your words now, i am reminded how much i love to read the things you write. i see myself in your words and i don't find you self-absorbed. or is it that i am too 🙂 but i always find myself wanting to give you a great big hug. at the same time i'm not sure you want one. the self-hatred and the difficulty being in the present, and being in yourself and letting others close and loving yourself as you are and your life as it is. this life you have carved out for yourself, though it is not the one you dreamt of, i hope brings you more peace and joy and meaning than had you actually found yourself in that other life you imagined. perhaps if you had become that other woman and she passed by you and your lovely family on the street she would have been more green with envy than anyone on earth~not to say you are wrong in your feelings. or that you "should" feel any other way than you do. not at all. i can identify, certainly with the "stuck" feeling. it's more that i'm just sure you don't deserve to feel this way. and a "spoilt little bitch" i'm sure you are not. when i read that it gave me a chill down my spine and i couldn't help but think that this was something said to you as a child. and no one ever deserves to have such things said to them. you are a beautiful soul~ so brave and honest and open in your heart. and i for one am so pleased to read your words. sending love your way~

  2. You do make me laugh. What a callous comment to begin with, after such a heart-rending post! It's true though, you do the wry, witty, self-effacing thing so damn well. I am well familiar with the joys of confectionary-based intimacy and numbing, m'love. Oh yes. Restlessness, too, and a terror of the unlived life. Have you seen Revolutionary Road? Quite the eerily appropriate theme for this stage, methinks… and Kate Winslet is just fabulous, but I digress. What is it we so fear we'll find in the deep dark bits of stillness? Yes, we must honour each stage, and its grief, (despite the goody-two-shoes voice in our heads speaking of those much worse off and the value of meditation ad nauseum). It's bloody hard. I'm here. Orright? Love you. xx

  3. Ohhh this hit home for me so much. But you know I'm actually looking forward to getting older. I can't wait to give up this part of womanhood and move on to the next part without so much blood and guts.I'm tired of being defined by how I look and now I like who I am much better. I don't wear a ton of makeup or agonize over my clothing. I feel free now to be the person I want to be.One thing I took up when I first turned 40 was to make a list of first. If I did anything for the first time I wrote it down. I was amazed at how many firsts my list had on it by the end of the year.When you become an adult it doesn't mean you stop developing and changing. On the contrary I think some of the changes are more profound.Let yourself give birth to your child and the you, you want to be.

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