this too
Friday, May 12, 2006
  Moving on - well, trying to


The blurt below was probably the nadir of my introspection, I don't think I'll go there again, although you never know. The blog as therapy, or as significant other for those of us who don't have one, is an interesting phenomenon. I've found it powerful and see that others also do, although many might not choose to read. Those of you who did, and left comments or linked to me, are amazing. Your generous and thoughtful responses warm my heart and keep me company.

Those who said I was describing them too, to some extent - well, you made me feel human. Thank you. No words suffice. As a student of the dharma myself, Leslee's and Isabel's wise words bring a message I can't hear too often, whose truth I've touched and known and will continue to reach for. Greg makes an excellent point: since I like to write, I might try writing something more cheerful! I'd really like to do that.

This was the end, the heart of something. It isn't going to go away. But life makes room alongside, or it doesn't. Even as I wrote it, and then spent much of the following few days thinking about it, the season turned here in London and we had the first really warm days. The sun shone strongly on the ghastliness and the beauty of everything, and I can choose to feel I'm part of it all - or not.

So, I'm choosing to try and move on and, as a gesture in that direction, finally getting around to a long-planned move to TypePad.

Friday, May 05, 2006

It’s been hard to write anything recently. Well, you can figure that out from the little written here. Too much going on, both at work, which doesn’t get any less busy and stressful, and in life, with major changes hovering about but not yet materialising. Perhaps the particular recent possibilities for moving home will not materialise. I don’t know yet and the uncertainty is pretty draining. But thinking them through has certainly brought the reality of coming change much closer. What’s more, these challenges of stress and change have brought me up hard and shockingly against my own primal and inexorable blocks and limitations. This is a snapshot of facing those blocks. It isn't how I feel all the time.

When I was a child, I felt completely safe and secure. My parents were deeply motivated by a Protestant ethic of duty to work, family and ‘decent’ standards of behaviour. Both of them clever, but ill-educated, they worked in entry-level clerical jobs which no doubt bored and humiliated them. They were never out of work for more than a few weeks, never late, almost never off sick, and I’m sure they were hugely conscientious. Although there was barely enough money, it was budgeted carefully: food on the table, on the dot, three times a day. If bills could not be paid, I never heard about it. I think they were paid, thanks to rigorous scrimping and saving, few clothes, no treats, no hobbies. In the eighteen years we lived together, I remember my parents going out in the evening perhaps twice. They didn’t get along and clearly didn’t make each other happy, but decent people, decent parents, didn’t separate.

What a huge sacrifice they made! I wish I was more grateful. It’s hard to be grateful because decency doesn’t include kindness, and it doesn’t include fun. The security I felt as a child was security under a cloud of unhappiness, a cloud whose darkness I only fully realised when I stepped out from under it.

If the total security of childhood home and family is also really miserable, if you escape from it eventually, when you can’t stand it any longer, it can mean you’ve internalised unbearable contradictions. To know again the security of home and kin and being in your place is both what you most want and what you most dread. This is, dispiritingly, my case. I’m wary, fickle, indecisive and elusive, both emotionally and materially. I touch, withdraw and always in the end remain alone. This is the pattern, over and over, only clearer as the years advance. Self-awareness is worth little unless it changes behaviour.

Change behaviour? Look at everybody else, how entwined, how anchored you are in family, lovers, home and obligations. The gulf between us is just too great now. Loner is a man: knight, cowboy, tramp. Woman as loner is nothing. Yes, how can this belief coexist with an adult lifetime of ardent feminism? But it does. I feel wispy, barely here, after so many years of drifting. Moving to the country, home, community, spiritual community, words, writing, communication: sometimes, often, these seem no more than a dream.

Looking back, seeing where this comes from, I am sorry, sorry to be bitter. Fucking up my life is my responsibility. Of course it is. Not my parents’. I wish I could pluck out the past, be someone else. Except that, in the end, like most of us, I think, I’ve never really wanted to be someone else, just a happier version of myself.

Breathe deeply, then, and take a firm grip on the handle of the door to change. My hand passes straight through it. Trying so hard not to be here, I have turned myself into a ghost.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
  One or more

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I’ve been half deaf this past week, from an ear infection; probably not even half, more like a quarter. Not so much deaf as ‘hard of hearing’ - and it’s much harder than I imagined.

Monday morning: zipped into office persona, click-clack efficient, not really me, but I’m good at pretending. When I pick up the phone I hear a muffled murmur. What? sorry? could you…? Tired from a night of sleep disturbed by pain, I drop the phone while transferring it from my blocked right ear to my good left ear. I NEVER hold the phone to my left ear; it feels all wrong. Every reflex of automatic, easy functioning in the world protests.

My friend, my good friend at work, comes in looking anxious and intense. Closes the door behind her. Something on her mind. It’s often not easy to move from professional mode to ‘really talking’, but today it’s much more difficult than usual. Unclear consonants slide away and I keep saying: what did you say? I can see she thinks it’s her strong Russian accent, that it must be extra strong today for some reason. She peters to a halt, embarrassed, undermined. It’s not you. It’s me. My ear’s blocked. She’s unconvinced. Meaningful conversation fails to flower.

So, here we are, in the early evening, at the Buddhist Centre. Diamonds of sunlight blink on the carpet inside the circle of cushions and dapple the Buddha’s bronze belly. I want to breathe softly and stroke all of it, all of us, with gentle fingertips. After meditation, we move into pairs to talk about a rather deep, subtle issue raised by the teacher. I haven’t met this woman next to me before, and I like the look of her. I’d like to say something warm and perceptive that sends her home feeling heard, attended to, with food for thought. But here, surrounded by half a dozen other sotto voce conversations, I can barely distinguish her words at all. So it’s mostly what? again, drawing all her puzzled, sympathetic attention to myself, and having to explain: it’s my ear… I’m not comfortable introducing a stranger to my ear. It provokes all kinds of vulnerable, embarrassed feelings.

What? - the week’s refrain. Think of it as the Zen koan: what is this? Many answers; no answer. Well, it’s more than I thought; a small thing, but its impact far from small. Coming up hard against habits and emotions, it’s been one of those fleeting, interesting glimpses the sick or injured able have of disability. We say we didn’t realise, we’ll remember this… and usually we don’t.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
  Wood anemones

My favourites, I think. They blink like stars beneath the trees - different from last year, not spread so thickly on the woodland floor, but each flower bigger, brighter, wider open.


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Location: London, UK

Freelance copy-editor and translator. Keen on language, literature, photography, art, music, buddhist meditation and the countryside.

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