I’ve been thinking about how I feel on some days compared to others, and linked to that, how I define myself. How WE define ourselves.
I mean, do you think there is one or a dominant defining moment in your life that sets you up for something that endures for several years- or perhaps most of your life – that becomes who you are? Or what the association is – for other people? Does it change frequently as you age or is there an overriding theme to your life?
You know what I mean? Not the ordinary, everyday trajectory in own’s life – school, varsity, work, marriage, babies- but the obvious, momentous things that eventually become… well, who you are.
Thinking aloud here on the page but you get that hey? Here is where I get to think, resolve, help me to understand, make sense of this messy, tangle weed of a life of days that seem to end faster than the coffee beans fall through the bloody grinder! Flip it, are you drinking more coffee? And when did coffee even become such a thing? Where were all the coffee growers when you and I were teens, students? Have some tobacco farmers turned to coffee since Peter Stuyvesant’s yacht in Caribbean had to make a U-turn to get off the ads on telly? Ricoffy was good enough then. We drank loads of the stuff!
And what happens to our days?
(So difficult to stick to thread when you’re writing as you think. That’s why blogs aren’t books. They’re rubbish)
Here we go: On Wednesday, I woke up feeling slightly anxious. I was to appear on my little laptop screen so that others could see me, hear me and hopefully I wouldn’t mess up. You know? Like bumble over my words, get lost about what I needed to ask, find out only later that I had put too much mascara on one eye and not the other ( I wouldn’t have noticed since I now need glasses to see my whole face close and that’s tricky when your mascara stick gets in the way ) find that my WIFI suddenly unstable. Things happen. You know.
And as I tried to set up my screen a little higher than it usually sits (it’s better for camera at eye level apparently) and wonder if the light would cast shadows where I didn’t want them, my thought was this ( when actually I wanted to be swimming): ‘You know, I don’t why I bloody well put myself out there so much sometimes. This writing life you know. I love it but, you know? Whatever you write, even if it’s not about yourself. But I mean, seriously, spewing out my personal secrets, getting it out there only to be commented on, assessed, critiqued, whatever, whatever. I mean who wants that? These days if you write something, you have to come out and be seen with it. It’s not enough to write. No hiding behind your words so that people can speculate about you ( I think Elena Ferrante is one of few who seems to succeed in keeping relatively private) but you know, you have to keep showing your face everywhere. Well, sometimes. Sometimes you seek it out also. I mean, I know lots of people look flipping wonderful out there, so groomed and smooth and perfectly shaped lips and sparkly teeth and smiles and all and ja, that’s great for them. That’s great. But I never really thought of myself as being publicly ‘visible’ and I don’t know if I really like all of it you know? Take Liz Gilbert for example. I mean she’s out there. All the time. I see her naked face right up close on my screen when she talks to us. And it looks like she loves it. I don’t know if I do. I don’t want to think or worry if I sound or look okay.
Shall I tell you what brought this on?
I was interviewing a wonderful author Joanne Hichens (big honour for me, as don’t do this too often) as part of a BRILLIANT world online literary festival (see last post) and actually it was all fine. I think.
But before the interview I read something she’d posted on FB and I thought about that a lot. It was one of TONS of questions I would love to have still asked. Not enough time.
She had responded to a post she’d seen about ‘fucking start over, the past is gone…’ ( in her case, suffering traumatic loss & death of partner and parents ) and commented that despite wanting to move on , memoirists expose certain truths and therefore perhaps they are never done.
I wondered about this. About the life one creates for oneself – or is thrust upon you often, as in her case- and whether this then comes to define you. It’s a comment that was made in another session in the festival, to Tracy Going of her book ‘Brutal Legacy’. The question whether her book – another heart stopping, engaging memoir of a different kind of grief, in her case, physical abuse and trauma – has come to define her? (no, of course not, it’s only one part of her.)
But who are we?
the woman who endured great loss of partner, parent or heaven forbid, child?
the one who suffered severe trauma?
the guy who was always in love with a woman he couldn’t have?
the one whose husband had an affair and she forgave him but was never happy again?
the one who used to be stunning but, you know, let herself go a little and became a little cooked when her husband left her for another man?
had a great career and could have been something but then gave it up?
had a brilliant career but you know, the kids were a bit hectic and fell off the rails?
the woman who became a man?
had a terrible divorce that she later regretted and forever searched for her ‘ideal’ man?
a brilliant author but you, know, was not very personable or even likeable?
the woman who started to look like the hundreds of dogs she rescued?
I dunno about all this. I’m sure you can become whatever you want in a way. Within limitations. But ultimately? You will be defined by something. Or part of something. And maybe it changes over your life. Surely. It must.
The next day, I got into my pool at 6am (too late to head for the ocean), drove my one daughter to school, with Bosson, ‘Epharisto’ blaring so loudly that I could see pedestrians turn when I had passed them and then back home on the highway at speed. I even took a little longer route home. To listen for longer. (It’s Greek. I didn’t know what the word meant. Looked it up. It means thank you. How amazing is that? )
(Oh heavens! I just watched the video. Thought I’d share with you here. Suddenly I feel bereft. Sometimes you shouldn’t watch things. Just listen and sing wildly to yourself. He reminds me of Brad Pitt in this a little, except even better!)
When I got home and drove down the driveway, ( I had to turn the music off eventually) I saw a huge dog poo there. Two actually. I avoided them, parked and walked straight into the garden, fetched the spade. There were tons more around the garden.
Something about picking up the dog poo for the next half an hour around the house defined me for that time.
And that also felt okay.