I stand in the space of the present. It is a daunting empty shell. The familiarity of the past is stripped away. I know where I am now – I am a 33 year old mother of two, separated from her husband, with an eating disorder, tendecies toward self-harm, and a painkiller addiction. That is the truth of where I stand now. In this shell I must decide what I want my life to look like. There is much uncertainty flowing through me as I debate what I want out of my life. Yet, as I allow myself to ponder it, I feel the tendrils of possibility and clarity unfurl before me.
I know that I want to be in this physical space – in the house of my ancestors – my one remaining tangible link to all I have lost. And I know that I don’t want to change the space too much. I take a moment to reflect on the change that has transpired in this place since we moved here. Over the last six years my husband and I have made changes, many of them structurally necessary to ensure the longevity of this 75 year old tiny wooden box. I agreed to redo the entire back yard. I remember the day the backyard was bulldozed, and that feeling of sinking panic when I arrived back home and stood in a vacant lot of sand. I felt like a bit of my heart had been ripped out. But I trusted my husband, and I knew he would make the yard into a beautiful space we could enjoy with our kids. He did just that. With sweat and blood he transformed the space, and gave it everything he had, and the result was amazing. He was, and continues to be, a very clever and skilled designer and builder, and his work ethic puts others to shame. He devotes his whole being to whatever physical work he engages in. It is a rare quality that I will always appreciate and admire in him.
My one condition for giving Ross full design and artistic vision for the backyard was that he not remove the grapevine. The grapevine was attached to a makeshift patio structure that my grandfather had built. There used to be a swing there when I was a child. Ross agreed to keep the vine, and to deck around it, but he needed to prune it right back. He reassured me that it would grow again, healthier than ever, but it was still hard to see it reduced to next to nothing, when it had tapered over the entire patio structure. Ross made a single cut in that vine, and the entire patio collapsed in on itself, and fell onto the rickety metal clothesline, smashing it to the ground. One had to laugh – the entire patio was held up by the grapevine alone.
There were other things he wanted to do to the house – repaint the exterior, build a deck out the front, even put in another storey. All these things and more he was capable of. But I resisted. Even to paint the exterior, as I could not bear to change it. Don’t get me wrong – it is in dire need of painting – the bluey-green paint has faded and peeled off to an almost non-existent hue. But I find something comforting in the way it looks. Because it looks the same as it did when I shared the space with my mother, and my grandparents. I don’t want to repaint those memories. So I cling to them. We painted most of the interior. Except for the lounge, which still bears the peeling embossed white wallpaper. I don’t know that I will ever want to change the walls of that room. There is also an ancient concrete copper in the laundry that takes up three quarters of the tiny space. My grammy used to do her washing there when my mother was a child. When I was a child, my gramps used to cook crabs in it. Even though practically it makes so much sense to remove the obsolete copper, I cannot do it. It has always been there. I feel it should always be there.
I am hard pressed for space in this house … it is truly tiny. The land is a big block – on a hill, with a perfect view of the ocean. To this day real estate agents still come to my door to ask if I’ve considered selling. To them I give my standard answer, ‘I would not sell this house for an infinite supply of money. My grandfather built it with his bare hands and it must stay in the family. I fully intend to emotionally blackmail my children into following in my stead’.
I admit I would like to organise the space better. But I guess I think there will be time for that when my kids are a bit older, and less prone to destructive counter-measures. I, above all, want the space to be the embodiment of love and laughter that it always has been. And somehow, over the last year, I don’t think I have honoured that legacy.
So I know more than I thought I did when I began pondering what I want my future to look like. I know that I want to stay here. This is my home for the duration of my time on this earth. So what else do I want? …
I want a career that offers flexibility and creative freedom. In short – I want to get paid to write and to create art. That is the ultimate dream. I want to be at home with my kids until my daughter starts school. But then I want to start seriously looking at my work options. I know I have credentials. I have a Masters degree for god’s sake! But it is in a superfluous field considering the small city I live in. And my passion for academia and ancient history died with my mother, six years ago. I feel that I am supposed to be a writer. I feel that I am supposed to write raw, honest, provocative and confronting truths that affect people on a very deep level. I feel in my bones that writing is what I was put on this earth to do.
Now we get to the serious stuff … I want to live a deep life, and to soak up the growth that life offers me. I want to take up the challenges presented to me on the journey, and to force myself to continue and press on, never giving up on the inherent beauty in humanity. I want to stand in the centre of the world and take the blows with resolve, knowing that I will get up and forge a path through all the crap thrown my way … knowing that I will emerge better and stronger.
I want a life of stability, yet one that is open to adventure, spontaneity and play. I never want to forget what it feels like to be momentarily light. I want to be able to forget the pressures and stresses of reality, and indulge fully in those magical moments of carefree joy and bliss.
I want to be able to forgive myself for slipping into temporary darkness, and to accept that it is a part of life, an aspect of my depth, and my willingness to remain open to life.
I want to shed the layers of the past that have held me back. I want to look at the costumes I have worn with clarity, acceptance, and without judgement. Then I want to carefully fold them up and put them away. I want to step into my own skin, naked and unpainted, and study what I see. I want to know the truth of what is there … the truth of who I am. I want to know what I am capable of, when all my past patterns and security blankets are ripped away. I want to meet that woman. I have no idea what she is like. But I’m nervous and excited to meet her – just as one is about meeting a baby that has been growing in their belly for nine months.
I want the resolve to know that I am fine on my own. I want to believe that I am good company for myself. I want to nurture and listen to myself, and to stop the chastisement and punishment. I want the strength to hold onto my heart, and to not give it fully to another until I am healed. I want the time to heal. I want to stop the incessant pressure I place on myself to have all the answers now – to be envisioning the finishing line NOW. I want to encourage myself on those dark, lethargic days, when I cannot see a horizon and the colour drains from the world, rather than beating myself and numbing myself into oblivion.
I want to be free of guilt. I don’t want it to own me anymore. I want to forgive myself for all the things I hold accountability for. I want it to just be enough that I admit my accountability, and own my failings and mistakes. I want to let them go. I don’t want to keep desperately seeking atonement through self-destruction. I don’t want to wait until my husband moves through his pain, and begins to view his life with a tinge of optimism, to allow myself to be happy and to move forward with purpose. I don’t want to keep back stepping into the security of the past, for fear of striding into the unknown of the future. I want to honour the beauty of my past, and experience gratitude for all its inhabitants, and then let it go with nothing but love. I don’t want to cling to it anymore.
I want to be brave enough to admit that the past is falling away, whether I like it or not, and it is a naked and vulnerable woman that I see in the mirror. I want to be okay with the fact that I have no concrete vision for my future. I want to be okay with the process, and to not let fear and insecurity rob me of my chance to truly know my own self. That is what I want.