I spend so much of the time in my head rubbishing myself.
What is that about? Where did I learn to do that? Many believe that it is a waste of time trying to unearth the beginnings of such negativity, that is much better to concentrate on changing one’s attitude. I can see the efficacy of this. I know that I learnt it from one who’d learnt it from another. A chain of self-loathing. And yet, there is a core of me that is at peace with myself, who does in fact like who I am, who I’ve become and indeed, always have been. I think about myself as a child and often invite her to walk with me. I like her. She is reserved, self-contained, serious but kind. Acutely aware of others, she listens, pays attention and does what she can to make everything OK. She is not demonstratively brave but is quietly courageous in her endeavours. She is my source, my beginning, she made herself. The rest is borrowed, a hand-me-down bag of fears, self-consciousnesses and uncertainties. Am I good enough? Is what I am doing good enough? Am I loved? Am I loveable? My inner voices and no doubt hers. Though she displayed her fears differently to me. She hit out, defended while I hid, cowed.
This is it. This is the sum of my life. So be it. It is enough if I look at it deeply enough. If I pay attention. I had hoped for something bigger, and yet, I know that in creating the bigger, the wider much of the detail would’ve been overlooked. I want to be good at everything from the inner world to the outer. And I need time. I need quiet. And I need to be at peace. I learnt to strive, to push myself. I know nothing else. And it is this that I need to unlearn. ‘A quiet and modest life brings more joy than a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest’, wrote Einstein. Yes. But how does one yield to the modest, when the ego cries out to be noticed? A life challenge, I think.
So I pay attention. I see the moth resting on the outer side of the window, its wings fanned out, pressed flat against the glass. I hear the voices from the dark beach as I walk in the late night hours. Those clusters of youngsters, huddled in duvets, daring the night with their vigils. The air smells good, everything is intensified, even the petunias by South Beach smell sweet. I listen to the radio, just as intensely, and the dramas become my own. L. P. Hartley’s short story, Night Fears, about a night watchman dogged by a dangerous stranger, Val McDermid’s crime story about a ‘Fat Club’ with its wry narrator and the trilogy about the land girls. They all play into my work, literally, as I write them out in cross-stitch.
We are re-watching the Midwife, and my mind harangues me for not doing something more useful. I jump from longing to be a baker to being nurse. How would I fare? How would it feel to spend your day being kind, saving lives, preventing pain? What do I do for others? You won’t be disappointed, he said. Am I disappointed? My longing for bigness is an ego thing. That searching for rightness. And yet, the peace, the serenity is in accepting what is. And this is what is. I have time. I can write. I can make. I make some money. It is enough. I care for him. I tend to our needs. I keep a gentle momentum. I please him. Is that enough? It is more than most have. And my work? I carry it within me. I am writing it out. I am making it out. Does it matter if it isn’t seen or read? I feel my time, my allotted days and wait for wisdom. That greater knowing. That perfect understanding that all is as it should be. And it is.
I dreamt of a diamond ring. I’d put it in my mouth. I carried it in my mouth, feeling it on my tongue.