It seems so long since I wrote freely here. I make excuses. Too many people know and see me each week now, who read my writing, and I must make amends to my self-expression. I must not upset or concern them. I must protect them from their worry. Nonsense! I forbid myself to think as such, let alone to act as such. I am a free woman. Free to say whatever I want, however I want.
So what do I want to tell you? The reader I am writing to is a person such as I am, such as I was, someone with the same urges and dreams and fears and questions about life, and how to live it. Preoccupied with the stuff of life, I find myself stepping out of the flow of creativity, of self-expression. I find myself trapped in the expectations of others, on collaborations that are controlled, focused on a final outcome that we each contribute to, but which are not wholly my own.
That is not what I am here for. I am here to be Queen of my own Kingdom, to rule over the realm of my imagination. I am unlike anyone I know, my creativity unlike anyone’s either. I am the best me imaginable. And I am constantly changing, growing, adapting and transforming. I notice myself holding onto the things of the past, lamenting a future I seem unable to grasp, and beholden to my desires. I am not perfect. I don’t pretend to be any longer, either, though I once did, in the throes of anorexia. Did you know about that? I will tell you more.
One of the things that used to motivate my writing was the perception that everything was moving so fast, that life was too beautiful to comprehend, and that I was going to miss something if I didn’t pin it down like a moth on a board. I wrote to capture life in all it’s mystery, misery and wonder. I didn’t want to forget. Have I forgotten, now? I don’t think we do forget, deep down. I feel I have remembered things I can’t recall, and it is my body that remembers, the thought or feeling tucked away in a particular nook, unable to be reached logically, but intuitively.
So, I haven’t lost anything. There is only new space created, things sorted and folded, placed orderly or otherwise deeply within, for me to retrieve someday when the hours beckon. There is space, now, for newness. It’s up to me. What next? What do I want to fill myself with for this next phase of life? As within, so without.
Yesterday, I spent hours in my office picking through papers I had stowed in filing cabinets, boxes, drawers and files. I threw away everything I didn’t need anymore, and treasured the gems I have kept. I wept. There’s a box I have which my father made himself for my twenty-first birthday. It’s a replica of the box we loved as children – his own father’s box, the drawers filled with ancient marbles, the lid hiding sepia pictures, faded and worn.
In my box, I have stowed every handwritten letter or card I’ve received from those who love me the most, my family, my nearest friends, as well as letters from readers and one, which brought a torrent of tears, from my seventh grade teacher, Ms Booker. She had written to my family after an interview was published in the Sunday Times Magazine some years ago, in which I described the fact that I’d won the Miss Booker Prize for Literature when I was young. She wrote that a teacher hopes the things they do might positively impact a child later in life, and that my mention of this prize and its impact, had not only made her day, but her “whole teaching career!”
It is treasures like this which I am glad to have kept, not just the pages and pages of words I’ve pinned to the page. Ironically, it is other people’s words which have made all the difference. I once thought the best joy was in expressing and sharing and opening myself, which is still true. However, now that I am older, I’m finding that it’s the reflections I see in the world around me, the increase of love, respect, and inspiration (my younger brothers’ notes particularly put lumps in my chest) that bring it all home.
I don’t do what I do for the attention of others, but for the gentle pressing from within which says write. Sadly, I have overpowered that quiet voice more times than I care to admit. Sometimes there is another voice, meaner and spiteful, which asks me, “Why are you not writing?” and I have to tell it, “because I am riding my bike,” or more often, simply “because you are there.” The Critic stands guard over certain documents which I’m angling to hike through like mountains, and questions everything I think with hands on hips. I’ve recently learnt that this Critic is not an ally. (You’d think we’d figure that out from the moment it speaks.) While it may seem to be hustling and jostling me to work, it is the very way it does so which is problematic – igniting fear, doubt, and a sense of duty.
Lest passion become a duty! No! Pure creativity is not to cross wires with the life of chores and duty. Yes, there will and are times when my creativity must be funneled into a shape, into chronological time and tangible form. But today, here and now, the creativity and freedom of self-expression afforded to me, to anyone, is what I choose. We must not be hindered, let alone from within. The realm in which we play is endless. What next, indeed?
There have been stories upon stories that have spilt from my hands, and they have all taught me something. Yet there have also been experience upon experience that have spilt from my life, and these have taught me the most. Life offers itself to our imagination, asking for nothing, and everything. I want simply to keep up with the magic itself, to stay present, out of the past, beyond the future. There is life here, everywhere, and we are it. The leaves shimmer in the wind, glow in the sun, the berries evanescent as the seasons shift. The sun drops to the sky as we spin around and around it, here for a time, and then somewhere else entirely, but not forgotten.
We are here making marks in the ways that inspire us, grappling with the mysteries of life, of purpose, these wellsprings of idea, impulse, desire and duty. Life, what a life.
In all its seasons, let us love it.