Saturday, November 15, 2014

Here Be Dragons..

Hello my lovelies. You may have noticed there have been no decluttering and cleaning updates. There is a reason for that - no decluttering or cleaning has been happening, you know, apart from normal bog-standard vaccuuming etc. Instead, I have been distracting myself from a looming existential crisis by re-reading all Dorothy Sayer's detective novels, a Terry Pratchett I hadn't read yet, borrowed from a friend, and an adorable series I discovered at the library (I couldn't resist the titles) by Alan Bradley. If you like Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Peter Wimsey and Inspector Hemingway, you will love Flavia de Luce. Set in post-war Britain, 11 year old Flavia is obsessed with Chemistry, principally poisons, and bicycles serenely around the tiny village of Bishop's Lacey, competently solving local crimes, which annoys the local police inspector no end. She possesses a vague aristocratic father, two deliciously evil sisters who are my favourite characters in the series, and is in cahoots with her father's competent man-servant, who is irresistibly reminiscent of Bunter in the Peter Wimsey novels. Such an entertaining way to avoid reality...

Which is what I am really doing, because, ye gods, reality is terrifying. Here I am, and for twenty three years, all of my adult life, I have been a particular person, married, with kids, and that is who I have been, wife, stay-at-home mum. No complaints or regrets - I am so glad I have been able to watch my kids grow up.. and now, although my life is still inextricably entwined with theirs, the other half of my identity - wife - is gone. And you know, no regrets there either. I have spent quite a long time feeling crushed by a huge burden of guilt, regret and fear of the future, but now I'm done with that (well, I say this now, but of course, those particular emotions tend to return to haunt us at inconvenient moments..). However, that enormous bustling empire that occupied the 'Wife' section of the mental map of my personal universe, is now a void. It is eerily quiet. It is a heart of darkness, waiting..

It has taken some time, I must admit, to gently, or not-so-gently dismantle that empire. It did not go down without a fight. For twenty three years that particular continent has been the scene of such triumphs, such spectacular failures, extraordinary experiments, epic battles, quiet contentment, fear, wars, rumours of wars, joy, hope, resentment, dark conspiracies and, finally, the decline and fall and quiet march into the dark. For some time the empire didn't realise it was dead, and like the sad remnants of other dying empires, still kept trying to administrate territories over which it had no jurisdiction.

It has been the disentangling of those last areas of disputed territories which have been the trickiest, that blurred border between 'Wife' and 'Mother'. That area where 'Wife' may have been, somewhat unwisely in retrospect, micro-managing the relationship between the Dad and his kids. It is a fine line. It is a very easy, rookie mistake to make. It is much harder to let go, and trust that the Dad in question (who is a fine, kind, loving Dad), will go on and have fine, kind, loving relationships with his kids, without (gasp) the constant advice, interference and beneficent nagging of his well-meaning ex-wife. The trouble is, you see, that 'Mother knows best'. I don't know why more people can't see that I would actually be the perfect candidate for Leader of the Universe, because I am clearly always right.

But, by exercising careful self-control, I am beginning to let go the need to control everyone in my family for their own good, which leaves, of course, that big, black void of emptiness where the myriad concerns, anxieties and other manifestations of much of my mental energy was once located. I can understand why newly single people rebound into new relationships as quickly as they can. It is quite terrifying contemplating that empty space. Because do you know what? That space could be filled with anything. I could let it be filled up by the children, but I feel they occupy quite enough of my headspace as it is. I could fill it up with another man, or a demanding occupation, or I could use it to study Italian Renaissance poetry or small engine and appliance maintenance.

Or I could journey into the heart of that dark continent and explore what is already there. Existential malaise indeed. Who exactly am I, bereft of half the identity that has defined me for half my life?

You see why I am reading detective novels? It is all so much simpler when somebody else decides whodunnit and all the loose ends are neatly tied up.

And now, some lovely, soothing spring roses:


Because you can have too much existential angst..

15 comments:

anexactinglife.com said...

Brilliant analysis, Jo! Being a Much-Divorced Person, I have decided the role of "wife" is not for me, despite being happily remarried. I think the terms husband and wife carry too much baggage and too much potential for "abuse" or misunderstanding. I like living my life in a romantic partnership. I call Rom my spouse. I know others may think that is too politically correct but I don't care!

CJ said...

How beautifully you've expressed it all. It is no doubt wise not to hurry into a new big thing to fill the space. I'm a big fan of escaping into a book. I can't imagine what I'd do without them in fact. CJ xx

Jo said...

Dar, I think you are very wise. I have lived my life so far very much as 'Wife' with exactly all the cultural and familial baggage that entailed. Names and labels are very important and really do shape our experience, as I know you would have examined in depth in your family life. Thanks:)
CJ, yes, not hurrying, but panicking as usual about what will come and camp in that space if I don't fill it deliberately. More panic, probably. I think more chamomile tea and more books are in order.

Bek said...

What a marvelous trip inside your thoughts. While I'm sure they are not always happy fun times, there seems to be a sense of contented acceptance in your descriptions.
Obviously all mothers are supremely capable of running the entire world. If only they didn't have to pick up the kids, find the missing socks, help with homework, make sure homework is done etc...
Thanks for the Flavia de Luce tip. What are your thoughts on the Georgette Heyer mysteries and Phryne Fisher?

rabidlittlehippy said...

In my escaping world there truly be dragons. Nothing like the problems of others to make ones own disappear for a while but most bestest of all (good English and grammar deserted me well and truly then but you get the picture) is when those problems simply aren't real and aren't likely to ever even potentially consider invading my real world. Elves, dwarves, dragons, demons and all other mystical creatures so best soothe my soul when it finds itself in a place best not thought too deeply about. ;) You can tell how badly my brain is or isn't coping based upon the series I am reading. Eddings? Not great. Feist? Totally screwed! ;)
Take care of yourself and if it takes crime novels, bad tv and junk food to do it then you know what? That's actually ok too. :)

Jo said...

Bek, love Georgette Heyer mysteries. Inspector Hemingway is a joy. Never watched or read Miss Fisher, but I know Lucinda is a fan.
Jessie, not-scary crime novels is my own particular sub-genre, and dark chocolate my latest food vice. Lindt salted caramel is just hitting the spot..
So what does it say about our various characters that you seek solace in mystical beings, where I prefer vintage murder?

Linda said...

I think collecting labels is a part of life, it just happens! I remember when I was in my 30's I suddenly realised I was never introduced as , or thought of, as just ME. Until I was married I was always " Bill's youngest daughter" or " the youngest of the Freeman girls" ( my maiden name was Freeman! ). Then I was " J's wife " and soon became "C and C's mother". Where was ME? Now in my late 60's and I have a new label: " Oh, you must be A's Granny"! I LOVE this one as I proudly answer, "Yes, I AM". Tragically our son was killed in a car accident when he was 21. In September it would have been his 40th birthday. A week after that I was at an appointment at the hospital and met a nurse I had not seen before. She greeted me with the words " You must be C's mother. I was at school with him" . And I liked that too, that someone was remembering my son after all those years and my name cropping up on a hospital list had triggered those memories of him.

duchess_declutter said...

Jo - this is epic. You write so beautifully and this all resonates well with me at the moment. Escapism is great and books are wonderful. I think you should write one? cheers Wendy

lucindasans said...

I second the use of books, gentle books, to escape.

Your feelings are understandable. I wish I could empathise but I have never been alone, so honestly don't know if I'd like it or how I'd feel. I know I say I could cope and would enjoy it, but truely, how would I know? Yet, we all have to redefine ourselves at different stages of our lives. And I can imagine the grief of your marriage ending, however, amicable the separation.

So hugs. And Dr Lucinda prescribes gentle detective fiction with hours of day dreaming and gentle strolling. No strenuous housework or self flagellation allowed.

Jo said...

Oh Linda, as the mum of a 21 year old son I just can't bear to think of how you got through that time.
To my mind labels are lazy, because they stop us truly looking at the person we are labelling, and therefore dangerous, because generalisations are rarely generous. I can understand why you would be happy to be labelled as Mum and Granny, because they are essential and joyful parts of you. However you, yourself, Linda, are a unique, amazing person quite apart from being Mum and granny as well..
Wendy, one day I need to write SOMETHING. I am waiting on that one.. Thank you :)
Dear Lucinda, you are a strong woman with an insatiable interest in the world around you, you would be fine in whatever situation you found yourself in!
Also, I am speaking from the position of someone who has been in an unhappy marriage, which is the only experience I have. The geography of a happy marriage is hopefully of the kind that inspires each partner to explore their inner selves and support the callings of each other's ambitions anyway..
Hmm, day dreaming and gentle strolling, not so much. I would love to take your prescription, but so far this week everything is breaking, I am in the middle of adopting a dog from the RSPCA, I have builders turning the yard into a replica of the Somme, and The Girl has just finished her Yr12 exams, thank the lord for small mercies..
Maybe next year sometime, possibly February when the children are back at school?

Kristen Johns said...

Jo - Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post. I'm sorry you're going through so much right now, but oh my, does it ever make your writing shine! I agree with Wendy, please write a book one day soon.

Jo said...

Kristen, you are a honey. I would like to write something, am thinking more of articles on gardening, because beyond that I can't think of a single thing to say, other than what I write here:)

duchess_declutter said...

Jo - what you write here is certainly fodder for future agendas methinks....

Anonymous said...

Jo -sorry things are strange and new and a lot happening at once. Big life changes are a lot to take in. Hope the new puppy makes you laugh. and thank you for Flavia - I hadn't heard of the series and I've just borrowed two books and now I want to read them all. Someone has the TV rights so I have high hopes...

Cathy

Cathy

Jo said...

Cathy, thanks for leaving that lovely message, and oh yes, wouldn't Flavia make splendid telly. No spoiler alert to tell you that Winston Churchill makes a cameo appearance in the latest book..

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