"We shall hardly notice in a year or two. You can get accustomed to anything."
Edna St Vincent Millay.
Last year something happened, some kind of wonderful, that I chose not to tell you.
It was in the midst of my Winter terrible, when my whole body was screaming something was wrong, but I, in my eternal efforts to be be optimistic, chose not to see it. (That our bodies do not let us ignore the kind of fiasco’s our emotions want to lock up inside, is, I think one of the more astonishing laws of nature…)
Having recovered from a draining chest infection, I went deaf due to some kind of vicious torture that scarred my ears ever after. I lived in a bubble for a while, wandering about in a dirty dressing gown, unable to make sense of the terrible atmosphere and clinging on tooth and nail regardless.
And then one night I flicked on my emails and the tears started.
There amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the adverts for Viagra and the begging letters from unlucky Nigerians, was an email from Sarah Ban Breathnach, and on my doorstep three days later, a beautiful sea-foam green box tied with pink ribbon and the beautiful flourish of Sarah’s gorgeous handwriting.
It felt to me as if my very own conscience had come a calling.
Sarah Ban Breathnach’s literary interventions in my life have always been uncannily timely and somehow this was too much to cope with. Though physical vanity is, shamefully, an intrinsic part of who I am, I resist validation of what I do to a ridiculous degree. I’m not good at receiving either gifts or kind words, almost as if acknowledgment of these tiny kindnesses requires me to agree with things that make me blush. Because I spend all day every day feeling like a fake and it scares me senseless. Because I haven’t got the confidence to stand square in front of the mirror and scratch away the foil long enough to see who I am. So I pass my days consumed by gratitude and yet saying thank you is an almost daily struggle. If I’m totally honest, I can hardly spit it out and I truly do not know what that says about who I am.
And so to have the woman who had effectually shaped my entire adult personality, she who gave me the blessed gift of authenticity and indeed gratitude, tell me that she appreciated my work, sort of sent me spinning.
A dream comes true and instead of embracing it, you collapse into the kind of egotistical histrionics you would expect from a woman wholly unable to take credit beautifully bestowed upon her. Readers if I was on the edge, it was Dear, Wonderful Sarah who pushed me over. Once again forced me to acknowledge my reality with a signed copy of both the tenth anniversary edition of Simple Abundance and a much coveted copy of the newly written Moving On, accompanied by a darling of a note, now amongst my most prized possessions.
It was this gift that said, hey you are doing OK- regardless of whatever else is going pear shaped, you Alison May are doing OK…
And so I cried.
And cried. And cried a bit more. Then Mark left me and I cried so much the Doctor had to be called to prescribe a hefty dose of Valium. And then I stopped crying, just like that, and a little tiny voice inside me whispered that maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all: that there is only so long a person with any degree of understanding of what matters in this life can go on pretending…
But I didn’t read the book. I can’t even begin to tell you how mortified I am to admit it, but I haven’t read "Moving On". Not really. I couldn’t. Moving on was the last thing I wanted to do…
And then there comes the day when you have no choice.
I knew since the day I met him, that Mark wouldn’t be good for me. He was and is a little boy and though little boys, their cute smiles and endearing ways are compelling, they cannot pay the bills, understand a woman enough to see past the fact that occasionally she cannot help but be a sandwich short of a picnic, or indeed quite give up their attachment to the bottle (whether it be lager or Mothers milk inside it… ) long enough to deal with the sheer headache that is responsibility. The fact is that his leaving did not add to my problems in any shape or form: what was a problem when he lived under my roof is still a problem now, because I learned to look after myself a very long time ago. He gave me no choice.
Though Mark has in the past nine months frequently asked me to "move on"- he in all his ignorance is truly asking me to move on physically, to move out of my beloved little house, so I can release enough equity to allow him to create a new life for himself unburdened by the noose around his neck that is supporting us, to some degree, financially. To free him from the obligation to keep a roof over his sons curly locked head…
No matter because it isn’t going to happen. End of.
I sometimes think I moved on from Mark when I was twenty three, but love is a funny thing and it is very difficult to extract yourself emotionally from a member of your family: he was and is my family. I love him for who we were, for all our innocence, for all the the rubbishy things that happened and one way or another stitched us together. For all the ways he can still make me laugh like no-one else and for all our yesterdays. But I love him like a pet. Even I recognise that and still feel the urge to pat him on the head and congratulate him for being a good dog when he remembers to pick his son up on time, or offers some degree of humanity in what is now an alien face. But let’s face it, a dead dog is comparatively easy to get over…
What is harder to move on from is something so colourful, so thrilling, so unacceptable, that it has you floating on cloud nine. It isn’t easy to pack raw emotion in a box and store it on a shelf ready for unwrapping when it no longer hurts. It is downright bloody difficult.
It is hard to move on from a picture of the future you’d had painted for you in glorious technicolour. Nobody sensible wants to move on from a past littered with precious moments. Though we shall hardly notice in a year or two, because you can, apparently get accustomed to anything…
And more than anything else it is almost impossible to move on from the aspects of your personality that prevent you reaching your full potential. It takes guts, will and determination to move out of your comfort zone: in my case to learn how to say thank you, to snap up the opportunities that come my way instead of resisting them, and to understand when something or somebody is compromising me to the degree that I am almost willing to give up my authenticity for little pieces of nothing.
I can’t say I’ve got guts, determination or indeed willpower in spades. I’ve been biting my nails for thirty years. Offer me a glass of wine and I will steal the whole bottle and more than that offer me glimpses of how scrumptious life could be and I will dream it into being, a reality so true I can taste it…
But it’s time to move on. I don’t wanna, but I gotta. I’m doing OK, right?
The books sit wrapped in the ribbon they came in, on the red cabinet in my living room. Once somebody asked me why they were there. Was everything in my house contrived to tell a story about who I am? Contrived? No. Everything in my house tells a story certainly, a story I don’t have to explain. Every object whispering it’s meaning as I move from room to room.
A story I hear loud and clear. Time to go back to who I’m meant to be it says. To throw rainbow coloured prisms over another grey day and dance into tomorrow.
I’m ready to read Moving On, Sarah. Somebody hold my hand?