Off the horse

Walking home last night at about 3am with lipstick smeared across my face the thought occurred to me that I had turned into my parents. It was an odd thing to think, if only because – in my case – it’s so untrue. The link, or the echo, was some long ago memory as a child laying in bed and listening for the sound of the key in the door signifying that my parents had returned home after a late night. As I thought about it though even that seemed a false memory. We were never home alone without a babysitter. And generally I would be fast asleep. I wondered if it was a fabricated, even idealised memory. And then what it meant.

I was returning from the annual Sinterklaas celebration at the Cheeses. This is an occasion I look forward too each year, and in fact I forewent the work christmas party to be there. They are happy, joyous, often silly nights of many laughs and good fellowship. It’s the nearest thing to Christmas for me these days, yet last night was different.

The occasion itself was much like previous years. What was different was me. I never quite entered into the spirit of the night. Someone commented that I had been serious all night, and it was true. When you’re in that mood everything that’s not serious seems frivolous – but frivolity is very much the order of the night (and how I came to be wearing lipstick). I wasn’t disapproving, and I participated, but there was something distant and hesitant in me. I was sad knowing that, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I can be moody, but generally I’m pretty well-managed, and on these occasions can be as silly as anyone. It wasn’t moodiness last night – I had been looking forward to the party up to the moment I walked in the door. What happened is that I sat there something crept up on me stealthily. I came to feel all that I don’t have anymore – all that I have lost.

It was the occasion to some degree, and the people about me too – though no-one would wish anything but the best for me. These are dear friends who care for me. Still.

A part of the night is reading out poems and giving gifts. The first poem I read addressed to me was funny and kind and once more made reference to the journey I’ve been on. Almost universally the people who know me respect and maybe even admire me for my endurance. I have battled and survived and while I’m as glad as they are it’s not something I want to be defined by. It’s like a note from mum excusing me from sport because I’m delicate – I don’t want to be delicate, and I don’t want to be excused. It’s a form of kindness, but it makes me feel like a tragic but stoic figure – and there’s no fun it that, let me tell you.

That’s not to say that’s why I felt the way I did – I felt it much earlier than that. It’s true though that I feel separated from the rest by virtue of what has happened. It can be summed up in few words – I’m just not as important as I used to be, and not as important as others.

So what does that mean, important? Well, once upon a time I made a difference with my work and I was smack bang in the middle of life and surrounded by opportunities. Now I’m on the fringes of it scrabbling for the scraps, and talking big, thinking big, to make up the difference. And I know it. Once upon a time I was important because I was a part of a family that loved me. Now all I have are my friends, who have their own life anyway, and Rigby.

It sounds pathetic, but it’s been true for a long while. What I’ve done is power through it, which is why I’ve endured. It’s the truth at the heart of things though, and if I haven’t dwelt on it much before it’s because there’s no value in it. Soon again I’ll revert to type, I’ll power up and set my sights and grind my way through it. I don’t want to do that yet though – I don’t want to ignore this because that’s my tendency.

Right now I feel sad, and maybe that’s a better descriptor of how I was last night. I feel weary at the thought of all I’ve got to do to change the story, knowing that I must (and likely will at length). And I feel a subtle ache remembering my mum and the family I had and missing her and all of that, and me, who I was then.

I wonder if I’m capable of sharing this with others, and if it’s something I should do. It would probably be healthy, except that I don’t know that I can. There are one or two that very sporadically I open up to, but it feels as if I am defined by reputation. It’s my fault that I am seen as resilient as stoic, but I feel a little trapped by what that means – as if it forbids me from anything else, just a little bit, and just sometimes. People don’t expect it of me and nor do I – but when the rare occasions it’s there I can’t share it. And instead I’m serious and solemn and sad, not that they know it.

Now I’m grizzling and feeling sorry for myself, but I think I need that too – and in controlled doses it’s fine. You know and I know that come next week I’ll be back on the horse and following the long, slow, but steady path back to some kind of importance. I’m dedicated to that, but don’t forget the truth behind it.

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