I had a visitor this weekend, who will…should all finally go according to plan… be the last I will receive in this house. My ex-husband came over from France to see his sons and meet his granddaughter. It seems rather fitting as I draw a line under recent decades and turn to face a new phase of my life.
We were married some 33 years ago and much water has flowed under that proverbial bridge since then. Life has been a varied ride, with ups, downs and a number of corners taken on two wheels, yet it occurred to me that this is the first time since I first left to work in France all those years ago, that I have chosen a new beginning and turned a page just for myself.
From childhood to altar, I sought to ‘belong’, defining myself in the roles dictated by society as daughter, wife and mother… all valid roles and ones I am grateful to have known. All expected and acceptable roles. But all of them dependent upon the validating presence of others.
The periods in-between, where I did not actively claim these roles as my own, were always waiting times, passages through a desire to be labelled, neatly boxed and conform to a pre-determined mould that would give an elusive and illusory meaning to my fragile vision of self.
It is an easy trap to fall into and catches many of us unawares.
It is only in the last few years that I have gradually moved away from such a self-imposed definition. I am, and always will be, mother and daughter, but I now know that these are not all that I am. I am busy with the adventure of learning how to be nothing more…or less… than myself and I am about to start creating the first home I will ever have made just for me.
After a year of hassle trying to sort things out, I am finally moving house. In a complicated three-way process, a family with too many children for their home will get a big house with enough bedrooms, my son will get a middle-sized house with a bedroom for my granddaughter, and I will get a nice little garden flat that will be just right.
The new garden is, for the time being, nothing more than a patch of grass with a shed. This is perfect… I won’t need to worry about doing anything other than mowing for a while. It is not as if I will be starved of green… there are fields at the bottom of the garden, complete with cows, a cloud of crows and resident red kites. Quite what Ani will make of them remains to be seen… pigeons are bad enough!
The flat is right on the edge of the village too, with more fields and even a hill beyond…and hills are a bit of a rarity round here in the Vale. A nice bathroom with a shower that actually does more than dribble, a good-sized dining-kitchen, bedroom and living room… and French doors that open into the garden.
What it doesn’t have is space for the accumulated possessions of the past fifteen years in this house and thirty-two years of raising a family. I did go through and declutter when the last of them left home, but I seem to have expanded into the space and I will have my work cut out the next few days, reducing it to the bare minimum.
This is not a part of the process I am looking forward to in physical or practical terms, but I am thoroughly enjoying stripping back to basics. There will be no space for anything else. Granted, those basics include rather more books than are strictly necessary, but I should may would like to bring myself to donate at least half of them to charity.
Carpets I don’t have to worry about… there are nice wooden floors that I will love and Ani will hate. Moving the furniture should not be too big a job… most of mine is built-in and can’t come with me. Unfortunately, that includes all the bookcases. The biggest job by far is actually getting rid of the things I cannot take… which happens to be most of it. I am really looking forward to having less to worry about. It is just the getting there…
… and that is the same with self-image. All the accumulated rubbish we hoard hides the simplicity and bare truth of our being. To see ourselves clearly, it has to go. It can be an uncomfortable process, sifting through it all and discarding the unnecessary and effete to get back to the basics of who we are. Like Goldilocks, it is all trial and error until we find the point of balance where we can see that we are ‘just right’ as we are. But when it is done, there is a lightness of being that makes the process worthwhile.
For the next couple of weeks, life will be rather hit and miss here, especially online; I will be busy and will not, for some part of that, have an internet connection at home. All I can say is, please bear with me.
– The red kite outside the window was captured by my younger son, Alex, on his phone.