Saturday, 5 May 2012

Why 'settle down'?

This is a bit of a spontaneous rant. 

Over the past few weeks, I've been thinking about this: Why do people expect me to get married and 'settle down'? What does that mean and why is it supposed to be so important? Why is it important to the people who ask me to consider it, and do I think it's important for me?

What prompted this musing?  Big things and little.  I've attended a string of weddings over the past year, and I'm about to attend the wedding of a very dear friend when I go home for a month, starting next week. I've also been exposed to a bunch of tiresome questions: When is it your turn?!! What?! You have NO PLANS!? Why?  
I react badly to this. 
On the surface of it, I manage to maintain some poise, and just shrug.  I don't actually think the people who ask want a genuine answer.  I have one, and it feels right for me, but I sense they don't want to hear it. I've tried explaining. I used to think that the question stemmed from a genuine desire for my happiness. So I thought I'd explain that I am happy. 
This worked for about 2 of the dozens who've asked. 

I want to be able to share this answer of mine, and like everyone else alive, I'd like to be understood. I'd like to hear 'Yes! I guess that's a good way of looking at it! If you're comfortable, that's great!' (that old need for validation, again!) 

Here is my answer.  It makes sense to me. 

I'm in a long-term, relatively stable relationship with the Man.  
By 'relatively', I mean:  I know I want to be with him. But I also refrain from making sweeping statements about hypothetical 'forevers'. I know that I've woken up every day for the last six years wanting to be with him, or wanting to work at it when things are rough. I've known this even through doubt. If that makes sense? 
And I know that the reason I am with him is because we are moving along our path, day to day, following the course set by our instincts. Not habit. Not need. Not a piece of paper. Not joint assets. Not obligation to others. 
It's hillarious that some people think that this arrangement means that we're not serious about each other. That we could just throw in the towel whenever we feel like it, on a whim. 
Yes, we could throw in the towel. Just like married people get divorced sometimes. Like them, if we did decide to part ways, it would probably not be a whimsical decision. I imagine that it would be because at the time, one or both of us would genuinely think that this was the the best thing to do. I cannot imagine doing something like that to myself, or to him, or to us, lightly, just because I haven't signed a piece of paper. 

I know that every day is special, and magical.  I love waking up next to him, and I love falling asleep with my cheek against his shoulder. 
That is all I need to know.  A piece of paper would not make me know it more. And here's what I'm scared of, come to think of it: That the piece of paper might lull one or both of us into assuming that we know it. And forgetting to tread our path guided by instinct, just bumbling along via the force of habit. 

This way does not feel 'insecure' to me, or 'unsettled'. 
I've never understood the term 'settled' anyway. What does it mean? Does it mean you have a sense that things will be stable for a while? A contractual arrangement between two people cannot guarantee that. Hearts are wilder than that. Or so I think they should be. 

That's why, years into our relationship, I genuinely do not get butterflies thinking about diamond rings. I get butterflies thinking about him. And that's still all that feels important to me. 

I wish we could continue to have our shared adventure in the world, like this, without feeling judged because of these priorities. Not that it causes us any lasting harm. But it would be nicer to feel celebrated for a choice that is meaningful to me, knowing that I have the freedom to change my mind (as people do!), and that that's okay too. Just as others are celebrated for making the choices they make: wedding, kids, car, degree, whatever. 

Stream of consciousness

A walk with a friend. Wine. Full moon. The pale shimmer of faint stars.

Topshop's Nevada lipstick and River Island's tee-shirt with pale-grey palms.

Champagne-coloured nailpolish with a hard-candy glitter finish. Silver stiletto heels. Baby-pink stiletto mules, with a perfect, pointed toe and a beautiful, trim bow (I leave this to your imagination).
A feather headband.

I imagine this with a white slouchy vest and low rise jeans.

New leaves on my favourite, glimmering green houseplant. I fed her with crushed eggshells, something I either heard or read about in passing from my dear Miss C.'s blog.

New journals. With crisp pages. And smooth ink pens with which to fill them.

The simultaneous arrival of this month's Vogue and ASOS magazine.

Watching the neighbourhood cats. And the neighbourhood birds. And nestling in the crook of the Man's arm at night, watching a documentary about poets and falling asleep to a reading from Wordsworth.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Solo Adventures - Notes to myself

When was the last time you undertook something big and significant and personally meaningful and didn't share it with anyone?

I've been doing something that is incredibly meaningful and challenging and ultimately, rewarding for me over the past few weeks. And I don't want to disclose what it is.  But it did strike me that I'd like to underline that there is something wonderful about  having a secret adventure. There's something validating and rich about learning something new, or dealing with an old issue, or travelling, or crafting something, without sharing your progress and seeking the encouragement and validation of others. I found myself falling into a dangerous trap of believing I was making progress with some things because the people around me were full of praise. And conversely, their silence on other fronts filled me with doubt.

I suppose this is inevitable, to some extent, in our hyper-networked world. But for me it started to feel like an inevitable consequence was a complete divorce from myself. The constant facebooking of wordcounts with nearly-finished pieces of writing, the tweeting of reasons why I did not write one day, the whining about something I found in the newspaper or the dissections over phonecalls with friends on the 'state of things'.
Too much. 
I felt disembodied, almost, and alone. Which is strange, because I was sharing so much.

What is that old, lovely quote about loneliness?
That it is merely a longing for union with one's own lost self?

So for the past month or so, I've undertaken a Something that I do not share. And I have no intention, at the moment, or sharing what it is, or why I'm doing it, or whether I am doing well. In fact, I have no wish to evaluate my progress. That too, is something from, or for, the 'outer' world. Judgement.
No, thanks.

Even as I write this I find myself wanting you, whoever is reading, to mirror me a judgement. Tell me I'm doing well to live out an insight a lot of us are having these days about all this faux-sharing. Tell me I'm not that original after all. But tell me something. To the little child inside of me who wants that, I'd like to say, gently, No. Just have fun with it.
And I realise that I'm blogging this reflection. Not writing it out in my beautiful little pen-and-paper-journal. Yes, there is a bit of a contradiction there. But I don't think it invalidates what I'm trying to do or say. It just demonstrates how deeply ingrained is my need to put things out there.

I guess I sound like I'm on a super-highway to 30?
That magical age when magazines say you no longer care about what others think of you, and are beautifully happy in your own skin (which makes it sound like enlightenment. And therefore not, really, my experience of 30-somethings, lovely as they are.)

That's where my head is, at the moment: navigating an important adventure solo, and rediscovering that this is still actually possible, and thinking about how different it feels to what life has now become, with all the technology in our world.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Cabin fever

So I wanted to spend this weekend R&Ring from the conference. On my agenda was some brisk walking outdoors. No such luck:
In April, no less. 
Why why why?!