Friday, 31 May 2019

My Day of Jubilee. Or, in Which I Finally Run Out of Fucks.



Today, my darlings, is my Day of Jubilee. It is my Independence Day. I have finally decided to set myself free.

I realise, at the dear old age of fifty-two, that all my life I’ve been skipping about trying to please people. This sounds rather lovely, but it’s actually ghastly. I worry about what those people think, most especially what they think of me. I empathise so hard with their feelings that sometimes I have to go and have a little lie-down. I try to be the grown-up, not for its own sweet sake, but so that people will say, ‘Look at her, being the grown-up.’ 

It’s not just near friends and relations. I worry about what complete strangers will think. I want people to like me, even if I think they are idiots. (That may be the very definition of insanity: wanting even the people you don’t like to like you.) I want people to like me on Facebook and Twitter. I want the people who read my books to like me. I want more of those insidious little thumbs-ups. I want huge red hearts for every single red mare post. If people don’t love the red mare enough, the world might stop turning. 

And this very morning, at about 6.22am, I realised that I’d had enough. With one bound, I was free.

Of course, it’s not quite one bound. There has been a lot of practice bounding. There have been tentative steps and small experiments and schooling runs. There has been a vast amount of processing of emotions. There has been gazing at the navel and contemplating the bizarre vagaries of the psyche and trying to answer the Universal Why. 

There has been a rather terrifying embrace of vulnerability. There have been admissions of shame. There has been a lot of asking for help. If you are going to change your entire life, I discover, you can’t do it on your own.

Today, the cumulative effect of all that came together in a glorious final act. I was liberated. I did not have to mind any more. I could let all the people - the Norma Desmond people, out there in the dark -  think exactly what they wanted to think. I could let them mock or disapprove or sneer. I could let them not like me. (Imagine that!) I could let them laugh at my absurd dreams, my wild passions, my intense loves. Because their dream is not my dream, and that is all right.

I’m so tired of the slightly sick feeling in the stomach and the ache in the throat when I think that someone is angry with me, or belittling me, or putting me down. I get a hollow feeling, and a pressing on the head, and I carry a low cloud of despair about for thirty-six hours. That is usually how long it takes me to talk myself down off the ceiling. I’m sick to the teeth of talking myself down off the ceiling. I could be doing so many more lovely things with my time.

Even if I turn myself inside out like a pretzel, I’m still not going to please all of the people all of the time. I know this is so Captain Obvious that the captain needs to be promoted to Brigadier, but it’s taken me a while to believe it, right down in my gut. I’m an optimist, so I think I truly believed that if I was fabulous enough, then everyone would get with the programme. It would be a festival of fabulousness and finally, finally, I would be vindicated. I would get the external stamp of approval, and everything would be fine, and I would never feel sick and stupid again.

I would not have the terrible crash when my mustang bursts of enthusiasm were met with blank stares. I would not have the smash of shame when my brilliant idea was rejected. I would not have the crawl-into-a-cupboard-and-die feeling when I expected a red rosette and got given a dunce’s cap instead. 

This morning, as the birds sang their dawn song, I saw that I’d got everything the wrong way round. The only stamp that counts is the one on the internal passport. The only control I have is over myself and my own decisions. I have to let all the other people go. I have to let them dream their own dreams and do their own thing and believe their own beliefs. Some of those will clash with mine, and some of them won’t. But they are not my business. 

The strange thing is that I learnt all this from my red mare, and from the people who have helped me along that grand, thoroughbred journey. I’ve learnt that to get her right, I simply had to turn myself into the best human I could be, the steady, reliable, imaginative human she needed, and the rest would take care of itself. That’s how I ended up riding through the Scottish hills with a single finger on the rein and a song in my heart. It’s the same with ordinary life. I’ll go on trying; I’ll do my best; I’ll run my own race. And some people will love that and some people won’t.

I have finally, finally, run out of fucks. I’ve given so many, for the wrong reasons, to the wrong ends, for the wrong people. The box is empty now. That’s it. I’m done. 

29 comments:

  1. Replies
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  2. YESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYESYES

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  3. How wonderful. I salute you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you. Much needed today. xxx

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'll be 51 in a week. Hoping my day of Jubilee is coming around the bend. Love it! "That may be the very definition of insanity: wanting even the people you don’t like to like you." Guilty! And I pretend every day of my life that I don't give any fucks, but that is a total lie.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Absolutely brilliantly said. I think a lot of us on Twitter worry that we are not getting the approval of complete strangers. We forget that in real life we probably would never cross paths with these people and their opinions mean nothing to us.

    I remember doing a job that caused most of the company to dislike and resent my colleague and me because we were training people to use a new computer system that they hated and had problems using. My poor colleague found this stressful and I was called into a meeting with a "big cheese" to discuss the time off she had through stress. I was asked why she couldn't cope when I obviously could. All I could say was, "I have a horse, two cats and a man who think I'm pretty OK. She has nobody. The opinions of people at work mean less than nothing to me."

    I was proud of myself for two minutes. Would I be able to say this now? Was it helpful? I shall never know.

    ReplyDelete
  7. The internal monologue is very strong and hard to change, but it can be done. It sounds like you have succeeded! Good going.

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  9. i relate empathically with ur post, tania - however if it were so simple as saying "i wont give a fuck anymore what they think" and by deciding being free, then relations between others and ourselves would be easy to manage, and maintaining our mental&emotional health as easy as keeping the body in goodshape - quit smoking! - but i dont think it is, becuz the motivations which engage us in situations that can produce (dis)approval, pride, guilt, shame, selfpity, (dis)regard et al, are not reducible to an emotion-free transaction - the very words "i wont give a fuck" are loaded with unsaid feelings - surely its that those of us whose sense of themselves requires accounting the opinion of others can never NOT give a fuck - the issue is how to receive and process that perceived (dis)approbation in a way which is neither bloating nor destructive to our own self - indeed, as m-buber might put it, which serves to evolve and elaborate the relation rather than the individual - its not about me, its about us - as u rightly write, "If you are going to change your entire life... you can’t do it on your own"

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