Departing slightly from my recent style of posts, where I mainly conduct a critique of aspects of society, today I’m going to write about me! I have written about love during February, not so much romantic love, but more about love that has developed over time.
I spent the first half of my life not really caring much about myself as I had so many other people to care for. It was an lonely existence, mainly because I didn’t get to know myself until I was well into my thirties. I wrote my first novel when I was in my late twenties and looking back now it was a self indulgent, barely disguised piece of autobiographical narrative that explained all the things I wished I had said to people, but didn’t. All those early events in my life, at a time when I should have been shaping my identity, were spilled out in a story that roughly mapped the way I had suffered.
I began the second part of my life with new hope. Like most new feelings, it occurred in an unusual place. I was on a 409 bus approaching Oldham town centre when all of a sudden I felt free. The shackles that had held me since I was sixteen had finally, through a series of terrible events, been broken and I was truly free. To go from a state of mental and sometimes physical suffering to complete freedom is a heady prize, and it took me a while, perhaps years, to realise that I was a worthy person and to dare to love myself.
I slowly developed coping skills to face every day with happiness. Along the ways there has been joy and deep pain, but now I can truly say that I am content. Inner contentment does not mean that I am happy all the time. I still remember the way I felt before I was a complete person, and recognise that in others. As a result, I campaign for those people to get a better deal from life, to get freedom. I cannot stand by an watch as those who are, so far, not able to have the opportunity to have education and the chance to make a choice through discrimination, disadvantage or disability. I would never make a sweeping remark about people being stupid as very few people are stupid. Rather, they are disadvantaged or ignorant, usually through no fault of their own. To compound this, implicit forces at work in society weave their way into their consciousness and make them believe various ‘truths’.
I know because I was once in this position myself. I was truly disadvantaged. In a combination of hard work and lucky breaks I broke free. Now I feel it’s my job to lead by example. I now occupy a privileged position both in employment and in my personal life. Because of my job title and my qualification people perceive me socially elevated. Others say ‘She loves herself’ and ‘She thinks a lot of herself’. I guess it’s true, I do love myself. I do think I have achieved a lot, often in the face of adversity.
Of course, as soon as I admitted that I loved myself, someone else loved me. He came into my life and stayed there at a time when it was extremely challenging, another life-changing learning curve. Narrative psychology theorises that life has peaks and troughs and, for me, just at a time of deep grief and nadir experience, I fell in love with someone else. It was almost as if my life was visibly balancing itself.
This was the catalyst for a creative explosion. I began to write again. I began to paint. I began to cook. I even had a go at singing! I became more creative than I had ever been, as if the words had been fighting to get out of me and when the floodgates opened, I couldn’t stop writing! I wrote three novels in two years and lots of short stories. I also wrote a thesis, five academic papers and a safety website.
I could only achieve all this and hold down an executive day job by knowing myself and my coping strategies, and knowing that I could push myself outside my comfort zone and survive. Now I can look back at my peak and nadir experiences and I have some insight into how they have contributed to who I am today.
This impacts on my writing. I believe that each writer gives a little of themselves to a novel. The combination of ideas and unique use of words and sentences resonates with the uniqueness of our identities, the experiences we have all endured and enjoyed. So, as I bid farewell to my love theme for February, I will continue with my love for myself as a complete person and my love for all those who compliment me by loving me back.
This month’s theme has helped me to understand why I am so militant in my views about women’s rights, domestic violence and missing people. It had made me think about how serious I am, how I will continue to try to help vulnerable and disadvantaged people and some of the challenges and criticisms I will meet when I express my views. It had given me even more confidence to chase my dream of completing my series of five novels because I feel I have a renewed clarity of purpose.
Critique leveled at myself personally combined with several vocal critiques of my novels have revealed some interesting insights. Each of my novels has annoyed someone somewhere in some way. I now realise that it may be because the things I have written about resonate deep inside, somewhere we are trying to hide some things away. It’s there on the page, staring up to mirror our dirty little secrets.
It’s a breakthrough for me, a notion of the discomfort people express about Jinny and the way they must clarify how they are so just not like her. How they could never, never be like her! Reflecting my own experiences, my writing covers the deep downs and ups of nadir and peak experience.
So despite a rough ride, a broken heart, revelations and a large dose of misunderstanding, I say goodbye to love.
Next month’s theme is – wait for it – writing! I’m going to write blog posts about my experiences so far with writing and about my writing.