9. talk about that book you're going to write
Another Monday, and another overwhelmed and underprepared Megan. It's been a while, I'm sorry. I finished writing my thesis (hallelujah) and now have three days to add in all my citations and references (poke my eyes out with a rusty nail). I'm not sleeping well, it is like my thoughts and my body are running on different timescapes and one keeps waking the other up to chat but the other one is somewhere else thinking about something else and they can never quite co-ordinate their times and places. It's very disorienting and uncomfortable. And I find the spinning plates that I'm running to and from in order to keep in motion, are instead crashing to the floor. And there are still far too many plates to run between in the first place. My brain gets jumbled. This morning, I'm standing at my kitchen bench, making a cup of tea, and say to my youngest, most people are five times busier than we are, when do they find the time to stop and think? She looks up from her breakfast, head cocked sideways, and replies: my guess is that most of them don't.
I don't live very well with a jumbled brain, and I can't unjumble it without the time to stop and think. Did you know that anxiety is from the same root word as anger, angere, meaning to choke, to squeeze? I did not know that. But there's a similarity of feeling, in the sense of a tightness, a squeezing, isn't there?
I have a book I am desperate to write (and make art/take photographs for), but can't find the time to even make notes on. It's called A Map of Longing, and it's about using the small freedoms we do have in our mostly regulated lives, tiny symbolic acts of autonomy that won't change the world, but can change the way we see what is possible for our world. Creative, imaginative acts like art, like poetry, like drama. Like colouring our hair pink and wearing a tutu. Embroidering a quilt with our happiest memories. It is about the things we can do, that may, in turn, stimulate possible for things we might do, things others might imagine being able to do also. That space of creative possibility is a power we all have, that place where we can run our imaginations across the edges of our longing. It may be a small freedom, a small act of our own free will. But it is, now and evermore, a true freedom.
Sometimes, when life is heavy and I am scared and the days ahead are clouded in a dark fog of impossibility, I lie in bed at night and imagine a winter cabin full of my favourite books. I'm snowed in and can't leave for weeks, but there is plenty of wood for the fire, plenty of food in the cupboards. I am sitting on a comfortable armchair in the corner of the living area, wearing handmade jumpers and socks and woolly hats, and I have a quilt draped over my knees. There's a thermos of whatever hot drink I fancy on the coffee table next to me, and a plate of scones and tim tams. (It's morning tea time and I just made that last one up because I have jaffa thins but am out of tim tams and what I really want are tim tams). I don't know what book I am reading, and it doesn't matter, the point is I get to sit there and do anything or nothing as I chose, and will get to do so for weeks to come. There's nothing else at all that I can do.
It never changes the hard days ahead, never makes them easier to get through. And I will never own that cabin, never be snowed inside of one, never had a remote intention of genuinely wanting either thing. It's the idea of it that distracts and comforts me as I fall asleep, it's the idea that distracts and comforts me in those moments where sleep is the thing I am truly longing for.
If I dressed as a brave woman, would I act like a brave woman? And how does a brave woman dress? Boldly, I think, and unashamed of body type and size and scars and marks and wobbles. A brave woman dresses in what makes her feel beautiful, and that alone. I am not a brave woman. I don't dress like a brave woman. But I might, perhaps, start with thinking about what it would look like if I did. Maybe I will never have the courage, but maybe in knowing what it would look like if I did, I would also better understand that it is something important to me, something I am longing for.
Imagine if I had been raised by parents who were not broken and selfish, but wise and kind? Imagine how different my psyche would look now. It's impossible to know or understand that, impossible to change who they were and how I grew up, but in charting what I imagine the difference would be, I can discover those wounds I believe need healing. In discovering the wounds that still remain, I can then begin to t understand them, and in understanding them maybe come to terms with them better, recognise what must be worked around, and what can still be dismantled and rebuilt.
Did you know that word free comes from a proto-germanic word frija, meaning beloved, friend? I didn't know that one either. The beloved members of our clan, rather than those enslaved to us, is how the one word evolved from the other. The people we treated with honour and respect and not as those in bondage to us, not as those who owe us something. Imagine, imagine, if we treated ourselves as free, as friend, as beloved, if we honoured the person we are, rather than felt we owed the world a person we should be. Just, imagine.
And if we created a map of longing, a landscape of the colours, places, people, values, and possibilities of an imaginary world that somehow calls to us? If we introduced the creative possibilities of our self to ourselves? It would, don't you think, also function as a map to living free, where living free is defined as a strong and honoured sense of identity and belonging?
I don't know. I have an idea it would. Or could.
I imagine that it could.
I know it is a book I am desperate to write, make art/take photographs for.