I make rules all the time, and I break them all the time too. I decided that I’m not going to drink more than 2 glasses of wine a night (I must be thankful for small mercies that I don’t drink, except for special occasions anyway, during the day). Okay those rules lasted 5 days. Judy and I managed to consume a huge amount of wine last Saturday night, talking crap way into the early hours of Sunday morning. I woke up at about 10am on Sunday feeling like death warmed up, and swore no more alcohol. Then I create the rules. If I can’t give it up altogether (which I know I really should, but can’t) I will restrict my intake. I swore to 2 glasses of wine a day, which was fine until we went out for dinner tonight and shared 2 bottles of wine. As we were driving home through the mist I said to Peter that I’ve got writer’s block and it’s all down to the fact that I’m not drinking! Well, I’ve broken all my rules tonight and I hope it’s worth it!
Sometimes, if we tell ourselves something often enough we can start to believe it. And I have noticed myself saying perhaps too often how much better our lives are here in the country than when we lived in Durban. The people are friendlier, the air cleaner, the view more beautiful…. It does concern me that I could be trying to talk myself into a happy life and that I’m not really living the dream. I think that generally I could be described as a happy camper but every now and again the thought that this, basically, is it, creeps up on me. Then I feel a swell of panic and the doubts start to surface.
Last year I attended a creative writing workshop at the Hilton Arts Festival. We were asked to write on a number of topics, one of which was “things I regret”. Most of us wrote about past regrets and I’m fairly pleased to say that what came to my mind was nothing too lamentable, but lately I’ve been thinking about the rest of my life and I really don’t want to waste the time that I’ve got left doing something that I don’t find fulfilling. We can’t undo what we’ve done but we can try to live the best we can from here onwards. Or can we? It’s a lot easier said than done.
Well, for a start, how do we know if we’re happy? Being a stay-at-home mum gave me a huge amount of joy. I loved the company of my children and doing stuff as a family was all-important to me. But listening to Michele talk so passionately about the great work that she is doing (with her company TalentUp) helping young people to make it in the work place reminded me of the enormous satisfaction I got from working in the ngo sector all those years ago.
I love this place but I do feel like there is something missing. I miss my children terribly and am incredibly envious of people who have managed to stay in close proximity to their families. The reality that Kiera lives in the States and that Alex is in the Cape is a constant dull ache in my heart. However I have a really good relationship with my children and although they live so far away, I feel very close to them in spirit (and thank god for Skype). Fortunately I love travelling and so wherever they are I am very happy to visit. And when Kiera and James visit us, as I’m sure they will do in the future, Peter and I plan to use it as an opportunity to see more of SA with them. And I know that Alex will soon stop punishing us for selling the Durban house and regain the love that he used to have for the farm. Until then it’s a case of “if the mountain won’t come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain” and I have never had a problem visiting the Cape. So although I miss them, I don’t regret the paths we’ve all followed that have brought us to where we all are, in fact I think that we are all just where we are meant to be right now.
So what is missing? I wake up every morning, draw back the curtains and think to myself how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful spot. I love the freedom it gives me to just step out of my back door and go for a walk with my two dogs through the garden, past the allotment and up onto the koppie behind the house, where the views of the surrounding countryside are spectacular. It’s brought me closer to nature and helped me to become more like the person I want to be. So why don’t I leap out of bed every morning eager to face the day? Well, partly because I’m old and decrepit and have drunk too much wine the night before (it certainly does take longer these days to get going). But I think the real reason is that I need something more and I haven’t found it yet.
There’s a poem I’ve quoted once before on my blog by Shel Silverstein called The Zebra Question
I asked the zebra,
Are you black with white stripes?
Or white with black stripes?
And the zebra asked me, ………….
Are you happy with some sad days?
Or are you sad with some happy days?
I was thinking about this the other day, trying to get my head around the notion that if I’m not happy, then I’m sad. And I realised that I’m neither happy nor sad. I have moments of both.
Are we all not camouflaged, one way or another?