When I quit my job to become a freelancer a couple of years back, I made a little agreement with myself. Okay, maybe not so little, but all the same an agreement that seems to only get easier with time… A bit on the tricky side in the very beginning! It was an agreement to dedicate myself to living an intentional life. For too long, I’d done things – taken on jobs, bought clothes, maintained frivolous friendships – all because they seemed like the things I should be doing, from my relationships with men, down to the highlights in my hair. But the truth is, any happiness they may have brought me was short-lived, ultimately little more than a passing fling. They were just cheap thrills, never made to endure, and each and every time, without fail, the longing would set in, the longing for something I could sink my teeth into, for something that always felt just beyond my grasp. And what I really craved was a life-long love affair with myself.
I had already begun to entertain similar thoughts, mulling them over after my breakdown at the end of 2012. Even then I faltered, in spite of myself, so desperate to prove that I was finally better. But after a year of that, I could no longer fool myself. It was time for a change. A real change. The kind of change that demands nothing short of a total shift when it comes to who you thought you were. Well, where has that left me today? I’d like to think better off than I’ve ever been. That is, if I’m honest, and you can forgive what may sound at first like a humble (or not so humble) bit of bragging. Truth be told, slowly but surely, I’ve begun to do the things that truly and deeply resonate with who I am and more importantly, the kind of person I want to be, letting others think what they may. As the old saying goes, that’s no business of mine anyway. At least not anymore.
On my social media pages, I consider the pitfalls of the public sphere. No post or share is without a deliberate intention. By no means do I make this a one-size-fits-all approach. What any of us do on Facebook or Twitter is ultimately up to us. I just know that who I happen to be dating (or not), no longer feels like a matter to be shared with old school friends I haven’t seen in decades. I have a best friend for my private life, and private thoughts, and that’s good enough for me. I like it that way. And while we’re on the subject of friends, if I can only count two good friends on my hand, that’s okay too. My stay in the Donkin Hospital as a mental patient only reaffirmed the inherent value of a true friendship, even if it may have felt like a hard lesson to learn at the time. While I manage my condition as best I can today, it’s inevitable that times of stress may turn me a little manic at first, or the ending of a relationship or death in a family leave me in a depressive funk as I struggle to simply keep up with tasks at hand and make it through my day on top of deadlines. But of the few friends I may have, I never have to doubt, not for a moment, that they will love me all the same and forever after, taking my ups and downs in their stride. My struggles are mine to fight, but I will never again have to feel like the defective plaything left out in the rain.
And when it comes to the subject of work, well that’s just unavoidable isn’t it? My cat certainly isn’t going to earn her own keep! (And I love the little arsehole, so care for her I must.) But in my little world, I am what I write. From the smallest of editorial jobs, to pieces that won’t even feature my name (and as such have no public association with my life as a writer), they all matter. To me anyway. The quality of the writing may not be the best (and I know it’s not by a long stretch!), but it’s got to be my personal best on any given day. Beyond this, the message needs to ring true with what I believe is good and right and magical. The bits that make it all worth it. And I’m well aware (or am I?) that this attitude certainly won’t make my blog any money, but it’s kept me content. And that’s no consolation prize. When you’re truly happy with your own hard work, it can be nothing short of addictive. No doubt, I’ll keep coming back for more!
So yeah, I guess there can be no turning back. Besides, it feels too good to give up now. And you know what else? I’m going to compliment that perfect stranger in the Checkers aisle, or behind the librarian desk, or queuing at the post office. Why? Because I want to. I really really want to. I want to be the kind of person who compliments others, stranger or no. Of course, I could get a variety of reactions. A puzzled look… A blank stare… At worst, a single raised eyebrow in utter disapproval of my unsolicited outburst… But maybe, just maybe, I’ll get a smile.
Feature art by Henri Matisse of his sublime Blue Nudes collection