Look On My Works Ye Mighty And Despair
I should have gone away. Even in Broadstairs, I rose and went out every day, convinced that I would miss some sight of staggering beauty in the many moods of the sea if I stuck to my bed. Why did I cancel my trip to Istanbul? I woke up one morning and the fear, the sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach outweighed my curiosity. I read about riots in Ankara, hundreds of miles away, but after reading Orhan Pamuk's snow, my stomach turned at the thought of unrest. The weather - the snow and ice and the chaos in Eurostar and at the airports. I had a sudden glimpse of myself, stuck in an airport in a foreign country where I do not speak the language (apart from a few cliches gleaned from pop songs) - and memories of the three days I spent in Newark Airport after 9/11.
And the fear of depression. The idea of being by myself, a stranger in a strange land, during the darkest days of the year. I feared my own mind more than I feared riots or bomb toting terrorists or snow and ice and plane crashes.
And so I stayed.
Mostly, I have spent my time writing. I'm not sure this is good for me. Yes, I enjoy it - and so, apparently, do the few people who leave comments on my stories. It's intoxicating, slipping into that other world like a warm bath. A world where even the unhappiest endings have a silver lining. Where everyone gets what they deserve, even if it's not what they expected. And when I'm not writing, I've been drawing, giving faces to my characters, making them real, or as real as anime characters can be. It's a kind of a drug, addictive, habit-forming and ultimately isolating.
But what else would I be doing? I don't think that many people realise I didn't go to Istanbul after all. Being cut off from ILX has been like an amputation. Yes, it's just a messageboard. I know. But it was a window - or perhaps even a door - to many real life friends. And with that door gone, I feel like I'm trapped on the wrong side of one-way glass. I can watch, but I cannot engage. I haven't even asked if the ban has been lifted - even the rare times I drop in to lurk... I feel utterly unable to reengage. There's the annual FT pub crawl this afternoon, but I shan't be going. Pub socialising is hard enough for me, but with the added social dis-ease of sitting next to these people, wondering if any of them pushed the button, voted me out? If they didn't have to look me in the face, would they vote me out of the pub, as well?
I should reach out to my other IRL friends, but it's so hard. That nagging feeling that I'm a bother, an irritation. Using the social tools of the internet provokes strange sorts of dissonance. Social networking provides the illusion of intimacy without the substance. You can read someone's updates and believe that you are interacting with them in a meaningful way, but one-way conversation is ultimately empty. These technological spiderwebs are much more fragile than their real-world counterparts. Make the wrong step - have one friend move to Facebook and another to Twitter - and you can fall out of synch, as if the bonds never existed in the first place.
I've been reading old stories, Deep Field and Loving In A World Of Deisre - mainly because A has been asking about them. This whole universe that existed for a brief bubble and is now gone, archived only in bits and pieces on the WayBackMachine. Except the world of Entertain Me! was very much a collaborative world. We checked over, edited, guided, and even participated in each others' stories, in a way, like a sort of quilt-making. One of the writers noted, sadly, that although she had her grandmother's quilt proudly displayed at the end of her bed, the ephemeral nature of the web meant that these cobweb worlds we worked on would never be passed down to our children and grandchildren in the same way. (Is this true, though, I wonder as I send the manuscripts on to A, watching like a proud parent as she draws inspiration from my stories in her own work. Fathers are terrified that their own children will surpass them. Mothers hope and pray that they do.)
Impermanence, impermanence, all is transience, a friend of mine was in the habit of muttering when the world seemed too awful, though I was never sure if it was Buddhist philosophy or her Catholic childhood peeking through. To her, this brought comfort. "And this, too, will pass." Time wipes away everything - the good things and the bad. The double meaning of Shelley's Ozymandias - "Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair." It is both the threat of the all-powerful Pharaoh against rival demagogues and the ultimate triumph of time itself, ravaging all earthly kings' power until nothing remains but ruins.
In the end, nothing remains of ourselves but our descendants. And this is, yet again, where it hurts. I leave no descendants behind me. As I leave behind my last year of my 30s, and with it, the last of my unused fertility, I feel useless, superfluous, just another old, unwanted, excess woman. A weird evolutionary bubble, an artifact, like the appendix, with no biological reason to exist.
Life is long. I've got another 40-odd years of this, if the women of my family are anything to go by. That's a long time to go without a purpose. But as I look at my mum, my grannies, I realise that none of them actually found their raison d'être, their purpose in life until their 40s, when their kids had grown up, their husbands dead or run off. My grandmothers discovered Science, one became a professor of Botany, the other a writer of maths textbooks. My mother, in an act of rebellion, discovered Religion and became a priest.
I can only take comfort from the idea that I am in chrysalis form right now. I have not become what I will be in my final life stages just yet.
And so, at the end of the year, I count my blessings. I am comfortable - in fact, I am, at the moment, wealthy, which came as a shock when I checked my bank balance. I am, for the most part, healthy. It is only loneliness which cripples me, and not actually depression. I have much which excites me - at least in the world of music, my one true love.
I am disconnected, yes, isolated, lying dormant, waiting. But waiting for what? Looking for what?