I love my family dearly…but sometimes I imagine I live in a modern one bedroom apartment in Paris, with a type writer, all by myself. I imagine an early morning café au lait and croissant, and taking walks through winding cobble stoned streets to the nearby market to buy a baguette and cheese for lunch. I imagine being a terrifically profound writer, with words pouring out of me and into my notebook while I sit along the banks of the Seine, my (effortlessly stylish) shoes cast off carelessly nearby.
Of course, this is a ridiculous dream. I am, after all lactose and gluten intolerant, can’t speak French and I hate, absolutely hate, being on my own.
But the thing that appeals to me in all of it is having a sense of my own self that is not an extension of my kids or husband or sensible upbringing.
And, perhaps more than that – having a little tiny space that belongs only to me and is not constantly covered in the chaos of anyone else’s making.
You see, it doesn’t matter where I go in my house, piles of stuff lie everywhere. I had to dismantle a tent involving blankets, my chair and desk in order to get to (and I use this term very loosely now) my computer. And why is there a shrine to those bloody awful Woolworths collectable cards in the corner of the library or a Lego re-enactment of some intergalactic Star Wars encounter amongst the picture frames? Of course, as a stunted creative myself, I know I should be encouraging their messy, creative minds. But do we really need shoes in every room, a trail of clothes discarded along the way from bedroom to bathroom, and wet towels thrown with abandon on bedroom floors? Is it not possible to keep the creative spark alive while not spilling the makings of breakfast everywhere, everyday?
It feels to me that my life, right now, primarily consists of picking up after other people. That despite running a business, and directing plays and writing more than I have done in the past, I am mostly defined, in my mind anyway, by the fact that I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to create order and structure and tidiness in the maelstrom of family life.
My husband says that it is “all in my head” (a phrase I hate about as much as the toxic smell of cauliflower being cooked) and that I shouldn’t let the mess bother me. But it does. It bothers me to the point of distraction. Am I becoming unhinged and OCD in my old age? Or is it a subconscious stealth attack by my psyche on the pursuit of my dreams? Is it, in fact, a form of self-sabotage, a way to avoid committing to the creative process for fear of failing? Oh look, can’t possibly sit and grapple with that character now, I must vacuum the dining room.
It takes courage to change the shape of your life. It takes courage, more than I think I have, to embark on something so vastly new and exposing. And sometimes I feel so hauntingly bereft of courage that it is all I can do to daydream about a perfect writing space, and unpack the dishwasher (again).
I wouldn’t exchange my wonderful family for the streets of Paris, not in a million years. After all, for my dreams to have any meaning they have to be shared with those I love most. No, true courage is writing in the face of chaos. Of finding space within your life to follow your dreams. Some days I have it. Other days I spend time re-organising their sock drawers.