Sunday, January 11, 2009

What of the future, then?

In my fifth year of my PhD, I am having to seriously think about where my life is going and, if I don't like the direction, what I will need to do to change it. This requires me to have some understanding of what I want my ideal life to look like and what a realistic approximation would amount to.

I don't feel the need to have money accumulation as my life goal: 2 reasons - I think my parents' cash will last me and that I suspect that I wont survive until old age, I have the feeling that others will outlive me - because the idea of being at a close family member's funeral is too surreal, too unlikely, not being able to see myself in the cortege, or giving a eulogy, I cannot picture the graveside scene, the congregation; I can picture the pain, the grief, the numbness, the disbelief; but am I projecting or protecting myself? Having been to two funerals so far, of fairly close family members, I am about to go to another next week for a much closer family member. I cannot think about what it means; that life has left their body, that it is cold somewhere on a metal tray in a chilled locker - when I do think about it properly my heart breaks and I cry, because to truly understand loss is to know the depth of sadness of all those affected, to feel their hearts breaking in unison, and it is too much, it is too sad to be real. But it is; it is real. So where does that leave me, ever the arrogant, bring-it-back-to-me? My life feels empty, worthless and depressed since a bunch of things left my world - a constant love companion - not someone to be in my vicinity every minute, but a reliable person with whom to confide, with whom to laugh, with whom to make love, with whom to cuddle and fall asleep. I also miss volunteer work with disabled people - concentrating on finishing my PhD has made me realise that those activities gave me more pleasure than most other things with which I have occupied my time. Is it that they were free trips, so I was working the system and getting something (lots) for nothing? Was it that I was so experienced in the role that I was a (natural) leader and someone to whom the others could look up, then eventually an actual paid leader? Do I just like being in charge, being the organiser, having knowledge and skills valuable to others and therefore feeling important and needed? Or do I really like being useful, helping, getting a sense of accomplishment by making someone else's life better even if just for an hour, a day, a week? Or do I like using other languages, communicating in a new novel way, showing my skills to the others, to passersby admiring my skills, surely thinking how clever I am to be able to use my hands to express language - maybe going so far as to think I am such a good person to be giving my time to help unfortunates? SO is it just an ego trip, wanting to be a guardian angel? However, I do also like using Spanish as well as BSL, DeafBlind manual, a bit of Paget-Gorman, Welsh BSL, Scottish BSL, gesture - all methods of communicating with people with hearing loss/deafness (and sight loss/blindness/deafblindness). I do think about living in Spain - I like the lifestyle, the food, the weather, the wine, the buildings, the smell when I get off the plane of hot pavement and rich earth, the smell when walking in the market of spices and fried dough, the smell when walking down the restaurant lined city streets of grilled fish and good meat. I also like that everyone looks better with a tan - I'm sorry but they do - no more spots, just a smoothness - I know if they overdo it they will end up wrinkly, but a sprinkling of darkened melanin is great. I think I might like being in Spain because it feels like being in a secret club, knowing the language and being able to read the road signs, when my travelling companions cannot - they rely on me, and I can show off... All about me... I like hearing myself speak Spanish, I like being able to read the free newspapers...

I also like hostessing: having people over for parties - making drinks, putting up decorations, choosing a theme, getting the right outfit, laying on nibbles, designing a play list; dinners - seating plans, menus, conversation; formal events - is it that I like to be in charge, since I prefer to host an event than leave my house to attend one elsewhere? - I am not agoraphobic, but I don't like to go out in the dark/cold/wet, I don't like paying for a taxi, I like being able to pop on my slippers after spending the first hours in heels, I like being able to pop to my bathroom to reapply lipstick/deodorant, but I do not like people rooting through my stuff - I am convinced they might steel something as a souvenir given the chance, so I lock most room doors and I put away my treasures, I don't like people going into my kitchen to make their own drinks, I am the hostess, that is my job, I think it must be that I am a control freak, I also like them coming and leaving a bottle of wine when they go so that I have supplies for the next gig... I like gathering my diverse group of friends and acquaintances, I like seeing if they get along, if they are shocked by each other, who will get drunk and tell an outrageous story about me - I guess I like the events to be about me and therefore others' parties are not going to focus on me - I even ensure the games we play are those that I either excel at or am hilariously bad at - ensuring that the attention is again on me. Perhaps I should go into performance, I am funny, but I do not have the passion or drive to strive for this goal, I am not particularly interested in it; I do not wake wanting to be on stage - I like to sing, act, dance, perform in any way, but I don't feel a need burning inside me - and to survive rejections and auditions would require that I think, plus there is so much competition, that doing well, surviving and being a success, making any money would be practically impossible, I am attractive enough, but not such a stunner with such talent that I would sell a million concert/movie tickets, albums, etc.

So where does that leave me? - wanting to ensure my life includes hostessing, working with the disadvantaged, employing various languages - charity work - and also ensuring minimal negative impact on the planet, or if possible a positive impact, maybe I can ensure all my businesses are donating to the right causes or planting trees, building hospitals, etc. Or maybe I can be in the Foreign Service; I'd make a great ambassador or ambassadress (spouse of the big cheese). I think it is probably time for a lesbian couple to be in some embassy somewhere running the show and representing Britishness. I love dressing up; if I had a formal function five nights a week I would be delighted - loads of excuses to wear one of my vintage dresses then brag that it cost £1 in a charity shop, do my hair in some extravagant, unusual way, wow the crowds, schmooze the big wigs, be nice to the waiters, compliment the hostess and the chef, tell jokes, amuse the other guests, leave them thinking 'Golly, she was rather lovely' - maybe they would think me so much fun that I would be invited to all their parties and I would become everyone's pal... not in sharing and being close, but one of those people always ready to add colour and liveliness to any social gathering. I do make sure that whenever I am late somewhere that I have a great reason/excuse - a hilarious story is good, or an amazing bit of news/gossip to distract from my rude tardiness. I think ambassadorial work would suit me - dressing up, hostessing, being friendly to strangers, learning the intricacies of new cultures, promoting British traditions and manners, being non-committal about likes/dislikes, being neutral on most topics, or saying something banal and meaningless when asked a tricky question - how do you like the fondue/my new shoes/Stephen's haircut? =Did you get the recipe from a book or from a favourite website? I've been searching for a cookery website for years - I saw it a while back and lost the address and cannot find it again for love nor money (distract and move conversation back to me - I am convinced they are not really interested in my opinion of their fondue, they were just making filler conversation and trying to find something to say)/Oh, are they new shoes - did he score the soles to prevent slippage? I hear that is one of the key pieces of advice given to grooms before the big day - wouldn't that be awful falling over during the first dance? (also employing the fact that as a blonde I might be forgiven for being ditsy and forgetting that there was an original question which had been ignored/forgotten)/Is Stephen going for a job interview? Isn't there some old wives tale about the days on which one should cut one's hair for particular types of good luck (this is a bit cruel and might be employed with neurotic people who you don't care if you send them off worrying that a Thursday cut brings love happiness rather than career success)...

SO a life with these factors sounds good, but I would want to be able to be around and/or raise children, write, design and make beautiful and fun things with which to decorate my cave/home, watch movies, spend most of my time outside in the sunshine (not too hot - I don't like to sweat), swim and dance a lot, avoid being in cars or having to learn to drive, eat lovely food, hopefully organic, even better if grown myself, wear gorgeous unusual clothes with the happiness of knowing that there is no-one else in the world wearing exactly that outfit right now...

I worry that this is a lot to ask, when some people just don't want to be hungry, cold, in pain, afraid, or alone.

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