Shirley Conran once said that life is too short to stuff a mushroom. If there is anything I have learnt this last year, it is that life is too short, full stop. Life is too short to be scared, or fearful, or embarrassed. Life is too short to worry about what other people think. Life is too short to not get on that plane and explore the rest of the world. Life is too short to not to make a phone call, or write a letter, and tell someone you love them, or that you are sorry. Life is too short not to take a risk and fall in love.
We spend so much time worrying and analyzing and weighing up the odds, we miss out on what is really happening around us. My love lived life to the fullest expression of who he was, and on that very last day he did the things he loved the most. Now I choose this to be the legacy he left me – to learn to have no more fear and to live every day as if it is my last.
If today was my last day on earth, I would go skinny dipping in the ocean. I would gather together all the people I love the most on a beach and drink champagne. I would climb to the top of a mountain and shout my thanks to the universe for giving me one more day. I would make love in a field of poppies, with the sun on our skin and the wind in our hair. I would jump out of a plane with a parachute strapped to my back, and visit the birds. I would build a bonfire and burn all my clothes so I could glory in the deliciousness of my own naked skin. I would write a letter to my father and tell him I forgive him.
What would you do?
(Picture from shutterstock.com)
Yesterday, as I worked, I thought about whether I would move back to London again. For months this has been the expectation, that eventually I will remake my home in the city and pick up where I left off. But I’m starting to see that that might not be me anymore. Living in the capital had always lent me a certain confidence, an identity, but that no longer fits. Now I live by the sea, and having dealt with the fact that it’s my hometown, which to begin with felt shameful, as if I had returned with my tail between my legs, a failure of some sort, I am finding a new appreciation of space. The sea and the surrounding countryside speak to me. I went to the beach this morning; the sky had clouded over after days of non-stop sunshine and less people were around, and I sat quietly, drinking a frothy cappuccino and watching the horizon, everything so very blue. Maybe it was the tide that called me back home last year – perhaps growing up beside the sea means you will always be drawn back, the tumultuous energy caught in your soul. I don’t know if this is where I will stay, but London no longer holds such an appeal for me – this is a new feeling.
I think there are cracks forming in the armour I wear, fissures that are letting the light in. My first instinct is to get out the soldering iron and draw down the portcullis. This whole ‘feeling more alive’ gig is, frankly, terrifying. If I open a door in my heart it will all come unraveling out, like a parachute, and no matter how much I try I won’t be able to fold it back in again. I think I was more comfortable being Miss Haversham… I will wait to see what the wind brings me, painfully aware of the fact that the roar of my heart could overwhelm whatever comes.
Erica Jong has been one of my many muses ever since I read Fear of Flying when I was nineteen. I love her gutsy language, her commitment to passion and words, to living life to the full. I’m still feeling rather attached to last week’s Poetry Thursday prompt, so this poem combines the three topics on my mind today: words, food… and sex.
the decorum of fire…
~ Pablo Neruda
We learned the decorum of fire,
the flame’s curious symmetry,
the blue heat at the center of the thighs,
the flickering red of the hips,
& the tallow gold of the breasts
lit from within
by the lantern in the ribs.
You tear yourself out of me
like a branch that longs to be grafted
onto a fruit tree,
peach & pear
crossed with each other,
fig & banana served on one plate,
the leaf & the luminous snail
that clings to it.
We learned that the tearing
could be a joining,
that the fire’s flickering
could be a kindling,
that the old decorum of love—
to die into the poem,
leaving the lover lonely with her pen—
was all an ancient lie.
So we banished the evil eye:
you have to be unhappy to create;
you have to let love die before it writes;
you have to lose the joy to have the poem—
& we re-wrote our lives with fire.
See this manuscript covered
with flesh-colored words?
It was written in invisible ink
& held up to our flame.
The words darkened on the page
as we sank into each other.
We are ink & blood
& all things that make stains.
We turn each other golden as we turn,
browning each other’s skins like suns.
Hold me up to the light;
you will see poems.
Hold me in the dark;
you will see light.
~ Erica Jong
There’s a swirling energy inside me tonight; it feels rather sexual and needs to be channelled into words, pictures, song – something other than what I think it really wants to become, though in truth tonight I yearn to be kissed. Today was a beautiful day, sunny with a fresh breeze from the sea that cooled my skin as I walked around town, dressed in a silk camisole, linen pants and flip flops, completely unadorned. My senses feel so much more alive in this period than they ever have done before. The flowers are brighter, the sunset is achingly beautiful, food tastes sweeter, wine is more delicious than I ever remember it being. I wear perfume and it’s as if I have painted my skin with colour.
I’m starting to realise that my new passion for self-portraiture, which has been so very healing to my self-esteem and self-image, is also happening because I yearn to be seen. It feels like a very long time since someone looked into my heart and saw the Susannah I am when clothes and titles and smoke-screens fall away, and I am simply me, naked as I was when my mother gave birth to me. For the longest time, through this journey of grief, I have felt invisible, undefined, my edges blurring until I blend into the background. But as the apathy of last week falls away I am suddenly in sharp relief against my surroundings: I have shape and colour and texture. I’m not entirely sure what I’m trying to say here. Perhaps it is simply that I am alive again. And perhaps my heart is really healing… and perhaps, just perhaps, I will be seen again one day.