One of the amazing things about recovery is discovering that you are a different person than you thought you were. After the dark night of the soul, you get the opportunity to completely change your life.
After so many years of being defined by my career in a not so noble industry, I have started to discover my true nature. I have faced my many faults and weaknesses, am working on the ones I can change and accepting the others. I have found what makes me content and happy and I now need to go after that with all the power at my disposal. I have discovered I am stronger than I ever imagined.
Life in a big city tends to peel us away from what is important, for a long time I was drunk on financial success and materialism. An endless round of cocktails, parties, restaurant openings, shopping, seeing the latest films, expensive holidays. Like many others, I had an empty feeling in the middle of this “successful” life and it took fate or the universe to metaphorically whack me around the head before I woke up.
Having been ill for the last year, at the lowest possible point of nihilism and having experienced a slow-growing back, I discovered a new sensitivity, a gentle dreaminess, an innocence of heart and a genuinely loving nature, that I had buried for years.
There was always an inkling of who I really was, trying to break through. As a child I was a day-dreamer, fascinated by nature, fairies, ghost stories, the weird and wonderful. I played alone a lot and when I did find friends, they were the “different” ones, bookish, imaginative, quiet, geeky. They were gentler than the screeching, competitive, children that made up the majority at school.
Every weekend I spent in nature, the woods were my favourite place to walk. I’d climb trees and peer at bird’s eggs, I’d collect leaves,cones and acorns. I loved to find toadstools and strange fungi. I drew all the time and even at five tried to make little books, with drawings and stories, much to my teacher’s amusement. My very first drawings were of trees and landscapes.
As a teenager, I hung out with disparate tribes, dressed in an odd mixture of vintage and medieval inspired clothing. Not Goth, but a strange Guinevere meets Stevie Nicks combo, complete with purple felt wide-brimmed hats, shawls, draped sleeves and long skirts. I smelt of vanilla essence and strawberries and musk (my creation because of my sensitivity of smell).
The world of work changed my clothes and my attitude. I had to conform to succeed and I did both. When parts of my more esoteric wardrobe crept in, during my early career, I was reprimanded by my boss, as the image of his team was as important to him as the twelve yellow pencils he kept sharpened at the same length on his walnut veneered desk and his scarlet Ferrari.
I left my friends behind, several times. The musicians, the writers, the poets were replaced by the teachers, the social workers, the actors and eventually my advertising colleagues. The creatives and the planners, never the suits.
My spiritual, gentle,dreamy, nature was channelled into the practical: idea generation, concept production, strategic vision. For a while, my life turned monochrome. The colour of London streets and skies.
I often used to drive out of London whenever I was unhappy or restless. Looking at the green of the land used to soothe me. Wherever I lived, I felt happiest close to green spaces, so I would choose flats close to parks or commons. It was essential for me to see trees from my window.
Now I live in the country, on the edge of a village, but there are too many houses close by for me to feel truly at peace. I like to lie under the trees in my garden, but as soon as there is a hint of sun, children start screaming, people starting banging hammers and neighbours get out huge petrol fuelled lawn-mowers, that don’t echo a gentle suburban memory, but sound like tanks coming over the hill to kill you.
I think it’s time for me to plan a real escape.
I’m not sure where yet. But it has to be rural, with a connection to a like-minded community within a drive away. I don’t think a commune is the answer, I am too solitary for that level of sharing, but I can do it now and then for the sake of learning or experiencing something new.
Weather is important, I need clearly defined seasons, not the ragged ever-lasting winters of damp and greyness that the UK is currently experiencing. I feel more alive with just a little sun. I don’t want tropical heat, or hurricanes, or monsoons. I want temperate, but summers that are like the summers of my childhood in Ireland. Long days and long shadows.
The West of Ireland is a possibility. It is my cultural home and I have family there. The pace of life is quiet, slow and friendly. There is still a connection with the land and an openness to art, music and the other-worldly. I will make a trip there soon and see if it feels right, instinctively.
I do want a partner on this journey, which will be a balancing act. I need to be alone and undisturbed to write and to work, but I also want the physical comfort of a loving and nurturing presence at the end of the day. Someone to share my esoteric discoveries with, discuss my work with, to love and to love me in return. Someone who is on the same growth trajectory as I and who is willing to develop alongside me, spiritually and emotionally.
But, all that must wait. I wish I had a magic spell to instantly create that kind of relationship, but it seems that I have to learn new skills like patience and forbearance and maybe even how to deal with disappointment. The kind of man I want is rare and I need to take my time.
My new home will be a small cottage in woods or down a quiet lane, deep in the countryside. There will be room for a walled kitchen garden, a summer-house and a pond. If I am lucky, there will be sea or a lake nearby. I love the changeability of water.
I will grow food, have a pantry stacked with gleaming jars of preserves and potions, have a few chickens and ducks, maybe a goat or two and a grizzled Irish donkey. There will be cats and dogs and salvaged furniture, that I have made beautiful with paints,pigments and patchwork. There will be an open fire and an old wood-burner rather than the stultifying heat of sealed in modern central heating. I will draw energy from the soil and recycle waste back into the land.
I am a tenacious creature and I will birth this into being. I want to leave behind the shallow waters of materialism, corrupt governments and a society eaten up with envy and aspiration for an artificial form of happiness.
Next step is an inventory of what I need, a divestment of material possessions except the ones with beauty and meaning and a gathering of my inner strength.
Having lived one way and found it wanting, I owe myself a brand new life.
And knowing how I have endured and prospered against all the odds before, I know that I’ll do it again. But this time it will be real. And finally, I’ll live the life I’m supposed to.
Watch. This. Space.