25 February 2008

Brave new self

My husband did some serious damage to his liver (and reputation as the most sober husband on earth) last night. And yet I’m the one feeling hungover this morning – why?

It’s becoming more and more difficult to rake back personal time at work. Everyone deserves a lunch hour, and everyone is responsible for ensuring they take one, but with the amount of work I do on a daily basis, I can barely justify doing no work for an entire hour, even to myself.

This morning I woke to the noise of birds, which was something I noticed a lot during that period of a few months when I was not well in the head. Their morning song seemed like a recording at that time; it was just another superficial element of a convincing backdrop concocted by the party (or parties) who were collaborating to keep me from understanding my predicament. Or so I believed.

I capitalised on the lucidity of this hazy recollection, extending the meaning to encapsulate what I find so impossible to nail down about my experience now. The only way to achieve continuity is to live without ever having to abandon your own foundational context. I’ve lost this context twice in my life: once when I went mad, and once when I fell in love (which is a bit like going mad) and moved away from home.

This morning, I had to concede that the life I experienced in the hospital almost six years ago is still the same life I lead now, in London. I won’t say there’s little difference between a mental ward and London, though I guess someone more cynical than me might try and make that comparison. But even though both experiences are vastly different in terms of what they mean, they share the same undigested quality.

The only way to measure experience is with the levelling tool of identity. Lose that essential component to life-building, though, and you’d be hard-pressed to understand much of anything. Okay fine, I’d tell my addled brain, Let’s regroup here on January 2008 at oh nine-hundred hours and assess where we’re at. Except that no thoughts resembling mine ever showed up to the meeting place.

Psychologists are forever telling you that it’s a bad idea to fracture identity, but when you discover something you find impossible to explain, the only thing to do is to stretch yourself until you can account for it. If not me, then some other self.

And this is the other me. The one who is not alone, bitter, narrow-minded and afraid. I can be all these things, of course, but I will never again be all these things, and only these things, all at once. These are the fragments of my identity that, compiled, would exclude everything I am becoming today, and that self is growing stronger by the minute.

But I’m sorry you had to weed through this to find out that none of it was about you. On the other hand, maybe you found yourself washed up on the shore of some brave new world too, in which case, I extend my hand across the divide to shake yours.

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