Cyndi Lauper’s ‘time after time’ plays through the Ipod, as I sit on the train dreamily staring out the window reflecting on life and watching London pass by. If I perm my hair, put on gold bangles and aluminous fingerless gloves, to onlookers I could be confused with a star of any soft focussed, melancholy, eighties pop video. It is unusual for me to dwell on the past and even more unusual to hear me listen to ballads, so why now, when life is good and the sun is shining, do I feel incredibly sad?
Staring out the carriage window, my sense of humour abandoned on the platform, I know I am in a funny place and it is time to sort myself out. Accompanied by my small resurrected ‘Greensleeves’ playing violin, this is the moment I have to delve uncomfortably into my past to understand when and why did I become emotionally impenetrable?
I have always considered myself very lucky. I was brought up in a nice environment by a loving family and have never felt the need to complain. From an early age when the shit hit the fan, I brushed myself off, looked on the bright side and optimistically carried on. With a great deal of will power, I locked all negatives thoughts and feelings safely away and what I believed was a positive, healthy approach towards life has resulted in the opposite effect. Something has slowly eaten away inside and I have been on a self destruct mission for about, um… twenty years.
As previously mentioned en route to LalaLand, I experienced numerous deaths as a child. Quick recap, it began with my Grandma at twelve and ended the day before my fifteenth birthday with my Granddad. During this period, Aunty Pat, the eternal spinster, met a man. He was intelligent, kind and a real gentleman who smoked sixty a day. Aunty Pat’s harsh personality mellowed as they fell in love. She genuinely smiled, laughed, empathised with others and listened. A year later he had a heart attack and died instantly. Aunty Pat brushed herself off, got on with life and officially closed the doors. After I experienced death number ten, I think I did the same.
Looking back I realise how little of that period I remember and I have recently discovered my perception of these years is very different to the reality. If you ever asked me did I like high school the answer would be a definite no. I thought I was unassuming, shy and a bit of an outcast. The reality is I was popular, funny and well liked, as my best friend likes to remind me. She knows the fun we had, so why can’t I remember? I think the fact I started to drink, smoke and rebel could have something to do with my lack of clarity.
I did get back on track and successfully finished school before spending the next few years stoned, drinking, clubbing, travelling and enjoying every minute. Relationships were not on my agenda, and really what was the point? I would not live to a ripe old age, people I loved died and god forbid anyone could be truly happy with a significant other. Death was an acceptable and unavoidable part of life so I might as well live day by day and really experience what the world has to offer. It will be no surprise that in my second year of university, Dad in his forties, was diagnosed with having a terminal illness and my reaction was one of normality. As we have watched him slowly but steadily degenerate it has been OK because this is what happens in life.
I know now why I don’t remember much about high school; it was not the rebellion it was because I was too young to cope with the amount of loss. I was not ready to grow up that quickly and until today I have shied away from dealing with anything serious when it involves my own life. If shown genuine concern about my welfare I tend to choke, stutter, tell a joke and run away; unless of course, large quantities of vodka have been involved during the opening up process.
So that is my inner sadness and where it originated. Twenty years later I am learning to admit my grief and finally let it out. It’s not been a pretty sight and I do find it hard to say I am struggling but the amazing eye opener is friends still love me, still support me and don’t shy away from this unusual sight; me crying. Of course life is full of ups and downs and now the sadness is dealt with I can focus on ending my self destruct mission and look forward. Stepping off the train I turn off Cyndi, pick up my sense of humour and feel lighter than I ever have before. For the first time I am excited about my future and the thought of sharing the open, loving and honest me with someone. But more importantly I feel so very relieved I did not alight at LalaLand!