“We all want to break our orbits,
float like a satellite gone wild in space,
run the risk of disintegration.
We all want to take our lives in our own hands
and hurl them out among the stars.”
David Bottoms, “Coasting Towards Midnight at the Southeastern Fair”
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the path my life has taken. There have been unexpected twists and turns, many ups and just as many downs, but sitting at my desk now, looking out at the calm soft blue of the sea, mirrored by the still sky overhead, I am glad. Glad for all the roads I have travelled, all the trials I have endured, and all the unfathomable joy I have been lucky enough to experience. All these paths have led me to where I am now, both physically and emotionally. Like the novel I am writing, my own life has a narrative. This narrative has been interrupted many times, has had many stops and starts, but at the moment I feel like it is flowing, a story writing itself.
I worked in the grey office for nearly fifteen years and I can remember reading the poem above when I was in my ninth year of internment with this soul-less institution. I was trundling along, getting by, hating every minute of my working day, subconsciously stressed and tense. My personal life was a joy. It was my happy place, a welcome release from work. But the time at home, with my family and friends, had begun to be affected by the expectation of work. I couldn’t switch off. Every weekend went too quickly and thoughts of work would begin to seep into my head earlier and earlier, so that not only was Sunday a write off but Saturday was never far behind. I felt like I was drowning in the ordinary, stiffled by the expectation of normality, with a flaming urge to “hurl my life among the stars”. It took me six years, two job transfers, one cross country relocation, three house moves and three more children before I became brave enough to leave my orbit and break out. Of course the faceless men that ruled the grey world tried to take even that joy from me, but we didn’t let them. We – my knight, my family, my real friends and me – drove them back into hole where they belonged. I took a chance on my dreams. I took a chance on life.
I had always had a little spark in my heart that told me I could write a book. Years ago I awoke with an image strong and loud in my head. I could see a beautiful woman at the sea’s edge, barely able to stand up. She carried a small tin box in her hands, one that she cradled preciously to her chest. This image was accompanied with one question, “What is the worst thing that could happen to you?”. And that was it. I wrote all of it down in one of the many notebooks I possessed, continually buying them and half filling them with thoughts, feelings, ideas. But this idea was different. This idea felt like something. At that time I had no idea what to do with it so I left it in the notebook, a silent shadow that would return to me again and again over the years.
And now as I sit here with the summer sun (finally!) illuminating the world outside my window, and warming my face and my heart, I am reminded of the first explorers that took to the sea. These men sailed their ships to the end of the world, fully aware that they risked falling over the edge. They took a risk, took a chance and what they discovered were places that they could not even have imagined in their dreams.
Life is there for the living. We only get one shot. If you never take a chance you will never know. Never know the true beauty that is there for the taking. We all run the risk of being left behind, wondering what could have been. Fear and doubt can cripple us – fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of others, self -doubt – but only if we let it.
My path is still uncertain. I have a solid belief in what I am writing now, but nothing is inevitable. All I know is that I am having a hell of a time chasing my rainbow and I’m going to keep at it as long as I can. I’m going chase my dreams until I’m out of breath, until I can’t run anymore and then I’m going to chase them some more!