Thursday, 28 March 2013

You Can't Roller Skate with a Toothpick in Your Mouth!

I woke up this morning at 4am. There is something about 4am that destroys me. It's as though no living creature should be awake at that time.

I felt an overwhelming rush of hopelessness. I couldn't stop crying, and I couldn't imagine how I would get through the next day, let alone the week, the month, the year, the ...

Life can become so complicated, so exhausting.

I was on the train this morning reading a short story by Somerset Maugham. The name of the story is The Fall of Edward Barnard. It's about a man who goes to Tahiti, probably in the 1920s, with the intention of making his fortune and then returning to Chicago to marry his fiancee. The plan falls apart, however, when the gentleman chooses a life of simplicity in Tahiti over a life of wealth and society in Chicago.

Maugham describes Tahiti as such:
Below them, coconut trees tumbled down steeply to the lagoon,
 and the lagoon in the evening light had the colour, tender and varied, of a dove's breast. 
On a creek, at a little distance, were the clustered huts of a native village, 
and towards the reef was a canoe, sharply silhouetted, 
in which were a couple of natives fishing. 
Then, beyond, you saw the vast calmness of the Pacific and twenty miles away, 
airy and unsubstantial like the fabric of a poet's fancy, 
the unimaginable beauty of the island which is called Murea.

As I've mentioned before, I am a city girl, through and through. But, even I could appreciate what Somerset Maugham was getting at. When the man in the story was asked to justify his decision to eschew a modern life, he responded:
Do you know that conversation is one of the greatest pleasures in life?
But it wants leisure. I'd always been too busy before. And gradually 
all the life that had seemed so important to me began to seem rather trivial and vulgar. 
What is the use of all this hustle and this constant striving? ... 
And what does all that activity amount to?

Later in the story, he quotes this famous line:
We know that it will profit a man little if he gain the whole world and lose his soul.

I realised, I am "soul weary". I long for simplicity, clarity, peace. I live in a largely self-induced chaos. I want to strip away the unessential, and figure out who and what gives me contentment.

My youngest son was roller skating in the house the other day. I was horrified to discover he had a toothpick in his mouth!

Today, it occurred to me that that is exactly how I feel about life. I feel like I'm roller skating with a toothpick in my mouth. Part of me is sailing around, experiencing the absolute joy of the moment, going as fast as I can, arms outstretched, embracing life ... but part of me is plagued by the terrible notion that, at any moment, I might stumble and fall, causing a toothpick to lodge in my trachea!

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