Jenny Manson is asking people to write about ‘what it feels like to be me’ and send it to her. She’s put their stories onto her website. http://www.whatitfeelsliketobeme.com as a follow-up to a book she’s published. So this is the essay I sent in (and is now on there).
Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what I’m made of….well not really, but there are days when the three children have driven me mad, everything has gone wrong and I wish I was made of these things. That is, instead of the screaming harpy that I’m really seem to be made of.
So what is it like to be me? Confusing most of the time, as I have many names, mother, wife and far too often, way down the list, Dandelion Girl. Each of these ‘me’ are kept boxed and stacked inside each other in ascending size order.
Starting from the bottom, the smallest box is dark and dusty. This is the ‘me’ that could have been. Look inside and you can see a dancer, an Olympic gymnast, a swimmer, a wine buyer, a recruitment expert. She is one dimensional and so faded that I don’t bother to look at her often. Luckily it gets swallowed up in the next box up.
This one holds all the things I’ve seen and done in my life. The cover is a rainbow, shimmering in the full spectrum of light, fading in places as it gets older. If you look inside, it’s full of books, stories, magic, animals, fairies, photos, mementos, words from friends, music and different languages from all the places I have lived and visited. Strangely there seems to be a lot of sand and sea in here as well. This is one of my favourite boxes where I get to shut myself off from the outside world and dive into the swirling vortex of memories and thoughts, swimming through them, trying to catch some of the more elusive ones. Sometimes these leak through to the world around me, then I’m a Lost Boy in the woods, a femme fatale in the pub or an explorer in the jungle. Or it can superimpose itself onto the people around me. An annoying person’s head turns into a donkey as they lecture me, the dewdrops caught in the spiders web, bright in the low morning sun, are the lights the fairies left out from last nights party. Life with this box of ‘me’, is never dull although not everyone understands it, so I have learnt to guard it, showing only a select few.
Red jagged lines, stretched elastic sides and the patches on the next box should give you a clue. This is the ‘me’ box of love. Every expanding and contracting, the stretch lets it give until you think you are going to burst or tightens until you can’t breathe. The stretch-marks on the sides is where the love was explosive and fast, like the first time I felt my baby move, or the first time they looked into my eyes with love. Over the years this box has been shattered, pierced or scratched, but my tears have mended the holes and I wear the patches and scars with pride. This is the core of me, beating and alive beneath the outer layers.
It’s covered with a paper-thin, vibrant red box. This layer is a flirty, passionate box of the ‘me’ who loves life, the kind of box that acts first, then thinks later. The two are very close, sometimes making it hard to see where one starts and the other ends. This is the one that will make me flirt with strangers, dance on the table, drive to the beach in the middle on the night in my pj’s just to look at the stars and hear the waves lapping on the beach. It’s also the one that makes no-one believe me when I say I’m really very insecure and shy. It’s a very cheeky box!
Then we are on to the penultimate one and my least favourite. This one has a broken padlock on it. Sometimes it locks, and sometimes it doesn’t. In here is the ‘me’ that gets scared to walk into a place where I don’t know anyone, that hates confrontation, where the voices whisper that I’m stupid and useless, that I shouldn’t even attempt to try it because I’m bound to fail. Faceless people hide in the shadows telling me that no-one likes me, that I’m old and ugly. I try not to open this one, trying to focus on the ‘me’ directly below it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to shrink this one and put it in the bottom along with the ‘could have been’ box, because that’s where it belongs.
So then we get to the outside box. The one that all the others sit inside (which are tucked away for people to find as they get to know me). The outside of this changes and grows over the years as the others fill and grow too. It’s appearance is updated as it gets worn round the edges by all the lives of the people who touch mine. Anyone who enters my world, no matter how brief, leaves a tiny part of themselves behind. I used to think that this box had to be beautiful and flawless to attract the attention, admiration and love of others. The wiser me, now understands that what is really important is that the packaging reflects the real me, even if that changes from day to day, hour to hour. If the lines aren’t quite straight, or the colours don’t quite go together, it doesn’t really matter, what matters is what’s in the other boxes down through the layers.
So this is what it’s like to be me, sugar and spice and all things nice, with an occasional harpy hiding in the gloom. A mother to three small graces, a wife, a woman and an aspiring writer. Me!