Lately I’ve been chopping apples for chutney, squeezing lemons for limoncello and cutting out circles of gingham fabric like a right proper homemaker. If you knew me last year you might laugh at this. Back then I shunned domesticity in favour of wine, cigarettes, social networking, sleepless nights and quite a few stupid situations. I feel like I’m in rehab.
Some would say I’ve changed. Others would say I’m getting closer to the real me. Either way it’s still hard for an over-analysing, over-sharer like me not to question whether this path is the right one.
Contentment is scary. Just the word conjures images of an ever-expanding waistline, regular shopping days, discussions about wallpaper and kitchen gadgets, nights in front of the TV and severance from the real world (I’m not sure how anyone can be content if they’re fully engaged with politics or economics or even just the way some families in their own town live).
From angst and unhappiness come good stories. Feeling confused about the world brings with it a desire (or compulsion) to question things, to create ways to understand or get a grip on things. It doesn’t bring contentment but it brings debate and discussion. And pain, I think.
So what about when you remove yourself from that, push back, separate, move to a sleepy island away from family and friends and fast living?
A couple of years ago I got swept up in social networking. I discovered twitter and even at the age of 30, didn’t quite grasp the fact that I was living my life, or a version of my life, in public. I started to think in status updates and crave the attention I got there on my feed. I’m embarrassed to write it here but that’s the way it was. I’m still compelled to confess things publicly but I honestly believe it’s because I think there are other people who feel the same and want to relate. Which sounds pretty pompous, I know.
Social networking is weird. It is constant, 24-7 and if you engage in it to the level I was, it stops you sleeping, makes you late and leaves you feeling anxious if you don’t have access to it. It’s like an addiction. It is an addiction.
Having spent some time with teenage relatives and friends over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed how much it can control them too. Remember what it was like to be distracted in maths by your mates or members of the opposite sex trying to wind you up? Nowadays, that doesn’t stop when they leave the maths class. It never stops. And with a Smartphone in their pocket they can tune into it at any time – which is most of the time, from what I’ve seen. And then there’s the internet, an amazing resource, obviously, but the king of all procrastination tools. With a click of a mouse you can jump from an essay on Tudor England to make-up tips from Tulisa, and other ‘less-innocent’ videos of course. There will be a million positive things that come out of this ability to access networks and information at any time, but I can’t help wondering how those teenagers switch off.
I couldn’t. Social networking along with constant access to emails and no proper place of my own meant life was racing by at 100-miles-an-hour. That’s why I wanted to make a change. And I did. I’ve slowed down a lot and it feels good. But I can’t help worrying what people will think. Leaving Nottingham was emotional and lots of people gave me lovely cards full of messages like ‘stay away from the mundane’ and ‘don’t change’ and ‘what you’re doing is so brave.’ But it didn’t feel brave. I felt like a fraud. I was running away and I felt the weight of people’s expectations. I felt the need to make a splash, to do exciting things, to live for other people. Silly really. Everyone else is living their own life. They’re not really bothered about mine.
But you’re still reading so I’ll try to explain: I do want to do exciting things. I don’t want to spend every evening in front of the TV. But I want to spend some of them there. And I want to paint stones and make lovely (cheap) dinners and lie on the grass without wondering what the rest of the world is doing. It’s pretty scary stuff, believe me. But for the first time I think contentment is within reach. And I think I want it. What’s wrong with that?