Today I will be painting. Not a wall, but with acrylics on a board I prepared earlier. It’s years since I picked up a painter’s brush and I must confess to feeling excited at the thought. I have drawn a confusion of circles, squares and oblongs, and plan to simply play with overlays of colour. Back home I would struggle to allow myself such a dose of fun, fun for its own sake. I ask myself Why is that? But answer comes there none. It just wouldn’t fit into my schedule and would never be added to my jobs for the day. This thinks me.
I walk back into the lodge for a top up of good coffee and discover a family of Cervet monkeys inside the food bins. Monkeys are quick to take advantage when all humans leave the room. They scatter as I round the corner, bar one. I can see its tail hooked on to the side of the bin and I can hear it rummaging in the depths. I clap my hands and its (very cute) face appears, a chicken leg in its mouth. As I clear up the chaos, I ponder monkey fun. Of course, it isn’t fun in their minds, but it makes me laugh, despite the mess they leave behind. What happens to fun as we grow older, I wonder? Is it only for the young?
Although I am on holiday (and when we’re on holiday, we do allow ourselves to play) I can see no good reason why I shouldn’t continue playfulness back home, and not just at weekends. Even the dullest of tasks has an element of fun, if I can find it. However, life does change us. Troubles, illness, sadness, work, all conspire to keep our heels firmly grounded and our eyes on the ‘sensible’. I think it has a great deal to do with disappointment and a growing sense of failure and regret. If we are very honest, we will admit that, back then, when choices were an option, we possibly wish we had made a better one, one that would have given us a different life altogether. Maybe more than one; maybe a load more than one. This may sound like a waste of thinking time, but who defines waste? Indulging in such a fluffy thought may not change anything on the ground, but what it does do is to make me consider my gifts, lifting them to the surface and into the light. I remember that young girl (already on the brink of domesticity) with her bonkers dreams and ideals and I realize that I have managed to relegate them to the trash bin of disappointment.
I search for more things to look at. There’s a deal of squished gooey yuk in this bin, but among it lie the gems. The gems that tell me I could have done anything I chose to do. If I had practiced my piano like a good little musician, I could play really well now. If I had gone for that interview at drama school, I could be famous now. If I had kept up singing lessons I might be travelling the world singing arias from the inside of a golden frock. If I had come to writing seriously as a young woman, I might be on the Best Seller list by now. So, what does this all tell me? That I am wallowing in a wistful and pointless regret? Not at all. It shows me my gifts and makes me look at them closely. These ‘maybe lives’ are not mine, but neither is the real me a walking to-do list.
Talking with others, I ask them about their gifts. Oh, I’m not gifted, is the usual response. It seems that gifts are for others. Ah, but you are gifted. We all are, every single one of us, but the world has a rather mean way of defining the gifted word. Prodigies, the celebrated, the successful, the geniuses, those whose names are plastered over billboards and on everybody’s tongue have the rest of us retreating into the background feeling, understandably, a little cheated. But, if you do rifle through the waste bin of life in search of your gifts, you will find them. By just looking, you have made a new choice. I’m looking for me, is what you are saying, even if I very much doubt I’ll find anything.
You will. And when you do, you’ll remember who you really are. And that is when the fun begins.