In the goldfish bowl life goes around and around. There is no other way for it go. I never think goldfish have a happy life, all that circling and looking out on lives that go forward and back, up and down, lives that are always changing. And then, to add insult to injury, I get bigger, me, the goldfish, so that my circle gradually becomes a spiral. I’m dizzy just thinking about it. When I, the goldfish, swam as a free spirit, I could circle if I so chose, but there was a vast expanse of ocean laid out before me, one in which I encountered dangers, yes, but at least I was truly alive and free to roam.
It is easy to limit an ocean. Not out there in the real sense of ocean, but within the ocean of a life. Over time and when faced with demands that require a deal of circling, the woman can inhabit the circle, until she forgets what it feels like to go forward and free. She doesn’t feel free at all. She can spend days, weeks, months and years circling in stagnant waters without really noticing or caring. Until, that is, she spots her own tail inches from her nose. She has become a curve. She is the circle.
When I look out across the sea-loch, my horizon is a line of hills. But, just because I think that is where everything stops, doesn’t make it so. Beyond those hills are more hills, and beyond all hill-ness lies the ocean, that vast expanse of salt, cloud rain and meltwater that rises clear into the sky. And the sky goes on forever. Everybody knows that. But what lies on the other side of that horizon? Well, I can name a country, if that helps, like America for instance, Canada too, and if I twist my eyes north, Iceland, Greenland and Alaska. I fly out on wings of imagination in wild flight up and out into the nothing that goes one forever. Someone over there, or there, is looking back at me right now. Perhaps she has discovered her tail up close and has come to a sudden thinkstop. I don’t want to do this anymore, this circling thing, nor do I want these circular thoughts and limitations. I want ocean, danger and freedom.
So, what do I do next? I can’t change what is, after all. Or can I? Whilst I circled without conscious thought, just going round and round each day in the same direction, seeing the same things from inside my bowl of ever stagnating water, I went nowhere, saw no-one bar the carers, the nurse, the doctor and social services. Declining invitations, avoiding group gatherings, music nights and friendships, I have turned myself into a circling goldfish. How dull.
Once noticed, nothing stays as it is. It simply cannot. Knowledge changes everything. Nervously, I reach out. Do one thing differently. Straighten up for starters. Book a break. Call a friend and don’t be surprised when she can’t remember your name. Just remind her, gently. It isn’t her fault you disappeared into a carer blackout. It isn’t yours, either. Try sending eyes beyond the horizon, looking eyes that sparkle. Someone on the other side is looking back at you. Life is a very big thing, not a series of goldfish bowls even if that is all you can truly believe in right now. Try eating goodly things from earthy soil, grown strong in sunlight, their thirst quenched by heavenly rains. Try slowing down. And read books for a glorious escape into brave new worlds, into someone else’s story. And, most important of all, tell yourself every minute that you are strong, beautiful, kind and important. And no sniggering or eye rolling at that. Keep looking out until your eyeballs bulge, for an imagined view is considerably more exciting that your own rear end.
I tell myself all of this. I think of a Greenlander in her fishing boat, fur-clad, her fingers frozen, her eyes on the nets. I see her look up and out, something catches her by surprise. It’s just her horizon, or so she thinks. But on the other side of that horizon, I know better.