It’s a game, really, this life thing, living it – a game that has no rules, as if that bit of paper in 17 languages was forgotten by Mavis in Packaging, leaving us all to make rules up as we go along. Needless to say there are as many rules as there are people around the board; what is abundantly clear to this chap is a load of ballyhoo to her over there. The start is obvious however. First breath, a wail and that’s all of us at the gate under starters orders. Bang! Now life begins. Which path shall I take for there seems to be so many? Ah, I get it. No choice for now. I am being carried by someone who got here long before I did. They are my rule book, or so I learn. All I must do is obey, defer and not throw up on the carpet. I must not answer back even if the backhand comment is unfair, not true and cruelly delivered. It crashes into my ribcage, that string of words, delivered in that tone as it breaks through skin tissue and engraves itself onto bone as if I was a shard of scrimshaw. Such scars remain for life.
I grow and develop in this game, their game, their rules until I manage to leave home. Now I am free. At last! These internal wounds, this scarring will heal, I tell myself as I march off to Somewhere Else. In this place, the place of Somewhere Else, I find someone. He is strong, older than me, charismatic and available. He plays his game in a very different way and I am intrigued but still, without knowing it, obedient as a child even if I am adult enough, now, to throw up in appropriate places. But I not an adult am I? I inhabit an adult body, yes indeed, boobs and all, a wiggle to my arse and I’m a real pro at eyelash flutterments having practised long and hard in the mirror. I take on his rules. I don’t even notice I am doing this. It feels easy, pleasant almost, but I am mindlessly walking myself into a trap. Had I spent more time untangling the tangle inside myself prior to buying in to someone else’s game rules, I would have stepped consciously towards adulthood. But I did not know that. What I ‘knew’ was that men are better than women, that a woman’s place is in the home bringing up children and learning how to bake a marvellous eye catcher of a strawberry sponge even if her creative genius craves oil paints or ballet shoes or a quill or a lab for her experiments. Her eye level must always be below par because if she ever rose to par or, god forbid, above it, the world, as we know it, would crumble into dust. Men must be obeyed, deferred to and should never be put upon to investigate their own internal chaos. In short, men must be allowed to be themselves for the rest of their days, fully supported in this requirement by you, the woman. As for you, you are not allowed to be yourself from this day forth, in sickness and in health, till death do you part.
We clear now?
That’s what I learned in the first game and it is how I engaged with the next game, the one I found in Somewhere Else. I look back across the fields and oceans, the mountains and chasms, the wasteland and the glories of my life now that he is gone. Although I was always free to think, I didn’t. It was a dangerous thing to do, but now I can let thoughts rise without fear. I may have been ignorant of the rules, merely obeying them in the main, like a horse or a dog, but once I clocked what I had bought into I found ways around the rules. Actually I was quite clever and inventive. Perhaps he saw, perhaps he knew but as we never discussed things that didn’t directly relate to business management, I never did find out and now I never will.
And that is okay. All of it is okay. I did what I did and to look back in anger or regret is like unpicking a woolly; time consuming and, ultimately, shapeless. My life was not shapeless, our life was not shapeless. We collided and then fell apart over and over again for decades, wounding each other and then applying salve. We laughed and cried, felt lonely, lost, puzzled and furious, or filled with hope, belief and trust. I know, I know, it sounds lunatic, but that was how we played our game and I’m pretty certain it wasn’t an unusual marriage.
Now I have my own set of rules to consider and apply. I am free to make them up, anything I like, any direction I fancy. Why do I need rules at all? I did ask myself that recently and the answer is that we all need rules or we would live without boundaries, principles, modus operandi and la la. However, this set of rules must first be constructed within. Where is my boundary? What will I give and what am I happy to receive? Will I decide to learn courage enough to overcome my weaknesses or will I let them rule me? Will I re-locate my oils, my quill, my ballet shoes and my experiments, bring them into this new light and then work on developing them in my own game plan, the one that only I will play?
And that’s the point. My game, my rules. No matter who comes into my life from now on, I play by my rules. I don’t want you to take them on or even to agree with them. I am not interested in approval. What I am interested in, very interested in, is what lies ahead for me now in a new Somewhere Else.