What kind of idiot gets to 40 without ever having been to America?
Me. That kind of idiot. A person so stupid that I’ve never left Europe. Never climbed a mountain. Never jumped off a boat into the sea. Never been to university. Never ridden a horse. Never passed my driving test. Never had a second child. Never sat under a palm tree. Never had an adult birthday party. Never, never, never. My life is filled with things that other people do in the normal course of their lives, but I have not done either through lack or money or abundance of fear, like a hillbilly redneck, sat in a decent corner of the Home Counties.
Fear has been my enemy for as long as I can remember. Even at my age, I spend an inordinate amount of time being scared. Rescue Remedy is my friend. The things I fear ebb and shift, but are quickly replaced and displaced by other, darker things. Daily, I work my way through an underbrush of fear, some stinging, others scratching and others just a constant bothersome itch that gets bigger and bigger and bigger until it makes me cry.
It’s not a fun place to be.
Most recently I lie awake at night, frightened into insomnia by The Future. I’ve bumbled my way through this unremarkable life only encountering the kinds of tragedy that mark those who have lived without risk – painful loss, mental and physical scars. My stories are not unique. I lie in the dark considering whether I’m due something truly terrible. The kind of event that could rip me in two and leave me staring into the abyss. I feel it in my future and it shakes me every moment of every day.
I often say to people that I speak my mind because I have nothing to lose. That’s not true. I have everything to lose. Our daughter, our family, our health, our home, my mind. Things so strong, yet so fragile, I now understand why people isolate themselves to protect their hearts from the agony of absence. I find myself saying and doing things that teeter on the edge of what is acceptable. It’s akin to cutting myself to prove that I’m alive. I feel so strongly about what little world I occupy, so I cling to it, fingernails bending back, the pads of my fingers ripping against broken glass. I try to keep some kind of karmic balance in my life because I hold my beliefs dear and want them to give me comfort and prove me wrong. Prove my fears wrong.
I want to live a long long life. I want to overcome my fears and fill the next forty years with all the things I’ve been too afraid to do. I want to live in Paris. I want to write. I want to go to America – San Francisco, with my sisters. I want to make a real success of something with value to the world. I want friends; good, kind friends who visit often and with whom I can laugh and share books. I want my family and I to be happy and healthy. I want to see my daughter grow into the incredible woman I know she will be. I want to stop feeling the tight knots of tears in my throat, my heart pounding and the hot, woozy waves of panic when I least expect them. I want to be happy. I fantasise about being happy in the same way people fantasise about winning the lottery. I spend time daydreaming about jumping on planes and trains, going to parties, not having to negotiate every move.
I can’t remember the last time I danced. I used to dance almost every day. I don’t know if I know how anymore.