petite anglaise

July 14, 2006

whole

Filed under: navel gazing, single life — bipolarinparis @ 3:49 pm

I find myself strangely unperturbed that there are no men to speak of in my life at the moment.

A few month’s back, among the flurry of well-meaning comments and emails, a few people trotted out that old chestnut about how some me-time would do me good. That alone doesn’t necessarily mean feeling lonely; it can be a very positive, healthy state of affairs. I knew that there was some truth in these words, but at the time I was still feeling brittle, wobbly, and just a little bit lost at sea. Feeling good about being alone seemed remote and unattainable, and I wasn’t even sure it was what I wanted to aspire to.

After all, I’d been “with someone” for the best part of the last decade, and was terrified I could only function as half of a couple. And what was more, single motherhood was a concept I found terrifying, riddled, as it can be, with negative connotations.

But somehow, over the past few months, so gradually that I barely noticed, a subtle change wrought itself. And one day I realised I had finally arrived in that place people had spoken of. I have found a level of self-sufficiency I never would have thought possible. The ability to revel in my new-found freedom.

I feel whole. More complete than I did when I was living en couple.

The new apartment symbolises this new phase in my life. I chose it, alone. Pored over the paint colour charts, alone. Sanded the walls and painted them, alone. Decided on a kitchen plan, bought some new furniture. There will be no-one’s imprint but my own (and Tadpole’s, although if I’d gone with her paint colours, I do not think the outcome would have been a happy one).

On my Tadpole free nights, I seek out the company of friends. After dabbling a little with internet dating, I decided not only that I couldn’t be bothered to invest enough time or energy in it – whether it be to find a mate, or just to satisfy more pressing needs in the short term – but also that there simply isn’t enough of me to go round. And what time I have, I prefer to spend with friends, old and new, rather than stumbling tongue-tied through an interminable dinner with a stranger, secretly wishing we had arranged to meet for just a coffee instead.

So let the men cross my path, or not. I’m not actively looking any more.

In London recently, I marvelled at how my two good friends from university, who had been confirmed bachelors for many years, were now attached, whilst I was not. A surreal reversal of what had long been the status quo. And yet it soon became clear that in some ways they envied me.

One of them noted that because of Tadpole’s existence, I am doubly free. In his opinion, the fact that I’ve already had a child means my body clock has stopped its ominous ticking, and I am free to go forward, unhindered by those considerations. Choose a companion who doesn’t want children of his own without it being a problem, if I want to.

It was an interesting point, I thought, and not one I expected to hear. (Whether I agree, is another thing entirely, I’m not sure I do.) I always imagined single motherhood would be perceived by others as a life filled with constraints. A negative state of affairs. I have certainly been experiencing it as a positive phase of my life, but I didn’t think other people would fully understand.

Sometimes it makes me very happy to be proved wrong.

July 6, 2006

hostage

Filed under: navel gazing — bipolarinparis @ 2:05 pm

The hour is a little after midnight. I am fiddling around on my computer, trying to fill in a hellishly complicated ASSEDIC form for my nanny, whose contract is almost finished. I am loath to turn in, even though I am exhausted from a lengthy trip to Ikea, because I doubt I will be able to sleep, thanks to the jovial racket emanating from my neighbourhood’s football fans.

The conundrum is this: open the window and hear whooping, car horns a-beeping and, more worryingly, people singing along to something cheesy which I suspect may be Claude François, or slowly broil to death in my apartment.

I can’t escape the feeling I am being held hostage.

* * * * * * *

The year is 1998. Mr Frog and I are moving into our first shared apartment, on rue Richard Lenoir, a stone’s throw from Père Lachaise. The day has been uncommonly stressful, despite the fact that Mr Frog didn’t actually possess much in the way of furniture to begin with.

After delivering his belongings to the new flat, we made the mistake of heading off in the rented van to Ikea that very same day. Predictably, we buy half the shop, including elephant ice cube trays and a Klippan sofa. Arriving home, we realise that said sofa will not budge beyond the narrow hallway of our building, and certainly cannot be manoeuvred into the courtyard from which our apartment is entered. As it is a bank holiday weekend, a monte-charge cannot be procured for several days, and when it can, hiring it will likely cost as much as the sofa itself.

We also realise that we have missed the deadline for returning the van, and will have to pay for an extra day’s rental.

Hardly an auspicious start to our life together.

Once the tears have dried, I graciously allow Mr Frog to go out with some friends to watch the final, leaving me to unpack our belongings and assemble the remaining furniture. In peace.

Except of course for the small fact that France are playing in the final, and the streets are alive with the sound of men watching sport, loudly. I haven’t yet plugged in the television, but there is little point. There is no mistaking that sound people make when a goal is scored. No room for ambiguity whatsoever.

I know the score.

* * * * * * *

Eight years have passed, almost to the day, and I can’t help marvelling at the symmetry of it all. My imminent move, today’s trip to Ikea (and I don’t know what they put in those meatballs, but I believe they are evil, and am holding them responsible for all my retail bulemia), new beginnings…

As for the football, I resolve to wash and dry Tadpole’s Italia t-shirt dress, which is currently liberally smeared with ice cream fingermarks, in time for the final.

May 31, 2006

dislocated

Filed under: navel gazing — bipolarinparis @ 3:53 pm

I keep getting this unnerving feeling of dislocation. As though I’m looking down from far above, contemplating myself going about my daily business with an unhealthy degree of detachment.

It’s like an experiment. Or some sort of test. The aim is to place myself in interesting, unexpected situations, pushing against my own boundaries, moving further and further away from the rather mundane, pedestrian life I led when I first started writing petite anglaise; all the while this other me quietly observes from afar, furiously scribbling, recording anything noteworthy.

Sometimes I wonder whether I am living my life, or whether this blog is living it for me.

How much are the decisions and choices I make affected by the fact that I will not only have to live by them, but, more importantly, will feel compelled to spin webs of words around them afterwards? To what extent can feelings, whether of pleasure or of pain, become artificially intensified by the very fact of groping for les mots justes with which to pin them down? Does the act of dissecting thoughts and motivations bring me closer to some sort of truth? Or, conversely, adulterate it so thoroughlly that I no longer know my own mind?

I suspect the fact that Tadople has been waking me at 6.00 am every day this week has thrown me off kilter. I’m tired. A little low. Vulnerable to an invasion of creeping, insidious doubts and prone to self-indulgent navel gazing. It’s just the way I am.

But let me pose a question to fellow bloggers all the same: do you think that writing your blog has changed you in any way?

May 22, 2006

bien dans ma peau

Filed under: navel gazing, single life — bipolarinparis @ 11:31 am

I move slowly through the park, my steps perfectly in time with the music filling my head, hair buffeted by squalls of wind. The asphalt is coated with a thick layer of pale pink blossoms; the tiny flowers drift, confetti like, from the trees, into my hair, onto my shoulders. I flick at them, absent-mindedly, lost in my thoughts.

A year ago today, I wrote a post about leaving the father of my child. Re-reading those words now, it almost feels as though they were written by someone else. I suppose, in some ways, they were. The woman who wrote them had been sleepwalking for the longest time. She knew her life wasn’t making her truly happy – and writing this blog had helped her come to this realisation – but was terribly afraid she did not possess the strength to break away, start a new life. She was beginning to see the light: that being a mother didn’t have to mean burying her own personality, her own needs, deep inside; denying their very existence. That way only bitterness and simmering resentment lay.

There followed a turbulent year of dizzying heights and desolate lows, filled with an intensity I would never trade for a return to my old life. Out of the ashes of the relationship which ended in March stepped a woman who has finally learned how to feel comfortable in her own skin. Who has understood, at long last, that being alone can make a person feel more whole than being one half of an ill-matched couple.

Out of habit, I still lie on the right-hand half of the bed, rarely straying over the invisible line which divides it in down the middle. But I no longer sleep fitfully when there is no-one by my side. And the nightmares have left me.

I move slowly through the park, buffeted by the wind, music filling my head. And realise I am smiling at no-one in particular.

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