As is so often the case, once you realise something, you then become alert to other manifestations of the same phenomena. Having observed the face washing coping mechanism on Wednesday, tonight I noticed another symbolic form of face washing: the post night out wash. This has been floating round my mind for a few months, I suppose. After nights out, I’ve become zealous about washing my face and completing my little ritual of potions and lotions – no matter how late or how tired I am. Tonight, I went to a house party, then stayed up after the other guests left and helped with the clear up operation – followed by a final coffee and putting the world to rights kind of conversation. Pretty exhausted, I trudged up to bed. Despite my tiredness, I knew I wouldn’t settle without my routine. And as I was rubbing my night cream in, I suddenly saw why: it’s proving to myself that I’m not so drunk that I don’t bother. Washing my face after a night out seems to be my barometer of sobriety – putting a very literal spin on the idea of cleaning up one’s act.
One of the first things I learnt about in therapy was the idea of coping mechanisms. We all develop coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions & hard situations. They aren’t inherently negative – on the contrary, as the name suggests, they help us to cope – but too often we end up with damaging coping strategies, the kind that do us more harm than good. Tonight I’ve come in from a long day at work. Not especially stressful but long and the kind where you’re “on” the whole time. I came in, and within five minutes I’d washed my face and was slapping on my night cream. I’ve noticed that is the first thing I do when I get home whenever I have a particularly long day. Suddenly I realised: washing my face straightaway, washing the day away, is a new coping mechanism. A slightly unusual one, but one nonetheless. And better for me than cracking open a bottle of wine.
Money, money, money seems to be the theme of today. Not the Abba song, but real, actual money: realising it’s nearly the end of the month hence nearly payday (I’ve been out of regular employment for so long that my brain doesn’t seem to compute that I’ve got another pay cheque coming soon); getting an unexpected gift of money (going straight to the coffers of the garden fund at my Quaker meeting); paying an honorarium payment into my bank account; sorting out my credit card bill (I like to put all the relevant receipts for each bill in an envelope & then staple the envelope to the bill. Geeky, I know); realising that I’ve got savings again after two years of them being ebbed away.
Like most people, I have an ambigious relationship with money. I’m fully aware that I can be quite miserly at times. My puritanical streak runs strong. I don’t like anything I perceive to be ‘waste’ (I spent a good five minutes today hovering round a pay & display machine like a nutcase because my carparking ticket had fifty minutes left on it & I was determined that someone else should get use of it). I think this may have something to do with a strong desire to not let money be the driving force in my life. I try to be ‘careful’ so that I don’t live up to or beyond my means, in order to avoid a vicious cycle where I get used to earning a certain amount and then it doesn’t seem like enough so I need to earn more…etc etc.
On other occasions, I can be overly flamboyant, pulling the next twenty out of my purse with gay abandon. But that is no bad thing (& perhaps a necessary counterweight to my tendency to count the pennies). As one of my favourite Bible passages states, ‘You will always be rich enough to be generous’.
It’s almost two in the morning, but I felt I had to write. I’ve just come in from a night out to celebrate a friend’s thirtieth. Dinner, a bar, a bit of dancing, lots of fun & the chance to catch up with some very dear old friends. Yet despite the amazingness of the evening, I’ve come home heavy-hearted. It’s such a strange feeling. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is: a yearning? Nostalgia? Wistfulness? Melancholy? A mix of all of these emotions?
As I’ve sat hear for twenty minutes, staring at the screen, writing and deleting sentences and passages, I’ve nailed what the feeling is. I am physically aching with the love that I feel for three of the men that I saw this evening. They are such good, decent men and tonight I’ve realised how much I love them. This isn’t about unrequited desire or thwarted passions; it’s not about wanting to be romantically involved with any of them (who are all, incidentally, in serious relationships with the most lovely women). I don’t know what the term is. Platonic love? Admiration? I’m sure CS Lewis must have had a term for it in his analysis of the five types of love. All I know is that I feel proud and privileged that they have been – and continue to be – part of my life. So much so that I think what I’m feeling is lovesickness.
Everyone isn’t talking at me, but I did find myself humming the song of the same title yesterday. It took me a while to figure out why: it was the line ‘I’m going where the weather suits my clothes’ that resonated. Having being inspired to wear bright clothes for the rest of the week because it’s getting to the point in winter where I’m tiring of the dullness and aching for spring to bloom, yesterday was suitably spring like. Compared to the greyness of Tuesday afternoon in Warwickshire, it seemed like the drive to Surrey on Wednesday morning really did take me to where the weather suits my clothes. It was stunningly sunny; so much so that while driving I had my sunglasses on for the first time this year. In my bright red dress with red beads and a royal blue coat, I didn’t feel out of place but very much part of the world around me. I felt like a brighly coloured tulip. And it felt good.
Yesterday’s glorious weather has faded somewhat today. There’s a watery sunshine and a faded grandeur in the air: lots of soft shades, from the brown of old bark to the new shoots and leaves breaking out. My colours too are more muted today: a bottle green dress, with navy tights and navy shoes, as well as a splash of amber in my necklace. I guess my outfit isn’t really that bright, but it is still colourful (I also guess that I should have defined the terms of my mini-project more clearly before I packed on Tuesday night!). I also have lashings of a good old-fashioned old-school Hollywood red lipstick on. This particular shade always makes me feel like a 1940s film star, as if I should be making wisecracks and raising a withering eyebrow at any spiv that dare try to endear themselves to me. It’s Nars Red Lizard, if anyone wants to try it – it has amazingly transformative effects, as does nature. I think that’s how I’m feeling today: a strange mix of the subdued rebirth quietly taking place outside and the faded memory of out-and-out glamour. A strange mix of grandeur and decay; rebirth and nostalgia. And when I go out later, I’m going to add a leopard print beret into that mix.
I have just had the most lovely conversation with a total stranger. The phone rang & it was the alumni association from the university where I did my first degree. ‘Aha’, I thought, ‘the annual scrounging phone call’. In the past, I’ve been rather curt with such callers but today I resisted simply dismissing them – partly because I always feel guilty afterwards, knowing that the callers are students who are just doing their job, and partly because I give my consent for them to ring me so I shouldn’t really be grumpy when they do. So this evening, I said yes, of course it was okay for them to talk to me about the alumni association’s latest projects. And I’m mightily glad I did.
Hannah, the girl making the call, is doing a History degree – as I did. As I’m now a historian, she was asking me about my research interests. Coincidentally (& it is coincidentally as I’ve never given the alumni association this much detail about what I’m doing), she is doing her second year dissertation on a related area. She told me about some reading she’d done today – a book written by my PhD supervisor. By this point, we were both getting quite excited, such was our mutual amusement at the situation. Before I knew it, I was giving her my email address & telling her to email me for some further suggestions on reading. In this case, the benefits from this serendipity may be hers rather than mine, but I’m still glad that I’m open to the possibilities that the world throws our way. Glad, albeit a bit freaked out by it all.