Thursday, 4 August 2016

Portrait of Disassociation

With my little eye I spy a woman that looks like me, that in fact is me, sitting with a friend at a restaurant table, so how has this autobiographical I been set-apart from this seated body? That I couldn't tell you, for I've no idea how this works, except it's by no means the first occurrence. Nor is it infrequent, quite the inverse.
Yet that same unanswered question arises whenever I loiter outside my body and begs for an answer. Any answer, however ill-conceived or brilliant.
Tell me, how is it possible to be sitting there and conversing, and standing here observing my behaviour?
And why don't I instantly recognise that the person I'm so obviously interested in, is not an unknown twin or a freak of nature, but from the same raw material I'm supposedly made of? Sugar and spice and all things nice, with the exception that I'm not, contrary to popular opinion, still a little girl. I'm not really sure quite what I am, where I fit in the hierarchy of womankind, but little and girl is decidedly not it. Youth? No. Youthful? I guess that could be applied, just not to my mind nor spirit. Immaturity, even when I was of an age to be at that stage, was not a hat I wore well, or at all. In appearance, sure; that, I don't appear to have outgrown, but in manner, no. I was always self-contained and not easily swayed; that was my defiance, my two fingers to the world though I would never have made that gesture. It wouldn't have been seemly from a girl who wanted to be an financially independent woman with absolutely no ties to hold her back. Others of the feminist persuasion might say it would have been just that: very apt to tell the world in no uncertain terms to shove that domestic trap, the trap of M: Men, Marriage and Motherhood.
However, whilst I may have stuck to avoiding that letter, my thirst for independence arose foremost because of being a solitary creature, not because I was exposed to the glass ceiling: told you can't do this or that, this is your level. No, my awareness of that came much later. You could say my upbringing painted the opposite picture, except it wasn't done entirely from choice but necessity. Mum was one of those women considered to have it all: a well-paid full-time job, a hard-working husband, a nice house, a car, a kid. Hers was the greater wage. And though it also gave her purpose and sanity, I wasn't aware quite how much she wrestled with her conscience to perform those three different roles: working woman, housewife, and mother.
It's just how it was. And yet in my feelings there was disparity: I approved and longed for a more present mother, though if pressed now I would say I wouldn't have had it any other way as I benefited from seeing both my parents in their respective workplaces. I saw the world of work and women at work, and how the two commingled. It was an interesting period; one that gave me aspirations of achieving the very same.
However, those promises I made to myself were empty.
Empty because even with the best will in the world I couldn't fulfil them, not to my satisfaction or to the levels I witnessed others attain. To do so I would have had to be made of sterner stuff. And I wasn't. The stuffing instead got knocked out of me, and the positivity with which I first entered into further education and then work hasn't re-emerged. Did I abandon it or did it abandon me?
I think it would be more truthful to say my efforts extinguished it as did the pressure I exerted on myself. I'm a Type A, where good is not good enough, where being more than good could mark your flesh, burn your spirit. Unless you nip it in the bud or learn how far to push; or if you get spat out one too many times to turn your back because when did being equal mean you have to have it all. To be more than man. In role and in manner; and yet still be woman. It's a sure-fire way to fail, to feel a failure, and suffer from disassociation.

Picture credit: Portrait of a Young Girl after Ghirlandio, Massimo Tizzano