I may or may not have mentioned that I recently read Jane Shilling’s memoir The Stranger in the Mirror (read an excellent review here). I felt drawn to it because the initial extract I read in one of the weekend broadsheets so exactly spoke to my own sense of trying to recognise myself. Lately I’ve been feeling that I’m not playing this Game of Life anymore, I’m actually living it; This Is It. I no longer feel like such a fraud, masquerading as a grownup. This is me, mother, wife, writer, friend. I’m on the cusp of so much, and have left so much behind me. Not that I’m menopausal – that particular shift is still in my future – but I’m not the same person that I was five years ago, or even last year. I’m trying to settle in, file off the rough edges, fit my inner skin a little more snugly. I’m not looking for answers, because I don’t think I have any specific questions to ask, and reading The Stranger in the Mirror has shown me in any case that answers are few and far between. But this is a period of transition, and I don’t quite know what I’m about to embark upon. Some things are a given, the normal stuff, the mundane, the usual, the routine, and that’s fine, these things are the backbone of living. The rest is unexpected.
This is my last year of being a thirty-something. That gives it away, doesn’t it? Perhaps that has something to do with this feeling. Or perhaps there’s something in the air, a breeze of change, of minute alterations that accrete and accumulate so that we wake up one morning knowing we are still irreducibly ourselves, but not quite sure who that is. One of my dearest friends – and considerably younger than I am – is also experiencing this sense of being embedded into Life. Life; it’s going around, like ‘flu, or a trending Twitter hashtag. Is this a good thing? It isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
There is a side effect; I find myself frequently dwelling on fragments of my past; my sense of nostalgia is hyper-sensitive. The act of memory is not always a conscious one, so not always controllable. Sometimes I have been caught off-guard, by remembrance of things both good and bad. The fall of light, a sound, a scent, the way someone moves, a turn of phrase… all these triggers, all those memories. I feel glad that I’ll never have to be eighteen again, and sad that I can never be thirty-six again (although my daughter has suggested I can revert to being thirty-eight for a few years yet; I may need a new moisturiser…). I have a different flavour now; I am maturing into myself. I am becoming more of me.
To conclude, then. Is there a conclusion to draw? This is still an ongoing process, or event, or cycle, or whatever you may want to call it. Soon, I will recognise myself, I will know myself a little better than I have hitherto. This is it. This is me. Hello.