fragments of TS Eliot whirling in my head

I wrote for years before I had any notion of being a writer. The gift of this scribbling is dozens of notebooks and countless files containing fragments of my life that would otherwise be lost. Some are happy, some are sad, most are maudlin (Didion would have a thing or two to say) but they contain truth. It’s easy to gloss over our flaws and fears; tempting to think only of our best selves. That’s a luxury we can’t afford as writers, though. Because life isn’t clean, motives aren’t clear, honesty is dirty fingernails. We need to remember ourselves as we really were so we can understand who we are.

Share an honest self-portrait of your own in the comments.

view from cala des moro

21 June 2010

All I can do is lie around with fragments of TS Eliot whirling in my head: twenty years largely wasted… found and lost again and again… conditions that seem unpropitious… a different kind of failure… a raid on the inarticulate with shabby equipment always deteriorating…

What have I done? I’ll call them the Facebook years. I started my account when I moved to Ibiza, to keep my friends appraised. All those pictures and I don’t know who of. I look at myself laughing, on the beach, at DC10, in Mexico, Venice… all the places I went, the things I did, the people I thought I loved. It just looks – I don’t know – hollow? I don’t regret any of it. If anything, I’m greedy to have seen more, yet that’s all it is: greed. Who was I? Who am I? A rolling stone. A sponge. A pair of legs with a camera and a credit card. Wandering. But to what end? I have experience but no context. What, to put it crudely, is it good for? The only possible answer, the only way to redeem the years, is to find some kernel of meaning, or some means of expression that I wouldn’t have otherwise. The responsibility terrifies me.

The photos scare me because I feel absent. I was there, I did things, I loved people, I made plans and had jobs and paid rent and went running and looked at paintings and wrote articles and whatever else. But I look at them and only recognise someone who looks like me but is younger, thinner, prettier and so remote from me as to be untouchable. Who was she, and what was she thinking? How can I drag any of that into the present and make it mean something?

God, I want to be her again. I want to be sun-warmed and tipsy and have long, golden legs. Yet that turned out to not be me at all. What was I doing? What chances did I miss? I remember James asking me in Venice, that first autumn, “are you happy?” He thought I wasn’t. I thought I must be. He was right.

Am I any happier now? I don’t know. At least I feel more aware. That girl, as much a girl as a woman of 27 can be, was willfully oblivious to herself. I didn’t want to know anything about myself, my history, or what might be. I don’t know what I did want. Maybe just to be away from myself. That was never going to work. Now I want to get back to where I started, knowing what I know now.

Share an honest self-portrait of your own in the comments.


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