That Was The River. This Is The Sea.

Married life trundled along within its banks.  New life as a divorcee seems wide open and not necessarily in a good way.

Don’t get me wrong: I thank my lucky stars every day that I am no longer married.  But it is true that I feel untethered and nervous of the expanse of sea.  I have no compass, and if I did, still no destination in mind.

In a way I am loving  (as well as no longer being shackled to a persuasive psychopath living a lie) the thought of all the possibilities.  All the other fish in the sea.  I don’t mean that in the sense of a new ‘significant’ relationship, which I definitely do not seek.  (Urgh!  No!) More just that in the olden days I never really met people outside my circle. With no work outside the home, the circle was restricted.  I spent far too much time within my own four walls.  I socialised, mainly, with parents from my kids’ schools (if anyone) apart from my children and husband.

But who am I kidding?  I am still spending far too much time within my now smaller and more remote walls, and I no longer even have the school gate to go to.  I think about joining a dance class, but tell myself I am too fat and too poor when maybe I am just too lazy.  I think about getting a job.  Good grief, I think about doing the hoovering.  But I don’t actually DO any of them.

I envy people (like my children) who know what they want, what they like, what they think is worthwhile to do with their lives.  I suppose, for a long time, my *point* was them, and I have to say, I have done a great job there, possibly in spite of myself and the bad example I set.  And now?  Untethered, bewildered, excited, scared.

I interviewed an elderly lady the other day for the book I am researching.  Time and again while she talked of her past, she said ‘that was just the path you were on’, and ‘it was just what you did’.   Like me, she’d married, had children and taken the traditional role of wife and mother.  Her husband had stayed, married but promiscuous, until one of his lovers put pressure on him, whereupon he left his wife and kids. She could hardly remember her ‘first life’; on divorce she’d been able to afford to do what she  wanted, which was to return to her studies.  Having left school at thirteen to learn to type, then work as a secretary till she married at 20, this lady went on in her 40s to get the education she craved, including a Masters degree, which made her very happy.

The words ‘that was the river; this is the sea’ came to me as I snoozed in bed.  I think it was one of Ottolenghi’s Desert Island Discs.   I am the only one amongst my friends who has never eaten in an Ottolenghi restaurant or even cooked from an Ottolenghi cookbook. Before I married I was into all that – on top of the ‘restaurant scene’.  How silly.

I’d never heard that song before, either.  Something about it reminded me of my friend Esther.  She died, oh, maybe ten years ago now, or more, and I still think of her often.  She once, out of the blue, sent me the lyrics to the song ‘Whole of the Moon’.  ‘I saw the crescent.  You saw the whole of the moon.’  Now I have looked it up and see that it’s the same band, The Waterboys.  Funny old world.  I miss her.  She was smart and annoying and so funny.  She died leaving a husband and two young children.  She planned her own funeral, and as well as various readings and other pieces of music (she was an excellent classical pianist, and particularly fond of Bach, if memory serves) one of the songs played was Cat Stevens’ ‘If you want to sing out, sing out’.

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are


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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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